Mehriban Aliyeva: Italian-Azerbaijani relations are developing successfully
Azerbaijan’s First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva went for a two-day official visit to Italy on September 25-26 to discuss strategic partnership between the two countries, which has lasted for over two decades and is experiencing continuous reinforcement.
As part of her trip, Mehriban Aliyeva held meetings with a number of Italian and Vatican officials, participated in a conference on centennial of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and relations of strategic partnership, took part in the inauguration of St. Sebastian catacombs, as well as attended an official dinner hosted by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
In the course of the visit, she held a meeting with President of the Senate of the Italian Republic Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, during which Azerbaijan-Italy relations, including inter-parliamentary ties were hailed.
Later on the same day, Mehriban Aliyeva and Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati attended the opening of the conference on “The 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and relations of strategic partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Italian Republic” held at Giustiniani palace in Rome.
Addressing the event, Mehriban Aliyeva noted that this conference is devoted to a very important event in the fate of Azerbaijan, as the first democratic republic in the Muslim world - the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - was established 100 years ago.
“It lasted only two years. We are proud that at the beginning of the 20th century, the Azerbaijani people, relying on the ideas of progress and freedom, gained independence. In a short time, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic undertook very important steps for our country. Democratic institutions began to form in Azerbaijan, the multinational parliament began to function, more than 200 laws, very important for the country, were adopted, including Azerbaijani women were granted voting rights. The first secular school for Muslim girls was opened, the national flag of Azerbaijan was established, and our national army was created. Unfortunately, the young republic lasted only 23 months. Faced with serious geopolitical problems, our country lost its independence,” she said.
In 1991, Azerbaijan regained its independence, the first vice-president said, adding that today the Azerbaijani state and the Azerbaijani people have great respect for the memory of the founders of the ADR.
After the restoration of Azerbaijan's independence, Italian-Azerbaijani relations are developing successfully, she noted.
“Inter-parliamentary friendship groups, an intergovernmental commission are functioning. In 2014, a joint Declaration on strategic partnership between Italy and Azerbaijan was adopted. A political dialogue is developing at a high level,” Mehriban Aliyeva said.
Our economic relations demonstrate an excellent positive dynamics, the first vice-president said.
“Italy is the largest trading partner of Azerbaijan. There are 95 Italian companies operating in Azerbaijan. They cooperate with both the private sector and government agencies in various fields, successful cooperation in the field of services, trade, transport, agriculture, winemaking and other spheres was established,” she added.
Mehriban Aliyeva recalled the opening of a polypropylene plant with the participation of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Italy.
“The contractor for the construction of this plant is Italian company Maire Tecnimont. In February of this year, Maire Tecnimont and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the modernization and reconstruction of the Baku Oil Refinery named after Heydar Aliyev. The total cost of only these projects is $2.5 billion. The share of Maire Tecnimont in these projects is $1.3 billion. These figures testify, on the one hand, about the scale of economic relations between Azerbaijan and Italy, and on the other hand, the dynamics and scale of economic development in our country,” she said.
Mehriban Aliyeva further spoke about Azerbaijan’s contribution to the energy security of Europe.
“Azerbaijan together with the partner countries is successfully implementing the Southern Gas Corridor project. The official opening of the project was held in Baku in May this year. The TANAP pipeline, which is the major part of the project, opened in the Turkish city of Eskisehirin June this year. The $40 billion project will transport Azerbaijani gas to Europe,” she explained.
The first vice-president stressed that Azerbaijan is known in the world as one of the centers of multiculturalism.
“In our country, international forums devoted to multiculturalism, a forum on intercultural dialogue are regularly held. This initiative of Azerbaijan receives high support and evaluation from such influential international organizations as the UN, UNESCO, and ISESCO. In 2008, the Culture Ministers of the member states of the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation met in Baku. This initiative was called the “Baku process”. This year the “Baku process” celebrates its 10th anniversary. It continues and serves to establish a fruitful dialogue between nations and peoples,” she said.
Mehriban Aliyeva also spoke about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be settled on the basis of international law, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored, Nagorno Karabakh and seven surrounding regions should be freed from occupation, all refugees and internally displaced persons should return to their homes. I hope that Italy, as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, will play a big role in the settlement of the conflict,” she said.
Concluding her speech, Mehriban Aliyeva noted that the ties between the two countries - political, economic and humanitarian - are developing at a high level. She expressed confidence that friendly relations between the peoples of the two states will be strengthened in the future.
Then, the conference continued its work in panel sessions.
The speeches referred to the development of Italian-Azerbaijani relations in various fields. The role of Azerbaijan in the energy security of Europe was particularly emphasized. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation's contribution to the development of bilateral relations was noted.
Speaking at the conference, Head of the Italy-Azerbaijan interparliamentary friendship group at the Italian Senate Rossana Boldi highlighted the importance of the event.
She hailed the development of Italy-Azerbaijan ties and stressed the significance of the bilateral strategic cooperation. Noting that relations between the two countries have been developing in all fields, Rossana Boldi praised First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva's role in developing Azerbaijan-Italy relations. She said that the projects implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Italy are important in terms of protecting the country's cultural heritage.
Addressing the conference, President of the Italian Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati emphasized the significance of holding such an important conference.
“It is an honor for us to mark the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in Italy. Holding this event here is of great importance because the Constitution of Italy was signed in this building. This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution,” she said.
Touching upon Azerbaijan-Italy ties, Casellati noted that relations between the two countries have an ancient history.
Highlighting the projects implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation to restore historical and cultural monuments, which are of special importance to Italy, the president of the Italian Senate thanked First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva for her role in developing cultural relations between the two countries.
“Today Azerbaijan, as a country in the Caucasus, plays a key role in the life of the Mediterranean countries both politically and economically. Italy is one of the first countries to import energy from Azerbaijan. Today Italy plays a very important role in diversifying the economy of Azerbaijan and particularly gives impetus to the development of the oil industry,” she said.
The president of the Senate expressed confidence that the activities of Italian companies in Azerbaijan will be further expanded. Casellati also highlighted Azerbaijan's role in European energy security.
An official reception marking the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was held on the same day.
Addressing the event, Mehriban Aliyeva said that the Azerbaijani-Italian relations are developing on the basis of strategic partnership, and successful cooperation has been established both in political and economic spheres. Noting that today a healthy investment environment dominates in Azerbaijan, the first vicepresident invited Italian businessmen to Azerbaijan.
On September 26, Mehriban Aliyeva held a meeting with Pope Francis.
High-level relations between the Vatican and Azerbaijan were hailed, the expansion of the bilateral cooperation in the field of protection of cultural heritage was noted at the meeting. Azerbaijan's significant contribution to inter-faith and intercultural dialogue was praised.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation's multifaceted activities and work to preserve and restore Christian monuments were emphasized during the meeting.
Then, a meeting of the Azerbaijani first vice-president and Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was held.
During the talks, it was noted that Azerbaijan plays the role of a cultural bridge between the East and the West. Azerbaijan's centuries-long tolerance traditions and multicultural environment were hailed at the meeting.
Azerbaijan's contributions to strengthening of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue, international events held in the country and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation's works and important projects in this area were also highlighted.
As part of her visit, Mehriban Aliyeva also took part in the ceremony to inaugurate St. Sebastian catacombs, which were restored by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
The reconstruction work, which was carried out by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, started here in 2016. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation previously restored the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter.