Mehriban Aliyeva: Azerbaijan become major party contributing to Europe-Asia relations
Azerbaijan has become a major party contributing to Europe-Asia relations, Azerbaijan’s First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva said at a reception held in Paris to introduce Baku`s bid to host the World Expo exhibition in 2025.
Addressing the event, Mehriban Aliyeva welcomed all the participants of the event and thanked for accepting Azerbaijan’s invitation.
"It is an honor to introduce on behalf of the Government of Azerbaijan the bid of Baku to host the World Expo in 2025. I would like to thank Deputy Secretary General Dimitri Kerkentzes for being with us tonight and I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the leadership of the BIE [Bureau International des Expositions] and to their dedicated team for the excellent cooperation with the Government of Azerbaijan," she said.
"Since 2000 Azerbaijan has been an active member of the EXPO movement. Our pavilions received awards in the last three exhibitions in Milan in 2015 with more than 3 million visits, in Antalya in 2016 and in Astana in 2017. We are proud of this recognition of our modest contribution to the work of the BIE. World Expos are a showcase for diversity, based on equality and respect for all cultures. They bring the entire international community together in a unique space for global discussion and cooperation. I therefore believe that Azerbaijan is one of the best places to host this universal platform," the country’s first vice president stressed.
"For centuries our country has been at the crossroads of continents and civilizations. With lands spanning Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan plays a role of a commercial, political and cultural bridge between East and West, North and South. For two thousand years, the ancient Silk Road passed through modern-day Azerbaijan. Much like World Expos, it served as an important channel for sharing knowledge and skills. It shaped the history, culture and tolerant outlook of the country," Mehriban Aliyeva said.
"Different ethnic groups and religions have been coexisting in Azerbaijan throughout centuries in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual respect. Ethnic and religious diversity and multiculturalism are not simply our state policy but at the same time our lifestyle. This is our history and our today’s reality. We are a secular, multicultural and multi-faith society. And we are proud of that,” the first vice president added.
Mrs Aliyeva stressed that today Azerbaijan is recognized as one of the world’s centers of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.
"We create international platforms to promote better understanding between people of different cultures and religions that would allow us to address more efficiently many serious problems that the world faces today. Our history and our today’s reality prove that this is possible," she continued.
"Just as one example, I can mention World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue initiated by Azerbaijan and supported by such international organizations as UN, UNESCO, Council of Europe, UN Alliance of Civilizations, World Tourism Organization and ISESCO. In line with this policy, we proclaimed 2016 as the Year of multiculturalism and 2017 as the Year of Islamic Solidarity in Azerbaijan. First European Games in 2015 and Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games held earlier this year have been Azerbaijan’s another contribution to dialogue between cultures. Next year we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - the first parliamentary and secular republic in the Muslim world. Even if it had lasted only for 23 months, this Republic laid the foundations of democratic tradition for the contemporary Azerbaijani statehood on the basis of respect of equal rights to all of its citizens regardless of their race, ethnic origin, religion, sex or social status. It was back in 1918, that Azerbaijan became one of the first countries in the world to grant women equal political rights with men, including the right to vote,” the first vice president of Azerbaijan said.
After Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, the country immediately faced major political, economic and humanitarian challenges that posed a threat to its existence as an independent state, Mrs Aliyeva said.
"The most serious of these challenges was the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, as a result of which 20% of our country’s territory, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts was occupied, and the occupation is still ongoing," Mehriban Aliyeva noted.
She stressed that more than a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons in the wake of the ethnic cleansing carried out by Armenia.
"The United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions calling for an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan. These resolutions must be implemented and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored," the first vice president added.
"But despite the conflict and additional challenges of transition to a new political system and a market economy, Azerbaijan has been able to put in place a successful development strategy and implemented necessary political and economic reforms. This allowed us to strengthen our independence, improve the quality of life of our citizens and secure a dignified place for Azerbaijan in the community of nations. Political, economic and social stability are a solid basis of our successful development," Mehriban Aliyeva pointed out.
"As a result, from 2004 to 2014 our GDP tripled and Azerbaijan became one of the fastest growing economies of the world. More than one million six hundred thousand jobs were created. Level of unemployment - 5% - is one of the lowest in the world. During the same period, we managed to reduce the level of poverty from 40 percent down to 5 percent. More than 3,000 schools, over 600 hospitals and more than 50 sports complexes have been built across the country," she stated.
"In 2009, Azerbaijan was assessed by the World Bank as a “leading reformer of the world”. World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index for 2017-2018 ranked our country as 35th among 137 economies. Azerbaijan initiated and implemented several major international infrastructure projects, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railroad, which was inaugurated on October30, 2017. This 850-km road is the shortest route linking Europe to Asia," the first lady said.
"Today, we are also playing a leading role in the realization of the Southern Gas Corridor- a $40B project providing a new source of natural gas for international markets and strengthening European energy security. These examples testify to Azerbaijan’s practical contribution to the revival of the ancient Silk Road, the greatest value of which has been at all times promotion of dialogue and exchange of skills and knowledge between various continents, cultures and civilizations," Mehriban Aliyeva noted.
"Azerbaijan is a nation on the rise and now it is our ambition to win the right to host World Expo and to host the whole world in 2025. Our theme – ‘Developing human capital, building a better future’ – is indeed of universal concern. It addresses the great challenge of our time – the impact of technology and increasing connectivity on humankind. At Baku Expo 2025, we believe it will be crucial to look beyond technology, and to focus on the people who power economies, communities and creativity – from leaders to ordinary citizens. We will put people… human capital – the world’s most powerful resource – at the centre of universal debate," Mrs Aliyeva stressed.
"World Expo in Baku will offer the organization a chance to engage with new audiences in a new market. It will offer the chance to write new history, in a new region, in a new era. And it will offer the people of Azerbaijan the chance to show that we can be one of the best possible partners for the BIE. If our bid is successful, we will be the first city in the whole region of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and the Caspian to host a World Expo," Mehriban Aliyeva added.
According to her, Azerbaijan is ready to allocate all the necessary funds for the site’s construction and operation as well as to support the participation of developing countries.
The first lady listed main arguments in favour of Baku's bid to host a World Expo:
1. Azerbaijan has an ancient history rich with the traditions of multiculturalism and mutual respect between people of different religious and ethnic origin;
2. Azerbaijan's easily accessible geographical location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia provides a new destination for a world expo;
3. Azerbaijan is a young independent country with political and economic stability, financial capability and high level of security and safety;
4. The City of Baku with its rapidly growing infrastructure is a unique mixture of history and modernity;
5. Azerbaijan is a rapidly growing tourist destination with an easy access and electronic visas for citizens of more than 90 countries;
6. Azerbaijan's rich cuisine, nice climate and traditional hospitality are definitely an advantage.
She stressed that EXPO in Baku would be another recognition of our achievements during the 26 years of its independence.
"It will also be a strong encouragement for all young, independent countries. It is our sincere ambition to host World Expo 2025. If you entrust us with the honor, we will proudly welcome the world to Azerbaijan and to our beautiful city, Baku. I thank you for your attention," Mehriban Aliyeva concluded.