AzerTag, Azerbaijan
May 6 2006

SPEECH BY PRESIDENT ILHAM ALIYEV, CHAIRMAN OF THE 9TH ECO SUMMIT
[May 05, 2006, 22:00:59]

Dear friends, I express my deep gratitude for electing me as chairman
of the 9th Economic Cooperation Organization summit.

Dear presidents, dear heads of delegations, dear prime ministers.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

First of all, I avail myself of the opportunity to greet all of you
in Azerbaijan Republic and wish success and achieving concrete
results at today's summit. I am grateful to President of the
Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmonov who presided at the 8th
Economic Cooperation Organization Summit. Moreover, I thank Mr.
Askhat Orazbay, who is completing his mission as ECO secretary
general, for his efforts towards development of the organization. I
offer my hearty congratulations to its new Secretary General Khurshid
Anwar on his election to the high office and best wishes for success
in his future activity.

At today's summit, the work of the organization will be analyzed
and we shall share our views on the accomplishments achieved. I am
sure that at the same time there will be an effective dialogue on the
further prospects of the organization.

After Azerbaijan regained its independence we joined various
international organizations and initiatives. We became a member of
the Economic Cooperation Organization as well and attribute a great
importance to our activity in this organization. The member states of
the organization are bound together by historic and cultural ties.
Our shared history, customs and traditions make us even closer and
provide a good basis for successful activities. The role of the
Economic Cooperation Organization, at the same time, is also
increasing In terms of regional cooperation. As you know, economic
potential of the member countries is increasing and as a whole, it
comes as our region has possibly achieved the highest economic growth
rate. Economic capabilities of the member countries are widening and,
of course, open up new opportunities for both bilateral and
multilateral successful cooperation.

Azerbaijan attaches an extremely great importance to the issues of
regional cooperation. We are a participant as well as an organizer of
some international regional projects and would like to have more
concrete projects within the Economic Cooperation Organization too.
We have to discuss specific issues and take all necessary practical
steps.

The economic development of Azerbaijan is going on rapidly. Last
year, Azerbaijan posted economic growth of 26 percent. It is our
history's highest figures, which, first of all, allows us to
realize all our plans associated with socio-economic issues. GDP
growth in Azerbaijan increased up to 40 percent in the fist quarter
of this year and in general, it is likely to remain around the same
level until the end of the year. On the one hand, opening of 380
thousand new jobs over the past two years and a half helps to
eradicate unemployment, on the other hand, it drastically reduces the
number of people living in poverty.

The increase in economic indices naturally boosts the country's
capabilities. Favorable conditions are being created to strengthen
bilateral and multilateral relations. I am confident economic
projects connecting us will bring fruits in the future. Azerbaijan
and neighboring countries are doing much work to deliver Caspian oil
and gas resources to the world markets. After commissioning of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline linking the Caspian and
Mediterranean Seas, economic situation in the region as well as
security measures should be strengthened more. We consider regional
cooperation projects should serve all the objectives. They will have
a positive impact on strengthening economic ties, increasing economic
potential as well as on establishing peace and tranquility in the
region.

Besides, construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline to deliver
Azeri gas from to Turkey and then to European countries, which is of
great importance for both Azerbaijan and neighboring nations, is to
finish in a few of months.

Oil and gas pipelines connecting Azerbaijan with Turkey as well as
our successful cooperation with neighboring Islamic Republic of Iran
in the energy sector, implementation of gas and electricity projects
through exchange are of vital importance for ensuring the
cooperation. I can say that we maintain very good bilateral relations
with all the member states and highly appreciate this.

Strengthening transport infrastructure is extremely important for our
region and all our states. Azerbaijan plays and will continue playing
its role in opening transport corridors East-West and North-South.
These projects will make us closer as existence of the transport
infrastructure heightens our economic capabilities and provide new
wonderful conditions for economic cooperation. As all you know,
Azerbaijan is keen on the operation of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia
transport corridor and is a participant of the TRACECA program.
Besides, the railway linking Europe and Asia arouse a great interest
as well. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is important not only for our
countries but also for the whole region. Should we manage to realize
this - I don't doubt we will - there will be the shortest route to
connecting Europe and Asia. Undoubtedly, as a transit country
Azerbaijan should settle the issues of providing transport
infrastructure for friendly countries.

In short, there are all conditions for overall economic cooperation.
No doubt, peace and security in the region should be strengthened for
its further deepening. In its turn, Azerbaijan is actively involved
in such matters and will continue its activity in the future too. At
the same time, there are many issues that arouse concerns. First of
all, all the countries should take common approach to the issues of
fighting terrorism. The world should combine its efforts, as it will
be extremely difficult to achieve serious success on one's own. We
should look at all terrorist organizations from the same viewpoint,
without any discrimination because we will be able to combat against
this evil only through combining our efforts.

Azerbaijan is the country, which also suffered from terrorism.
Armenian terrorist organizations committed over 30 acts of terrorism
against Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis killing over 2000 innocent
people. Today, the continuing Armenia's aggression against
Azerbaijan, policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis resulted
in displacing over a million of Azerbaijanis from their native lands
are the biggest drawback, and huge obstacle on the way of regional
cooperation development. We are striving for the peaceful resolution
of the matter, considering that the possibilities for this still
exist. Therefore, we need to realize all possibilities. At the same
time, patience of the people of Azerbaijan is not unlimited. We
believe that this issue - Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, can be settled
only in line with international law principles. Armenian occupation
forces should leave Azerbaijani lands, Azerbaijanis should return to
their lands. Justice must be restored this way. Territorial integrity
of Azerbaijan is recognized by all but Armenia. It is recognized by
the United Nations and of course, cannot be the subject of
negotiations. I want to avail myself of the opportunity to express my
deep gratitude to all the member countries for supporting
Azerbaijani's stance.

Reduction of risks, successful economic cooperation, energy security
are the issues that will ensure the development of peace. We are
located in the extremely important but very sensitive region. There
are conflicts, menace and risks in it. I do not doubt that the
Economic Cooperation Organization will honorably fulfill the goal
facing it and our cooperation will be strengthened, our successful
interaction both in bilateral and multilateral format will have a
very positive impact on the whole region.

Dear friends and guests, I once more greet all of you here in
Azerbaijan and wish every success in the your work. Thank you.