On May 28, 1918 the first parliamentary democracy in the Muslim East – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic – was founded, and July 9th,1919 was the day of the decree of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic that created Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry and laid the foundations for its diplomatic service.Despite facing grave internal and external challenges arising from the collapse of an empire, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic succeeded in setting effective state institutions, upholding the rights of its citizens and gaining the trust of the international community.
As stated in the declaration of independence, establishment of friendly relations with all nations, especially neighboring nations and states, was determined as one of the foreign policy priorities of the republic. With better skills and determination, Azerbaijan gradually gained sympathy, support and recognition within the region and beyond.
The first major breakthrough in diplomatic relations came when the parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan, headed by Alimardan Topchubashov, went to Paris with the main goal to gain international recognition for the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Members of the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference impressed foreign dignitaries with respect to their ideas of liberty, rights and justice. Unanimous de-facto recognition of the independence of Azerbaijan was attained and the Azerbaijani mission received an invitation to the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference.
Once recognition had been established, the government’s focus shifted towards building a competent diplomatic corps. In 1919, when Azerbaijani diplomacy took its first steps, diplomatic missions of 16 states functioned in Baku, and general consulates of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic were established in Turkey, Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and other countries. Moreover, the Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law on the establishment of diplomatic missions in other countries. The Bolshevik invasion of April 1920 put an end to the independence of the ADR. The establishment of Soviet power in Baku and the overthrow of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1920 marked the end of an independent Azerbaijani diplomatic service for seven decades, but it did not mean the complete extinction of the nation’s diplomatic tradition or experience.
As the successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Republic of Azerbaijan restored its independence in 1991. The difficulties faced by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, including Armenia’s territorial claims and war against Azerbaijan, geopolitical intrigues, the socio-economic problems engulfed the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The policies pursued later by national leader Heydar Aliyev developed a sense of national identity by reviving our deep historical and cultural memory, as well as by instilling a firm conviction for preserving and strengthening our independence and statehood. He was able to conduct negotiations and in 1994 a ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan was signed. Many international organizations adopted similar decisions and resolutions with respect to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demanding the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied lands. The “Contract of the Century” was signed in 1994, which changed the total landscape of the South Caucasus Region in terms of national and regional security, economic integration, political connectivity and above all social advancement. It was a big success of the foreign policy efforts of Azerbaijan.
Today the Republic of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev brings into the reality the aspirations and ideals of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Over the past 15 years, Azerbaijan’s economy has grown by 300 percent. Poverty and unemployment have sharply diminished, with measures of both now standing under five percent. Azerbaijan has a very low foreign debt – around 17 percent of our GDP – and our reserves are bigger than foreign debt five times. In the Doing Business 2019 report, Azerbaijan climbed 32 spots and ranked 25th among 190 countries. This is one of the most successful and greatest achievements in the history of the Doing Business rating.
In 2011, Azerbaijan was elected as a non-permanent member of UN Security Council for the next two years. Within these two years, the country actively participated in the meetings of the Security Council and during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of one month 29 meetings were held and three resolutions were adopted. Due to its independent and balanced foreign policy Azerbaijan has not joined any military-political bloc and merely focused on beneficial cooperation with all countries. Today Azerbaijan as a relatively new independent country plays an important role in building bridges between Europe and Asia, has developed friendly ties with various American, African countries as well.
Strengthening relations with Pakistan was always one of the main priorities of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. The two countries have always enjoyed friendly and brotherly relations, which originate from our common moral values and are on a steady upward trajectory. Azerbaijan and Pakistan are bound by a strong friendship and strategic partnership. The relations between our two states demonstrate a rare example of solidarity. We are grateful to Pakistan’s stand on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan also always stand with and supports Pakistan in all issues and remains committed to further strengthening and deepening relations.
At the moment, diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan are operating in more than 70 countries, as well as in Pakistan. As it marks the 100th anniversary of its founding, Azerbaijan’s diplomatic service and the foreign ministry of the country remain a work in progress, shaped by the past and by the country’s national leadership but also by a clear recognition that Azerbaijan will play an even larger role in the world and that its diplomats will have a key place in that demanding work.
If the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic were alive, they would have been proud of today’s Republic of Azerbaijan and its diplomatic efforts.
As was said by Heydar Aliyev: “Azerbaijan’s independence is eternal and irrevocable”; the diplomatic service of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its employees are always ready to fulfill the goals put forward to them in front of them for the good of restoring internationally recognized territorial integrity, and strengthening the independence, peace and prosperity of Azerbaijan.
The writer is the ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This article published first on The News.