He made the comments in his closing speech at Monday's expanded sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers to review socioeconomic development in the first quarter of 2012.
"Azerbaijan will not become an arena of confrontation. If someone wants to turn Azerbaijan into an arena of confrontation, then they should look elsewhere. We can never allow our territory be used in any negative plans against our neighbours, and everyone knows this," the president said.
His remarks follow claims in Foreign Policy magazine last month that Azerbaijan would allow Israel to use its territory for strikes against Iran.
"Our only wish is to establish peace, stability and tranquility. Relations with our neighbours are a priority. We live and will continue to live in this region. I also see a positive attitude from our neighbours towards Azerbaijan and am very glad about it," Ilham Aliyev told the cabinet meeting.
News.Az prints below extracts from the president's closing speech, translated from the presidential website.
I think that work will proceed even more rapidly in the second quarter, because usually work is just starting in the first quarter. Moreover, the State Investment Program is confirmed in the first quarter. I hope that in the second quarter the State Investment Program will be carried out more thoroughly...
All the work for the second quarter, all the figures and programs are in place. Macroeconomic stability must be maintained. As I said the figure of 3.1% for inflation is a good one. We must work to ensure that inflation remains single-digit at the end of the year. Of course, the population's incomes must be larger than inflation.
Oil and gas refinery
A very important and, I can say, a historic step in this sphere was taken in the first quarter when Baku hosted the preliminary presentation of the new petrochemical, oil and gas refinery. The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan has been working on these projects for some time. Earlier, I gave instructions on the implementation of these projects. These instructions are already being carried out. Investments in this sphere - in the creation of new enterprises - are estimated at billions. They will probably top AZN 10bn.
These are investments in the future. Through these investments we will be able to construct our work in this sphere on the contemporary level. Construction of the major new oil refinery will allow us to produce a more high quality product. Our export potential will grow significantly, while the two oil refineries that have operated for many years will be closed down.
There is a great need for this. These two refineries will operate until the new oil refinery is built. But I want the new oil refinery to be built as soon as possible. This plant will produce fuel which meets the highest ecological standards. The territory of the existing refineries will be rehabilitated. The territory of one will probably be used for an extension of the seafront promenade. We are going to extend the coastline to Zikh. It would be appropriate to create a new, wonderful park in the territory of the other refinery, but I think it is too early to talk about this. In fact, we are seeking to create new parks and wooded areas in the city and there is a great need for this. Parks must be created wherever possible.
A process of moving people out of buildings which in some cases were built illegally is now under way. I also want to speak about this issue. Sometimes we see speculation, especially in the foreign press. This is part of a libelous campaign against Azerbaijan. Inaccurate information is given. I regret that this provocation involves TV channels and newspapers that consider themselves to be respected mass media.
A very high level of compensation is paid in Azerbaijan. Sums of AZN 1,500 are paid for every square metre. I can say that the majority of people who get compensation are satisfied with the amount. But there are forces that want to make use of this to achieve their own goals. They try to link the overall process of urban renewal in our city with some events. We have a general course, policy and urban building programs. What will be the directions for Baku's development? We have frequently met and discussed this. I ratified the new urban-planning concept for Baku. I personally viewed all these issues. Therefore, the processes of renewal, construction and resettlement follow an established plan. This is not linked to any international event. We lay parks and green areas wherever possible. Car parks and underground parking are created in the centre of the city in the places where people have been moved out. There is a great need for this. Green areas and parks, as well as public facilities, are laid in these areas and we will continue this policy.
Water and sanitation projects are currently under way. Work in every regional centre has already started or will start soon.
But I want to touch upon the next issue. This is a really very big issue. Most of our cities have never had a sanitation system or water pipes. We have created them from scratch. There is a problem with drinking water in Baku too. However, we have tackled this issue to a certain extent. I am sure that it will be fully resolved in the next two years. Drinking water, quality water and sanitation projects will be successfully implemented in Baku.
In the regions this project covers the city and district centres. But there are districts where 80-90 percent of the population lives in villages. There are some areas where the ratio of residents in district centres to villages is 50-50. Therefore, we need to look further into the future. Now we will provide sewerage and water pipelines to the district centres and towns. And what about the villages? I know, I know, we are considering all our investment opportunities. This is a project that requires a lot of money and technical skill and we must be prepared for that.
Of course, all cities and regional centres should be provided with drinking water and sanitation by the end of 2014. But the preparatory work should be done to ensure that these projects are implemented in the towns and in the villages. The question has been raised of modular-type water treatment plants. This is also our initiative. Through the implementation of these projects, hundreds of thousands of people are already enjoying clean drinking water. This project should get even bigger. If necessary, this year we can increase the amount of investment so these projects are carried out on riverbanks in the villages - not just along the Kur and Araz but along other rivers too.
A project to desalinate Caspian Sea water is starting. This is the first initiative. As you know, our main sources of water rise outside the country, so it is natural to use the water of the Caspian Sea. Although agreements reached with neighbouring countries fully secure our interests and water shortages will never happen, new reservoirs are being constructed. The Takhtakorpu reservoir is a great step in this direction. The Shamkirchay reservoir will resolve both irrigation and potable water issues, but at the same time, we must use the water of the Caspian Sea. There is also global practice, and we must apply it. I expect the implementation of a pilot project. I think that major work will start after the pilot project. We must use it primarily for irrigation, and then if necessary to provide drinking water.
I want to raise another question which I think is highly relevant now: it is about information security. We talk a lot about energy and food security. It is very important. But at this stage, information security is also very important. I think that much is to be done on this. Work must be done in different areas. We live in the Internet era. This is the reality and we are ready for this reality. Azerbaijan is one of those countries that has free Internet. Let those who sometimes want to criticize us bear this in mind.
The number of Internet users is gradually increasing and now make up more than 50 percent of the population. Now we are trying to lay broadband Internet in every village, every town, and will achieve this. Of course, security issues are growing more topical, since there is a lot of provocation as well as information in the global information space. In some cases, these provocations are open, and in others covert.
Information warfare is being waged against us. This is true. I am absolutely sure of this, there can be no two opinions about it. The Armenian lobby is especially active in this. Attempts to discredit Azerbaijan, to deny the realities of Azerbaijan, to present Azerbaijan to the world as a backward, undemocratic country, above all, come from the dirty deeds of the Armenian lobby.
The sphere of their influence is wide. They are represented in the leading print media of various countries. Sometimes they are presented under other names, conceal their origin. Now this is the second question. A person must not conceal their nationality. Everyone should be proud of their nationality. However, in other countries they differ on this for some unclear reason.
Sometimes they carry an open campaign against Azerbaijan and try to cause damage to Azerbaijan in a coordinated form. Their activity is deliberate, and today the Armenian lobby has Azerbaijan as its number one target. And the Armenian lobby is enemy number one for us. We must be ready for this fight.
In recent years we have been able to considerably change the situation in our favour. Diaspora organizations of Azerbaijan are consolidating, our sound non-governmental organizations, embassies of Azerbaijan abroad, our community, our ability to enter the foreign press and our position are growing stronger, but we still have to take into account the realities. The Armenian lobby has been operating in Europe and other countries, large countries for decades, maybe centuries, it is an organized, very aggressive and negative force. As they say, the driving force of the negative information against us is the Armenian lobby. Politicians in some countries are influenced by the Armenian lobby and live on their dirty money. We know their names, we know them. Just look at the number of their trips to the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh republic" to see why they were sent there. This is the second force.
The third force: unfortunately, in some countries, Islamophobia is growing. This is also true. It is very negative but this is the reality. And we must reckon with this reality. With the increasing trend of Islamophobia attitudes towards Muslim countries are also changing for the worse. We need to know and talk about this. The number of politicians "infected" with Islamophobia is on the rise. When these forces see Azerbaijan standing out in a positive way, in terms of its modernity, independent policy and commitment to Islamic values, they are certainly not happy, but disappointed. We must always take into account this factor and use our policies to change this situation in our favour.
In Azerbaijan, representatives of all nationalities and religions live as one family. Multiculturalism prevails in Azerbaijan. Politicians who talk about the collapse of multiculturalism are "grist to the mill” of Islamophobia. This is a very dangerous trend. We have not forgotten the consequences of similar tendencies in the 20th century.
Other forces waging information warfare against us are those who simply cannot accept the independent policy of Azerbaijan. They think that a country such as Azerbaijan should not pursue an independent policy. It should go under someone's wing, and not have an independent policy. There are such forces – and we know who they are – that wage a covert struggle against Azerbaijan. In some cases, they lead this fight not openly but in a cowardly fashion in the information space.
Of course, the independent policy of Azerbaijan, its strong position on every international issue generate a lot of respect for Azerbaijan from the international community. The election of our country in the UN Security Council is our great success, our victory. We were supported by 155 countries. This is the international community. The international community is not some kind of regional organization. The international community is the United Nations. And the UN is supporting us.
Of course, there are forces that do not accept our independent policy. They are annoyed with our policy. Using the new capacities, they are trying to use information sabotage, to distribute reports of a false, defamatory nature. At the present time the press is not only a source of information, but also of provocation. Unfortunately, this is true. We, in turn, must be prepared for this. And we are ready for it. We need to respond, are responding and will respond to all unfounded attacks.
Once again I want to say that Azerbaijan follows its own path. Information sabotage against us, unfortunately, is not limited to the facts given by me. There are forces that want to aggravate the situation in the region. There are forces that are trying to set Azerbaijan against its neighbours. They also use information sabotage. What else can they use? It's impossible since our relationship with our neighbours is based on historical roots. We have established normal, good, friendly relations with our neighbours except for Armenia; we are strengthening and will strengthen these friendly relations. We have no problems with any of our neighbours.
Azerbaijan will never participate in the plans of other countries. I have repeatedly said so. I said this at the beginning of my presidency. Azerbaijan will not become an arena of confrontation. If someone wants to turn Azerbaijan into an arena of confrontation, then they should look elsewhere. We can never allow our territory be used in any negative plans against our neighbours, and everyone knows this. This raises the question of information sabotage. Influential print media publish dirty lies. Then, under their influence other print media also spread these lies. In this way opinion is formed. Or they try to form an opinion that Azerbaijan has some other plans in the region.
Our only wish is to establish peace, stability and tranquility. Relations with our neighbours are a priority. We live and will continue to live in this region. I also see a positive attitude from our neighbours towards Azerbaijan and am very glad about it. Therefore, we must know it, talk openly about it, must reflect and express our principled position on this.
Finally, unfortunately, the press is continuing a dirty campaign against our country in connection with the Eurovision Song Contest. We know full well what forces are behind this campaign. We know full well in which country's press this campaign is proceeding apace. There are countries where dirty, defamatory articles about Azerbaijan are published week in and week out and even day in and day out. This is a coordinated policy, of course. However, this policy does not and will not lead to results, because there is no force that can influence our policies, nor will there be while I’m in this chair. We go our own way. We will go the way of our independence and our freedom!
There are all freedoms in Azerbaijan. Those who want to accuse us of anti-democratic steps, let’s look at what is happening in their countries. Every day protesters there are beaten, seriously injured and hundreds of demonstrators are arrested. Some of the media in these countries are running a smear campaign against Azerbaijan. There is a good saying: "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye but fail to notice the beam in your own?” This is relevant.
We have democracy, and freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly. All the Azerbaijani people have seen that there is freedom of assembly in our country. If those who want to take this opportunity comply with the rules of normal behaviour, conduct their activities where the Municipality indicates, then they will be able to exercise their right to freedom of assembly. I believe that the city mayor’s office made a wise choice in allocating the most suitable place for demonstrations and rallies, the most suitable place for these people. Any event is possible there. Such events must be held there.
We are confident going forward. Provocations against us will continue. The information war against us will continue, but this does not worry us. We simply need to talk about it, to take our own steps to ensure a happy future for the Azerbaijani people. Thank you.