This week in Azerbaijan was held The Global Baku Forum IV, organized by the Nizami Ganjavi International Center and supported by the Azerbaijani State Committee on Work with Diaspora, with the partnership of Club of Madrid, InterAction Council and Library of Alexandria.
Baku forum- Geopolitical Davos
The aim of the Baku Forum is “to promote leadership for global problem-solving for a more peaceful, multipolar world”. To reach this final goal, the Baku Forum tries to concentrate its efforts to make a careful assessment of the state of key divisive issues hampering global security; to identify options and steps for global leaders to overcome these divisions and work towards peace; to give a voice to up-and-coming youth leaders, so that they may be involved in, and support, a global process of cooperation and peace-building; and to promote a final, joint statement which brings together the options for avoiding conflicts in the emerging multipolar world of the 21st century.
It was a great opportunity for over 70 former and current world leaders (7 current presidents, 1 vice-president, 27 former presidents, 23 former prime ministers) and in general over 300 participants from 53 countries to discuss priority issues such as the future of East-West relations, radicalization and extremism, region-specific challenges and opportunities, energy security and inter-faith dialogue, among others.
Indeed, at their speeches, high level leaders highlighted the important role that Azerbaijan plays at the region and for the dialog between civilizations, as Latvia’s former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who serves as president of the Club of Madrid and co-chair of Nizami Ganjavi International Center, qualified Baku as appropriate place to exchange ideas. From this point of view, while Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau qualified The Global Baku Forum as a very good opportunity to create a dialogue between nations and peoples, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron by his message stipulated that the Global Baku Forum IV is a great initiative to bring together the international community, share expertise and build consensus on how best to respond to the major challenges facing the world today. At the same time, Norway’s former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland qualified 4th Global Baku Forum as global cooperation covering the whole world, while Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Barak defined Azerbaijan as open, strong and tolerant society and expressed that bringing together so many leaders is a great step taken in the sphere of multiculturalism by building mutual understanding among people. And former prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlatko Lagumdzija didn’t hesitate to describe this event as geopolitical Davos.
Of course, the most important part of this event was Azerbaijanian President Ilham Aliyev’s comprehensive speech. One of the most important messages underlined at his speech was today’s international situation: “Since we met last spring, the situation in the world has changed, unfortunately not in positive direction”. For him, as the world didn’t become safer and more secure, and as the conflicts remain unresolved, the “main goal is to play our role as countries, governments, politicians, to try to reduce tensions, create grounds for cooperation, mutual understanding, mutual respect. Otherwise, the situation in the future will continue to deteriorate”. Referring to the situation in the Middle East and refugee crisis in Europe, He tried to show how the world is interconnected: “Sometimes it may seem that what we see on TV, the dangerous events happening in different parts of the world, one may think this is happening on another planet, but it is just the next door. The refugee crisis showed that we’re all interrelated. That, I think, is the main lesson of today’s reality. We all need to respect each other, respect our choice, territorial integrity, our plans for the future, we all need to interact, because the main goal is to reduce tensions and diminish the existing threats”. So, as He says, “We are all united in one objective – to promote mutual cooperation, mutual understanding”, because “We are all interrelated”.
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict- real danger for the regional security
As usual, the important place at the President’s speech was accorded to the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Remembering the first years of independence, He made an overview of situation: “During the early years of independence, we’ve suffered from civil war, humanitarian crisis, occupation, aggression, economic difficulties, actually an economic collapse. Azerbaijan became a target of terrorist attacks. Armenian terrorist organizations committed numerous acts of terror in the 1990s against civilians. And the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan unfortunately is not resolved”.
He underlined one more time that “Nagorno Karabakh is a historic, legal part of Azerbaijan and the international community recognizes Nagorno Karabakh as Azerbaijan’s integral part”. On the results of the conflict, He mentioned that “one million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, became subjected to ethnic cleansing. The occupation of almost 20 percent of our territory continues”. He underlined also cultural genocide committed by Armenians at the occupied territories: “The OSCE twice sent the fact-finding and field assessment missions to the occupied territories and they reflected the real situation there. All our historic monuments, graves, mosques are destroyed”.
Saying that today the negotiating process continues without any success, He expressed clearly why this conflict cannot be resolved- because Armenia doesn’t want peace: “They want to keep the occupied territories under illegal control, they want to keep the status quo unchanged, but this cannot remain this way”.
He is absolutely right to say that in the 21st century it is absolutely abnormal from all points of view, political, legal, humanitarian, to illegally occupy the territory of a neighboring country and block the negotiation process.
He also accused international organizations and mediators. The president reminded that International organizations, in particular the UN and its Security Council, adopted numerous resolutions, demanding unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan, however these resolutions are not implemented. From this point of view, He showed how Azerbaijanians are angry to witness double standards on international issues: “In some cases, the resolutions of the UN Security Council are implemented within hours or days, in our case – it’s more than 20 years. That shows the lack of political will, especially of those countries that have adopted these resolutions”.
He also indicated how the conflict must be resolved: “To change the status quo, Armenia needs to leave the occupied territories, and stop occupation. The conflict needs to be resolved in order to allow a million of Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homeland, stop violence and establish peace in our region, because without it, all the countries will suffer”.
Multiculturalism- Azerbaijanian brand to be exported
Reminding that this year Azerbaijan marks the year of multiculturalism and indicating that multiculturalism, religious tolerance is not only a state policy in Azerbaijan, but also a reflection of the mood of the society, President Aliyev reserved a significant place for this Azerbaijanian value to be universalized: “For centuries, peoples of different nationality, ethnic roots, and religions, lived in Azerbaijan in peace and dignity, and we’re proud of it. I think that concentrating on positive examples of multiculturalism and promoting these values will help all of us. Because no country, no nation can live in the future in isolation. We are all interconnected. Absolute majorities of the world countries have multi-ethnic, multi-religious population, and we must be proud of that”.
Speaking about concrete steps made by his country at this field, He noticed that Azerbaijan in 2008 launched the Baku Process, when the country invited the culture ministers of member countries of the Islamic Cooperation Organizationnto participate in the meeting of the culture ministers of the Council of Europe members for the first time. He added that “Azerbaijan organized numerous events in Azerbaijan, promoting the values of multiculturalism – the World Religious Leaders summit, humanitarian forum, and intercultural dialogue forum twice. And this April we will have the 7th UNAOC Global Forum”.
Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan’s experience in this area is highly appreciated by leading international organizations, by international community, and it demonstrates that multiculturalism is alive, that it has a future.
Country as regional energy hub
President Aliyev explained clearly which role his country plays for the world energy security. Speaking about the Southern Gas Corridor, called as “the project of the 21st century”, a mega-project of $45 billion of investment, one of the biggest infrastructure and energy projects in Europe initiated by Azerbaijan, He reminded that on 29 February Baku held the second meeting of its Advisory Council. He indicated that with twelve signatures the Southern Gas Corridor became already a reality.
He described also how his country sees energy cooperation: “Sometimes, issues related to the energy security are too much politicized and we’re against that. Politics and energy should be separated. Energy should not be used as a political tool. At the same time, political tools interfering in business development sometimes create complications. For Europe it means additional source of gas which it will need and the producers, including Azerbaijan, will need the demand of European consumers”. So, for Him, the Southern Gas Corridor project aims to provide the balance between producers, transitors and consumers: “It is a win-win situation, that’s why it develops successfully”.
So, this last event witnessed one more time the role that Azerbaijan- geographically small country with a huge potential- plays and will play at the international level.
Dr. Turab GURBANOV