The past year has marked a range of remarkable events in all countries. Some of them experienced crisis, armed clashes, uprisings and growing economic problems. Even most developed countries were hit by global financials crisis. However, for Azerbaijan this year has been a great success. The country implemented concrete programs covering a variety of areas. The President`s activity has been very fruitful. His speeches at regional and international events have been a considerable contribution to the development of Azerbaijani statehood. Continuation of socio-economic prosperity, the government`s steps towards ensuring energy security and high status of liberal values in society prove that 2014 will enter the history as a positive chapter.
Development, peace, democratizations and security: the President`s initiatives
In general, the year 2014 has been a difficult one for the world, with conflicts worsening and economic and financial crisis deepening in different parts of the globe. But Azerbaijan has managed to achieve success in socio-economic area and state building, improved its international reputation and embarked on several important projects. The government`s successful policy is yielding fruits. In this context, we would like to highlight 10 remarkable events in Azerbaijan`s life in 2014.
First of all, it should be noted that 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Contract of the Century. Born thanks to national leader Heydar Aliyev`s strong political will at a very difficult time in 1994, this project fundamentally changed geopolitical picture of the region. And what is pleasant is that President Ilham Aliyev`s courageous and well-thought-out policy allowed Azerbaijan to found another international energy project in 2014. Realization of the Southern Gas Corridor project was a triumph of Azerbaijan`s new oil strategy. It was a critical step towards ensuring energy security in a broad area stretching from the Caspian Sea to Europe, boosting regional development and establishing a new international team.
President Ilham Aliyev`s attending the World Economic Forum in Davos this January was a very remarkable event. As part of the forum, the head of state had important discussions with his counterparts from a number of countries, and reached agreement with large companies related to bilateral relations. The forum testified to growing international interest in and attention towards Azerbaijan, and also demonstrated that the number of those who want to cooperate with the country is growing.
In this context, the President`s participation in another international event – the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague – where he made a speech, is one of the highlights of this year. If Davos Forum once again emphasized Azerbaijan`s attractiveness in terms of economy, The Hague Summit outlined the country`s capabilities in terms of ensuring nuclear security. In his speech, the head of state comprehensively highlighted all aspects of the issue to convince the world that Azerbaijan supports peace and justice.
The Prague Eastern Partnership Summit was another evidence of this. The Azerbaijani leader made a brave and logical response to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan`s accusing Turkey. He openly stated that Turkey was not alone and that it was necessary to back the brotherly country at this point. This viewpoint of President Ilham Aliyev was long in the international spotlight. The year 2014 also saw Azerbaijan take serious steps in terms of regional cooperation. In this regard, the trilateral summit of the Turkish, Georgian and Azerbaijani presidents in Tbilisi was another notable event. At this summit, the parties underlined the significance of ensuring peace and security in the region and expanding energy cooperation.
In fact, official Baku is determined to expand cooperation. President Ilham Aliyev`s participation in the 4th Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the 4th Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States should be emphasized here. The Azerbaijani leader`s speech at the CICA Summit in Shanghai drew great interest. Ilham Aliyev said he supports a cooperation model which ensures equal rights for all parties.
Liberal values and statehood: for a harmony of the two factors
At events held by the Turkic speaking states, the Azerbaijani President has always put forward interesting and topical proposals. At the summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States in Bodrum, Ilham Aliyev reiterated that there are ample opportunities for cooperation of the Turkic speaking states, and said new steps should be taken to ensure better organization.
The year 2014 also saw the world powers` interest in Azerbaijan grow. French President Francois Hollande`s official visit to Azerbaijan proved that the bilateral cooperation entered an active phase. The President of France, considered one of the global political powers, said official Paris regarded Azerbaijan as the leader of the South Caucasus, adding his country was committed to maintaining active cooperation with Baku in all areas. Settlement of conflicts and energy security occupy a special place here.
President Ilham Aliyev`s efforts towards ensuring the country`s territorial integrity in 2014 should also be emphasized. From this point of view, the head of state`s attending and addressing the NATO Summit in Wales is of profound significance. The summit saw NATO adopt a document backing Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity and sovereignty. This has had a strong influence on official Yerevan, with the Armenian leader even saying that he was offended by NATO`s move. At the same time, on the sidelines of the summit President Ilham Aliyev had a joint meeting with the Armenian leader and the U.S. Secretary of State. Having said his word from the NATO tribune, the head of state laid out his argument at a trilateral meeting too. The Azerbaijani President remained committed to his very principled position at his meetings with the Armenian leader in Sochi, Newport, Astrakhan and Paris. Naturally, it is the Azerbaijani leader`s diplomatic professionalism and political resoluteness that should be underlined.
In addition to the aforementioned, the laying of the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor, which elevated the international cooperation in the Caspian Sea to a new level, was one of the highlights of 2014. It was an exceptionally important event in terms of ensuring Europe`s energy security because it was Azerbaijan`s initiative and consistent policy that ended Europe`s dependence. It also reiterated Azerbaijan`s resoluteness to remain committed to its independent policy.
One of the important points was that Azerbaijan set a new cooperation model on the global scale. President Ilham Aliyev said an international team was created to this end. This gave several countries in a broad geopolitical area an opportunity to combine their efforts around a single concrete program. It should be noted that Azerbaijan frequently comes up with initiatives on new formats of relations both on a regional and global scale. The Southern Gas Corridor is one of such crucial projects.
The 4th summit of the heads of Caspian Sea littoral states in Astrakhan was another major landmark for Azerbaijan in 2014. This summit marked the first time when major principles of penta-lateral cooperation were defined in accordance with the position that Baku advocated for long years. The Caspian littoral states even signed a relevant statement. Given this, the decisions made in Astrakhan will obviously give a stimulus to efforts to define the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which will open up additional opportunities for Azerbaijan to achieve further success in its energy policy. So one can say that this process started in 2014.
Certainly these 10 events do not completely illustrate Azerbaijan`s activity in the past year. President Ilham Aliyev`s numerous visits, particularly to Iran, his addressing the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, visits of high-level EU representatives to the country are among remarkable events of 2014. For instance, the President`s discussions in Tehran are hailed as a sign of new level of cooperation.
In his address to the PACE session in Strasbourg, the President hailed Azerbaijan as a place where tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and multiculturalism reign. Ilham Aliyev once again increased European parliamentarians’ awareness of the truth about the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This once again signaled that this issue is always a priority for the head of state.
So we can say that 2014 was rich in remarkable events for Azerbaijan. This year once again proved that President Ilham Aliyev is carrying out a very active policy and is taking every opportunity to defend the country`s national interests and independent statehood. Successful diplomacy increased Azerbaijan`s capacity to influence global politics. Our country can now be considered the capital of peace and cooperation in Euro-Atlantics. Our society has already mastered liberal values. Considerable success has been made in ensuring human rights and democratization. This is evidenced by the aforementioned facts, which also demonstrate that Azerbaijan is entering the year 2015 with more resoluteness and confidence. And no doubt led by President Ilham Aliyev, our country will achieve further success.