Thursday, 30 November 2023, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany: The Speaker of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas (Social Democrat) welcomed her counterpart from Azerbaijan, Dr. Sahiba Gafarova during the latter’s visit to Germany.
In the evening, a reception was given at the Azerbaijan Culture Centre in Berlin in honour of the official visit of the parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan led by Speaker of the Milli Majlis Sahiba Gafarova.
The event transpired with the participation of members of the Bundestag (German Federal Parliament), foreign countries’ ambassadors, high-ranking officials of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other state authorities as well as academics, cultural figures, representatives of various companies, business people and delegates of the Azerbaijani Diaspora.
The Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Germany Nasimi Aghayev greeted the parliamentary delegation and the guests, and shared his ideas as to the relations between the two countries and the importance of the aforementioned visit.
Greeting the participants of the reception cordially, the Speaker of Parliament described the current visit as a vivid token of the high level of the bilateral connexions. She recalled the thirtieth anniversary of the Azerbaijani-German diplomatic relations last year and said that that an energetic and productive co-operation had gone on in various areas throughout the past three decades.
The on-going political dialogue and that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has visited Germany twice this year alone were duly brought up. It was said that President Aliyev’s conversations with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been useful as discussions of our co-operation. As regards the mutually beneficial co-operation between our countries in diverse areas over many years, Sahiba Gafarova remarked that Germany was one of the chief trading partners of Azerbaijan. German companies are active and successful in our country; they contribute to the implementation of various projects. There are yet vaster opportunities to diversify and broaden the interaction in different areas.
The dramatic role of the educational, academic and cultural co-operation in the strengthening of the ties between our nations and in promoting the mutual understanding was mentioned in the speech as well. Having referred to the state-level protection of the heritage of the German immigrants who settled in Azerbaijan in the early 19th century, the Speaker of the Parliament said that the 200th anniversary of the German settlements in Azerbaijan was celebrated with numerous events in both Azerbaijan and Germany in 2017 to the decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The activities of the Azerbaijan Culture Centre in Berlin and the German-Azerbaijani Culture Alliance in Baku bring our nations yet closer, according to Sahiba Gafarova. She thanked members of the German-Azerbaijani Forum for their tireless endeavours to broaden the relations between the two countries.
The contribution of the joint activities of the two legislative assemblies to the development of bilateral and multilateral ties between the two states was noted. The exceptional role of reciprocal visits, as well as meetings and contacts in expanding these ties was emphasised as well.
As she spoke of the centuries-long history of statehood of our nation, Chair Sahiba Gafarova remarked that Azerbaijan as we know her today was a successful heir to our nation’s ancient statehood tradition. The first parliamentary democratic republic in the Islamic East was established in 1918. The crucial measures were implemented during the existence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic; the citizens were given equal rights without any racial, ethnic or religious discrimination whatsoever. Women were granted the franchise, too – for the first time in the Muslim East also and far sooner than in some European countries.
Regrettably, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was able to survive for merely 23 months. Azerbaijan was able to regain her independence only in 1991, which set in motion a new epoch in her history.
Speaker Sahiba Gafarova underlined the unique role of the Azerbaijani people’s National Leader Heydar Aliyev whose centenary is celebrated this year, by the way, in protecting our independence from internal and external hazards and in promoting the growth of our modern statehood.
The Chair of the Milli Majlis informed those assembled of Azerbaijan’s achievements in diverse fields to date. She said our country had attained considerable economic progress over the 20 years last. It was remarked that the GDP of Azerbaijan, the State Budget revenues and the foreign trade volume had grown fourfold, 30 times and more than tenfold respectively. It was further mentioned that the poverty level in our country had slid from 50% to 5.5% and that USD 310 bn, including approximately USD 200 bn channelled into the national non-oil economy sector, had been invested in Azerbaijan over the last 20 years.
Azerbaijan is an active and responsible member of the international community. Promotion of co-operation on the basis of respect for international law standards and principles, dialogue, solidarity and mutual trust is one of the key elements of the strategic vision formulated by President Ilham Aliyev, Sahiba Gafarova continued. The Speaker said that those principles were clearly traceable in several cases. Amongst those are Azerbaijan’s activities as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council during 2012-2013, several initiatives put forth as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the energy-sector endeavours contributing substantially to European energy security and the implementation of large transport projects connecting the East and the West.
Having mentioned the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories that had lasted for nigh on 30 years, the Speaker remarked that, though hit by the occupation, Azerbaijan is taking great pains to establish a lasting peace in our region by having invited Armenia after the 44 days’ Patriotic War to sign a peace treaty on the basis of 5 principles of international law.
The reception participants were then told that Armenia’s political and military provocations, its failure in the 3 years past to honour the obligations it had assumed and the constant support to the illegal separatist regime created in our territories had made anti-terrorist measures in Azerbaijan’s Garabagh Region inevitable. Those measures were implemented in complete compliance with international law standards and with no civilian casualties ever taken on record. Consequently, the separatist regime declared self-dissolution whereas Azerbaijan restored her sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Speaker Sahiba Gafarova said that Azerbaijan had begun large-scale restoration and renovation of the de-occupied territories immediately upon the conclusion of the Patriotic War. New towns and villages are built from scratch. The erstwhile IDP have begun to return to their homes already. More than 140,000 people are to have returned to Garabagh and East Zangazur by 2026 in keeping with the Grand Return Programme.
The Chair of the Milli Majlis recalled with regret that the more than 1 million mines planted in those lands by Armenia during their occupation hinder the reclamation work and delay the IDP’s return to native parts. More than 340 Azerbaijanis have fallen victims to mine explosions since the end of the war in 2020. According to Mrs Gafarova, Azerbaijan is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world but also one in receipt of the smallest international de-mining assistance. Mrs Gafarova praised then the support of the German Government for Azerbaijan’s humanitarian demining efforts.
Concluding her speech, Chair of the Milli Majlis Sahiba Gafarova said that there were no obstacles to the signing of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Despite all the sorrows caused by the war, Azerbaijan has repeatedly declared its readiness for peace. Ms Gafarova stated that, as President Ilham Aliyev of the Republic of Azerbaijan had said, there must be a just peace – a peace based on respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of both countries. Such a peace opens the only way to stability, development and co-operation.
The delegation accompanying Dr. Gafarova also included Dr. Nurlan Hasanov, Leader of the Working Group for the Azerbaijani-German Federal Republic Interparliamentary Relations; Soltan Mamedov and Elshan Musayev. The Azerbaijani MPs held a meeting in the Reichstag with the German-South Caucasian Parliamentary Group, including German MPs Steffen Kotré and Tabea Rößner.