By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
The 23rd Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly that has kicked off in Azerbaijani capital of Baku on 28 June will last until July 2. A meeting of the committees on political and security issues, economic issues, science, technology and environment, as well as democracy, human rights and humanitarian issues will be held during the session.Moreover, special debates on the growth of extremism, radicalism and xenophobia, as well as the situation in Ukraine are planned to be held. The results of the election monitoring missions’ activity and organizational issues of the assembly will also be discussed. The Baku Declaration will be adopted following the discussions.
“Azerbaijan is young as an independent state, but is a country with great history”, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said attending OSCE PA session’s opening. The President noted that the implementation of political and economic reforms at the same time allowed avoiding major complications, and achieving stable development.
“I would like to say that today Azerbaijan is a country with functioning democratic institutions. We put a lot of effort into developing democracy, the rule of law, and providing fundamental freedoms.” noted head of state. He went on to add that “the freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, media freedom” are provided in Azerbaijan. He added that there are thousands of media outlets in Azerbaijan, and the country has unrestricted internet, with over 70 percent of the country’s population being internet users.
“We are building a modern, self-sufficient country. Political reforms will be one of the top priorities on our agenda for the coming years. We need to do more, to implement more reforms, and I am sure that our commitment and cooperation with international institutions, such as the OSCE and others, will allow us to implement everything planned,” the President said. He went on to say the political reforms, indeed, create a very positive atmosphere in the Azerbaijani society.
“Political situation is stable, predictable and it makes possible to modernize and transform Azerbaijan into a developed world country,” Azerbaijani leader underscored.
He said being a country with very active and straightforward policy Azerbaijan, is now recognized as a reliable partner, a partner whom Azerbaijan’s friendly countries can trust.
Head of Azerbaijani state went on to note that Azerbaijan maintains active bilateral relations with most of the members of international community, and the relations with European countries and from other continents being one of the priorities. He also noted that Azerbaijan is a member of numerous international institutions, and the country considers this membership as an opportunity to establish better connections in the world. “We are members of Non-Aligned Movement, members of Council of Europe, Islamic Cooperation Organization and many more. …One of Azerbaijan’s biggest foreign policy achievements happened, when Azerbaijan supported by 155 countries, was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council… “President Aliyev stressed. Azerbaijani president said that for two years, Azerbaijan, as an active member of the UN Security Council, has advocated for peace, security, stability, justice and implementations of international law norms. Further speaking, President Ilham Aliyev underscored that the people of Azerbaijan are greatly concerned by a selective approach that the country faces.
“We see that some resolutions of the UN Security Council are implemented within hours. Others remain on paper for 20 years, as in case with Azerbaijan. Therefore, elaboration of a unified criteria and mechanisms of implementation of international organizations’ decisions is one of the main priorities for us as the chairman of Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,” the President stressed.
For over 20 years Azerbaijan has been suffering from Armenian aggression and occupation. Nagorno-Karabakh is a historic part of Azerbaijan, it is an ancient land of Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenia for more than 20 years,” President Aliyev said. He added that 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized land is under occupation, one million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and displaced persons on their own land. “We became the subject of ethnic cleansing. Armenians committed genocide against Azerbaijani city of Khojaly – the genocide that is already recognized by 10 countries of the world,” Azerbaijani president stressed. “International law norms are violated. The UN Security Council adopted 4 resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories. These resolutions remain on paper, and are not implemented.”
President Aliyev went on to add that the OSCE decisions, in particular, the decision of the Lisbon summit, which clearly identify what steps should be taken in order to resolve the conflict, also remain on paper. “European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Islamic Cooperation Organization and others, including the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), have adopted decisions and resolutions but Armenia simply ignores it.
Azerbaijani President said the implementation of the resolutions of the international organizations, restoration of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the resolution of the conflict, based on the principle of territorial integrity of the countries is the main prerequisite for successful resolution of the conflict.
“As far as the principle of self-determination is concerned, if we look carefully at the Helsinki Final Act, we will see that self-determination should not undermine the territorial integrity of countries. Armenians already have their independent state. There are no reasons why they should have another Armenian state on historic Azerbaijani territories, taking into account that the first Armenian existing state was created on Azerbaijani lands,” President Aliyev stressed.
Ilham Aliyev also said that despite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan has demonstrated a rapid economic growth, adding that the country had the fastest growing economy in the world during the last 10 years.
“We have a very stable financial system – our foreign debt is only eight percent of GDP, which is among the world’s best. This is while our reserves are more than 70 percent of GDP, and this allows us to invest and borrow on international markets.”
Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan’s credit ratings have been upgraded by major rating agencies, like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, and Azerbaijan has a very good reputation as a country which protects investments properly.
“During the last 10 years, $170 billion were invested in Azerbaijan. Last year, $28 billion were invested, with 70 percent being local, and 30 percent – foreign,” the president underscored. “Economic prospects for the future are very positive. We are now actively working on diversification of our economy.”
President Aliyev also said that Azerbaijan today is a country with a space industry, with a satellite and developed ICT system.
“One of our priorities as the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is education. We largely invest in education. We need educated people, we need specialists. Educated people will never be subjected to manipulation, any kind of external influence or interference,” the president underscored. The President said Azerbaijan’s experience can be examined, because in the Azerbaijani society multiculturalism is one of the elements of success, adding that Azerbaijan is multi-national and multi-religious.
“This is one of the biggest assets of Azerbaijan that the citizens of our country, regardless of their religious or ethnic origin enjoy the same rights and privileges,” Ilham Aliyev said.
Azerbaijani leader also apprised the audience on energy cooperation with Europe and at the end of his speech said: “In today’s world when we sometimes see dangerous trends of alienation, selectiveness, whether it is in Europe or in Asia, in Middle East or in our neighborhood, these issues need to be addressed, and we need to raise these issues. We need to talk about it and see the positive signs of success, otherwise if we just pretend that these issues do not exist or we would not raise them on international level, the situation will only get worse, because the tendencies do not go into the right direction.”
The writer is an author of book “Deep insight into the European Union” and numerous articles on NATO, EU, Caucasian region. He can be reached at [email protected]