Dear ladies and gentlemen!
I highly value my election as President of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan and express my feelings of respect, reverence and deep gratitude to the Azerbaijani people, all citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan in this regard.
The people of Azerbaijan are going through a difficult and tragic period in their history. I am deeply aware of the degree of responsibility I have at this difficult time, and I want to assure you that in all my activities and throughout my life I will try to live up to the high confidence and hopes of the people.
Entering such a high and responsible post, I rely primarily on the intelligence, wisdom and strength of the Azerbaijani people. I have taken on this responsibility because of the hopes the people of my country have for me. I declare that I will do my best to justify these hopes.
The end of the 20th century was marked by political developments that have radically changed the world. The Azerbaijani people did not stay away from these processes and finally realized their centuries-old dream - became independent. The state independence acquired by the Republic of Azerbaijan was the logical outcome of the public and political processes taking place in the world and the former Soviet Union. The independence of our country is a historical event, the national heritage of the Azerbaijani people, and it would be completely wrong to speak about the exceptional merits of a certain movement or a force in this. The independence also requires the Republic and its citizens to resolve major and complex tasks. The strengthening of national independence, the creation and development of national institutions and attributes, ensuring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, the end of the state of war, the improvement of the well-being of citizens, the creation of the necessary living and working conditions – the solution of these tasks will be fundamental in my work as President, and I will strive to fulfill them.
Azerbaijan has an ancient history, rich culture and immense natural resources. The state independence creates all the conditions for the effective use of these assets for the future development of Azerbaijan. This is our primary goal. The Republic of Azerbaijan gained independence in extremely difficult conditions. The most difficult ordeal for us is the war Azerbaijan has been living in for more than five years, the aggression of the Armenian armed forces against our territories, and the woes that have befallen the people of Azerbaijan as a result of this aggression. Therefore, our main goal is to take the republic out of this war and create a peaceful environment for the people. Such a difficult situation in Azerbaijan has emerged in the wake of serious mistakes committed since the beginning of the Karabakh conflict by the government of the republic and of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, nothing was done over this period to take the republic out of this situation. The economic, social, public, political and moral crisis the republic was in deepened further and perhaps reached a critical point in 1993. In June of this year, the domestic stability in the country was completely disrupted, the stand-off between certain political forces, the actions of some criminal gangs and separatist forces aimed at the dismemberment of the republic, and a number of other factors further exacerbated the tensions.
As a result of serious blunders committed by the leaders of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the republic found itself on the brink of civil war in June. There was a real threat of the secession of some districts. Thank God, all these events were prevented, a number of criminal groups were eliminated and conditions emerged for building public and political stability in the country. The last four months have been very difficult for Azerbaijan. During this period, the republic and its citizens went through a serious test, and it showed once again that the wisdom of the people, the national accord and solidarity, and civic unity can overcome any difficulties and create the conditions for the republic to come out of the difficult situation.
However, although we have achieved relative stability inside the country, we are still in great danger. As a result of the aggression of the Armenian armed forces which has been continuing for more than five years, a part of Azerbaijani lands has been occupied. About 20 per cent of our territory is in the hands of Armenian invaders. The former Nagorno-Karabakh region is fully occupied, the town of Shusha, so dear and sacred to every Azerbaijani, has been in the hands of the aggressor for one and a half years. The Armenian armed forces have also captured Lachin, Kalbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil and Gubadli Districts of Azerbaijan. Hundreds of villages, towns and settlements have been destroyed. Nearly a million of our fellow compatriots living on these lands have become refugees and now live in very difficult conditions. All this increases the tension in the public, political and spiritual life. Our main task now is to take the republic out of the war, return the occupied lands, ensure the territorial integrity and security of the borders of the sovereign Azerbaijan and return refugees to their homes.
I assure you that, as President, I consider this to be my primary goal, and by mobilizing all the resources of the Azerbaijani people and using all possible avenues, I will make every effort to achieve this goal.
Of course, it is no easy task to get out of more than five years of war and return the occupied lands. There are different views in our society as to how to achieve this. Adhering to a peaceful stance on the whole, we prefer a peaceful solution of this problem, through negotiations. To do this, it is necessary to effectively use the diplomatic means, hold peace negotiations, while ensuring respect for interests of Azerbaijan, and achieve our goal through these negotiations. Leveraging the capabilities of the United Nations, the CSCE, the UN Security Council, the major states involved in the settlement of the conflict, and all international organizations we will continue to make every effort to take Azerbaijan out of the war and return the occupied territories.
At the same time, Azerbaijan as an independent state should have a strong army. Unfortunately, very little was done in this direction in the period that has passed since Azerbaijan gained its independence. In case of need, if the steps we are taking to achieve a peaceful settlement do not produce the desired outcome, the creation of a strong army capable of defending the territorial integrity and security of the republic is one of our main objectives.
It should be noted that in the five years of war, the people of Azerbaijan have gone through great trials and come to know the joy of victory and the bitterness of failure. This war is a great tragedy for us. At the same time, this war has once again shown the world the power, strength, heroism and wisdom of the Azerbaijani people. Our people have suffered huge losses in this war. The sons of this nation have heroically died while protecting our lands. I ask you today, during this ceremony, to observe a moment of silence to honor the memory of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the defense of Azerbaijani lands, for the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. May Allah rest their souls in peace!
And today I declare that the blood of our martyrs will not remain unavenged. Their memory will live forever in our hearts, our young people and future generations will learn from their heroism. The people of Azerbaijan will rise up, join their forces and create a modern army, and will from now on protect their independent state and land as the apple of an eye.
One of the main tasks facing the independent Republic of Azerbaijan is nation-building. Our path is clear - and we have repeatedly stated this - ours is the way of democracy. The independent Azerbaijan must build a democratic state functioning on democratic principles. The Azerbaijani state, using its historical and national traditions and drawing on international experience, democracy and human values, must follow the path of building a democratic state. This is our way, and today I promise that I will remain true to it.
This path is in tune with our historical past and is also essential for the integration of Azerbaijan as an independent state into the world civilization. There are and will be all the opportunities for that in Azerbaijan. The individual freedom, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of language, the freedom of conscience are prerequisites for building a democratic and civilized society in Azerbaijan, and we will ensure the establishment of these values. There is a multi-party system in Azerbaijan, there are and will be many parties. The Azerbaijani government will provide every opportunity for their creation and development and, of course, a multi-party society in which democratic principles are established will contribute to the development of Azerbaijan as an independent state.
An important role is a multi-party society is played by the opposition. We will continue to respect the opposition, and I want to express my hope that the opposition parties and forces existing in Azerbaijani society will adhere to a position of constructive cooperation, which will create opportunities for the development of a genuine democracy in the country. In short, we consider the presence of opposition forces in Azerbaijan as a normal phenomenon and state our willingness to cooperate constructively with them.
However, some of the opposition groups and political organizations should set aside the illegal, ugly and anti-democratic methods they have used in recent years. Political parties and movements can operate freely in Azerbaijan, but no political party or movement, no public and political organization can have armed groups. Today I resolutely declare this to the citizens of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the negative example of the Popular Front, a movement that at one time played a positive role in the political life of the country, contributed to the establishment and functioning of individual illegal armed groups. We believe that all parties, movements and political organizations will give up their armed groups. Only the state can have the armed forces. We should all strive for the elimination of illegal armed groups. This is a fundamental condition for the establishment of public and political stability in the country.
One of the main goals of a civilized and democratic society is the protection of human rights. I assure you that while in this high post I will always keep the focus on this area and create all the necessary guarantees for the protection of human rights. In short, our society will have all the conditions for a complete freedom of the individual. From this point of view, one of the important places at this stage is occupied by the freedom of conscience. Our people have returned to their faith. The Islamic religion has taken a historical place in the world. It has had a huge impact on people's spirituality, science, strength and power. It is thanks largely to Islam that our national traditions and culture have been handed down from one generation to another, and have reached the present generation as a national treasure. Azerbaijan has and will continue to have all the conditions for the freedom of religion, and I think that religion will play a major role in the achievement of civic solidarity and unity at this difficult time for the country.
Azerbaijan is a multiethnic country. This is a characteristic feature of our republic, it has a rich history and we are proud of this history and of the public and political situation in the country. All citizens of Azerbaijan regardless of nationality or religion have equal rights. We will continue to create all the conditions for the equal participation of citizens in the political life of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Today I was congratulated on taking office by the Chairman of the Clerical Office of Muslims of the Caucasus, representatives of the Christian and Jewish confessions. Expressing my gratitude, I want to assure you that everything necessary will be done in Azerbaijan to ensure the equality of all nations and religions.
One of the major objectives in strengthening the independence of the republic is a judicious and competent foreign policy, which will enable us to defend the interests of Azerbaijan in the international arena. Unfortunately, very little has been done in the foreign political area in the years of independence. We have to address serious issues. Our foreign policy should be primarily aimed at ensuring the independence of Azerbaijan. The goal is to build and develop equal and mutually beneficial relations with all countries, effectively use them both to strengthen the international standing of the Republic of Azerbaijan and to develop the economy, science and culture. We are pursuing a peaceful foreign policy and do not set goals of violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries. At the same time, we will try to use the opportunities of foreign policy to ensure the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the republic at whatever cost. I think the work to be done in the future will create conditions for greater recognition of Azerbaijan, and the republic will secure a rightful place in the world community.
Heads of many countries have sent congratulatory messages on my election as President. I view this first of all as recognition of the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its place in the global community. Expressing my gratitude to the heads of countries who sent greetings and representatives of foreign countries present here today, I want to assure you that the Republic of Azerbaijan as an independent state will continue to strive to establish fruitful relations with these and other countries and use these opportunities to get out of a difficult situation it is in. Thank you very much indeed, and I wish the leaders of your countries and your people happiness and every success in all your endeavors.
In order to take Azerbaijan out of the serious crisis, a lot needs to be done in the socioeconomic sphere. While the attainment of independence is a historic event for us, the fact that our economy is in such a deplorable situation creates great difficulties. Unfortunately, the crisis of the last few years has had a negative impact on all sectors of the economy.
The economy is almost completely ruined, which has led to a sharp drop in the well-being of our people. However, it should be noted that the country possesses enormous socioeconomic, scientific and technical potential. The geopolitical position of Azerbaijan and its natural wealth, the main assets created over the years provide the grounds for getting out of this difficult crisis. From this point of view, we should make the best use of the already created potential on the one hand and carry out economic reforms towards a market economy on the other.
This is a complex and difficult path. The transition from a socioeconomic system which took decades to create towards a free market is fraught with major difficulties, and the mistakes committed in this area in recent years further aggravate the situation. But we have to go this way because there is no other option. We have to organize this work in accordance with the national economy and its traditions. Following this path, we need to use the existing economic potential. We can’t afford to destroy it and should try to use this potential as the asset of the Azerbaijani people for the benefit of our citizens and to improve the living standards of all categories of the population.
It is our duty to carry out democratic reforms in this area and to take careful steps, and I assure you that we will follow this path. In this regard, I would like to highlight the entry of the Republic of Azerbaijan into the Commonwealth of Independent States. There has been a lengthy debate about this and, finally, Azerbaijan has joined the CIS. We are confident that this move will create favorable conditions for the development of the economy and we should take full advantage of that.
I would also like to emphasize that some circles are trying to portray Azerbaijan's accession to the CIS as a dangerous step. This is a misconception. As a member of the CIS, Azerbaijan will continue to defend its independence, and participation in the Commonwealth will not cause any harm to our independence. As an independent state, Azerbaijan will follow the path of democracy and respect for international democratic standards. The communist ideology and the communist regime will never be reinstated in Azerbaijan. I think that most our citizens share this view. The Republic of Azerbaijan will never become part of or fall into the dependence of any other state, and will always cherish its independence.
Our domestic and foreign policy will be based on democratic principles. By establishing democratic principles in Azerbaijan, we will put foreign policy at the service of strengthening the independence of Azerbaijan. As President, I openly say this to our people and want to assure you that I will always be faithful to these principles.
It is a historic and momentous day for me today. I would like to express my deep gratitude, respect and love for the citizens of Azerbaijan, the whole Azerbaijani people for their high confidence in me. I can assure you that for the rest of my life I will faithfully serve the people and dedicate my activities to the future development of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Placing my hand on the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I swear to devote my knowledge, experience and strength to the prosperity of the people of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
I swear that I will perform the duties of the President in the name of higher goals and benevolent ideas. I will make every effort to ensure complete independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
I swear that I will be the guarantor of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan, protection of the rights and freedoms of all the citizens of Azerbaijan regardless of their nationality, religion and political beliefs, and the guarantor of freedom, democratic reform and development of Azerbaijan as a democratic state.
I swear to adequately serve the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people, strive to ensure that our independent state takes its rightful place among civilized nations of the world, in the world community.
Placing my hand on the Holy Koran, I swear that I will remain true to the national and spiritual traditions of the Azerbaijani people, and provide guarantees for these traditions to be fully established, live on and evolve in our independent state.