A conference entitled “100th anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and strategic partnership relations between Azerbaijan and Italy” took place in the Justiniani Palace in Rome, September 25.
First Vice-president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva participated in the opening of the conference.
Mehriban Aliyeva addressed the conference:
- Dear President of the Italian Republic’s Senate Mrs Casellati.
Respected participants of the event, ladies, dear friends.
I would like to sincerely greet you all. First of all, I would like to thank you, Mrs President, for the support you have provided for holding this event, related to Azerbaijan, in the Italian Senate.
Today’s conference is dedicated to a very significant for our country event. 100 years earlier, the first democratic republic of the Muslim world – the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan – was established. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan existed two years only. We are proud that back early in the 20th century, the people of Azerbaijan gained its state independence, having relied on the ideas of progress and freedom. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan took steps that were very important for our country. Democratic institutions started to form, a multinational parliament embarked on its activity, over 200 important for the country laws were adopted, including the right to vote granted to Azerbaijani women. First secular school was opened for Muslim girls, the state flag of Azerbaijan approved, and the national army formed. Unfortunately, the young republic lived 23 moths only. Having faced serious geopolitical problems, our country lost its independence.
In 1991, Azerbaijan regained its state independence, and the people of Azerbaijan possessed its country, its destiny back. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan laid the foundation of the statehood of our country. Today, the state of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people are showing great respect towards the memory of the founders of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, holding events dedicated to its 100th jubilee both in our country, and abroad.
After Azerbaijan regained its state independence, the relations between Azerbaijan and Italy have been developing successfully. Interparliamentary friendship groups, intergovernmental commission are functioning. In 2014, joint declaration was adopted between Italy and Azerbaijan on strategic partnership. Political dialogue us advancing on a very high level, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan has repeatedly been on official visits to Italy. In July this year, President of the Italian Republic Mr. Mattarella was on a visit to Azerbaijan. This was a historic event, as it was for the first time in the Azerbaijan-Italy relations that the head of the Italian state came on a visit to our republic. The visit was very successful, and I am sure it has been making its contribution to the strengthening of bilateral relations.
While on a visit to our country, Mrs President Mattarella decorated me with the order of Cavalier of Grand Cross. This is a great honour for me, and taking this opportunity, I would like to send my deepest thanks to Mr President.
Our economic relations are showing very good and positive dynamics. Italy is the biggest trade partner of Azerbaijan. 95 Italian companies are operating in Azerbaijan. They have been cooperating in various spheres, both with private sector and state entities. Very successful partnership has been established in the spheres of service, trade, transportation, agriculture, winemaking etc.
In July this year, inauguration of the polypropylene factory within SOCAR’s Polymer project took place in Sumgait with participation of the Azerbaijani and Italian presidents. Italy’s “Maire Tecnimont” Company is the contractor of the factory’s construction. An agreement was signed in February this year between Maire Tecnimont Company and the Oil Company of Azerbaijan on modernization and reconstruction of the Baku Oil Refinery named after Heydar Aliyev. Total values of these projects only makes up 2.5 billion US Dollars. The share of Maire Tecnimont in these projects is 1.3 billion. These numbers show the extent of the economic relations between Azerbaijan and Italy on the one hand, picturing the dynamics and scale of the economic development in our country, on the other.
The Azerbaijani economy has enjoyed 3.2-fold increase in the last 15 years. 250 billion US Dollars of investment was made into the country. About half of these investments were brought to the country by foreign investors. Azerbaijan’s foreign debt makes up 20 percent of the GDP. We have been pursuing a socially oriented policy. Recent years, unemployment has significantly dropped in our country, having been reduced to just 5 percent. Poverty level dropped from 50 percent to 5.4 percent. The Davos Forum ranked the Azerbaijani economy in the 35th place on its competitiveness. On the inclusive development index, Azerbaijan is ranked the 3rd among the developing countries. All these show that Azerbaijan is a very stable country, in both economic and political terms, with very good environment for investments. We invite Italian companies to our country, keeping all doors open to use the existing possibilities.
Azerbaijan is the leading state in the region. All large-scale projects are implemented at the initiative and with participation of Azerbaijan. In October last year, inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway took place, and commissioned into operation. This is the shortest way linking Europe with Asia.
Our country has been making its contribution to Europe’s energy security. Together with partner-countries, Azerbaijan has successfully accomplished the South Gas Corridor Project. In May this year, official opening of the project took place in Baku. Inauguration of the TANAP Pipeline, a large portion of the project, took place in June this year in Eskisehir city of Turkey. With total value of 40 billion Dollars, this project will deliver Azerbaijani gas to Europe.
Azerbaijan is a peace-loving country enjoying ancient civilization, culture and history. There has never been any conflict on religious or national grounds in our country. For centuries, representatives of various religions, cultures and nationalities have lived in the environment of peace and mutual respect. It is not by accident that today too, Azerbaijan is recognized as one of the hubs of multiculturalism in the world. International forums dedicated to multiculturalism, intercultural dialogue forums are held on a regular basis in our country. This initiative of Azerbaijan has been endorsed by such international organizations as the UN, UNESCO and ISESCO, and appreciated very highly. In 2008, a meeting of the culture ministers of the countries-members of the European Council and the Islamic Cooperation Organization took place in Baku. This initiative was named the Baku Process. The 10th anniversary of the Baku Process is celebrated this year. This process is continuing, serving to build efficient dialogue between nations and peoples.
Azerbaijan is a peace-loving country. With our neighbours and other states, we build our policy on the basis of mutual interest and respect. However, I should, with great respect, to underscore that the people of Azerbaijan has been suffering Armenia’s occupation policy for over 25 years. As a result of this policy, 20 percent of our internationally recognized territory is under occupation, 1 million fellow citizens living the life of a refugee or IDP. Over 600 people, including women, children and elderly, were savagely killed in the course of one night, as a result of the Khojaly tragedy, over one thousand people missing. Fourteen countries have recognized the Khojaly tragedy as a genocide. The UN Security Council issued 4 resolutions demanding that Armenian armed forces leave the occupied territories, without any preconditions. However, Armenia, grossly violating international legal norms, has been pursuing its occupational policy. I want to once more note that Azerbaijan is a peace-loving country, and we have been holding negotiations. We believe that the Armenia-Azerbaijan Daghlyg Garabagh conflict should be solved based on international legal norms, Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity restored, Daghlyg Garabagh and 7 districts surrounding it liberated from the occupation, and all refugees and IDPs returned to their native lands. I hope that Italy, as an acting chair of OSCE, would play a significant role in the conflict’s solution.
Dear friends, I want to once more mention that I am delighted to be again in your beautiful Rome. I want to note, with great pleasure, that our relations – political, economic and humanitarian – are advancing on a very high level. I would like to particularly stress our relations in the humanitarian sphere. Mrs President talked about this, and I think it is the humanitarian sphere, science, culture and education that bring people closer to each other, creating a friendlier environment, and we have reached great achievements in these fields. I want to once more note that the relations between Azerbaijan and Italy are advancing dynamically. I am sure these friendly relations between our peoples would become stronger.