An event marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has been held at the Heydar Aliyev Center.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the event.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear members of the New Azerbaijan Party.
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Today we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the New Azerbaijan Party. I sincerely congratulate all members of the New Azerbaijan Party on this occasion.
The establishment of our party was a truly historic event. At that time, the young Republic of Azerbaijan was going through a difficult period. Our independence was only one-year old, the first year of our independence was extremely difficult and in some cases our people were faced with great tragedies. Under such circumstances, prominent representatives of Azerbaijan, patriotic people, people who were thinking about the country's future saw that salvation of our country was in the hands of Heydar Aliyev. That was why they appealed to the Great Leader. The famous “group of 91” who signed this appeal fulfilled their historical mission with dignity. Because it was on the basis of that request, it was in response to that request that the constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan. More than 500 representatives from all regions of our country participated in the constituent conference, and their historic decisions led to the opening of a new page in the history of our country.
The first constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party held in Nakhchivan, I want to say again that it was a truly historic event. After that conference, which was chaired by the Great Leader, a new political force emerged in our country. When the New Azerbaijan Party was created, it was created as an opposition party, and taking on a major part of the burden, of the challenging problems of the state was a step that required tremendous responsibility. Because I want to say again that the processes developing in the country at that time were very disturbing. This was exactly why prominent representatives of Azerbaijan turned to Heydar Aliyev. Because the country was already in an ungovernable state, the foundations of statehood had not been laid in one year, democratic development was slow. In fact, the country was moving backwards. If we recall the introduction of censorship, that alone would be enough to suggest that there could be no talk of a democratic environment at the time. The fact that the constituent conference of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan was associated precisely with that. At that time, permission to hold this conference in Baku was not granted. In other words, although democratic values were being proclaimed, the people of Azerbaijan saw the exact opposite in life. There was no media freedom, the economy was in a dire situation, people's social condition was getting worse day by day, poverty had reached about 90 percent, and industrial production was completely paralyzed. The oil and gas industry, the leading branch of our industry, was also in great decline. As a matter of fact, there was an electricity crisis in the country. The regular army was not created, inflation went from two to three digits. So that was the situation in our country in November 1992.
Of course, the occupation of our lands made our situation even worse. The occupation of Shusha and Lachin in May 1992 was a huge tragedy both morally and from a military-strategic point of view, because it led to a geographical connection between the territory called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region” and Armenia. Everyone could see that if things were allowed to continue like that, the occupation of Kalbajar would be inevitable. Unfortunately, that was what happened. In other words, in April 1993, Kalbajar was also occupied and thus most of our territory was no longer under our control.
Confidence in Heydar Aliyev was at a very high level in society. That confidence was based on the fact that during his tenure in Azerbaijan, he had always served the people, he had always taken care of people's concerns, he had always been with the people, he was together with the people. It was under his leadership that Azerbaijan turned from the most backward republic of the Soviet Union into one of the most advanced ones in the early 1970s and 1980s. All statistical indicators confirm this. At the same time, the standard of living of people residing in Azerbaijan improved by the year. In particular, those engaged in agriculture were able to rebuild their lives. The confidence of our people in Heydar Aliyev, let me say this again, was unparalleled. The tragedy faced by our people in the 1980s showed once again that our people only wanted to see Heydar Aliyev as their leader. Because during his time in office – neither when he was first secretary of Azerbaijan in 1969-82 nor when he worked as a member of the Political Bureau in Moscow in 1982-1987 – separatist forces did not raise their heads in Karabakh even once.
However, there were such tendencies. There were ones in previous times as well. Less than two weeks after Heydar Aliyev resigned from all positions, Armenian separatists raised the issue of seceding Karabakh from Azerbaijan and annexing it to Armenia. In other words, all these factors show that the Great Leader was with the people even when he was in retirement and in the most tragic days for our people. The day after the 20 January tragedy, he went to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow and blamed the Soviet government, the Communist Party – the party he had served for many years – and condemned that horrific crime. All this and, at the same time, the steps taken towards independence during the time he worked in Nakhchivan, including the establishment of the state flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the official flag in Nakhchivan and other steps, as well as the protection of Nakhchivan from the Armenian occupation, enhanced people's confidence in him. It was thanks to all these factors and the wisdom of our people that he was able to save Azerbaijan from great troubles in the future.
Seven months after the constituent conference of YAP, Heydar Aliyev was invited to Baku at the request of the people. He was elected speaker of parliament and after 11 months, in October, he was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This put an end to the black page in our history.
The country was faced with very serious and major problems. It was Heydar Aliyev's courage, intelligence, experience, the people's confidence in him, and of course, the activity of the members of the New Azerbaijan Party, of social activists that allowed us the opportunity to come out of the difficult situation with dignity. It was on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev that critical steps were taken to lay out the country’s strategic development course. First of all, the Constitution was adopted. Just imagine that Azerbaijan was already an independent state before Heydar Aliyev came to power, but we did not have a Constitution. The adoption of the Constitution was a very important historic event. The foundations of statehood were laid and public institutions were established on the right basis. We managed to have the unjustified position against us in the international world altered. We did not completely eliminate it, because there were very serious forces operating against us at the international level. But we were at least able to break through the international isolation, including the information blockade, and communicate the truth about Azerbaijan to the world.
We launched profound economic reforms under the leadership of the Great Leader. The establishment of the economy based on the principles of a market economy was accomplished in those years. The future development of Azerbaijan as a secular state was determined in those years. It was in those years that our foreign policy and our work on national interests were explained to the people and received popular support. The steps taken in many other areas, including the field of army building, allowed us the opportunity to create a strong regular army in a few years. Today, all Azerbaijani people are proud of our army. In other words, those historic steps covered the long-term strategic development of our country. Of course, we had to have strong financial resources to implement all our plans. We understood perfectly well that it was impossible to achieve this without foreign investments. In order to attract foreign investments to the country, first of all, there had to be stability, and this stability was created. Back then, in 1991-1993, the Azerbaijani people actually did not know what stability was. There were illegal armed units, people with sub-machine guns were commanding the streets of Baku and other cities, there was a mood of mass disobedience. Under such circumstances, stability could only be created thanks to Heydar Aliyev's influence, his courage and the people's confidence in him. And foreign investments started flowing in immediately after him. The famous Contract of the Century and subsequent work in the oil and gas sector created a strong financial foundation at that time. The steps taken and the decisions made back then gave us the opportunity to pursue an independent economic policy and assert ourselves as an independent country at the international level.
So a very solid foundation of our statehood was laid in 1993-2003. Those years can be described as years of stability and development. The key thing is that this policy had to be continued. In 2003, the people of Azerbaijan showed wisdom again by expressing their respect for the personality of the Great Leader and voting for Heydar Aliyev's policy. I promised the people in 2003 that I would not turn from this path. The events of the last 19 years show that it has been the case. All the tasks and recommendations of the Great Leader have been fulfilled. He said in his political testament that many things had been done but his followers would do the things he could not do, and this is exactly what happened. By continuing and expanding on his political course, we have built a strong state of Azerbaijan in the true sense of the word. Every Azerbaijani is proud of this state, of our native state. We have deepened the economic reforms and the work done in this field in the last 19 years is obvious. Suffice it to say that our economy has grown more than three times since 2003. This year, our economy will reach a record high. The forecast by the end of the year says that our economy will reach 130 billion manats. This is a record indicator.
As a result of our successful economic and financial policies, we have been able to significantly reduce our foreign debt. This is a great advantage both for today and for future generations. Today, because our credit rating is improving. For future generations, because this burden will not fall on future generations. As a result of the reforms carried out by my order a few years ago, we will reduce the share of our foreign debt in the gross domestic product to 10 percent by the end of this year. If we look at our foreign exchange reserves, the volume of our foreign exchange reserves is eight times higher than our foreign debt. So only a handful of countries can boast of these indicators.
Of course, there is still much work to be done. The transparency of our economy, the fight against unpleasant situations, the significant reduction of the shadow economy, the improvement of the business environment, the serious fight against monopolies – all these are the issues on the agenda. This includes the application of corporate management to state companies, which is one of today's realities. I am sure that the economic reforms carried out today, the reforms carried out in line with our strategic line, will give us additional opportunities in the near future. In particular, we will definitely need a strong economy to rebuild Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur at our own expense and to achieve all these goals. Because this is essential. Countries that are economically dependent on other countries or international financial institutions face difficulties in conducting an independent policy. We have always wanted our policy to reflect the will of our people. We don’t want any outside force to influence our will. We don’t want to create such possibilities for anyone. Therefore, economic power and economic independence form the basis of our activity in all other areas. Following the Great Leader's path, we, of course, are paying close attention to the changes taking place in the world today and applying the most progressive experience in Azerbaijan. I am sure that we will achieve what we want in the coming years.
We have been able to significantly reduce poverty. Even though poverty did increase a little during the pandemic, as a result of the work done during the post-pandemic period and the regular increase of the minimum wage and minimum pension, we are keeping it around 5 percent. This is a very good indicator worldwide. Here, transparency in both state policy and in the economic and financial sector, as well as improvement of the business environment, the attraction of local and foreign investments to the non-oil sector, will be one of the key factors.
The state of Azerbaijan has been built and is developing on national and moral values according to the testament of the Great Leader. Azerbaijani values are above everything else for us. We are all witness to that. The young generation is also growing up in the national spirit. The young generation is loyal to our national traditions and the ideas of Azerbaijanism. All nations in Azerbaijan live like one family, and this was the policy of the Great Leader. By successfully continuing and enriching this policy, we have created a rare and unmatched environment in Azerbaijan and indeed on a global scale. The Second Karabakh War showed this again. Representatives of all the peoples living in Azerbaijan were ready to die. They were going to die but raised our flag in liberated lands. This is our great advantage. In this direction, Azerbaijan is showing exemplary conduct both within the country and at the international level. The key thing is that this policy enjoys the support of all Azerbaijani people and all ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan. This enhances our strength. And this is exactly how future generations should live, and I am sure they will.
Our oil and gas projects, which were initiated by the Great Leader in the mid-1990s, have now gained momentum. Even the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline the great leader authored has played a crucial role. The subsequent projects also significantly expanded our capabilities. Today, Azerbaijan has become an indispensable partner for many countries. The current processes unfolding in the world show that energy security is one of the key contributors to security. Without it, no country can consider itself safe. Our advantage, of course, is that we have natural resources. But there are so many countries with much bigger natural resources than ours. However – I don't want to compare ourselves to anyone – do all countries use those resources effectively? Of course not! Therefore, the work carried out in Azerbaijan in this field has strengthened the country's economy. At the same time, the income we have obtained was fairly distributed in society. First of all, the most vulnerable groups have benefited from these opportunities, including the former IDPs. They were provided with more than 300,000 houses and apartments built at the expense of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan. At the same time, our oil and gas projects have invigorated our international standing. Because Azerbaijan’s infrastructure, transport and energy are of vital importance for many countries, especially in the current conditions. Of course, as our geopolitical opportunities increase, the country's interests are addressed more fully and the number of our friends on different continents increases.
We have built a strong army. This was the Great Leader's testament to us. Today, the Azerbaijani Army has already asserted itself, expelled the enemy from our historical lands in a matter of 44 days, restored historical justice and the dignity of our people, and is the guarantor of the security of the Azerbaijani state today. We have always paid tremendous attention to army building. Some work was disclosed to the public, some of the work we did confidentially, i.e. secretly, which is understandable. But as a result, we showed the heroism and professionalism that it are an example for many today.
Our international positions have significantly strengthened. One could talk about this for a long time, but I will only to mention a few points. We became the first country in the CIS to be elected a member of the UN Security Council with the support of 155 countries. In 2019, we were elected chair of the Non-Aligned Movement by a unanimous decision of 120 countries, and due to our successful chairmanship, our term was extended for another year, until the end of next year. We successfully operate within the framework of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Organization of Turkic States and many other organizations. Even in organizations we are not a member of, we have many friends, and the events of recent years and months show this again. For example, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. We are not a member of this organization. Armenia is a member of it, and through this organization, it was intending to raise an unfounded claim against Azerbaijan. In fact, it wanted the countries that are members of this organization to confront Azerbaijan. This is a great provocation and a great crime.
However, other members of this organization did not succumb to this provocation. Some disgraced Armenia so badly in their speeches that Armenia cannot recover to this day. So what does this mean? The number of our friends in this organization is higher than those of Armenia. Why? Because of our policy and because we are a reliable partner. Why is the attitude towards Armenia negative? Because they lie everywhere. There is hardly any door left for them not to turn to in an effort to solve their problems. All this is obvious. Everyone sees and knows it.
An ugly provocation was recently planned against Azerbaijan within the framework of Francophonie, an organization we are not a member of but for what reason I don’t know Armenia is. The author of this provocation was France. France is now patronizing Armenia. They call each other sisters, and I could see that myself, some friends noted this particularly. I didn't mention that they could also call each other brothers, but for some reason they say they are sisters. The initial version of the resolution they had prepared was based on purely anti-Azerbaijani theses and was completely wide of the mark. As a result of the efforts of our friends in the Francophonie organization – we know them well and they are our friends in the true sense of the word – all anti-Azerbaijani theses were removed from there. The French-Armenian tandem failed to use this opportunity. In other words, this shows that our reputation in international organizations and the policy we are conducting at the international level are welcomed. We treat every job with responsibility. There is no difference between our word and our signature. We prioritize the principles of cooperation and friendship in our foreign policy and provide assistance to countries in need whenever possible, just as we provided humanitarian and financial assistance to more than 80 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. So this is a big issue. Of course, the fact that we conduct ourselves with dignity in the international arena has earned us further respect.
It is beyond doubt that while celebrating the anniversary of the New Azerbaijan Party today, each one of us expresses respect for the memory of the Great Leader again. Because as years pass and the world changes, each of us knows very well that if the people of Azerbaijan had not turned to Heydar Aliyev and invited him to power, our country could have been faced with even greater disasters.
The life and activity of the Great Leader was an example of selflessness. He always set an example to all of us, even in the most difficult times for himself, in the last years when his health was not as good as before. Each of us, including myself, tries to act according to his criteria, both during his life and in his absence. And that is what drives us today – the utmost respect for his memory and respect for his legacy. Today, independent Azerbaijan is his legacy.
Heydar Aliyev said something more in his political testament. I have already said this many times, the people of Azerbaijan also know this – our successors will finish the work we could not finish. Among them, I think that the first of them was the solution of the Karabakh problem. We, his followers, put this problem at the center of all our efforts. In other words, every step, every initiative, every investment, every international contact was aimed at bringing us closer to our holy goal! Therefore, the essence of all our work was exactly this – to liberate Karabakh and to restore historical justice. We were moving towards this goal. It took us a long time. But we had to cover this road and finish it in a way that would be permanent. We could never go on an adventure. We could not take a wrong or untimely step. We had to weigh everything and choose the best time considering our strength and other factors. We had to be in the best position at the right time. Our people rallied around our Army. This is why we all say that this is a national victory. Because the people and the government united like a fist, and we achieved what we wanted in a matter of 44 days. We restored historical justice and drove the enemy from our lands. 8 November 2020 will forever remain in our memory, including mine. At that time, I visited the grave of the Great Leader and then the graves of our martyrs. I shared the good news of Shusha with the people of Azerbaijan while in the Alley of Martyrs. In front of the Great Leader's grave, I said to myself that his last testament had been fulfilled.
Now we are rebuilding and reviving Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. It is a completely new era in our life, and in the life of our country. Each of us participates in this construction work with great enthusiasm. We have one goal – to quickly return the former IDPs to their ancestral lands, to quickly restore the destroyed cities and villages, and to show the whole world again that we are a great nation. Today, not only the citizens of Azerbaijan but also the Azerbaijanis of the whole world are holding their head high. Our dignity has now been restored. We are a victorious people, a victorious state, and this will be the case forever!
The event continued with speeches.