President Vladimir Putin:
Dear Ilham Geidarovich [Aliev],
Dear friends, dear ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the leadership of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress for inviting me to be a guest at this forum and I would like to extend my warmest greetings to all of you, both the participants from Russia and those of you who have come to Moscow from our friendly neighbour, Azerbaijan.
There are two points I wish to emphasise right from the start.
First, we in Russia consider the Azerbaijani community here to be an important factor in building strong relations between our two countries. Our political and business cooperation benefit from its initiatives.
Second, we all know that the congress was founded with the participation (I would like to use lofty words here) of an outstanding son of the Azerbaijani people and a truly sincere friend of Russia, Geidar Alievich Aliev. The fact that the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Geidarovich Aliev, the son of the man who we all loved and respected, is here today — is not just deeply symbolic but is also testimony to the continuation of these relations of most genuine friendship and partnership between our peoples.
It is no exaggeration to say that the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan have shared the same historic destiny over a period of centuries. We have lived and worked together, as a family, as it were, unfailingly supporting each other during difficult times. Next year we will mark together the great celebration that we share – the sixtieth anniversary of victory in the Second World War.
Russia will never forget the deeds of the more than half-a-million sons and daughters of Azerbaijan who fought on the frontlines in the Second World War. We also remember the heroic toil of the workers on the home front, ensuring the strategic supplies of oil so vital for victory and providing the soldiers with arms, ammunition and food.
In the post-war years, oil specialists from Baku helped develop the oil fields of Siberia and laid the foundations of the country’s vast energy industry, while tens of thousands of Russian specialists built up Azerbaijan’s industrial and agricultural potential, helping to establish new educational and scientific centres.
I want to stress that Russia sincerely wants to see a stable, secure and economically powerful Azerbaijan. Only economically independent countries can follow an influential and independent policy, and this is important for Russia, as it means a policy of good neighbourly relations, mutual respect and friendship between our peoples. These are the kinds of neighbours Russia would like to have, and this is the kind of Azerbaijan Russia would like to see.
It is my conviction that we must today look after and build on what we have achieved with our blood and our labour – this priceless treasure of our friendship and cooperation. We must do all we can for our peoples and ensure that Russians living in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis living in Russia feel at home.
This is an essential condition for the prosperity of our two peoples today and for their continuing development in the future.
Your congress is a recognised and authoritative organisation representing the Azerbaijani community in Russia. You are involved in cultural and educational work, you help with social adaptation programmes and work in many other different areas.
We value highly the Azerbaijani community’s contribution to all areas of life in Russian society. The Azerbaijani community is one of the biggest communities and its life and activities give rise to many initiatives and are always at the centre of attention of our bilateral political dialogue.
In this respect, I consider it a most important strategic mission for us to offer our citizens broad and equal opportunities to study and work in both countries, and, of course, for the mutual development of the wealth of our national traditions, opportunities to study one’s native language and culture. For this to happen, we must work together on creating a modern legal foundation for migration and labour relations.
It is equally important to involve community representatives in settling interethnic relations issues. Not only the state authorities but also society must react immediately to any manifestations of xenophobia and religious intolerance and decisively combat any remaining signs of the nationalist virus.
Both Russia and Azerbaijan treasure their traditions of mutual respect for different peoples, interethnic and inter-religious harmony. Your congress, along with other public, religious and educational organisations, can make a significant contribution in this area.
Once again I stress that the effectiveness of our work depends to a great extent on cooperation between the congress and the institutions of civil society and the state authorities in our country.
I would also like to say a few words about our economic cooperation. New ties of cooperation are now developing actively between Russian and Azerbaijani companies. Investment is increasing and direct contacts through the regions are expanding. Trade between our countries rose by almost 40 percent in 2003 and came to more than half a billion dollars.
The governments of our two countries should not only reinforce these positive trends but must go further. We need to think of ways we can work together to promote the business interests of Russia and Azerbaijan on the markets of third countries.
Finally, cultural and humanitarian cooperation should occupy a particular place in our relations. Holding cultural events, organising tours by theatre and music groups and other creative projects will enrich our peoples’ knowledge of each other’s lives, and I think you will agree with me when I say that this is especially important today when we are developing as independent countries.
Scientific, educational and youth exchanges and holding joint sports events are also all of great importance, of course. All of these things create a solid foundation for political dialogue and for strengthening our partnership. All of this creates a favourable climate for developing relations between our countries.
I am sure that your congress and the Azerbaijani community in general can do a lot to increase the results of our economic and business cooperation and can do much to help develop humanitarian ties and build up the spirit of trust in the relations between our two countries.
We should also remember that the effectiveness of our partnership has a direct impact on the positive processes within the Commonwealth of Independent States. A balanced foreign policy and common positions on many questions increase the results of our work on the international stage and raise the authority of Russia and Azerbaijan and their significance and role in the world.
Moreover, we are on the same side of the fence in the fight against international terrorism. This evil represents a real danger for our citizens and for the entire Eurasian continent. Both our countries are well acquainted with this threat. Our common task, therefore, is to build up an effective anti-terrorist partnership and act decisively to prevent any manifestations of nationalism and extremism that are a breeding ground for terrorists and their accomplices.
I wish to note particularly another task that we have. Russia and Azerbaijan are working closely together to settle the complex and tangled knot of contradictions in the Caucasus. Our country very much wants to see peaceful and stable development in this abundant region. We intend to continue our active peacekeeping and negotiating work together with you and with our other partners in the CIS in order to achieve this strategic aim.
We in Russia today love and appreciate the work of Magomayev, the work of writers and figures in the theatre world such as Ibragimbekov, or the works of the artist Salakhov. We know what a great contribution the scholars, such as Salmanov and Mamed Aliev, have made to our science. These people and their achievements bring pride to Russia and to Azerbaijan, to the Russian and the Azerbaijani peoples. I am sure that Russian Azerbaijanis, like the other citizens of this country, will continue helping to make Russia stronger and raise its international authority and status.
I wish your meeting fruitful work and success and I wish the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress new initiatives for the benefit of our two nations, the prosperity of Azerbaijan and the entire Azerbaijani people.
Thank you for your attention.