Dear heads of state!
Ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I express my gratitude to the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Askar Akayev, and the Government of Kyrgyzstan for their hospitality and organization of our summit at a high level.
On behalf of the people of Azerbaijan, I salute my dear brothers participating in this prestigious meeting - President of Turkey Suleyman Demirel, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev, President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov and President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. I express my respect and esteem for you and your people and wish you happiness and prosperity.
I am pleased to note that the third summit, the foundation of which was laid in Ankara in October 1992, has become a wonderful tradition.
It is very gratifying that our countries, covering much of Eurasia and possessing a large economic and human potential, have already begun regional cooperation as independent states and equal members of the international community.
Our peoples and countries, having made a significant contribution to world civilization for centuries and connected with each other by such unbreakable bonds as geographical proximity, historical destiny, culture, tradition, common religion and language, have broad capabilities for close and effective cooperation.
The brilliant works of the outstanding personalities representing our peoples in the fields of literature and art, architecture, philosophy and sciences have given an impetus for the progress of all mankind, spiritual life and material culture.
I have recently attended celebrations in the Republic of Turkey dedicated to the 500th birthday anniversary of one of the most brilliant representatives of oriental literature and philosophy, the great Azerbaijani poet Mohammad Fizuli, and holiday events in Almaty devoted to the 150th anniversary of the worthy son of the Kazakh people, prominent thinker, philosopher and poet Abai. I was further convinced that the works of Ibn Sina, Nizami, Navai, Yunis Imra, Fizuli, Mahdumgulu, Mahmud of Kashgar, and many other brilliant geniuses of the East, the immortal epics such as "Dada Gorgud", "Koroglu", "Manas" and "Alpamysh" belong not only to our kindred peoples, but are also valuable assets of all mankind.
I am very happy that our summit overlaps with the millennial anniversary of the "Manas" epic, and we, heads of the states attending this summit, are celebrating the millennial anniversary of free Kyrgyzstan's epic, which is considered sacred for the whole Turkic world, together with all the Kyrgyz people in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.
"Manas" is opposed to slavery, puts freedom and independence of the people above everything else, encourages people to fight for the liberation of the sacred fatherland from foreign invaders, and lovingly celebrates the brotherhood of Turkic peoples.
To resolve our major problems, we have to help each other, reach out to prevent division and isolation, must work together to help our brothers in distress, extinguish the fire of bloody wars and armed conflicts.
I therefore attach great importance to this meeting. I heartily welcome the fact that these meetings will acquire permanent nature. Our historical roots, the similarity of our goals and challenges, the unity of our national positions - all this forms a solid basis of our strategic partnership and inspires optimism about the future.
In recent years we have witnessed global historical and geopolitical changes on the planet. Under these new conditions, wider horizons are opening up for us to build our relations on an independent and sovereign basis.
Considering the reforms carried out by our countries, the steps being taken in the direction of equal integration into the international community, I consider this area of our cooperation particularly important. By leveraging the rich natural resources of our countries, a very large industrial, agricultural and intellectual potential, enriching it with modern technology and creating new transport and communication systems, we can meet the requirements of the 21st century and provide for a decent life for our peoples.
Each Caspian state has its own sector rich in energy and associated rights and opportunities. Using these capabilities and actively collaborating in joint multilateral projects, we can turn the Caspian basin into an area of prosperity and progress and take a rightful place in the global economic system. Besides the fact that the rich natural resources of the Caspian Sea offer ample opportunities for cooperation, they present us with the problem of the economical and efficient use of these resources.
Major investment projects enable us to create modern transport and communication systems linking our energy-rich countries with the consumers around the world.
The creation of a mutually beneficial and complementary economic space with access of oil and gas pipelines to be built from Central Asia to Turkey and from there to world markets would be very useful for our peoples. The construction of these pipelines and their continuous and secure operation could further strengthen the cooperation between our countries and serve the prosperity of our independent states.
Azerbaijan, and indeed a number of fraternal countries represented at this prestigious meeting, is going through a difficult period of transition. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan, which declared independence, chose the path of building a democratic and law-governed state and the implementation of radical market reforms. Despite the difficulties inherent in this historical period, we have achieved a number of successes along the way.
Relying on the will of our people, who have been fighting for independence for centuries, the independent Republic of Azerbaijan is moving confidently towards building a sovereign and constitutional state.
Today, we are the masters of our own destiny and wealth. In a short period of time, political pluralism, freedom of the person, of speech, press and conscience were adopted in Azerbaijan. Human rights are securely protected in Azerbaijan regardless of nationality, language and political opinion.
More than 40 political parties, 400 independent newspapers, more than 30 news agencies and TV companies operate in complete independence.
We have prevented a number of anti-constitutional attempts at overthrowing the government by force. We have restored political stability in the country. All the measures we have taken to implement radical democratic reforms have been supported by the people of Azerbaijan with confidence and determination. Therefore, we cannot turn back from the path of independence.
We have decided to hold on 12 November of this year the first democratic parliamentary election on the basis of a multi-party system. Extensive preparations for the election are under way in the country. I am sure that the parliamentary election will be an important step towards establishing democratic traditions in Azerbaijan. On the same day we will adopt the first democratic Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan by a popular referendum. These events will be a new bright page in the history of Azerbaijan and ensure a happy future for generations to come.
By creating a free market, we carry serious economic reforms to integrate into the world economy as an equal partner. Reforms in agriculture are already well under way. The privatization program has been adopted and privatization of state property will be conducted in the near future.
After the signing of the well-known "Contract of the Century" with a consortium of major oil companies of the world, the long-term international cooperation on the development of energy resources in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea is rapidly evolving. I am pleased to note that also involved in this contract is the oil company from the brotherly Republic of Turkey.
On a par with this, the Republic of Azerbaijan has faced a number of serious obstacles in the way of nation-building. About seven years ago, the Republic of Armenia unleashed military aggression against Azerbaijan and started a bloody war. As a result of this aggression, more than 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory has been occupied and more than a million of our citizens have become refugees and now live in difficult conditions in tents.
One of the factors negatively affecting the lives of our people is that the armed forces of Armenia have burned and destroyed industrial and agricultural enterprises, social facilities and cultural sites, fields of wheat, cotton plantations and vineyards on the occupied territories.
Despite heavy losses and sacrifices, we are trying to resolve this conflict by civilized political means within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its Minsk Group, by establishing peace and prosperity in the region on the basis of fair international laws. But for a political solution to be achieved, the Armenians must withdraw their forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, including Shusha and Lachin.
Azerbaijan does not want war. We are defending our lands. We are fighting against the military aggression of Armenia, in the name of territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. We demand respect for all international legal norms adopted by all states of the world, respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. We demand the implementation of all the resolutions of the UN Security Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemning the Armenian aggression and demanding unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from all our lands.
It is encouraging that the ceasefire agreement reached in May last year has been observed for 15 months. We have repeatedly stated and I reiterate today that we will abide by the ceasefire until lasting peace is achieved. At the same time, we believe that the current situation of “neither war nor peace” cannot continue forever. There must be an end to the war and the occupied Azerbaijani lands must be released soon.
Taking this opportunity, I appeal to you, the heads of states participating in the summit, to use all your capabilities and make efforts for the early settlement of this conflict, to render assistance in securing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and returning more than a million refugees to their homes.
Protection of the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of all countries, a serious struggle against separatism and terrorism, which have become widespread in many parts of the world in recent years, compliance with the UN Charter and principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and their active implementation is a sacred task for each of the us.
Cooperation within the framework of the TURKSOY program is of great importance for the life and culture of our peoples. The ceremonies dedicated to the millennium anniversary of "Manas" and the 150th anniversary of Abai are among the areas of this cooperation.
As you know, the 500th anniversary of great philosopher and Azerbaijani poet Mohammed Fizuli is celebrated around the world this year on a UNESCO decision. Celebrations have already been held in Ankara and Moscow, and will be held in Paris, the UNESCO headquarters, at the end of the year.
I take this opportunity to invite all of you to the Azerbaijani capital Baku to attend the celebrations dedicated to Fizuli.
Our peoples have been in touch, have worked together and enriched each other for thousands of years. The revival of this cooperation in a new period and a new environment is of great value for all of us. These roots and foundations offer great opportunities for the flourishing of the most sacred aspirations of our people and create perfect conditions for a confident adherence to peace and progress.
I believe that our peoples, having passed through many trials along the way and tasted the bitterness of loss and the joy of revival, will realize their centuries-old hopes, enter the 21st century as worthy sons of their glorious ancestors. This is our hope, this is our job and this is our duty.