By Nazrin Gadimova
The 4th Global Baku Forum titled “Towards a Multipolar World” has started its work on March 10.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva are taking part in the forum.
Addressing the event, President Aliyev congratulated and welcomed the guests of the forum.
"First of all, I'd like to welcome you all to Azerbaijan, I am very glad that Baku Global Forum becomes a good tradition," the head of the state said.
He further thanked Nizami Ganjavi International Center’s board and co-chairs, including Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and Ismail Serageldin for transforming the center into a world-scale international institution in a very short period.
Ilham Aliyev noted that the forum will discuss broad issues of international agenda.
"The topics of discussions are very important to all of us, the whole mankind," the president added. "I am sure that the guests at the forum will contribute valuable thoughts to the cause of peace, security, predictability in the world."
President Aliyev believes that every international forum and its level mainly depend on the list of its participants, heads of states and governments, prominent politicians, public figures and experts.
"Therefore, this shows the level of discussions that we will have today and tomorrow," he said.
"Since we met last spring, the situation in the world has changed, unfortunately not in positive direction," the president said.
He added that the world didn't become safer and more secure, while the conflicts remain unresolved.
"Our main role is to play our part as countries, governments, politicians, to try to reduce tensions, create grounds for cooperation, mutual understanding, mutual respect," he said. "Otherwise, the situation in the future will continue to deteriorate."
Among the troubling issues, President Aliyev named the situation in the Middle East, situation in parts of Europe, refugee crisis - all the realities of the recent years.
The president said that one of the main objectives of the Fourth Global Baku Forum is to address these issues, especially taking into account the level of participants and their contribution to the world affairs, their experience, and knowledge, and that may help to find a way out of the existing situation.
"We are all united in one objective - to promote mutual cooperation, mutual understanding," said the president."We are all interrelated."
"Sometimes it may seem that what we see on TV, the dangerous events happening in different parts of the world, one may think this is happening on another planet, but it is just the next door. The refugee crisis showed that we're all interrelated."
Azerbaijani president said that every action, every step, every interference in other countries' affairs may result in difficulties for those, who interfere.
"That, I think, is the main lesson of today's reality. We all need to respect each other, respect our choice, territorial integrity, our plans for the future, we all need to interact, because the main goal is to reduce tensions and diminish the existing threats."
Independence and Nagorno Karabakh conflict
The president further said that this year Azerbaijan will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its independence.
"During the early years of independence, we've suffered from civil war, humanitarian crisis, occupation, aggression, economic difficulties, actually an economic collapse," he said. "Azerbaijan became a target of terrorist attacks. Armenian terrorist organizations committed numerous acts of terror in the 1990s against civilians. And the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan unfortunately is not resolved."
He went on to add that though Azerbaijan achieved some success during the early years of independence, and today is developing as a modern, stable, predictable, self-sufficient country, the conflict still needs to be resolved.
"The conflict needs to be resolved in order to allow a million of Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homeland, stop violence and establish peace in our region, because without it, all the countries will suffer," Ilham Aliyev said.
The president noted that Armenia, which continues to illegally occupy historic and legal part of Azerbaijan, didn't benefit from the occupation as the country continues to suffer from economic difficulties, isolation, migration, poverty - all of that is because of aggression and occupation of Azerbaijan's lands.
"Nagorno Karabakh is a historic, legal part of Azerbaijan," said President Aliyev. "The international community recognizes Nagorno Karabakh as Azerbaijan's integral part. As a result of the conflict, one million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, became subjected to ethnic cleansing. The occupation of almost 20 percent of our territory continues."
The president reminded that International organizations, in particular the UN and its Security Council, adopted numerous resolutions, demanding unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan, however these resolutions are not implemented.
Ilham Aliyev further suggested that the mechanism of implementation of these resolutions should be a topic of discussions.
"In some cases, the resolutions of the UN Security Council are implemented within hours or days, in our case - it's more than 20 years," he said. "That shows the lack of political will, especially of those countries that have adopted these resolutions."
Ilham Aliyev said today the negotiating process continues without any success and the main reason for that is because Armenia doesn't want peace.
"They want to keep the occupied territories under illegal control, they want to keep the status quo unchanged, but this cannot remain this way," he said. "The countries chairing the negotiation process, the three permanent members of the UN Security Council, in numerous occasions, publicly spoke about that."
"They said that status quo is unacceptable, and must be changed," he said. "To change the status quo, Armenia needs to leave the occupied territories, and stop occupation."
The president said that in the 21st century it is absolutely abnormal from all points of view, political, legal, humanitarian, to illegally occupy the territory of a neighboring country and block the negotiation process.
"I think that to resolve the conflict, first, Azerbaijan needs to become stronger and this is already happening and second, the international community, especially those who are obliged to have a mandate to deal with this conflict, must show political will and force the aggressor to stop the occupation, like we see in many other places around the world where the aggressor is stopped, punished, sanctioned and forced to stop the aggression."
Azerbaijani president reminded that Azerbaijan's historic heritage has been destroyed on the occupied territories.
"The OSCE twice sent the fact-finding and field assessment missions to the occupied territories and they reflected the real situation there. All our historic monuments, mosques are destroyed," he said.
"Today we see TV reports on destruction of historic monuments in the Middle East. Twenty years ago the same was happening on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, but at that time the international community and media didn't pay attention, or didn't have access to that information, but it is the same story, the same approach," Ilham Aliyev said.
The president added that the existing situation is dangerous for the future, peace and security in the region, since if the aggressor is not punished, it will plan something else.
The development of Azerbaijan
Despite difficulties, which included the humanitarian crisis that Azerbaijan has faced in the early 1990s, the country is successfully developing, said Ilham Aliyev.
"We had the highest figure of refugees per capita at the time," he said. "One million of people became refugees and internally displaced on their own land -- at that time the population of Azerbaijan was something more than 8 million. So we know how to deal with the humanitarian crisis."
He recalled that at the time Azerbaijan was different from today's Azerbaijan, it was a very poor country, a newly independent state, the economy was ruined, the industry was collapsed, and there were no prospects for the future.
"Our main goal was to establish the state, to create strong economy, to open the country for foreign investments, and to become part of the world market economy," he said. "And that happened."
"Today the country is stable. We continue our political and economic reforms that go in the country in parallel. All the fundamental freedoms are provided, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, religious freedom, media freedom, we have free internet, and more than 70 percent of our people are internet users."
The president noted that in Azerbaijan political freedom is supported by economic reforms.
"Since 2004 and up to 2014, Azerbaijan's economy was the fastest growing in the world," he said. "We managed to dramatically reduce poverty and unemployment down to 5 percent. Economy became competitive, and according to the Davos Economic Forum, Azerbaijan's economy ranks 40th in terms of competitiveness."
President Aliyev said that Azerbaijan implemented many infrastructure projects, including social infrastructure projects to improve the living standards of people and at the same time create better conditions for investments.
"We were among the countries that received, per capita, one of the biggest direct foreign investments, primarily in the oil and gas sector," he said. "Now our goal is to attract investors in the non-oil sector."
"Reduction of dependence on oil and gas was part of our reforms. And today as a result of our reforms, oil and gas sector makes up for something more than 30 percent of our GDP and about a half of our budget revenues. So the target is to completely reduce the dependence on oil and gas."
The president went on to add that for Azerbaijan, the post-oil period has already started, and not because of reduction of production, but due to the collapse of the oil price.
"This is an absolutely new situation, no country in the world was prepared for that, no one could imagine the fall of oil price would be so dramatic. And it happened within one year," he said. "So we had to work very actively, very efficiently, to reduce negative impacts of this, and now our financial situation is again stable, predictable, and our budget is based on the price of oil of $25 per barrel - a kind of guarantee from any kind of economic complications."
President Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan has substantial amount of reserves in the Sovereign Wealth Fund and that allows the country to get of the situation with minimum risk.
"At the same time, this situation forces us to be more efficient with our reforms. The big package of reforms, which has already been introduced, by the way, is supported by the International Monetary Fund. So we are on the right track," Ilham Aliyev said.
Diversifying economy, building transportation networks
President Aliyev further said that today Azerbaijan is mainly dealing with diversification of economy, finding new areas of economic development.
"One of them, which we've worked on for many years, is new for international community -- it is transportation infrastructure. We are building transportation network, which will allow Azerbaijan in the future to have a strong position in the region. Geographic position is very preferable, so investments in transportation infrastructure, including railroads, airports, a seaport, allow us to be a crossroad transportation infrastructure," the president said.
He added that the East-West transportation corridor has already started to work.
"Hopefully this year we will finalize the connection of railroads between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, thus Europe and Asia will have new, shortest transportation route," he said.
President Aliyev further said that the first container train from China to Europe already passed through Azerbaijan, so this is a new Silk Road with a modern infrastructure.
"We made a proposal to our partners to have single transportation tariffs to make this route attractive," he said.
The president added that another transportation route, on which Azerbaijan has been actively working with neighbors and partners, is the North-South transportation route.
"It will allow cargoes to be transported from Pakistan, India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia to Northern Europe. Azerbaijan is investing in the modern infrastructure and hopefully soon this route will be in operation," President Aliyev said. "So, all these routes cross our territory, and this increases geopolitical importance of our country, generates additional revenue that we will use for development in the future."
The two-day event brought together seven incumbent presidents, 27 former presidents, one vice-president, 23 former prime ministers, a lot of incumbent and former officials, heads of authoritative international organizations, famous politicians and experts.
Heads of states and governments, prominent public and political figures, authoritative experts will hold discussions and exchange of views on various topics, including international security; regional threats; serious consequences of global economic challenges; climate change and energy policy: role of oil-producing countries; multiculturalism; interreligious dialogue and mutual integration.
The conflicts on ethnic, religious and political grounds, global challenges in the democratic development, education, and environment will also be the topics of the upcoming forum.
Moreover, heads of state and governments will participate and deliver speech in the opening of session ‘Global challenges of modern world’.
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