Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I would like to join the previous speakers in congratulating you, Mr. President, on your election as President of the General Conference at this session and wish you success in discharging your responsible functions.
I have the honor on outset to express my Government\'s appreciation to the World Heritage Committee Member-States for their invaluable support extended to the nomination of the Gobustan State Historical Artistic Preserve to the World Heritage List this year in New Zealand.
Azerbaijan supports UNESCO\'s activities aimed at protection of intangible cultural values. Entry into force of the Convention on Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage last year became a significant achievement in this field. It gives me great pleasure to inform that Azerbaijan is among the countries, which ratified the Convention. We would like to stress the importance of the Funds-in-Trust programme and to express our appreciation to the Government of Japan for its contribution to this programme within which the project on Safeguarding of Azerbaijani Mugham, proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, was financed.
Today the modern world faces some troubling trends. Talking about the dialogue among civilizations we are witnessing that certain issues pertaining to inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations are exacerbated, sometimes artificially. Long-lasting religious and national tolerance is among the most important achievements of my country. Being a multiethnic society Azerbaijan has been for centuries a family for many ethnic groups and many confessions. Secularity and tolerance are widely regarded in society as norms of everyday life. Enjoying its geographically-determined natural role of a bridge between civilizations, between East and West, Azerbaijan can serve as an example for the whole world. My country has been making considerable contribution to the efforts of UNESCO to further developing international peace and tolerance through ethnic diversity and religious tolerance. One of the initiatives was the Conference organized jointly by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation led by Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and the Rio-de-Janeiro based Academy of Latinity in Baku on April 19-21, 2006 dedicated to the dialogue between the West and Islam. Another Foundation\'s initiative was financing the full restoration of an Orthodox Church and a Mosque in Baku, as well as Jewish community museum in Krasnaya Sloboda village in Guba region of Azerbaijan. We believe that all these activities will be a positive contribution into the mutual understanding among nations, cultures and religions, so crucial today. We, in Azerbaijan, strongly believe into the role of UNESCO, as an indispensable center for partnership in the issues of religions tolerance.
As, we all well aware, the main line of UNESCO activities is education, which is fundamental for overcoming many problems. Extensive socio-economic development of Azerbaijan in recent years has created a favorable basis for the realization of large-scale reforms in the field of education. In the framework of the project "A new school to the renewed Azerbaijan" implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, more than 200 schools with all the necessary equipment have been built. Many of them have been constructed in the most remote villages. Some other important projects on vocational education, training of teachers and inclusive education are being implemented jointly with UNESCO within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between Azerbaijan and UNESCO. I would like to underline that "Education for All" Programme (EFA) plays an important role in ensuring sustainable development and elimination of literacy and contributes to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. Azerbaijan is committed to the principles and aims of EFA and supports UNESCO\'s and Mr. Ko?chiro Matsuura\'s personal endeavors in developing this Programme. Taking this opportunity, I would like to inform that Azerbaijan will host under EFA program in Baku in July 2008 the Regional Conference for European and Caucasus Region supported by the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, which is the last of a series of six Regional Conferences in Support of Global Literacy. I invite you all to attend this Conference, which will be an additional step towards realization of this Programme.
It is necessary to stress that the Government of Azerbaijan is strongly committed to safeguarding its cultural heritage. Due to its geographic location Azerbaijan with its diverse cultural and religious heritage has contributed extensively to the world culture. But unfortunately the most urgent troubles of the region today is ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result of the conflict Azerbaijan has suffered excessive cultural disaster. Numerous historical, cultural, religious monuments and pieces of arts have been plundered in the occupied by Armenia territories of Azerbaijan. In this regard Azerbaijan urges UNESCO to follow closely the situation on the ground for the protection of ancient cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people in the occupied territories from the further ongoing destruction, as well as in Armenia in the settlements, from which my people were ethnically cleansed during the conflict. The Government of Azerbaijan is looking forward to work closely with UNESCO on this very important issue. Thank you.