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Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Office Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade has hosted an Iftar ceremony on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan at his residence.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the Iftar ceremony.
The event kicked off with the recitation of verses from the Quran and a Ramadan prayer.
Addressing the ceremony, Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade expressed his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev and guests for accepting his invitation to attend the Iftar ceremony on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.
Other speakers at the event included Archbishop of Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexander, head of the Mountain Jews Community in Azerbaijan Milikh Yevdayev and bishop of the Catholic Church in Azerbaijan Vladimir Fekete.
The head of state addressed the event.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev
- Your Eminence Sheikh,
Dear religious figures.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
As is the case every year, we are meeting for Iftar in this holy month of Ramadan this year again. This beautiful tradition lives and must live on. This testifies to the very high level of relations between the state and religion in Azerbaijan. The relations between the state and religion were initiated by great leader Heydar Aliyev. The great leader is the author of the concept of Azerbaijan’s development in all spheres. When defining development directions, he showed very great foresight. The present-day successful development of Azerbaijan has been possible thanks to the implementation of this very concept. Heydar Aliyev has also contributed a great deal to the construction and establishment of the relations between the state and religion. Before he came to power, these relations were not regulated in Azerbaijan, there was a huge gap in this area. When celebrating the 95th birthday of the great leader last month and paying tribute to his dear memory, we talked about his great service to the people and recalled his contributions. At today’s Iftar ceremony organized by His Eminence Sheikh, we talk about the role the great leader played in regulating the relations between the state and religion, and this is natural.
I appreciate the work of His Eminence Sheikh in the successful solution of these issues. The development of relations between the state and religion has been possible thanks to the hard work of His Eminence Sheikh, and these relations are exemplary today. His Eminence Sheikh is a religious figure enjoying great respect not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the Caucasus, in post-Soviet republics, in Europe and throughout the world. The successful activity of His Eminence Sheikh asserts Azerbaijan in the world as a country adhering to its national values and, at the same time, a very open, tolerant and modern state. His Eminence Sheikh has made a great contribution to the fact that the relations between the state and religion are at such a high level now. I am aware that when a Year of Islamic Solidarity was marked in Azerbaijan last year, His Eminence Sheikh made speeches about Azerbaijani realities in a number of countries, took part in international conferences and communicated the truth about our country to the world community.
Representatives of all religions live in Azerbaijan like one family. This is further evidenced by the thoughts that have been voiced on today's Iftar ceremony, the speeches by leaders of traditional religions. Both the relations between the state and religion and interreligious relations in Azerbaijan are exemplary. I am aware that the Azerbaijani model associated with these issues is studied in many countries around the world today. This is necessary for our successful development. This is a manifestation of our state policy. At the same time, it reflects the state of our society and the atmosphere in it.
A very serious and judicious state policy on interreligious issues is conducted in Azerbaijan, and this policy enjoys the support of the Azerbaijani people. The regulation of these relations in Azerbaijan ensures the successful development of our country. The national accord existing in Azerbaijan, the civil unity and stability are built precisely on these relations. The Azerbaijani people are committed to their national values, and the Azerbaijani state rests on these national values. At the same time, Azerbaijan is already known in the world as an exemplary country in terms of construction of interreligious and interethnic relations. We are sending a very serious and positive signal from Azerbaijan to the world. At the same time, the high level of these relations is very important for the successful development of our country. We have one goal and one aspiration. We want our country to become even stronger and develop even faster. We want the Azerbaijani people to live even better, in the conditions of peace, calm and prosperity. We don’t simply want this to happen, we also provide this with specific steps.
A few days ago, I met with ambassadors of Muslim countries to Azerbaijan. These meetings have become traditional in the month of Ramadan. During the meeting, I spoke about our relations with Muslim countries. These relations are at a high level. Azerbaijan is a country enjoying great support and great respect in the Muslim world. Muslim countries always support Azerbaijan in international organizations and are well aware that Azerbaijan also supports Muslim countries in all international organizations. Azerbaijan plays a very active and successful role in the promotion of Islamic culture in the world. We have conducted, are conducting and will continue to conduct numerous activities related to the presentation of Islamic culture in various countries of the world. Exhibitions, culture programs, presentations, conferences – all these steps pursue one goal: to present Islamic culture and Islamic values the world as they are, to raise our voice against distortion and incorrect ideas about Islam in a number of cases and convey realities. I know that our activities in this field are perceived with great respect in the Muslim world. Our activity shows again that Azerbaijan is making a great contribution both to the promotion of Islamic culture and to the trend of solidarity among Muslim countries.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation appreciates the way religious issues are handled in Azerbaijan. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation always supports our country in connection with the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Numerous resolutions have been adopted, reflecting historical truth and the real situation and demonstrating a fair position in connection with the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan's just position is supported, and we are grateful to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for this support.
The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved only on the basis of international norms and principles. Nagorno-Karabakh is our historical land. We are communicating these realities to the whole world. Numerous works and books have been published, and many events have been held. We must bring and are bringing the historical truth to the world. No-one doubts that Nagorno-Karabakh has historically belonged to the Azerbaijani people. From a legal point of view, Nagorno-Karabakh is an inalienable part of Azerbaijan. The whole world recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. No country recognizes and I am sure never will recognize the criminal and self-proclaimed regime existing in Nagorno-Karabakh. These factors, historical facts and the norms of international law, the decisions and resolutions of international organizations not only strengthen our position but also create the basis for a settlement of the conflict. They have created a legal framework, and we have achieved this as a result of tireless activity. I am confident that by pursuing a consistent policy, we will achieve our goal and restore the territorial integrity of our country. I have no doubt about that. This is suggested by historical realities, the legal framework, the resolutions of the UN Security Council, decisions and resolutions of other organizations, our economic and military power, and the actual situation in the region.
The Armenian people today have said what I have been talking about for years. From the world’s highest platform, from the United Nations, I exposed the former criminal regime of Armenia. I called them what they are. I blamed them for the Khojaly genocide and war crimes. I called the former government of Armenia a bloodthirsty, criminal and bandit regime. All this is true. I told the truth, and the Armenian people are saying this truth today. Today, the Armenian people have finally realized that they were led by a regime of the criminal junta for 20 years, a regime that pursued only its own interests, a regime whose unsatisfactory and criminal activity brought Armenia to a deplorable state. I have repeatedly said that Armenia is experiencing an economic and demographic crisis, that the country is becoming empty, that tens of thousands of people are leaving it forever every year, and that there are no prospects for any development in Armenia. I have said that Azerbaijan turned Armenia into a dead end, an economic, political and transport impasse. Why? Because Armenia has occupied our lands. Now all this is acknowledged by the Armenian people too. This shows again that Azerbaijan will achieve its goal in this conflict and restore truth and justice. I hope that the new leaders of Armenia do not repeat the mistakes of the former government, do serious work towards an early settlement of the conflict, and a real impetus will be given to negotiations, not just for the sake of their imitation. This is how the issue can be resolved and peace can come in the Caucasus. We want this, we demand a settlement of the conflict, we have the right to do that. We hope that this issue can soon be resolved through negotiations.
Religion in Azerbaijan is separate from the state. But the state always supports believers and is their pillar. All our historical mosques have been restored by the state. As noted by His Eminence Sheikh, the territory adjacent to the Tezepir Mosque is being cleared now. It will become a large public area. There will be a large park there. The buildings around the Tezepir Mosque used to conceal its magnificence. A part of the mosque is already visible now. A large park is being created there. Another part is expected to be opened too, and a beautiful architectural ensemble will be created in Azerbaijan.
The Bibi-Heybat mosque is our ancient historical mosque. The historical and religious complex Imamzade, the Shamakhi Juma Mosque and the Ajdarbay Mosque have been overhauled by the state. The biggest mosque in our country, the Heydar Mosque, was built at the expense of the state. It is an architectural work of art. In addition, a mosque was built in Jojug Marjanli, which is similar to the Shusha mosque. After a long break, Azan can now be heard in Jojug Marjanli, the village liberated from occupation. Last year, the mosque in the village of Demirchi in Shamakhi District was overhauled. That mosque was built at the same time with the Shamakhi mosque and is one of our oldest mosques. A new building of the Haji Javad mosque was built this year. As noted by His Eminence Sheikh, I took part in the opening of a new building of the Haji Javad mosque shortly after the presidential election, and it is no coincidence. I could have gone there before the election or a month after, but I think that the reopening of the newly-built Haji Javad mosque carries a lot of meaning as the first event after the election. I think that believers and all the people of Azerbaijan understand this perfectly well.
The Imam Hussein mosque, built in the 19th century and renovated by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, is ready for opening. In other words, both the state – of course, the state has assumed much of the burden – and public agencies contribute to that, and it is our duty. Our historical and religious monuments are our national treasure. The temples of all religions are dear to us, they are our assets. Historical and religious monuments of all religions are preserved, restored and built in Azerbaijan. This shows again that Azerbaijan is conducting a deliberate religious policy and this policy meets the interests of the Azerbaijani people.
Numerous events were held as part of the Year of Islamic Solidarity. Among them, I want to highlight those organized by His Eminence Sheikh, of course. As I have already noted, many important conferences have been held in foreign countries. The final event was the large conference held in Baku at the end of last year, in December. I believe that the messages of congratulation sent by religious leaders and statesmen of the world testify to the importance of this event and are a display of respect for Azerbaijan. We see it this way. When conducting the conference, we became further convinced of the great need for such events. I can say today that by conducting these events at the international level, at such a representative level, Azerbaijan is making a huge contribution to universal human values. I believe that our unique role in this field is worthy of and receives high praise. I think we must continue work in this direction in the future.
After the conference, during a conversation with His Eminence Sheikh, we reached the decision that such events should be held in Azerbaijan traditionally. The Year of Islamic Solidarity is already over, but we must make sure that this issue is always in the spotlight. A special plan of measures has been prepared and will be implemented. There is still a great need for the work Azerbaijan is doing in this field in the world today.
It is no coincidence that the "Baku process", started on our initiative 10 years ago, is the only large-scale format of cooperation in the world. Over these 10 years, no-one else has put forward a similar initiative. The "Baku process" is a purely Azerbaijani initiative. This year, we will mark the 10th anniversary of the "Baku process". This initiative is supported by the UN and other influential international organizations. The "Baku process" is already an important part of the global agenda. Look how many major events we have held in Azerbaijan over the years – the summit of religious leaders, the Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Baku humanitarian forums, the forums on intercultural dialogue. We are doing all this because there is a great need for that. We want interreligious relations to be regulated at a high level not only in Azerbaijan but all over the world.
We have achieved all these goals inside the country. There are no problems or misunderstandings on religious or ethnic grounds in Azerbaijan today. But we also want them to be eliminated in the world, and we are ready to continue to make our contributions. Azerbaijan has already asserted itself in the world as a center of multiculturalism. This is both our state policy and the requirement of society. It is a great asset, especially at the present time. Today we see that blood is shed on religious grounds in different places of the world, wars and great tragedies are taking place. Of course, we must evaluate the work carried out in this field and try to develop the situation both in Azerbaijan and in our region in a positive direction. We don’t live on an island, we live and will continue to live in this region. Therefore, we always keep these issues in the spotlight in the country and I believe are contributing to the regulation of the interreligious relations in the region and the world by our international initiatives.
I want to mention several important events that have taken place since last year’s meeting. These events are indeed historic. One of them is the transformation of Azerbaijan into a transport center of Eurasia. The opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was officially celebrated in Baku last year. This year, we marked the opening of the biggest trade port on the Caspian Sea. We have thus resolved most of the issues the country was facing in the transport sphere. These historic projects will ensure the successful development of Azerbaijan for years to come.
Last month, a day after the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, the official opening of the Southern Gas Corridor took place. This is also a great historic achievement, a historic project. This project will serve the Azerbaijani people for many decades.
The official opening of TANAP will take place in the Turkish city of Eskisehir in a few days. This is also a great historic achievement. By achieving great successes every year, we are strengthening and developing our country. I am confident that Azerbaijan will continue to develop confidently and successfully.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you and Muslims of the whole world on the upcoming blessed Ramadan holiday. Thank you.