Ilham Aliyev joined nationwide Novruz festivities

Nationwide festivities on the occasion of the national holiday of the people of Azerbaijan, Novruz, have been held in Baku.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva joined the Novruz festivities.

The head of state and his wife arrived at the square in front of the Maiden Tower.

Boys and girls dressed in national costumes performed folk dances.

Fighters carrying swords and shields reminiscent of Azerbaijan`s ancient history stood on the walls of the Old City and in the square.

Dada Gorgud gave his blessing and expressed hope for the spring holiday to bring abundance to the Azerbaijani people.

President Ilham Aliyev lit the Novruz bonfire.

The head of state made a speech.

Speech by President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear friends, I would like to sincerely congratulate you and all the Azerbaijani people on the upcoming Novruz holidays. Novruz is our favorite holiday. The Azerbaijani people have been celebrating and cherishing this holiday in their hearts for centuries. Our national and spiritual values are the main pillar of the modern state of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a modern state, but at the same time it is built on deep national and spiritual values and roots. We should do everything possible to ensure that the younger generation is also raised in the national spirit, in the spirit of patriotism, to ensure that the younger people, like us, are attached to the Motherland, so that national interests are above everything else for them.

Azerbaijan is seeing Novruz in with excellent results. Our country is experiencing comprehensive development. The ongoing creative work strengthens our country and enhances Azerbaijan’s international authority. The domestic situation is stable. The main guarantor of this stability is the Azerbaijani people. The unity between the people and the government is the main guarantor of stability. The work carried out in connection with the domestic policy and the ongoing reforms that are giving excellent results. The processes taking place in the world show once again that only stable countries can develop successfully. Only stable countries can attract foreign investments, and people in them live quietly and in safety. Stability is disrupted in various parts of the world, there are numerous bloody clashes and wars, new risks are emerging. The key issue on the global agenda today is security. Thanks to the policy pursued in this direction, Azerbaijan is one of the countries that have earned great authority in the world. There are no sources of internal risk in our country. We are trying to defend ourselves from external risks and will continue to do that, providing a peaceful life for the Azerbaijani people.

Our international relations are expanding. Azerbaijan today enjoys a very high reputation on a global scale. Our initiatives are giving an impetus to regional cooperation. The Sixth Global Baku Forum was held a few days ago. About 50 current and former heads of state and government from more than 50 countries took part in the forum. I can say that in a short period of time the Baku Global Forum has earned itself a worthy place among the most prestigious forums around the world. I believe that the issues currently discussed at the Baku forum are of great importance for the world. A conference of the foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement will also be held in Baku next month. This is also a representative international event. The fact that it will be held in Azerbaijan is further evidence of the support provided to us by the Non-Aligned Movement and member-countries of the organization.

In many cases, Azerbaijan acts as the initiator in matters of regional cooperation. A few days ago, the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia and Turkey was held in Baku for the first time in history. I believe that this is a historic event, a historic meeting. Prior to that, several regional formats were created also on our initiative, and they successfully operate. Three-sided formats have emerged: Azerbaijan-Iran-Georgia, Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran-Russia and, finally, the four-sided format of Azerbaijan-Iran-Georgia-Turkey. I should note that Azerbaijan is the initiator of all these multilateral formats. This strengthens stability and cooperation in the region and addresses the economic interests of the countries participating in these formats. The issues discussed cover political, economic, cultural, transport and other spheres. As you know, major transport projects are being implemented in the region on our initiative. The East-West transport route has already been implemented. This route is already in operation following the opening last year of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. In the near future, after the Baku International Trade Seaport in Alat reaches full capacity, the volume of cargo passing through the territory of Azerbaijan will increase several times. At present, we are engaged in the creation of the North-South transport corridor. All the work associated with this route on the territory of Azerbaijan has been completed. At the same time, Azerbaijan will take additional measures to fully implement this route. Also, these two important transport corridors have allowed us the opportunity to come up with new initiatives, and the Baku meeting of the foreign ministers of four countries also discussed the South-West transport route for the first time, and again on our initiative. Thus, although Azerbaijan does not have access to the world ocean, we will turn into an important transport center of Eurasia, and there are already excellent results in this direction.

I want to reiterate that regional cooperation strengthens stability and reinforces cooperation. We live in this region, therefore, of course, our successful cooperation with the states of the region will be continued.

We extensively cooperate with other international organizations and the European Union. Azerbaijan is an active member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Against the backdrop of this beautiful picture, Armenia has found itself completely isolated from all formats of regional cooperation. This is natural, because this is precisely what our policy is about. Armenia is isolated from all issues and does not participate in any regional cooperation formats. This is the case not only because we are not give them such an opportunity – although I think this is the main factor – but also because Armenia is of no interest from political, economic or transport perspectives. In political terms, this country is not independent, it is a satellite. The decisions Armenia makes in connection with the country’s future do not mean a lot. From the economic point of view, no investments are made in this country, investors are not interested in that. Several factors play a role here. First of all, there is thriving bribery, theft and corruption. On the other hand, people are leaving Armenia in large numbers, i.e. the exodus of Armenian population has acquired large-scale proportions. The investment environment is in a deplorable state, while the limited market does not allow for investments in this country.

Confronted with such a picture, the Armenian people should seriously think again and try to understand that the aggressive policy of the Armenian leadership against Azerbaijan has no future. Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity anyway. Armenia has been completely isolated from regional cooperation in recent years. It has been defeated on the political arena. All leading international organizations support the position of Azerbaijan. The UN, its Security Council, the OSCE, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Parliament, PACE and other organizations recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and have adopted numerous resolutions demanding a settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. So this means a political defeat of Armenia. They have suffered a defeat on the diplomatic front. The so-called "referendum" held in Nagorno-Karabakh has not been recognized by any country. It was not recognized by any international organization either. This confirms once again that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani land, the ancestral Azerbaijani land and an integral part of Azerbaijan.

As for the transport policy, Armenia is a dead-end country, and we should say quite frankly that this has been done by us.

Armenia has yet to recover from the defeat it suffered on the battlefield two years ago. Today, the Azerbaijani flag flies on the lands of Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts that were once under occupation. There will come a day when our flag will fly in Shusha and Khankandi.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved only within the framework of the territorial integrity of our country. There is no other option. I have repeatedly said this and I want to say it again so that everyone knows: Azerbaijan will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on its historical lands. I have repeatedly said this and I want to say it again that the present-day Armenia was established on historically Azerbaijani lands. There are numerous books and maps confirming that. The absolute majority of place names on the territory of the present-day Armenia on these maps is of Azerbaijani origin. History books indicate that the Azerbaijanis formed the absolute majority, or 80 per cent to be more exact, of the population of the Erivan Khanate in the early 19th century. This is history. This is a historical reality. Let those who were unaware of this know this. Most importantly, the Azerbaijani youth should know about it. Let them know that most of the present-day Armenia is historically Azerbaijani land. We don’t and never will forget this.

We are developing successfully. Azerbaijan has made great strides in the economic sphere as well. We are seeing this holiday in with excellent economic indicators. Over two months, the gross domestic product has increased by 1.3 per cent and in the non-oil sector by 2.3 per cent. Industrial production has increased by 1.4 per cent and in the non-oil sector by 8.4 per cent. Agricultural production has increased by about 4 per cent and population incomes by 10.2 per cent. Inflation is at 4.7 per cent. In other words, we are meeting our goals. Over the two months, our foreign exchange reserves have increased by 2.1 billion dollars and now amount to 44 billion dollars. This is a large figure. During the year, we will further increase our foreign exchange reserves. The rate of the manat is stable. All infrastructure projects are being successfully implemented. In short, the profound reforms we have carried out recently in connection with the economic policy produced excellent results. We will further deepen these reforms, will continue to pursue them and will continue to ensure the sustainability of the Azerbaijani economy.

These figures are an indicator in themselves. Of course, they demonstrate our policy and the work we are doing. The Azerbaijani people are also well aware of that. I want to say once again that international financial institutions also appreciate our reforms. Leading international financial institutions appreciate our reforms. As for the calculations of the world's leading economic forum, the Davos Forum, these figures have been repeatedly voiced and I want to reiterate them: today Azerbaijan is among top 35 countries of the world in terms of economic competitiveness.

Our successful economic reforms are complemented with a very serious social policy. We have always said that our policy is centered on the people of Azerbaijan. Drastic economic reforms may sometimes have a negative impact on the social sphere. Therefore, even in previous years, during the economic crisis a year or two ago, not a single social program was reversed. All social obligations were fulfilled in a timely manner. As our opportunities expanded, we immediately started to pay more attention to social issues. In particular, we began to allocate more funds. This year, wages in organizations financed from the budget have increased by 10 per cent. If we look at the world map, we will see that not too many countries can afford to raise salaries at the present time. We are doing this as far as we can and will continue to do so. I want to say again that as soon as our economic performance began to improve, we immediately allocated funds for the solution of social issues. This year, hundreds of millions of manats are allocated from the state budget to raise salaries, benefits and pensions. This shows our intentions and policies. It shows that our main goal is to improve the life of the people of Azerbaijan, improve their well-being, and make sure that economic and social reforms complement each other in Azerbaijan and serve the development of our country.

Great creative work and landscaping is under way in our regions. The State Investment Program being implemented this year will resolve many issues in the regions: social infrastructure projects, schools, hospitals, sports centers, roads, other infrastructure projects. Last year, roads were paved to 500 villages, while this year there are plans to build roads to at least 600 villages. The appearance of our districts is getting better and better.

Baku has become one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and this is already a reality. This is what all the visitors to Baku are saying. Thanks to its beauty, history and hospitality, Baku today has turned into one of the most attractive destinations for tourists. The growing number of tourists coming to our country is excellent proof of this. The number of visitors increased by 24 per cent in 2016, by 20 per cent in 2017 and by a further 12 per cent in two months of this year. All the visitors, all the unbiased guests, of course, acknowledge the beauty of Baku, see it and then share it on social networks. Baku is a source of our pride, our historic city, one of the unique cities combining antiquity and modernity. Further measures will be taken for Baku to develop, become even more beautiful and modern.

Today we are marking this holiday in front of the ancient Maiden Tower. The Maiden Tower is an ancient symbol of Baku and our great historical monument. At the same time, Baku today also has modern symbols, including the Heydar Aliyev Center, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, which is confirmed by various surveys and ratings. The Flame Towers, on the one hand, reflect the symbol of Baku, the fire, but on the other, they are pointed upwards as if testifying to the development of Azerbaijan and imparting extra beauty to Baku. The length of our historic boulevard, which used to be 3.5 kilometers, has reached 16 kilometers today. Everything around us has become landscaped and improved. I think it is a unique place of recreation and walks on a global scale. New roads, parks and avenues are also being established. Baku today is a city of parks and squares.

The environmental situation in Baku is improving. The Balakhani dump, which once polluted the air of our city, has been completely removed. There is a park there now. There is Lake Boyukshor. The cleaning of a part of the lake, the first stage, has been completed. The Bibiheybat field used to present a picture of an environmental disaster. There is a park and a sports club there now. We have additional plans related to this part of Baku. New roads are being extended. The buildings which were constructed in the old days and have become unsafe are being knocked down, compensation paid to citizens and new public spaces created on the site of these buildings. In other words, we have major plans related to the future development of Baku. Transport problems are also being addressed in Baku. Dozens of bridges and road junctions have been built in Baku. If they had not been built in due time, we could not drive around today because of traffic jams. The focus is also on the plan for a further comprehensive development of our city. Everywhere in our city, there should be work on improvement, and I am sure it will be the case.

Dear friends, I want to say once again that we are seeing this wonderful holiday in with excellent results and in a good mood. I am confident that 2018 and the following years will also be successful for our country. Azerbaijan will continue to develop successfully, all our objectives will be met, and our country will continue to serve as an example for many countries.

I congratulate you and all the Azerbaijani people on the upcoming beautiful holiday again and I wish all the Azerbaijani people success, good health, prosperity and peace. Thank you.

© President.az

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