Opening remarks by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers at the high-level conference on "The policy of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions" , SIA reports.
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you all, in my capacity of Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, to the Baku conference dedicated to the policy of the Council of Europe towards Neighbouring Regions.
Our profound interest to this topic emanates from the active foreign policy course Azerbaijan pursues at the international arena. Azerbaijan’s strategic location, its tradition of tolerance, economic performance and determination to contribute to peace and security in the neighborhood and around the world are among the driving factors of this foreign policy.
Azerbaijan is a country located at the crossroads of a variety of cultural routes and civilizations and enjoys a centuries-long tradition of peaceful co-existence between different ethnic and religious communities. For this reason, we elevated the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to the level of foreign policy priority. In recent years, Azerbaijan initiated and hosted a number of international humanitarian events, such as the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and the Baku International Humanitarian Forum. The 7th United Nations Alliance of Civilizations global forum will be held in Azerbaijan in 2016.
Today, Azerbaijan is a fast growing economy and currently accounts for more than 80 percent of the overall economy of the South Caucasus. Substantial oil and gas resources and pivotal position as a regional transportation hub allow Azerbaijan to increase its contribution to European energy security.
With its growing economic might, Azerbaijan feels moral responsibility to help those in need around the world. This spirit guided us to become a donor country helping sustainable development efforts in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Azerbaijan International Development Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan presently carries out various assistance programs in more than 20 countries.
Azerbaijan and the region would have achieved more, without grave consequences of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which resulted in the illegal occupation by Armenia of our internationally recognized territories – Nagorno Karabakh region and 7 adjacent districts and the forced displacement of a million Azerbaijani civilians. It is unfortunate that 4 UN Security Council Resolutions reaffirming respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demanding the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all the occupied territories are still remain unfulfilled.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are approaching the very end of our Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Today’s conference is the last major event organised under our chairmanship. Indeed, next Thursday, I will be in Strasbourg to hand over the chairmanship to Belgium. On that occasion, I will present to the Committee of Ministers the results achieved by Azerbaijan in the course of its six months’ tenure.
Without going into details, I am proud to state that my country deployed significant efforts in furthering the core objectives of the Council of Europe by working in a spirit of compromise and dialogue to achieve consensual outcomes to the benefit of all. Over this period, Azerbaijan focused on a number of areas, including the fight against corruption, the consolidation of culturally diverse societies, social cohesion and youth education. I do believe that each of the 18 events organized in Azerbaijan has been useful in terms of practical inputs to the endevours of the Council of Europe.
We felt that Azerbaijan could also take advantage of its chairmanship to further promote the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions. As a country enjoying historically friendly ties with many countries covered by the neighbourhood policy, we have been strong supporters of this policy from its inception.
Many of you will recall that the neighbourhood policy was launched by the Committee of Ministers in May 2011 in Istanbul. In its three years of existence, it proved to be a successful instrument for promoting Council of Europe values and standards outside the geographical scope of the Organisation. Over this period, political dialogue has been developed and substantial cooperation programmes implemented jointly with a number of partner countries, in the light of the specific situation of each of them.
The Council of Europe objective is to support partner countries by making available to them its standards and expertise in the areas of mutual interest. It is also to enhance the fight against trans-border threats, such as terrorism and trafficking, in order to ensure an area of stability in and around Europe. I think we can also dwell on whether intercultural dialogue related activities could bring an added value to the overall objectives pursued by the neighbourhood policy.
I would like in this connection to extend a warm welcome to the representatives of partner countries present with us today. Their assessment of the situation as well as their expectations are of key importance for preparing the following steps of the neighbouring policy.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to all of you for your participation. I wish you a fruitful discussion and a pleasant stay in Baku. I hope you will come back to Azerbaijan to enjoy the first European Games next year.