I welcome you all at the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process 7th Ministerial Conference, in Baku.
Since its inception in 2011, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has proved itself to be an effective multilateral platform for all parties involved, be it participating countries or supporting countries and organizations, to consolidate their efforts for settlement in Afghanistan and in the region. This platform introduces a unique opportunity to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and broader region, through dialogue and cooperation among regional countries and beyond.
Today, we are completing our duty as the co-chair of the Istanbul Process. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan remains committed to supporting the stabilization, peaceful reconstruction and development in the Heart of Asia, through bilateral efforts as well as various multilateral platforms. Through its co-chairmanship, Azerbaijan, I believe so made all possible contributions to advance the objectives of the Process. In 2017, we hosted Senior Officials Meetings in Baku and New York, and expert meetings of the Confidence Building Measures on Combating Narcotics and Regional Infrastructure.
We believe that a secure, self-reliant and self –sufficient Afghanistan has much to offer for the region’s better future. Hence, Azerbaijan has been continuously supporting Afghanistan’s efforts to build a sustainable statehood, providing substantial military, civil service, law enforcement, mine action, medical and rehabilitation trainings for Afghan officials, as well as sharing its experience on e-governance and public service deliveries. Today, our troops serve at the Resolute Support Mission and we continue our assistance to the Afghanistan National Army.
Azerbaijan’s contributions to the regional connectivity unlock opportunities for Afghanistan and wider region to be integrated into new regional markets and international trade networks. The recent inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad and the Lapis-Lazuli agreement of 5 nations, which are represented here today, will facilitate smooth movement of goods and passengers throughout the region. A wide region stretching from Georgia-Azerbaijan to the Central Asia, across the Caspian, constitutes an emerging competitive trade and transit artery in transcontinental trade routes connecting the World’s largest supply and demand markets. In this regard, we believe, the Lapis Lazuli agreement will have a significant role not only in bringing Afghanistan closer to European markets, but also in boosting international trade throughout the region.
Azerbaijan, as a country which knows the problems of the conflict from the first hand as we have long been suffering from military aggression of the neighboring Armenia, deeply comprehends the value of peace, security and stability. We believe that only respect for norms and principles of international law, particularly those pertaining to sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders of states can be a warranty for a lasting peace, security and stability in the region.
Today’s Conference on “Security and Economic Connectivity towards a Strengthened Heart of Asia Region” reflects the vision that only secure and economically connected region can withstand challenges and threats of any scale in future. We hope that the Baku Declaration that we are expecting to adopt at the end of the Conference will be a milestone document in addressing the challenges and threats that the region faces today.
Before concluding my remarks, I’d love to wish all the success to brotherly Turkey as the new co-chair of the “Heart of Asia” – Istanbul Process for the year 2018.
I thank you all and wish you productive discussions.