It is an honor to meet with you today at ADA University, a popular and prestigious university not only in Azerbaijan, but around the world - and day by day it is expanding and becoming more beautiful. I had a tour of the library before the meeting, and it looks like an enviable collection. I would like to deliver our gratitude to our elder in diplomacy Hafiz Pashayev for supporting and developing a university of such high caliber. When we look across the region, we see that there are as many problems as there are opportunities. We see that those challenges and problems may have the capacity to overwhelm the region’s opportunities and advantages. We live in the world where political and economic dynamics are rapidly changing, and in some cases, the emerging gaps are being filled by radical groups. How to enhance our capacity to combat these groups, and how to structure our cooperation in facing these challenges are two key questions. We should examine the countries that can withstand or overcome these challenges. The global economic crisis that took place seven to eight years ago continues to influence politics and democratic institutions. The reason why Greece is still negotiating with the EU the economic package is that like many other countries, it has not yet succeeding in overcoming the crisis. In this challenging context, Turkey and Azerbaijan have demonstrated their strengths.
Development in Azerbaijan is not limited to only Baku, but can be observed across all the regions. I am not saying this as a Minister of a brother state; this is my objective analysis. Today we see various types of development in Azerbaijani cities such as Ganja and Sumgayit, while Lenkeran, Shaki, and Gabala are rapidly developing across all areas. This shows that Azerbaijan’s economy is not based on oil and gas alone. If you have an economy based on a single sector, any changes in that sector will affect you. For example, the decrease in the price of oil has affected many countries; obviously Azerbaijan’s economy will also be affected, but it is clear that Azerbaijan has the capacity to take all necessary measures in response. Turkey is also strengthening and maintaining its economic position despite the economic crisis, and has even demonstrated 5% economic growth.
Azerbaijan is following a diverse and effective foreign policy. It is pursuing an active policy in international organizations, expanding the number of its diplomatic missions abroad, and hosting a number of political, cultural and sporting events. We have begun to see that Azerbaijan’s economic development is playing an active role in Europe and in the world, providing humanitarian and development aid to other countries. I would like to thank President Ilham Aliyev and everyone who has contributed to this development in Azerbaijan. We have worked together with Samed Seyidov in the Council of Europe. Ten years ago, there were perhaps one or two friendly states supporting both Baku and Ankara in international organizations. At that time, Turkey was defending Azerbaijan and we were doing our best to address all the challenges that were facing us. Today, I am delighted to see Azerbaijan’s effectiveness in international organizations and its increased number of supporters.
When looking at the array of global problems, we should emphasize the importance of staying strong, because the world is changing – in both positive and negative ways. But when we look at our surroundings, unfortunately, we see and feel those negative changes. In the wake of the Arab Uprisings, we see that processes in those regions are becoming increasingly vulnerable. In the post-Uprising period, with the 2011 Constituent Assembly elections, Tunisia managed to regain stability, but, unfortunately, the situation in the other post-revolution states remains of serious concern. Let me give the example of Syria. The regime does not have effective control of the state and is killing its people with chemical weapons and grenades, and by leaving them to starve. Neighboring Iraq also suffered at the hands of a regime that could not control the state, but with the establishment of an inclusive Iraqi government, things started to improve. Taking into account the overwhelming chaos in Syria, the main question is: Who is filling the power vacuums? The easy answer is terrorist organizations. Today, everyone is trying to figure out how to combat Daesh and other terrorist entities.
Why can’t we defeat Daesh? Because we don’t have a strategy for fighting terror and terror is not limited only to Daesh. I am talking about Daesh because it is currently the most brutal terror organization. Boko Haram kills 100 people a day. We don’t pay attention to processes in Nigeria. It is dangerous to differentiate between terrorist organizations. We can’t say that some terrorists are secular; others are Islamists; that one is good and the other is bad. Nor can we tolerate any terrorist organization just because it happens to be fighting your enemies. If we display tolerance, these organizations will attack us as soon as they can do so. Daesh is the best example of this. Some countries, notably the Syrian regime, supported Daesh from the beginning. Now look at Daesh: half of its weapons are from Russia and China; the rest are from the US. Where did they get them? They took Russian and Chinese weapons from the ruling regime, and the rest came from soldiers who left Mosul during the Maliki regime in Iraq. 70,000 people fled Mosul in a single day, because Daesh was coming.
There are humanitarian implications of this chaos. For example, 12 million people were forced to leave their homes in Syria. 8.5 million of them are IDPs, while 3.5 million people are refugees living in other countries. 1.7 million of these refugees are living in Turkey. Together with the people coming from Iraq, the number of refugees living in Turkey has reached 2 million. All of these people have needs in terms of education and healthcare. There are approximately 150,000 newborns, 240,000 children living in camps, the rest in different cities around Turkey. We have provided everything to those living in camps. We have built schools, clinics, hospitals; they have ambulances. But there are 500,000 school-age children and only 140,000 of them can continue their education, because they are living in different regions of Turkey. This is the consequence of the crisis in Syria. Turkey spent 5.5 billion dollars on humanitarian aid for refugees. In response, the international community has limited itself to saying “Good job, Turkey”; “You are doing great”. What about sharing the burden? No. We took 130,000 people from the Syrian border town Kobani to Turkey in just one day. The number of refugees that Western Europe took from Syria from the beginning of the crisis is 130,000. Just 130 000… we accepted this number in one day and the financial aid we have received until now is less than 300 million dollars- just 265 million. I would like to add one more thing. European countries are choosing whom to accept, meaning they are trying to choose educated refugees; they discriminate against people on religious or ethnic grounds. Turkey has never discriminated against anyone. We accepted everyone- Armenians, Kurds, Arabs, Sunnis, Jews, Iraqi Turkmens, and Yazidis. The cost of the Syrian crisis is too much for the region. So we are working on how to overcome terror and bring stability to Syria. There are more than 60 states working on this issue, but unfortunately, we have been unable to build a comprehensive strategy.
Thus, terrorist organizations rule over a large part of Syria and even Iraq. Looking to the region, we see that Libya is another problem; in Yemen, sectarian conflict has led to chaos. Oppression in Egypt is continuing after the military coup. Unfortunately, the area to our country’s south faces serious problems. Indeed, it is not only the southern part - we face the same problems in Ukraine. Despite the two ceasefires and the Minsk agreement, clashes are still ongoing. People are dying. The officially recorded death toll in Ukraine since April 2014 has reached 10,000. Now the “foreign fighters” phenomenon is raising new challenges: combatants from Korea, Japan, the US and Europe are coming to Syria. There are Buddhists, Muslims and Christians among them. There are 35,000 foreign fighters from the Caucasus, Balkans, and many other regions.
We live in a strange world where radicalism is not limited to religion or ideology. We cannot see the reasons for radicalism, but there are 35, 000 foreign fighters from different religions in Ukraine. The main question is what will happen when they return to their home countries after the war. Unfortunately, we can see what is going to happen. We have refused entry for 10,000 people to prevent them from joining terror organizations in Syria, and have deported 1100 people attempting to join the fighters in Syria. People who we have previously deported are then returning to our borders. How are they getting here, and more importantly, how we can stop them?
The legacy of the Cold War is both visible and palpable. When I was serving in Europe I observed that the Cold War had not truly come to an end, despite the fall of the Berlin Wall. The mindset was still prevailing. We can criticize Russia on the Ukraine issue, but we can also criticize Europe. I do not want to approach this question in terms of who is right and who is wrong. But if we continue to treat each other as we did during the Cold War, the crisis will not end with Ukraine, or with South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. First, we should resolve these problems. Today Ukraine is paying the costs of the clashes between the West and Russia, while some years earlier Georgia paid that cost. It is important to consider whether we may be re-entering a Cold War period? How far are we from a Cold War scenario? Our young diplomats need to think about this and come up with solutions. The current situation in Ukraine and Crimea is deplorable, because Russia is not fulfilling its promises. Meanwhile the number of IDPs is increasing, and there are 1.2 million people forced to leave their homes due to war in Azerbaijan. Our visit coincided with the anniversary of the Khojaly genocide. We wish the mercy of God upon those 613 people who were killed, and to condemn the massacre. We will not forget this and will not let it be forgotten, and tomorrow we will commemorate our Azerbaijani brothers in front of the Khojaly memorial.
Is it only current processes that affect stability in Europe and the region? There are frozen conflicts today in Europe; including Ossetia, South Abkhazia, Transdniestria, Cyprus and Karabakh, and each of them is cause for polarization between East and West. Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s international legal rights are demonstrated in UN resolutions and other documents produced by international organizations. Armenia is not gaining anything from this unresolved conflict; it has become a victim of this problem. Yerevan is not capable of demonstrating its sovereignty. Did Armenia manage to sign a joint agreement with the EU? No. Why? Because of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
Let’s take the OSCE Minsk group, which is officially mandated to serve as international mediator on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. If they put all their efforts into resolving this conflict, they would pay. For example, those who accepted Cyprus into EU in 2004 without resolving the conflict there admit their mistake. Meanwhile, the Nagorno- Karabakh problem, as well as directly affecting Azerbaijan, hinders stability and peace in the Caucasus and the region. We want a peaceful solution - this is one of the main principles of Turkish foreign policy as defined by Ataturk: peace at home, peace in the world. Today we follow the policy of “zero problems with neighbors” - but neighbors, and I am talking about Armenia in particular, should respect the territorial integrity of their neighbor states. We have demonstrated the importance of our relations with our neighbors. Despite some problems, our relations with Greece are developing in a positive direction and we have established a strategic working mechanism. We have the same mechanism with Azerbaijan. We want to say that Greece is not our enemy, but our friend. We may have some problems; we may think differently about Cyprus or have various confusions around the Aegean Sea, but we are neighbors and we want to maintain our relations at a high level. But our foreign policy is not limited to our neighbors. We want to increase the level of our bilateral relations with the help of strategic working mechanisms such as High Level Strategic Cooperation Councils. We have established these mechanisms with 19 states, including Azerbaijan, and are looking forward to establishing one with Georgia soon. We aim to ensure a visa-free regime among all states with which we have established the strategic partnership mechanism. In addition, we have launched a visa liberalization dialogue with the EU, which has been ratified by parliaments. We are trying to assure visa-free travel for our citizens to Schengen countries within 3 years, and we want to abolish visa regimes with friendly states. Our Azerbaijani brothers travel to Turkey without visas, and we are negotiating the lifting of visa requirements for Turkish citizens travelling to Azerbaijan, or at least to simplify the process. We understand internal and external balances surrounding Azerbaijan and respect its position. To date we have abolished visa regimes with more than 70 states.
The other factor is openness to trade. You produce goods and you have to sell them. In order to achieve that you need to sign free trade agreements. We have signed free trade agreements with 21 states and are in negotiations with 14 more countries. We are also discussing these agreements with international organizations. Meanwhile, we are trying to update our Custom Union agreement with the EU to open up new opportunities for trade. We have already reaped the advantages of these agreements: in the past decade our trade with neighboring countries increased to 90 billion dollars from 13 billion dollars with the help of these agreements.
I want to highlight our policy of opening up to Africa. Our trade with Africa has risen to 24 billion from 2.9 billion, and today we have 39 embassies in African countries. Turkish Airlines now flies to 42 destinations in Africa, and the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has 9 offices there. We are planning to increase the number to 11. In addition, the Red Crescent is in almost every African country.
I want to emphasize that another principle of our foreign policy is to expand our diplomatic presence around the world and to enter new continents. We have seen the advantages of this in Africa. Today we are one of Africa’s three strategic allies; the others are China and India. We have prepared an action plan for 5 years in Equatorial Guinea and we are closely engaged in the problems of African states. As a result of our policy of opening up to Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of our embassies has risen to 12. With our new embassy in Fiji, we will continue our policy in Pacific Island states. We are also represented by TIKA and Turkish Airlines and many other respected organizations. In the case of earthquakes, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey- AFAD is present; in case of humanitarian crises, the Red Crescent there, while TIKA supports development projects. This support for development is another principle of Turkish foreign policy. Years before we were a state receiving aid, and our economy was not doing especially well. Azerbaijan should understand this very well, because their economy faced similar challenges. But now another similarity is that we have become countries that are able to provide bilateral aid. Our humanitarian aid across Africa, Asia, Pacific and Caribbean has increased from 1.6 billion USD to 3.3 billion USD today. Now we are in 3rd place in the world in this regard. But when compared with our gross national product, we are in first place and we will continue our activities in the future. Today, with 228 missions around the world, we have rapidly ascended to 6th place, and we plan to expand this mission.
In this respect, can we say that Europe’s integration policy is successful? No. Are international organizations fighting the environmental disasters that are causing widespread displacement? Do we have a successful model state on these issues? No. The economic crisis continues to affect the global economy. Do we have an international organization proposing an effective solution to this problem? And besides the economic problems, there are changes in the political balance as well. Today the balance of power in the world is changing; we see new powers emerging. By 2050, 50% of world production will belong to Asia. And if African countries continue to maximize their above ground and underground resources, including their agricultural potential, the total income of the African continent will be 45 quadrillion. In talking about emerging powers, we have to mention India, Brazil and Mexico. But do we see a satisfactory representation of these powers in international organizations? Unfortunately not.
Today, international organizations are not capable of solving the myriad problems that the world community faces. The Nagorno-Karabakh problem remains unresolved after over twenty years. Why can’t the OSCE Minsk Group solve it? Can the UN prevent all the conflicts that we see today? No. Today we chair the Forum on Fighting Terrorism. We are working on a strategy, trying to achieve peace - but which organization is effective in achieving peace? International organizations need serious reforms. When I was a candidate for the European Council Parliamentary Assembly Presidency, the first thing I said was that there is an urgent need for reform. No one believed me, but I explained why reforms are needed. As a result, we have formed an ad-hoc reform committee and together with General Secretary we have carried out reforms across the whole European Council and European Court of Human Rights. Why did we do that? In order to help that organization become more effective in problem-solving and to increase its visibility in transitioning countries … And we opened the doors of the European Council to neighboring states. Today the Moroccan Parliament, Palestine and Kyrgyzstan are taking advantage of all the rights, with the exception of the voting right. The UN and EU also need reforms. Today, the European Union is the most stable, most democratic and most developed region of the world. We accept that. But did they propose any solutions to the above-mentioned problems? No. Can their foreign policy be regarded as successful? No. What about its internal integration policy? It is also unsuccessful. We couldn’t achieve a joint agreement on issues such as Schengen or the Euro. And the reason Ukraine is in the midst of this crisis today is the failure of the EU’s foreign policy. You cannot say to the countries in this region “you either choose me, or you are my enemy”. Every state has its own problems. EU countries also have problems and differences in terms of democratization or economic development. This is no reason to classify them into first or second-class states. This needs to be changed. But how do we fight Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia and terror? Are we strong enough to protect the values in Europe that bind us together? I cannot see that. And why did we establish international organizations like the UN, the EC and other regional organizations? Because we paid a huge price during the World Wars, religious wars, regional conflicts. We paid a price in the Balkans, in Bosnia, in Nagorno-Karabakh. We have formed international organizations in order to avoid conflicts, to come together around economic interests. However, unfortunately, today we see few signs of those days. This is why international organizations and states need reform.
Some of you may say that I have focused too much on negative issues, discouraging us from diplomacy. But the view is not so bad. We just need to focus on the problems that our nations face in this region and in the whole world. We do have hope for positive changes. If we can act together like “one nation, two states” as famously stated by Heydar Aliyev, then we can resolve not only our own problems, but also those of other countries. Today Azerbaijan and Turkey are the center of all the major projects in the region: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, and now TANAP. Today we are contributing to regional stability through trilateral working mechanisms such as the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Georgia, Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran, Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan, and now Azerbaijan-Turkey-Kazakhstan formats. We want to pursue all opportunities for cooperation and to be central to the project that will connect London to Beijing. We have hopes for the future, because now after those long years where Azerbaijan was behind the Iron Curtain, we are together. We have to understand the value of this. I gave some examples of states that are living in chaos and violence. We see these examples in our neighborhood. That is why we have to appreciate our stability and everything we have. Azerbaijan and Turkey will continue to serve as friendly states, eager to share our opportunities with everyone. This mechanism is beneficial to other countries.
I want to thank you all for your attention, and will be happy to answer any questions.