Hosting int'l summit, Azerbaijani president highlights political stability as driving force of economic development, prosperity
    Full speech

    CHRONICLE  25 November 2023 - 09:26

    The Summit of heads of state and government of the Member States of the United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia – SPECA has been held at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku.

    President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the Summit, Azertag reports.

    President Ilham Aliyev welcomed the heads of state and government participating in the Summit.

    They posed together for a group photo.

    The head of state addressed the Summit.

    Speech by President Ilham Aliyev

    - Dear heads of state and government,

    Dear representatives of the international organizations,

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    I extend my sincere greetings to you and welcome our guests.

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA). Currently, Azerbaijan holds the Chairmanship of SPECA. Multifaceted relations between our countries have developed successfully in the past 25 years, yet it is the first-ever Summit of the SPECA Member States. I express my gratitude to the heads of the Central Asian states for supporting Azerbaijan’s initiative on holding the Summit. Today, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan cooperate successfully across a number of multilateral platforms. Upon my invitation, the prime ministers of Georgia and Hungary and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council are attending the Summit as the guests of honor. I am confident that the Summit with such a composition will pave the way to a broader format of economic cooperation.

    At the time of SPECA’s inception, the Member States were taking their first steps as independent countries. We were facing a multitude of problems and challenges. In the last 25 years, we have overcome the major challenges, strengthened our state sovereignty, become valuable members of the international community and achieved rapid economic development. Another factor uniting our countries is the political stability. Without stability, no economic growth can be achieved. Today, wars, conflicts and bloody clashes are raging in various regions across the globe, whereas, our countries enjoy peace, stability and security, with successful growth and development processes underway. This is a significant accomplishment and success of our states and peoples.

    There are quite a few failed and dependent states worldwide trying to sit on two or more chairs, aiming to serve several patrons and eager to turn their countries into an arena of a standoff between bigger states. One of them is Azerbaijan’s neighbor, Armenia. Such countries cannot be viewed as truly independent. The foreign policy of these countries is not based on their people’s will, and their fate lies in the hands of foreign sponsors. Meanwhile, SPECA Member States are truly independent because they pursue independent foreign and domestic policies.

    We welcome the recent adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the 25th anniversary of SPECA. The SPECA Trust Fund was established under the auspices of the UN. Azerbaijan will allocate 3.5 million US dollars to the Trust Fund.

    The economic forum, held on the sidelines of the SPECA Week in Baku, will contribute to fostering business ties between our countries. The exhibition in the Baku Expo Center vividly portrays the development in our countries.

    Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia are bound by centuries-long historical and cultural ties. Azerbaijan and Central Asia represent a single historical, cultural and geopolitical space, with increasing strategic significance. This September, I was invited for the first time to the Summit of the Heads of Central Asian States in Dushanbe, as the guest of honor. Once again, I express my gratitude for the invitation. I consider today’s Summit as a logical follow-up to the Dushanbe meeting.

    Azerbaijan’s robust economy enables the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. In the last 20 years, Azerbaijan’s GDP has grown by four times. Budget revenues have increased by 30 times and foreign trade turnover by more than 10 times.

    Azerbaijan’s direct foreign debt currently accounts for 10 percent of its GDP. Foreign exchange reserves exceed our direct foreign debt by 10 times. The poverty level has dropped from 50 to 5.5. percent.

    We have succeeded in creating a favorable investment climate in our country. 310 billion USD have been invested in Azerbaijan in the last 20 years, nearly 200 billion USD of which being invested in the non-oil sector of our economy.

    In recent years, Azerbaijan has invested billions of dollars in its transportation infrastructure, becoming one of Eurasia’s transportation and logistics hubs located along the East-West and North-South transportation corridors.

    Dear colleagues,

    In the early years of our independence, nearly 20 percent of our internationally recognized territory was occupied by Armenia. As a result of Armenia’s policy of ethnic cleansing, over one million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their ancestral lands.

    Almost 30-year-long negotiations yielded no results, as Armenia aimed to perpetuate the occupation. The statement by Armenia’s prime minister in the then-occupied city of Khankendi “Karabakh is Armenia, full stop” completely ruined the negotiations.

    In November 2020, the Azerbaijani people gained the brightest victory of our history. Azerbaijan defeated Armenia in the 44-day Patriotic War and put an end to occupation. We ourselves enforced the four UN Security Council resolutions of 1993 that had remained on paper for 27 years.

    Regrettably, even after that, Armenia failed to comply with its obligations. Around 15-thousand-strong military contingent of Armenia’s armed forces were left stationed in Azerbaijan’s sovereign territories. Our military servicemen fell victim to their military provocations.

    To counter these threats and to eliminate the grey zone, we conducted an anti-terror operation in Karabakh on 19-20 September. In just one day, we fully restored sovereignty over our entire territory, including the town of Khojaly, where a genocide against our people had been committed in 1992. Azerbaijan eradicated aggressive separatism in its territory. I express my gratitude to all countries who have congratulated Azerbaijan on this historic victory.

    Currently, the large-scale restoration and reconstruction works are being carried out across the liberated territories. We are building new cities and villages from scratch. As an initial step, we are planning to restore 100 residential settlements, including nine cities and eight settlements. Former internally displaced persons are returning to their ancestral lands under the Great Return Program. 140 thousand IDPs will return to their homes by the end of 2026.

    A school for 960 students named after Mirzo Ulugbek which is Uzbekistan’s present to Azerbaijan, was inaugurated this August in the city of Fuzuli. A gift by Kazakhstan, a creativity center named after Kurmangazy, is under construction and will be unveiled next year in Fuzuli. Once again, I thank President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev and President Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev for this brotherly support.

    In conclusion, I am grateful to the heads of state and government for accepting my invitation and attending the Summit. I express my confidence that this Summit will give a new impetus to our relations.

    x x x

    Then, other heads of state and government, as well as heads of international organizations made a speech.

    Noting that the Summit will create a good foundation for the further development of cooperation between the participating countries, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said:

    - Distinguished heads of state, dear participants. First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude to His Excellency Ilham Heydar oglu, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for organizing the SPECA Summit in the beautiful city of Baku, the pearl of the Caspian Sea. I would also like to say that I want to greet the heads of state of Central Asian countries and other guests participating in today's Summit.

    This year marks the chairmanship of Azerbaijan in SPECA. I believe that the results achieved will create a good foundation for our cooperation in many areas, which will be continued on the basis of transparency, sincerity and mutual trust.

    x x x

    Thanking Azerbaijan for the successful chairmanship of the UN Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Zhaparov noted:

    - Honorable President Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev, honorable heads of delegations, dear ladies and gentlemen.

    First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the Azerbaijani side for the traditional hospitality, active and successful chairmanship of the UN Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), and excellent organization of our anniversary Summit.

    x x x

    President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon expressed his gratitude to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev for having managed to achieve positive solutions to many issues during the chairmanship.

    - His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen.

    Dear colleagues.

    First of all, I want to express my gratitude to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, my friend and brother Mr. Ilham Aliyev, who has made sure that this Summit is organized at the highest level. I want to congratulate brotherly Azerbaijan on its successful chairmanship of the UN Special Program.

    I also want to note that you personally, dear Ilham Heydar oglu, were the author of at least two major breakthroughs in the direction of SPECA. First, for the first time in SPECA's 25-year history, you raised it to the level of the heads of state of participating countries. Secondly, the establishment of this Trust Fund had been pending for a long time, but you managed to achieve a positive solution to this issue during your chairmanship.

    x x x

    Touching upon the importance of the Summit for the member countries, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said:

    - I also join the words of appreciation addressed to President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev. As you know, the SPECA Summit is taking place today and I want to express our gratitude to him for the warm welcome.

    We want to note that state-of-the-art trade and logistical centers and special economic zones are being established in border areas. From this perspective, we highly value the restoration of historical justice in the liberated districts of Azerbaijan under the leadership of Honorable Ilham Aliyev and would like to point to the incredible construction work Azerbaijan is implementing in those places. In fact, I am sure that positive and promising changes will open up new opportunities for the development of regional cooperation.

    x x x

    Expressing his gratitude to the President of Azerbaijan for inviting him to participate in the Summit in Baku, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili noted:

    - Dear Mr. President, dear Prime Ministers.

    Dear Summit participants.

    I am greeting my beloved Azerbaijan and SPECA.

    It is a great honor for me to participate in this meeting as a guest of honor. First of all, I want to express my gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for the hospitality. Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me to the beautiful city of Baku.

    I want to congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of this organization. This organization is a great platform for sustainable development of the region.

    Azerbaijan is our valuable neighbor and strategic partner. We are proud to state that wonderful relations have been developing at the highest level between our countries for centuries.

    x x x

    Congratulating President Ilham Aliyev for his personal efforts both in this region and in global politics, Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban said:

    - Dear Mr. President.

    Dear colleagues.

    First of all, I want to express my gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for the kind invitation. Coming to the beautiful city of Baku is a very pleasant occurrence for me. I bring the warmest greetings from Hungary and want to congratulate you on reviving the SPECA initiative.

    The friendship between Azerbaijan and Hungary is not only about gas. We are building a fraternal relationship. We are brotherly countries and very strong energy relations have recently been established between our countries.

    We support this development initiated by President Ilham Aliyev. The trade turnover between our two countries has started to set records. We want to be more active in investment. The first natural gas from Azerbaijan has already reached Hungary.

    In conclusion, President Aliyev, I would like to congratulate you once again for your personal efforts both in this region and in global politics. You are promoting the principles of mutual trust and respect in global politics. Hungary is ready to participate in the development of Central Asian economies in all forms. Thank you on behalf of Hungary.

    x x x

    Emphasizing that today's Summit is a platform that creates great opportunities for the economic development of the countries of the region, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan Khojamurad Geldimuradov said:

    - First of all, I convey President Serdar Berdimuhamedov's greetings and wishes for the success of this event to all participants in the SPECA Summit and to President Ilham Aliyev.

    I would like to sincerely congratulate all of you on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of SPECA. This is a rare platform, a platform that creates great opportunities for the economic development of states of the region.

    x x x

    Stressing the importance of this event in terms of discussing urgent issues to be resolved by SPECA member countries, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Tatiana Molcean said:

    - Please allow me to express my gratitude to the Republic of Azerbaijan and especially to President Ilham Aliyev for the warm hospitality extended to us and for organizing this event – the Summit and SPECA week in general – at such a high level.

    As you may know, after 25 years, SPECA is still gaining momentum by means of such events. As you know, a special resolution on SPECA was recently adopted at the session of the UN General Assembly in New York. I want to congratulate Azerbaijan and all other participants on such an important occasion.

    The initiative has been voiced here to create the Trust Fund. We would also like this issue to be resolved as soon as possible. We are aware that there will be mainly voluntary transfers of funds here. We welcome Azerbaijan's decision to voluntarily allocate funds. We look forward to other partners following this example.

    x x x

    Thanking the Azerbaijani side for the high hospitality, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said:

    - I want to express my gratitude to His Excellency Mr. President Aliyev and the Government of Azerbaijan for hosting this remarkable Summit.

    x x x

    Noting that the Summit will give impetus to the strengthening of relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the countries of Central Asia, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed AlBudaiwi said:

    - Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion I would like to once again express my gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for inviting me here. I want to thank the Government and people of Azerbaijan for inviting me here. This step – the joint efforts of both sides – is aimed at strengthening the relations between countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and those of Central Asia.

    x x x

    Concluding the summit, President Ilham Aliyev said:

    - Thank you, dear friends.

    Two draft documents to be adopted at the current Summit – the Baku Declaration and the Road Map on Digitalization of the Middle Corridor – have been discussed by delegations of the SPECA participating countries and agreement has been reached on the texts that can be considered acceptable to all parties.

    Are there any further ideas on these documents?

    Thank you.

    Thus, in conclusion of the SPECA Baku Summit, the Baku Declaration and the Road Map on Digitalization of the Middle Corridor, are considered to have been adopted.

    This concludes the Summit.

    I would like to thank the heads of state and government and heads of international organizations for participating in the summit.

    Thank you.

    x x x

    The Summit ended with the adoption of the Baku Declaration and the Road Map on Digitalization of the Middle Corridor.


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