Speech at the 49th session of the UN General Assembly

Speech at the 49th session of the UN General Assembly

Dear Mr. Chairman!
Dear Mr. Secretary General!
Ladies and gentlemen!

First of all, let me congratulate Mr. Amar Essi on being elected as chairman of the 49th session of the UN General Assembly and wish him every success in his activity. I also want to express my gratitude to Mr. Samuel Insanelli, the chairman of the previous session, for the work he has done.

I express my deep gratitude to UN Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. Boutros-Ghali, for his strong efforts towards strengthening of peace and security all over the world.

I am particularly grateful to him for his attention to the problems of our young state, which is going through a difficult period in its history.

Ladies and gentlemen!

I am both excited and proud to address you from the rostrum of this most prestigious international assembly. It is for the first time that the President of the independent Azerbaijan has been introducing its country which is recognized by the international community and has entered it as a fully-fledged member.

The people of Azerbaijan have aspired to freedom for centuries. After collapse of the Soviet Union, our people gained national independence. Our republic firmly embarked on the path of building law-governed, democratic and civilized state. This is a complicated process, it can’t happen overnight, but we are consistently moving towards our goal. A lot has been done in a short period of time. All conditions have been put in place to create a law-governed and democratic society. There is already a multiparty system in our republic, the principles of political pluralism, freedoms of personality, speech, press, religion, human rights and the rule of law are firmly established. All the citizens of the multinational Azerbaijan enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion and language.

The political changes have preconditioned the country’s democratization, the realization of profound economic reforms and the transition to a market economy. We do our best to encourage the development of private enterprise and private initiative. We are starting the implementation of a large-scale privatization program using experience of the developed countries of the world, the best practices in the construction of a civilized and democratic society.

Located at an important geographical and political junction between Europe and Asia, on a territory attracting the interests of a number of states, possessing ample natural resources and industrial potential and relying exclusively on the firm will and confidence of the Azerbaijani people, we follow this strategic line towards consolidating our independence and implementing democratic and market reforms. Today I can say with full confidence from this high rostrum that no-one can divert the people of Azerbaijani from our course. We are optimistic about the future of our country.

Our optimism is based on the historical developments unfolding in the world and the major changes taking place in the system of international relations. It is beyond doubt the road of militarized and ideological confrontation is being squeezed out and replaced by equitable relations in the system of international relations. The principles of partnership, lasting peace and security for all as established under international law and the UN Charter form the basis of a new world order. We see light at the end of the tunnel leading from a world of hostility and use of force towards cooperation and progress, and are ready to go down this road along with all the countries and peoples of the world.

However, the dangers facing the world have yet to be fully eliminated. There is still stereotyping, numerous problems still remain unresolved from the era of confrontation which lasted for decades, especially the problems in the field of disarmament and weapons of mass destruction. The relations between countries possessing different economic resources are faced with the problems of the past again. We are facing ever increasing ordeals in the areas of environmental threats, population and development problems.

Ethnic bigotry and separatism have disrupted the world order and caused bloody and ruthless conflicts in the Caucasus, the Balkan Peninsula and other locations around the world. These conflicts not only slow down the development of independent states but also pose a threat to the very existence of the so far immature democratic societies.

This places tremendous responsibility on authoritative international organizations and major states in the post-confrontation world. They must channel their political authority, economic, financial and military resources into the elimination of conflicts, strengthening of peace, stability and security all over the world.

The United Nations, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and the Security Council, which has experience in addressing a number of conflicts and crises, certainly play a huge role in the establishment of a new world order. But there are even more difficult ordeals facing the Security Council: to prove effective in totally different circumstances. Today, the Security Council should be as assertive as ever in enforcing the implementation of its resolutions. We do hope that the enlargement of the Security Council will contribute to its strengthening. We attach great importance to the role of the General Assembly. First of all we see this role in the fact that when decisions based on mutual compromises and a balance of interests are adopted, it is necessary to ensure strong interaction among member-states. Under the current circumstances, it is increasingly important for the UN Secretary General to effectively use his powers and for member-states to render their assistance to the Secretary General in the strengthening of international peace and security. In general, the Republic of Azerbaijan is optimistic of the future of the United Nations and intends to further safeguard the UN principles and contribute to increasing the authority and efficiency of the organization.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

Whereas the notions of "war" and "armed conflict" may imply historical events or something happening away from your home to you, they are unfortunately a daily reality for the people of my country.

The Azerbaijani land has been covered with the flames of war for six years. Under the pretext of supporting the right of ethnic Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan to self-determination, the Republic of Armenia is realizing an overt plan to occupy the territory of our state, change its state borders by force and oust the Azerbaijani population from its native land.

All this is portrayed as the exercise of people’s right to self-determination but actually represents an unfounded declaration of independence by an ethnic community and annexation to another state. Such interpretation of the right to self-determination runs counter to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any attempts to exercise this right leads to ruthless stand-offs. We have witnessed this both in our own region and elsewhere in the world.

UN Secretary General Mr. Boutros-Ghali has also expressed his concern over this issue: "If every ethnic, religious or linguistic group demands independence, then there will be no end to division, and it will be more difficult to establish peace, security and economic prosperity in the world."

I also fully support Mr. Boutros-Ghali’s view that "in the international system, issues of self-determination of nations and those of sovereignty, territorial integrity and other important affairs cannot contradict each other".

Aware of the fact that the international community is sufficiently aware of the events happening in our region, I would like to briefly inform you about the real situation. The Republic of Armenia has established strong armed units in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and conducted an active military campaign against our republic. After the occupation of Shusha city and Lachin District, the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh was completed and nearly 50,000 Azerbaijanis living in Nagorno-Karabakh were evicted from there. Using Nagorno-Karabakh as a foothold, the Armenian armed forces occupied six other districts of Azerbaijan located outside the formerly Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region - Kalbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan and Gubadli – which cover an area four times bigger than Nagorno-Karabakh proper.

As a result of this aggression, more than 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. I have to tell you about the horrible losses sustained by the Azerbaijani side: more than 20,000 people have been killed, nearly 100,000 people have been wounded, 6,000 have been taken prisoner, more than a million Azerbaijanis, or about 15 per cent of the country’s population, have become refugee and are now living in tent-camps. They have become homeless in their own homeland, are suffering from the heat of the summer, the cold of the winter, epidemics and a lack of basic supplies. A total of 700 cities and villages of Azerbaijan have been destroyed on occupied territories. Almost all houses, schools and hospitals have been set on fire and looted in these cities and villages, ancient cultural monuments have been destroyed.

I think that there is no need to prove that under such circumstances we are faced not with the "exercise of the right to self-determination" but with a flagrant violation of international law, aggression against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of a UN member-state.

The war has brought my people to an unbearable situation and intensified public tensions. It interferes with the implementation of economic and political reforms aimed at the democratization of Azerbaijani society.

As a result of war, Azerbaijan has sustained financial damage worth billions of US dollars, while moral damage inflicted on human fates and the tragedy of people cannot be measured at all.

Today there is bloodshed not only in Azerbaijan but also in other locations around the world. Peoples of the world should not remain indifferent to the tragic events unfolding on the planet. It is necessary to apply collective effort to prevent the exacerbation of armed conflicts and resolve them in a fair and lasting manner.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Four UN Security Council resolutions and six statements of its chairman regarding the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by the Armenian armed forces have been adopted in the last two years.

All of the Security Council resolutions confirm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, emphasize the unacceptability of the use of force to seize land and demand an immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from Azerbaijani districts and a return of refugees to their permanent places of residence.

But the Republic of Armenia pays no heed to these decisions. Moreover, it keeps on intensifying its military presence in the occupied districts of Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, the Security Council has not engaged the mechanism to implement the resolutions it has adopted. A question arises: How consistent and determined is the Security Council? How is the application degree of its resolutions defined in each particular case?

Failure to implement the decisions of the Security Council works against the UN and may undermine confidence in its capacity to implement its main duty of protecting international peace and security.

The available experience in the elimination of regional conflicts shows that efforts towards implementation of resolutions succeed only when they are underpinned with resolute measures stipulated in the UN Charter.

It is the duty of this authoritative international organization to the world community to take strict measures against the state that flagrantly violates international law.

We also rely on another authoritative organization, the CSCE, for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The Minsk Group established by the CSCE to address the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is based on the principles that all of the occupied territories should be vacated, occupying forces must fully withdraw from Azerbaijan and its sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders must be treated with respect.

But due to a lack of a specific enforcement mechanism at the CSCE, its numerous mediation efforts have not yielded fruit so far. Today, we have only one positive result: due to the serious efforts and active mediation of the Russian Federation and the CSCE Minsk Group, a ceasefire has been declared in the conflict zone.

There have been no sounds of firing and no bloodshed for more than four months. We appreciate all this. But the situation remains complicated and the ceasefire is very fragile.

The Republic of Armenia has put forward completely unfounded claims regarding provision of a part of the occupied territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with the independent status. It demands that its military forces be kept in this region of the Republic of Azerbaijan and that Shusha city and Lachin District of Azerbaijan remain under Armenian control, which actually represents legitimization of the fact of occupation of our territories.

Armenia completely rules out the possibility of restoration of the pre-conflict demographic situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the return of Azerbaijani population there, including the city of Shusha, one of most ancient culture centers of Azerbaijan.

Armenia does not implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council and suggests that international separating forces be deployed along the perimeter of the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, thus trying to turn them into a tool for the conservation of the current situation and making them a hostage of its policy of aggression.

The position of the Republic of Azerbaijan has always been constructive and peace loving. Despite all the damage inflicted on us, we offer peace to the Armenian side on the basis of international law, justice and humanism. We are ready to guarantee the security of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We are in favor of restoring the normal operation of all communications in region and the humanitarian corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on a mutual basis. If necessary, we would agree to the deployment of international peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone. We are ready to discuss the status of Nagorno-Karabakh within the state of Azerbaijan.

But there are unshakable norms and principles for us. These include the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, the liberation of all the occupied territories, the return of refugees to their native lands, including 50,000 Azerbaijanis to their native lands in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Supporting a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict, the Republic of Azerbaijan considers that the results of aggression can only be eliminated through the implementation of Security Council resolutions and stable and effective negotiations on the restoration of a strong and lasting peace and security of the population of the region.

We are also counting on the assistance of the international community in ensuring the implementation of the decisions made in accordance with international norms provided that peacekeepers possess a specific mandate.

Highly valuing the ceasefire agreement, we understand that it is not peace yet, but it creates the necessary conditions for the establishment of peace in the foreseeable future. We have repeatedly declared our determination to observe the ceasefire until a peace agreement is achieved and the armed conflict is fully resolved. I am declaring this again from this high UN rostrum today.

We support the peace-keeping activity of the CSCE Minsk Group and the Russian Federation and their concerted efforts. We are opposed to any competition for a leadership in the settlement of this conflict. Such a competition can only delay the establishment of peace the people of Azerbaijani and Armenian need to the same extent.

Our demands concerning complete liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan are legitimate and consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions. Attempts to occupy any district are unacceptable for us and run counter to international law.

As a result of our involvement in this war, a very difficult humanitarian situation has emerged in the republic. A seventh of our country with a population of 7 million people is made up of refugees who have no homes, jobs and money to support themselves. Refugees and IDPs are exposed to unseen deprivation and have to live in tent-camps. The severe winter conditions, the lack of food and medicine are causing the risk of epidemics and famine among this category of the most vulnerable population. The alleviation of refugee suffering has become one of the top priorities for the Azerbaijani state.

The urgent call of our country was responded by international organizations and a number of states, and we express our most sincere gratitude to the Governments of Sweden, the UK, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, which have been the biggest donors of UN humanitarian assistance programs to Azerbaijan.

We are also grateful to the governments of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries which have provided significant humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan through bilateral ties.

We are also grateful to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, the organization "Doctors without Borders", many non-governmental organizations that have provided invaluable assistance.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

A distinctive imprint on the role and place of my republic in the international system is imposed by the specificity of Azerbaijan arising from its geographical location, the social and political orientation, the historical and cultural traditions of our country, where Eastern and Western civilizations are in harmony with each other.

And understanding our specifities and considering the challenges of change, we we are building a structure of cooperation with the outside world on a step-by-step basis.

Ever since the Republic of Azerbaijan received international recognition, we have established equal and balanced relations with the vast majority of countries and joined many global and regional organizations, have made serious efforts to expand our international relationships and restore the bonds that have been lost due to certain circumstances.

Attaching special importance to historical, geographical, economic and humanitarian relations with the independent states that have emerged in lieu of the former Soviet Union, we advocate the development of equitable cooperation with them, especially with Russia, both on the basis of bilateral relations and within the Commonwealth of Independent States.

We are successfully developing friendly relations with the United States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, France and China. Close ties bind us with neighboring countries and regions, such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, with whom we work closely within Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Azerbaijan’s accession in May of this year to NATO’s "Partnership for Peace" program was an important event in the political life of our country. We are interested in this program because of cooperation and collaboration in the interests of overall security. I welcome the accession to the program of the former members of the Warsaw Pact. This gives hope to the entire Eurasian continent that a peaceful cooperation awaits it in the future that will provide security, progress and prosperity to all nations and forever eliminate the possibility of emergence of new confrontation blocks. We do hope that participation in the NATO program will enhance the role of our country in the establishment of a new European security architecture.

This year, the Republic of Azerbaijan was granted the observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement, which opens up great opportunities for establishing bilateral contacts and relations with member-countries in various fields.

The most important stage in the process of formation of the young Azerbaijani state was its accession as a fully-fledged member to the United Nations in January 1992. Since that time, the scope of our cooperation with many international organizations within the United Nations has been expanding. Particularly valuable for us is the interaction with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

As a result of practical work of specialists from these largest financial institutions of the world in Azerbaijan, specific projects have been identified. They are of great importance for the socioeconomic development of our country.

We believe that there are great opportunities for our cooperation with international financial institutions. We understand the concern of the leaders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank over the actual state of war the Republic of Azerbaijan has been dragged into. But at the same time, the International Monetary Fund has provided a stabilization loan to Armenia, a country at war with us. We believe that justice requires at least a balanced approach to this issue.

We have high expectations for the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Environment Program in terms of the technical assistance in the development of national programs on the market economy infrastructure, the country’s progress towards a modern level of management and the introduction of advanced technologies.

We attach great importance to international cooperation, and I am very pleased to inform you that the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a contract with a consortium of major international companies on 20 September on the joint exploitation of oil fields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea for a period of 30 years, which was the result of long and hard negotiations.

This major economic event is a testament to our policy of openness to the world, the policy of economic liberalization and attraction of foreign investment.

The signing of this unique contract will strengthen cooperation and relations between the peoples of the countries participating in its implementation - Azerbaijan, the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Turkey, Norway, Saudi Arabia.

Speaking of which, I want to emphasize once again that the Republic of Azerbaijan aims to fully integrate into the international community and has all the possibilities to do that. Therefore, our policy is based on a desire for peace, and we place great hopes for the United Nations in achieving it.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

The people of Azerbaijan showed great confidence in me by electing me as President of this young and independent country, and today I have had the honor to convey to you their deepest aspirations.

I leave this high rostrum of the General Assembly of the United Nations with the hope that the voice of my people will be heard and find its way to your hearts.

Thank you.