By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik
Ambassador Ramzi Teymurov of the Republic of Azerbaijan said, “Despite facing grave internal and external challenges arising from the collapse of Russian empire, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic succeeded in setting effective state institutions, upholding the rights of its citizens, and gaining the trust of the international community.”
Ambassador Teymurov made the remarks at a celebration meeting in Seoul marking the 30th anniversary of the Independence Day of Azerbraijan and the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea.
The reception was attended by many important personalities from various segments of Korean society and international community in Korea, who included President Sohn Hyuk-sang of the Korea International Cooperation Agency and Ambassador Carlos Victor Boungou of Gabon in Seoul, the dean of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps.
Details of the speech of Ambassador Teymurov follow:
We have gathered here today to celebrate the Independence Day of Azerbaijan as well as the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Korea.
This year is the first time we celebrate our national day in such a physical format since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic and it is another pleasure to see all friendly faces safe and sound in almost 3 years.
It was exactly on May 28, 1918, when the first parliamentary democracy in the Muslim world – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was founded with the adoption of the Declaration on Independence.
Despite facing grave internal and external challenges arising from the collapse of Russian empire, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic succeeded in setting effective state institutions, upholding the rights of its citizens, and gaining the trust of the international community.
As stated in the Declaration of Independence, the establishment of friendly relations with all nations, especially neighboring nations and states, was determined as one of the foreign policy priorities of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
In late 1919 and early 1920, however, the political situation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic – both at home and abroad – worsened considerably. Unfortunately, the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic existed less than two years and after its collapse, Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union for 71 years.
But in 1988-1990, the national democratic movement in Azerbaijan campaigned vigorously for the restoration of the country’s independence. Finally, in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan gained independence for the second time in the 20th century.
The difficulties faced by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, including Armenia’s territorial claims and war against Azerbaijan, geopolitical intrigues, the socio-economic problems engulfed the Republic of Azerbaijan as well since regaining its independence in 1991.
The policies pursued later by the national leader Heydar Aliyev developed the sense of national identity by reviving our deep historical and cultural memory, as well as by instilling a firm conviction for preserving and strengthening our independence and statehood.
Today the Republic of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev as an independent, sovereign and democratic country brings into the reality the aspirations and ideals of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with its good and effective management, socio-economic and human capital development as well as its growing role and prestige in international relations.
Meanwhile, the souls of the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic have finally found peace. Under the leadership of the Victorious Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the brave Army of Azerbaijan put an end to the aggression of Armenia during the 44-day Patriotic War in 2020 and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is restored.
Accordingly, this year is the second time Azerbaijan celebrates the Independence Day with its Karabakh and East Zangezur regions returned to homeland.
As I mentioned, this year coincides with another remarkable occasion - the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Korea. Though the establishment of bilateral relations goes back to 1992, I would say the most dynamic period started since 2006 and 2007 when the Heads of States exchanged visit. It should be noted that so far the President of Korea has visited only Azerbaijan from the South Caucasus republics, and among the heads of state of the South Caucasus republics, only the President of Azerbaijan has visited Korea.
At present, Azerbaijan is the largest economic and trade partner of Korea in the South Caucasus. Apart from the Korean Embassy, offices of KOICA and KOTRA successfully operate in Azerbaijan as well.
74 Korean companies operating mainly in the fields of construction, trade and transport are registered in Azerbaijan and at the same time, Korean companies participate as contractors in state-owned projects in our country.
So far, Korea has invested about 180 million USD in the Azerbaijani economy, and Azerbaijan has invested 474 million USD in Korea. Also, the share of Korean companies in large-scale projects funded by the Azerbaijani state over the past five years amounted to about 2 billion USD.
As an indicator of the level of development of our relations, in 2011-2020, Azerbaijan was included in the category of key partner countries for the allocation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) by Korea, and in this context, communication, water resources management, health and hygiene, public administration (e-government and etc.), cooperation projects in the field of regional development have been implemented.
We have conducted and still pursue our cooperation in developing information technologies, tourism, and agricultural spheres. (STEPI K-Innovations, Smart City Platform, and LoRa Network Development Project in Baku city, Korea Partnership Initiative on Sustainable Tourism, Development, and supply of agricultural systems and data collection in greenhouses.)
Based on the above, it can be said that the high-level relations between Azerbaijan and Korea are dynamic and unique in the South Caucasus region, and the directions and mechanisms, scope and content of bilateral cooperation are rich in the content.
Currently we have come across a real opportunity; I would say, a new era for development of Azerbaijani-Korean cooperation in general, our economic partnership in particular. After almost 30 years of occupation by Armenia, the victorious Azerbaijani army liberated Azerbaijani territories in 2020 and thus, restored our territorial integrity.
Now, Azerbaijan faces a huge task to restore those territories and make it possible for 750 thousand Azerbaijani IDPs to return to their homelands. But unfortunately, during the occupation period, the aggressors have literally destroyed and looted everything that existed on and under those lands, from residence buildings to infrastructure, from schools to hospitals, from cultural monuments to religious sites, from flora and fauna to underground minerals.
Azerbaijani Government is resolute to restore those areas which are more than 10 thousand square kilometers (for comparison, the same size as of Gyeonggi-do or Gyeongsangnam-do) and to build them with state of art technologies and know-hows.
Azerbaijani Government’s plan dubbed as “Great Return” includes establishment of carbon-neutral zones using green and renewable energy resources; construction of smart city and smart villages and related infrastructure; creation of free industrial-logistical zones and smart farming facilities, restoration of historical and cultural monuments, promotion of tourism and so on.
Certainly, in this process we are looking forward to cooperation with our foreign partners and Korea is one of the few countries worldwide that has been invited at the highest level, to participate in the restoration work conducted in our liberated territories both as a contractor and an investor.
We have already taken initial steps such as organizing trade and investment forums for Korean business people titled “Great Return to Karabakh” together with leading Korean economic and trade organizations like KITA and KOTRA in Seoul in November, 2021. We hope our interaction with Korean partners will continue and lead to fruitful outcomes.
Concluding my remarks on this outstanding occasion, I would like to underline once more that we are looking forward to wrap up our 30 years achievements with best way and open new chapter for our bilateral relations with expectations of more sustainable and productive cooperation that will serve to the best interest of our both nations.
Long live the independent Republic of Azerbaijan!
Long live the friendly Republic of Korea!