Address by Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
New York, September 29, 2013
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to congratulate Mr. John Ashe on his election to the presidency of the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session and wish him every success in fulfilling this highly responsible duty. We are also grateful to Mr. Vuk Jeremic for his able presidency of the General Assembly at its sixty-seventh session.
This year's general debate is taking place during a period of serious threats and challenges to peace, security and sustainable development. Environmental, economic and social indicators demonstrate that the models for progress and development need to be modified and adapted. The theme of the current general debate, "The post-2015 development agenda: setting the stage", is timely and topical in providing an opportunity for evaluating the progress achieved so far and identifying new ways of overcoming existing obstacles.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted to address extreme poverty and multiple other forms of deprivation and for defining future development priorities, are of key importance in making future positive differences in the world.
Azerbaijan recently became a donor country and contributes to the sustainable development efforts of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This is a brand-new chapter in the history of my county and its activities in the international arena. A national entity, the Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AIDA), which was established for that purposes, has already carried out various assistance programs in more than 20 countries. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation has provided various humanitarian and social programs.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently commended Azerbaijan's achievements in combating hunger and recognized that the country has accomplished the first MDG, namely, combating undernourishment. Moreover, gender equality, the empowerment of women and fight against HIV/AIDS have also identified as areas of progress.
One of the key elements that Azerbaijan is considering in the context of the post-2015 agenda is information and communication technologies (ICT), which is a driving force of development and progress. To achieve the objective of ensuring improved access to ICT, efforts must be intensified to enhance regional synergies for promoting investment in ICT capacity-building, refocusing tools and content so as to address the particular needs of populations and thus better deploying ICT in the service of sustainable development. In that connection, Azerbaijan has put forward a proposal to establish the Eurasian Connectivity Alliance, a regional platform in support of improved connectivity and greater cooperation in the field of ICT. We are encouraged by Member States’ support for that initiative through the adoption of resolution 67/298 in September and look forward to further cooperation with interested Governments and other stakeholders.
The world is still witnessing violations of the fundamental norms and principles of international law. Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world continue to suffer from aggression, military occupation, ethnic cleansing and a prevailing culture of impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Security Council adopted four resolutions – resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) – condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories. In those resolutions, the Council reaffirmed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, reconfirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is an integral part of Azerbaijan, and demanded the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all the occupied territories.
The resolutions also made specific reference to violations of international humanitarian law, including the violent displacement of a large number of civilians in Azerbaijan, attacks on civilians and the bombing of its territory.
A series of Security Council presidential statements on the issue adopted between 1992 and 1995 are phrased along the same lines. All in all, the aforementioned resolutions, which are clearly the most authoritative and binding rulings on the problem, acknowledge that acts of military force were committed against Azerbaijan and that such acts constitute a serious violation of international law.
To our deepest regret, the Security Council's principled demands, including, in the first place, the withdrawal of occupying forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, have still not been implemented, and the mediation efforts conducted for more than 20 years within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have yet to yield results.
Against that background, with a view to deflecting the attention of the international community from the urgent need to address the main problems caused by its continuing aggression against Azerbaijan, Armenia has been undertaking efforts to distort the actual situation and downplaying the relevance of Security Council resolutions and misinterpreting their provisions.
Moreover, Armenia’s continued annexationist claims and the consistent measures it has been undertaking in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan with a view to further consolidating the status quo of the occupation and preventing the return of hundreds of thousands internally displaced persons to their homeland represent an open challenge to the conflict-resolution process and pose a serious threat to international and regional peace and security.
On our initiative in the United Nations in 2005 and 2010, OSCE-led fact-finding and fact-assessment missions visited the occupied territories. Both missions documented the fact of illegal activities in those areas, involving, inter alia, the insertion of settlers, the extensive redrawing of boundaries, the changing of original geographic names, and the discriminatory treatment of cultural property and sacred sites.
However, the missions' recommendations remain on paper. Moreover, the latest reports on the transfer of Syrian Armenians into the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven other adjacent occupied districts of Azerbaijan, along with other illegal activities, including efforts to operate flights into and out of those territories, provide yet more evidence of Armenia’s deliberate policy of annexing Azerbaijani lands.
In that regard, it is critical that the international community continue to insist on the need for an immediate and unconditional end to all actions that are seriously obstructing the prospects of a negotiated peaceful settlement to the conflict.
Armenia's policy of annexation has absolutely no chance of succeeding. The Nagorno-Karabakh region was, is and will always be an inalienable part of Azerbaijan. The only way to achieve a durable and lasting solution and to establish civilized relations between two neighbouring States is to de-occupy Azerbaijani territories, fully re-establish the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and comply immediately with the inalienable right of refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes. That is what international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions require, something that can in no way be introduced as a bargaining chip during the conflict-settlement process. Above all, Azerbaijan will never compromise its territorial integrity or the rights and freedoms of its citizens.
Without prejudice to its rights under the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those set forth in Article 51, Azerbaijan has embarked upon, and remains committed to, the conflict-settlement process.
We have no doubt that the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh will one day live side by side in peace and dignity in this region of Azerbaijan. It is therefore essential and vital to continue efforts towards peace, agreement and coexistence between the two communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. We consider those aspects to be an important part of the entire reconciliation process, which should be given the attention it deserves.
Azerbaijan highly appreciates the principled stance of the States Members of the United Nations that has been expressed on issues that are important for Azerbaijan and pertaining to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We count on the continued resolve of the international community to defend the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, as well as its strong solidarity with the just position of Azerbaijan.
We note the encouraging developments in the Middle East peace process with the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The current situation of insecurity in the whole region necessitates progress in the peace process as never before. It is imperative that the parties demonstrate responsibility to sustain international efforts towards achieving the two-State solution and avoid actions that would risk undermining that objective.
The economic, financial and humanitarian situation in Palestine requires continued international attention and assistance, particularly in order to ensure humanitarian aid to the region. In June, Azerbaijan hosted a conference of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the establishment of an Islamic financial safety net in support of Palestine, as well as a donors conference in support of the city of Al-Quds. States members of the OIC and other international organizations attending the conferences pledged to contribute to improving Palestine's economy, health care and education, as well as and to infrastructure projects.
We welcome the yesterday's adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), regarding the safeguarding and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. We hope that the unanimous and strong position demonstrated by the Council will contribute to finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria, putting an end to the suffering inflicted on the Syrian people and ensuring that all parties concerned comply with their obligations and commitments under international law.
Azerbaijan strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria, particularly the resulting killing of civilians. Resolution 2118 (2013) affirms that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law and qualifies such an act as a threat to international peace and security.
By endorsing the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 (S/2012/522, annex) and calling for the convening of an international conference on Syria, the Security Council paved the way for achieving a peaceful transition, stability and reconciliation. It is imperative that all parties cease armed violence, engage constructively in the political process and commit to the implementation of the Geneva communiqué.
In conclusion, I would like to express our hope that during the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly, Member States will be able to take successful steps towards a stronger and more effective United Nations. We look forward to the continued commitment and engagement of the United Nations system, both in reinforcing the implementation of national development goals by individual countries and in ensuring the implementation of the decisions and resolutions adopted by the Organization.