President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev is addressing the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis and the New Year, APA reports.
"Dear fellow compatriots!
A year ago, in my New Year address to the Azerbaijani people, I expressed my confidence that the year 2022 would be a successful year for our country. That is precisely what happened. We have accomplished all our objectives, and Azerbaijan has become even stronger.
We have further secured our historic victory achieved two years ago on the battlefield on a political level too. This October, Armenia officially recognized the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country at the meetings in Prague and Sochi. I believe we now have all the prerequisites to sign a peace treaty with Armenia, which is possible based on the well-known five principles proposed by Azerbaijan.
This year, we further strengthened our military power. This particular area has always received much attention, and Azerbaijan demonstrated its military power during the Second Karabakh War. Over the past two years since the war, we have strengthened our military potential thanks to implementing reforms, creating new armed units, and supplying our army with advanced weaponry and equipment.
Several military operations conducted this year once again proved the high combat readiness of our army. Operation Farrukh, Operation Revenge, and the military clashes along Azerbaijan's border with Armenia in September this year brought us another brilliant victory. As a result of the border clashes, Azerbaijan has gained a foothold in many strategically advantageous positions.
Well ahead of schedule, on August 26, we liberated Lachin and returned to the villages of Zabukh and Sus in the Lachin district. This is an outstanding achievement as well. There are extensive construction and restoration works going on in Lachin. I am sure that in 2023 we will ensure the return of the people of Lachin, the first former displaced persons to their native lands.
At the same time, this year, life was restored in the village of Aghaly. The first project was over, and the natives of Zangilan returned to their homeland. This is a historic accomplishment since in less than two years after the war, actually in just a year and a half, we have ensured the return of the first former displaced persons to their native land and created excellent living conditions for them. This demonstrates once again the strength of our state, our steadfastness, and the dignity of our nation. This shows that our citizens are connected to their ancestral lands. As the saying goes, there’s no place like home. Even the youth, children and schoolchildren, who have never seen these places, have returned to Aghaly with great enthusiasm. This once again shows the dignity of our nation. It shows that the internally displaced persons are impatiently waiting for the day of return.
The Great Return program is being successfully implemented. There are large-scale construction works going on in a number of cities. First and foremost, large-scale construction is taking place in Shusha. In parallel, they are building hospitals, schools and residential buildings in Aghdam, Fuzuli, Zangilan and Lachin. Master plans of more than ten villages and towns have already been approved, and I have personally laid the foundation of several of them. The master plans of all the liberated towns and villages have been developed and approved. All of the work will be implemented in line with these master plans. All of our plans are reflected in the Great Return program. I am confident that hundreds of thousands of former displaced persons will return to their homeland in the nearest future.
In parallel, demining of the liberated territories is underway. Unfortunately, Armenia has not provided us with the minefield maps. As a result, some 300 Azerbaijanis were killed or seriously injured in minefields during the post-war period.
This year we opened an international airport in Zangilan. This is the second airport in the liberated territories, and the third one will be commissioned in two years maximum.
Large-scale work is underway on opening the Zangezur Corridor, with railways and motor roads being constructed. The Zangezur Corridor will definitely be opened, whether Armenia wants it or not. We demonstrate our firm commitment, and everything is going according to the plan. Our demand is reasonable and just. We must and will have a communication line with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan.
Our historical buildings on the liberated lands, including mosques, are undergoing substantial restoration and reconstruction. I had already mentioned that Armenians completely destroyed 65 of 67 mosques during the occupation. The restoration, in fact, the reconstruction of these mosques, has already begun. The mosques that need repair are being repaired. I should mention that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation plays the leading role in constructing and overhauling our religious monuments. Almost all mosques are restored at the expense of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
Indeed, we need a solid economy to make all these achievements possible. We have long become a nation that is independent economically. Today Azerbaijan is one of the few countries, which is independent both economically and politically. This year's economic performance in the post-pandemic period is satisfactory. For example, our economy has grown by about 5%, with the non-oil sector growth recorded at more than 9%. At the same time, our GDP this year reached a record AZN 130 billion. This is a historic achievement. In parallel, our foreign debt has been significantly reduced. A few years ago, I set a goal for the government to reduce our foreign debt to less than 10% of the GDP. Last year it was 17%, the latest figures for this year show the rate of 9.5%. By comparison, in some developed countries, the volume of foreign debt is 100, 120, or even 150% of the GDP. In other words, we have ensured complete independence from international financial institutions.
Of course, we hope that international donor organizations will also pay attention to us, for history has never witnessed such great destruction. Azerbaijan has faced a tremendous environmental catastrophe, an urbicide. Regrettably, international donor organizations have not provided us with a single manat or dollar. It is not only about donor organizations; no one helps us. We carry out and will continue to do all the restoration works on our own.
There have been many significant developments in the energy sector this year. In mid-2022, the Memorandum on Strategic Partnership in the field of Energy was signed between Azerbaijan and the European Union, which is already being implemented. Azerbaijan is increasing its natural gas exports to global markets. On December 17, we launched yet another new megaproject. An electricity cable under the Black Sea will allow Azerbaijan to play a more significant role in this area. Azerbaijan will become the primary supplier of electricity, which will be green energy. I have said several times that Karabakh and East Zangezur should become a green energy zone. We are already achieving this and will continue in the same vein. Azerbaijan's primary renewable energy sources are of great importance to our country and the world. I have recently announced that the potential of Azerbaijan’s proven renewable energy sources is 184,000MW. 157,000MW of this volume is located in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. This will make our country an indispensable partner in the energy sector.
Traditionally, we attach great importance to the regional development program. This year, I made 30 visits to the regions of Azerbaijan, including 21 visits to the liberated territories.
I declared this year a Year of Shusha. We held large-scale celebrations to mark the 270th anniversary of Shusha. The next year has been declared a Year of Heydar Aliyev. Next year we will celebrate the centennial anniversary of National Leader Heydar Aliyev. Our greatest tribute to the memory of Heydar Aliyev is our commitment to his path. We are committed to following in his footsteps. Our realities, successes and victories are the foundation of this path.
Today is the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. As always, I sincerely salute all our compatriots worldwide and wish them success. They know that behind them stands a strong, independent state of Azerbaijan. I am sure that Azerbaijanis living abroad today are rightfully proud that they are children of independent and victorious Azerbaijan.
The International Congress of World Azerbaijanis held this year in Shusha was indeed a historical event. Holding the congress in Shusha had a great symbolic value. Just like the Azerbaijani society and citizens of Azerbaijan have come together as a single fist, I am confident that our compatriots all over the world, an absolute majority of them, will also follow the same approach. Either way, they can rely on the support of a strong Azerbaijan.
Dear fellow compatriots!
I sincerely congratulate you on the occasion of the New Year and the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. I wish you robust health and luck.