By Roy Lie Atjam
The Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Netherlands H.E. Mr Fikrat Akhundov and Mrs Vusala Akhundova, hosted a reception on the occasion of the 104th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The celebration was at the embassy on Friday, 28 May 2022, was well attended and featured many ambassadors, Algeria, Argentina, Costa Rica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Philipinnes, South Africa, and the deputy DG.OPCW, diplomats from Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and others. Further, an Azerbaijani dance group performed National Dances adding to the festive atmosphere.
This year Azerbaijan and the Netherlands celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations. For 30 years, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands built their relations on mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, Azerbaijan believes that these relations will further grow and contribute to the prosperity of the two nations.
Ambassador Fikrat Akhundov’s welcome speech walked his guests through the history and independence proclamation to the present day. Indeed, the Ambassador spoke on a range of fascinating topics. This is what he stated.
“Today is a significant day in the history of Azerbaijan. 104 years ago, on May 28, 1918, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic declared its independence and thus became the first secular democratic republic in the Muslim East.
Proclaimed during complex geo-political times, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic has left a significant mark on the rich history of the statehood of Azerbaijan. In the short period of its existence, the first Parliament and Government were established. Different ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan were elected to the first Parliament, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, and gained the right to express their views openly.
All citizens of the country – regardless their gender – were given the same rights based on the principles of equality. For the first time in the Eastern world, women’s suffrage was granted in 1918 in Azerbaijan. The young Republic of Azerbaijan has defined its state borders, state symbols, established the first diplomatic relations with foreign countries. 16 foreign countries, as Great Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Iran, USA, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland have opened representations in Azerbaijan. When Azerbaijan declared its independence, the territory of Azerbaijan was 114 km2 and the population was 3.3 million.
However, two years later, as a result of geo-political processes in the region, Azerbaijan lost its state independence in April 1920 and became part of the USSR until 1991. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan was able to preserve its cultural heritage, traditions and ancient history.
Only 71 years later, on October 18, 1991, Azerbaijan regained its independence, but the country’s territory was no longer 114 km, but only 86.6 km2. In addition, since the early days of its independence, Azerbaijan has faced new territorial claims and aggression. Thus, in 1991-1993, nearly 20% of the historical territory of Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region and East Zangazur, was occupied by Armenia. About 1 million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their homeland, some were taken hostage or went missing, the ancient monuments, mosques and other historical buildings belonging to Azerbaijanis were destroyed, natural resources were illegally exploited. Finally, in November 2020, Azerbaijan restored justice and liberated its historical territories from occupation.
At present, the main goal of Azerbaijan Government is demining and restoration the liberated territories and the return of IDPs to their homelands after 30 years. Azerbaijan has declared Karabakh and East Zangazur a “green energy” zone. Many Western and Asian companies have already begun to take part in these projects.
New transport, logistics, eco-tourism, smart cities and smart villages projects have been launched in the region. The goal is to transform the region fully into a green energy zone by 2050, as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent.
From ancient times Azerbaijan has been the bridge between East and West, North and South. This tendency has not changed for modern Azerbaijan. Due to this geographical position Azerbaijan became a principal transportation hub. Azerbaijan has built one of the biggest ports at the Caspian Sea and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route has been realized.
After the restoration of its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has participated in many regional projects, cooperating on the international stage with the EU, OSCE, NATO, OIC and became the reliable partner for both West and global South. Azerbaijan has been elected to the positions at different international organizations. Namely, Azerbaijan has been the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2012-2013 and has been chairing Non-alignment movement since 2018.
In the framework of the partnership with NATO, for instance, Azerbaijan peacekeepers helped with the evacuation at Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
In its global efforts to fight COVID-19 and expressing its solidarity with states affected by the virus, the Government of Azerbaijan has donated 10 million US dollars to World Health Organization, 5 million of which was to support the most affected NAM countries.
Azerbaijan is strategic partner of EU in ensuring energy security of the region. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the natural gas projects TANAP and TAP were launched for this purpose. TAP (transadriatic pipeline) in particular plays a key role in the EU’s strategic goal of energy security. Currently, in connection with the crisis in Ukraine, Azerbaijan has provided humanitarian aid worth 15 million euros and continues its efforts.
Azerbaijan or the Land of Fire is recognized in the world for its ancient history, culture, national folklore, carpet weaving, cuisine and for its famous Karabakh horses. The newly liberated city of Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, that celebrates its 270th anniversary this year, has been declared the cultural capital of Turkic world for 2023 by The International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY).
The capital of Azerbaijan – Baku city has hosted many international sporting competitions and cultural events. This year, in 2 weeks Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand prix will again take place in Baku. Baku circuit has become one of the most excited and challenging races for Formula 1 pilots and fans since 2017.
It should be also noted this year marks the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijani-Dutch diplomatic relations. For the last 30 years the relations between Azerbaijan and the Netherlands had a trajectory of development in different spheres, from agriculture to logistics, from education to tourism, culture and so on. About 50 Dutch companies work in Azerbaijan in different fields. Also Azerbaijan companies cooperate closely with Dutch companies in the Netherlands.
Today we present to you the products of Anna Dutch Company, which produces caviar of the sturgeon from Caspian Sea in the Netherlands. I would like to thank the company for its contribution to this event. Azerbaijan and the Netherlands has a huge potential in the bilateral relations and we hope it will further deepen in the future.
Dear friends, distinguished guests, I am grateful to you for being here today with us and celebrating the 104th anniversary of the Independence of Azerbaijan” end quote.
The festive event concluded with a reception and a galore of caviar, courtesy of Anna Dutch B.V.
Happy Independence Day Azerbaijan!