Organized by the Nizami Ganjavi International Center under the patronage of President Ilham Aliyev, the next Global Baku Forum under the motto "The world after COVID-19” has today kicked off.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended opening ceremony of the Forum.
Declaring the 8th Global Baku Forum open, co-chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center Ismail Serageldin said: Mr President, We are all anxious to hear you.
President Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the opening ceremony.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
-Dear friends, dear ladies and gentlemen, dear co-chairs of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, dear participants.
I welcome all of you. I would like to express gratitude to you for being with us. When we were discussing with the co-chairs of the Center about the annual Global Baku Forum of 2021, we could not even imagine that there will be such a broad presentation here in Baku. So this demonstrates first of all that the situation with COVID is getting better and second, of course, demonstrates that you pay a very big importance to this event. Because in fact, Baku Global Forum is transformed into one of the leading platform to address urgent and important issues of global politics. First of all I wouldd like to express gratitude to the co-chairs of NGIC Madam President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Mr. Serageldin, for their outstanding leadership of the Center. Even during the pandemic their activity was very visible. It’s due to their leadership and commitment to Center and its ideals the Center transformed into as I said, one of the leading international institutions. Also, I would like to express gratitude to members of Board for their contribution and also to permanent members and permanent participants. As we discussed yesterday with the members of the Board, it’s like a big family and a friendly family. I think this is one of the reasons for success. It’s enough only to look at the list of participants today, the list of speakers, the list of those distinguished personalities who will address the forum to say that it’s really amazing how in a relatively short period of time NGIC transformed into one of the very few leading international institutions with the great potential which accumulates the knowledge, experience, and vision of intellectual statesmen politicians, journalists, public figures and members of civil society. So, today’s Global Baku Forum will address urgent issues which are on the agenda. But prior to addressing those issues I would like to say that we are also very glad to see that. Yesterday I was presented with two books devoted to Nizami whose 880th anniversary we are celebrating this year. According to my Presidential Decree, this year in Azerbaijan was declared “The Year of Nizami” in commemoration of our great Azerbaijani poet. The agenda of the Forum is very broad, but I would like to touch upon several issues. First, of course, the pandemic, because it’s now the issue number one on global agenda. We talk about the pandemic, some talk about the post-pandemic period. It’s not very clear whether we are already in the past pandemic period, because different countries address differently this issue. I would like to inform you that Azerbaijan from the very beginning of this disease, of this crisis took very proactive steps both domestically and internationally. We started vaccination on 18 January this year, one of the first countries in the region and so far more than 60 percent of the population above 18 years old received both doses. In a relatively short period of time we managed to create 13 new state hospitals with the total number of beds-almost 4,000. In general, 46 state hospitals have been allocated to treat pandemic. Now we don’t have a lockdown. The situation is under control. The only restriction is just we have to wear masks in the buildings and hopefully we will be able to keep the situation under control. At the same time, we took serious measures in order to ease the burden of the lockdowns which we had before. We provided for 2020-2021 a social economics support package for those who lost jobs, for those who suffered from these lockdowns. The total cost of the package is 2.9 billion US dollars. This money was financed from our state budget, and we will continue to do it, because we need to ease the burden of the people who found themselves in an absolutely new situation. We are using mainly two vaccines: Sinovac and Pfizer. As I said, the level of vaccination is high and this is, of course, due to the state policy. At the same time I would also like to mention that we are very happy to see that our population is very responsible. Vaccination is not forceful. We do not have any anti-vaccination campaigns or even any anti-vaccination trends.
The people of Azerbaijan realize the importance of vaccination, and it makes our job much easier. On a global scale, Azerbaijan also took very active steps in its capacity as a current chair of the Turkic-speaking countries’ Cooperation Council and Non-Aligned Movement. Last year we initiated two summits of both institutions in April and May, particularly addressing COVID. At the Summit of Non-Aligned Movement we launched an initiative to hold the UN General Assembly Special Session on COVID which was supported by absolute majority of the international community. This Special Session took place on the 3-4 December last year. So, that was our contribution to addressing the global issue. At the same time, we launched the initiative in United Nations Human Rights Council, with respect to equal and universal access to vaccine and fair distribution of vaccines. We are one of the countries which openly speaks about such an issue like vaccine nationalism and unfair distribution of vaccines on a global scale. Some countries already had the third vaccination plans and implement these plans. Some countries still have very low percentage of vaccinated people. Therefore, we need to address this issue in order to create equal opportunities. At the same time, I would like to say that based on our initiative the database for COVID treatment which has been established with our participation is used by World Health Organization, I mean in the countries of Non-Aligned Movement which also makes it easier to plan and to forecast the support. In the capacity, as a chair of non-aligned movement we provided financial and humanitarian support to more than 30 countries and we provided free of charge doses of vaccine to several countries.
At the same time, we made a voluntary donation to World Health Organization to support poor countries worth ten million US dollars. So, these are the steps which we have undertaken on a global scale, and again, unification of efforts of international community and, of course, responsible approach of the leading countries of the world will help to cope with this disease. Another issue which I would like to raise today is the issue which I was raising at every Baku Global Forum since the first until the last. During all these previous seven fora I raised the issue of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Today I would like to say that the conflict is resolved. Azerbaijan resolved the conflict itself. Azerbaijan itself implemented UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993, which demanded immediate, unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, these resolutions remained on paper for 27 years, and probably, would have remained on paper for another 27 years if Azerbaijan did not itself restore its territorial integrity, using the chapter 51 of UN Charter which provides the right for self-defense using international legal framework. Because not only UN Security Council, but other leading international institutions adopted similar resolutions and decisions with respect to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. United Nations General Assembly, OSCE, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted in different times similar decisions and resolutions with respect to the conflict which were fully in line with what we have done last year liberating our territories. Unfortunately, Armenia was trying only to seal the status quo, trying to use negotiation format only as a tool for freezing the conflict forever. And if in previous years Armenian leadership was pretending that they are willing to work within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group to find the resolution of the conflict which provided liberation of occupied territories, last couple of years the Armenian leadership already openly was announcing that they are not going to give any centimeter of occupied territories back. There are enough proofs of that. It’s enough only to mention the statement of current Armenian prime minister which he made on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan two years ago that Karabakh is Armenia and period. So, that was actually the end of negotiations. First, it was a very contradictory and false statement, because on the one hand the Armenian leadership was saying that Karabakh is an independent country, though no country in the world, including Armenia itself, recognized it. On the other hand they were saying Karabakh is Armenia. So, this contradiction actually demonstrates the contradictory policy of Armenia which led to this miserable defeat which they suffered last year. So, this kind of statements actually put an end to any negotiations. I can say that the Minsk Group co-chairs, according to my impressions, were also surprised and embarrassed with this statement, because there was nothing left for them to do. Another statement was made by then defense minister of Armenia, who was openly threatening Azerbaijan saying that Armenia is preparing for a new war for new territories. An open threat to occupy more territories of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the international community, including the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs were silent. There was no condemnation. There was not even a message saying that this kind of statement is inappropriate. So, many other statements and acts which Armenian leadership have undertaken were aimed at provoking Azerbaijan. I can mention the so-called inaguration of the so-called self-proclaimed quasi president of separatist unit in Shusha which was an open insult to the feelings of Azerbaijanis. I can also say about the decision of Armenia to transfer their so-called parliament of the separatists from Khankandi to Shusha, another insult to the feelings of Azerbaijanis. The Armenian leadership should have understood that they are not in a position to insult the feelings of our people. Every patience has a limit. Then, July 2020, when they launched open military provocation on the border killing our civilians and military servicemen. August 2020, when they sent a sabotage group to commit acts of terror which was neutralized, and of course, September when they started to shell the peaceful cities and villages of Azerbaijan. The second Karabakh war, which we called a Patriotic War, lasted 44 days and ended in total defeat of Armenian army. Armenia was forced to accept our terms and conditions. During the first days of the war I was saying that we are ready to stop, when Armenian prime minister gives me the date of their withdrawal from occupied territories. It took the Armenian leadership almost 7 thousand victims, and 44 days to understand that they are now in absolute disaster. On the night from 9 to 10 November Armenia signed a capitulation act and the war ended. We kept our word. As soon as they gave us the time table of withdrawal of remaining occupied territories the war stopped.
In four days, the people of Azerbaijan will celebrate the first anniversary of our historical victory. What we have seen on the liberated territories is a total devastation. Not a single building is left. During the years of occupation they demolished all historical monuments; 65 mosques out of 67, homes, houses, public buildings et cetera. So, this is actually the proof of barbarism. Now we are actively restoring the liberated territories, the large scale restoration program have been launched and I am sure that in a relatively short period of time we will be able to return former refugees, more than one million people who suffered from Armenian occupation. What the war and the results of the war showed is that sooner or later justice is prevailing. You must be committed to your cause, you must be well prepared, and you must have international legal framework and high level of motivation of the people. So, all those factors including our military capability was the main reason for resolution of the conflict. Now the conflict is over and as I said, reconstruction has started. Now we are in a post-conflict situation where we made several proposals to Armenia to start working on peace agreement. Because we don’t want to talk about war, we want to talk about peace, we want to talk about future. Unfortunately, this proposal is still not answered. At the same time, we made a proposal to start working on delimitation and demarcation of our state borders with the recognition of territorial integrity of both countries. Again, it is in line with the international law norms and is a normal behaviour. This proposal is not addressed either. Azerbaijan demonstrates maximum constructiveness despite all the sufferings of almost 30 years of occupation, despite vandalism and barbarism on the liberated territories. We need to look to the future. We need to make the region safe, predictable, and ready for large-scale cooperation. There are different proposals about that, probably you heard about them. I think that everything will depend on Armenia’s position, because our position is absolutely clear. Today, once again, I say that we are ready to start peace talks, we are ready to work on peace agreement, we are ready to turn the page, we are ready to start border delimitation. But you will see that there will be no answer from Armenia. They keep silent for almost one year. I don’t think that they are now in the position to oppose Azerbaijani constructive proposals. If they listened to us during the years of negotiation, İf they behaved as normal human beings, they wouldn’t have found themselves in today’s situation. Another issue and the last point which I would like to mention not to take much of your time, because it was a little bit in the shadow of the events of the last year and this is also very important not only for us, but for a broad region, is a completion of the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor. On 31 December 2020, the last segment of that project Trans Adriatic pipeline was commissioned. This is really the historical achievement for Azerbaijan, for our neighbors, for Europe. Because it’s an important factor of European energy security. İt’s an important instrument of diversification and in case of the Southern Gas Corridor, it is the diversification not only of routes but also sources. A new source of natural gas from large gas deposits of Azerbaijan is already on European market. Since 1 January this year until the 31 October-in ten months Azerbaijan exported through these routes more than 14 billion cubic meters of natural gas to 5 countries: Turkey, Georgia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria. Almost half of this volume was consumed by consumers of the European Union. In those countries where Azerbaijani gas is delivered there is no gas crisis, there is no price crisis, and there is no freezing. So, this demonstrates that the Southern Gas Corridor is really a project of energy security of Europe. Azerbaijan as a responsible country, as a producer and exporter now not only of oil but natural gas will play in the future very important role in the energy security issues. Saying that I would like to conclude my remarks again not to take much of your time, once again, expressing gratitude to you, for being with us and wishing the forum success. Thank you.
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