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Azerbaijani President, First Lady take part in opening ceremony of 74th International Astronautical Congress

74th International Astronautical Congress

The opening ceremony of the 74th International Astronautical Congress has kicked off at the Baku Convention Center, Azernews reports.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and their son Heydar Aliyev attended the event.

First, the Congress participants posed together for photographs.

The opening ceremony saw a musical show as well as videos about Azerbaijan and the 24th International Astronautical Congress held in Baku in 1973.

Then, a video presenting the International Astronautical Federation was screened.

The opening ceremony was addressed by President of the International Astronautical Federation Clay Mowry.

A video message of the China Space Station astronauts was demonstrated.

President of the International Astronautical Federation Clay Mowry presented to President Ilham Aliyev a keepsake including a photograph depicting Great Leader Heydar Aliyev and President Ilham Aliyev together with astronauts at the 24th International Astronautical Congress held in Baku in 1973, which was demonstrated in the space and then brought back, and other attributes.

Then, a video message of the International Space Station astronauts was shown.

The head of state addressed the opening ceremony of the Congress.

Speech by President Ilham Aliyev

-Dear Mr. President of the International Astronautical Federation.

Dear ladies and gentlemen.

Dear guests.

Welcome to Azerbaijan, welcome to Baku. After 50 years, the congress is back. First of all, I’d like to express deep gratitude to the International Astronautical Federation for the honor to host the Congress in Azerbaijan. Also, I’d like to express gratitude to the International Academy of Astronautics and International Institute of Space Law for their constant support.

For us, it’s a big honor to host such an important global event. We have more than 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries. I am sure that our guests will have a chance apart from their duties here at the Congress to know more about Azerbaijan, its history, its culture, its people.

Azerbaijan became a member of a global space club more than a decade ago. And now with two telecommunication satellites and one Earth observation satellite, we continue our efforts to develop space industry in Azerbaijan. Also, I’d like to inform you that these three satellites are managed by Azerbaijani specialists, and they provide services not only to us, but to 45 countries.

The Congress here in Baku will definitely give a new impetus to the development of space industry, development of high tech and innovation sector of our country, its modernization. Now modernization is a word, which characterizes our vision for the future, our agenda and our plans.

During the times of independence, Azerbaijan transformed into an active member of international community. Our policy is always very clear, transparent, straightforward, and is aimed at winning friends and enhancing cooperation. Azerbaijan participates as an active member of the international community in numerous political, economic and regional development projects. We, for the fourth year, are chairing the second largest international institution after the United Nations – the Non-Aligned Movement, and we’ve been entrusted the honor to chair this institution by unanimous decision of 120 countries. So, this really reflects the broad international support to Azerbaijan.

At the same time, our cooperation with the European institutions also develop successfully. With nine members of the EU, Azerbaijan signed declarations on strategic partnership. So, that actually demonstrates our foreign policy agenda, which is absolutely open and as I already said, aimed at cooperation and broader regional involvement and inclusivity.

Azerbaijan is a member of two important international institutions – Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Council of Europe – and is one of the very few countries, which is a member of both. More than 100 countries are participants in these two international organizations. So, this actually is a reflection of not only our geography and our culture, but also our political intentions. Because being situated just between Europe and Asia, being a kind of natural transportation, cultural, and now also economic bridge, which connects two continents, surely gives us this basic opportunity to create a broad international cooperation in our region.

I think geography means a lot for maybe all the countries of the world. For us, geography means opportunity. So, we managed to transform our geographical location into a positive scenario, having good relations with our neighbors, with whom we share centuries of cohabitation and partnership. Today, we broaden our horizons. And actually entrusting us with hosting this important international event, we consider it as a sign of respect, as a sign of support to our endeavors.

Being a natural bridge between the continents, of course, played an important role for the development of our society. Throughout the centuries, Azerbaijan had a multicultural and multiconfessional society. Now during more than 30 years of independence, we have strengthened this factor of our life. We consider it as an important factor of stability, predictability, and the peaceful coexistence between representatives of all ethnic groups and representatives of all confessions in Azerbaijan. We really live like in one family, and it is also noted and reflected in decisions of international organizations like United Nations, which fully support Azerbaijan’s efforts to promote multiculturalism. By the way, the regular World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which is held by our initiative in our country, is a unique platform for making interactions between different civilizations, more results oriented.

Azerbaijan was the initiator of the Baku Process more than a decade ago, which for the first time in history united the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in one platform addressing important issues of global politics, intercultural dialogue and peaceful development.

Azerbaijan is also known as a country where the first oil in the world was produced in the middle of the 19th century. And at that time, we were producing more than half of the world’s oil production and also maybe not many people know that the first offshore oil was also produced in Azerbaijan in the Caspian by Azerbaijani oil workers in the middle of 20th century.

And now, when we are independent, our natural resources serve the benefit of our people. The rapid transformation during the years of independence is actually a demonstration of the proper use of our natural wealth. For some countries, who are rich with oil resources, oil is a curse. For us, it was the way how to develop, how to strengthen our independence, how to protect our identity, and to build a strong economy.

If you look at today’s map of energy and transportation routes, including pipelines, you will see the touch of Azerbaijan. The projects, which we initiated and successfully completed together with our neighbors and partners, actually, is a big contribution to energy security, not only of our region. And today, as we all know, energy security is an integral part of the national security of every country. Today Azerbaijan is a reliable supplier of energy resources to international markets, and is considered by the European Union as a pan-European supplier. But among our partners, there are dozens of countries in different continents, and all that serves the international cooperation, predictability, and at the same time, successful economic development of our country.

Three years ago, we completed the main task of our life. We restored our territorial integrity, which was violated for almost 30 years. We suffered aggression, occupation, ethnic cleansing, which was a big tragedy for our nation and a big humanitarian catastrophe. When our lands became occupied in the beginning of 90s, more than 1 million of Azerbaijanis – at that time our population was 8 million – became refugees and internally displaced persons. That was probably the highest per capita ratio of refugees in any country. And at that time, we were very poor. We did not yet started to develop our natural resources. We were landlocked, disorganized and the prospects for the future were not very clear.

But our people demonstrated strong political will. We tried for many years to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and to put an end to occupation by peaceful means. For 28 years, we were strongly committed to negotiation process, but unfortunately, we clearly realize that it is not possible to do by peaceful means. So, we used our right for self-defense. We used the right, which is given to every country by the UN Charter – right for self-defense – and liberated our territories three years ago, and put an end to occupation. Just less than one months ago, we fully restored our sovereignty all over the country.

Unfortunately, international organizations, which were obliged to put an end to occupation, did not produce any results. The United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from our territories. But these resolutions were not implemented for 27 years. We implemented those resolutions ourselves, sacrificing the lives of our people. Other international institutions like the OSCE had a mandate for negotiation facilitation, but it produced zero result and led to total frustration and disappointment in Azerbaijan`s society.

So, our experience of restoration of territorial integrity and sovereignty in a certain way is unique. We put an end to a conflict, which was imposed on us. We protected our dignity. We restored justice and international law. And now it’s time for peace in Caucasus. This is our agenda. Our agenda is peace in the Caucasus, peace in the region, cooperation and shared benefits.

Today we demonstrate that, of course, in order to become really independent country, we had to have a strong economy. We clearly realize that. Therefore, all our main efforts were aimed how to create such an economy, which will be self-sufficient, that will not lead us to a kind of a dependence on any global center of power, or on any financial institution. We managed to do it.

I would like to inform you with some figures. Taking into account that most of our guests are visiting Azerbaijan for the first time, I think these figures clearly demonstrate what has been achieved in Azerbaijan recently. So, in the last 20 years, our GDP grew four times, our budget revenues grew more than 30 times, foreign trade turnover more than 10 times-gross. We managed to reduce our direct foreign debt, and now it is around 10% of GDP. By the end of 2024, according to our plans, it will be around 7-7.5% of GDP. Foreign exchange reserves in Azerbaijan exceed our direct foreign debt 10 times. So, in other words, if we would like, we can repay all our debts within a couple of months. We created a very positive investment climate, not only for energy, but other sectors. So, total investments in the last 20 years were more than 300 billion US dollars and among which 190 billion was investment in the non-energy sector.

One of the big challenges in the beginning of our independence was poverty, which was endemic. 20 years ago, the percentage of people living in poverty was close to 50. Now it is 5.5%, which actually demonstrates that natural resources, which we accumulated and which we brought to international market were properly managed. And the fair distribution of national wealth today is seen by international experts and most important by the people of Azerbaijan. So, all these actually demonstrates that country is well-established. Political, economic and social stability is an important factor of our development, because it is clear that if situation is not stable and is not predictable, you cannot expect investors to come and to risk their capital.

I hope that our guests will have opportunity to see what I’ve just said with their own eyes, seeing the people, meeting with people, and knowing more about Azerbaijan. Yes, we have ancient history, part of which was demonstrated in the video presentation, and the ancient culture. But as an independent country we are still very young, only 32 years old.

And, in conclusion, I’d like to say once again that we really are very proud that we are hosting the Congress for the second time. As it was already said and demonstrated that the 24th Congress was held in Baku in 1973. I’m very grateful to all our guests and especially to our brave Chinese astronauts, which have that very dear for me photo in the space. So, in certain way, I am also there. I am part of your community.

Of course, hosting for the second time this important event is a big honor for us. Once again, I would like to express gratitude to all those who participated in that decision. So for the second time, the Congress is held in Baku, in the same city, but not in the same country. Today, it is independent Azerbaijan, which hosts such a global event. So once again, thank you for being with us. I wish the Congress success.

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Then, the winners were awarded in a number of categories.

The opening ceremony continued with a concert.

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President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan put together their signatures on the Akinci unmanned aerial vehicle at the Teknofest Azerbaijan Aerospace and Technology Festival held for the first time in Baku on May 28, 2022.

Selçuk Bayraktar presented to the head of state a small model of that unmanned aerial vehicle on the sidelines of the 74th International Astronautical Congress.

About Fidan Abdullayeva