Azerbaijan and EXPO 2025: an ambitious project to ensure a better future
This year we marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between State of Israel and Republic of Azerbaijan. Israel was the one of the first’s countries, which recognized the independence of Azerbaijan. Today it is a factual reality that no country in Eurasia has closer or warmer ties with Israel than Azerbaijan. Over the 25-year history of diplomatic relations between the two states proved the necessity and viability of a strategic relationship between the Jewish state and the state with the Muslim majority. Our friendly states indeed act as true and reliable strategic partners. Azerbaijanis and Jews, in fact, can not only co-exist, but also be real friends and develop and strengthen their relations.
Unlike many cultures, Azerbaijanis have never viewed Jews as foreigners or aliens. Israelis with roots in Azerbaijan are doing a great deal to foster the economic and even geopolitical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel. The Jewish people have never experienced any discrimination, harassment, insults, pogroms or any anti-Semitic actions in Azerbaijan. Every Jew who has ever visited Azerbaijan can confirm that the Jews living here can in all freedom visit a synagogue without going through a police cordon, walk around the city in their national clothes and with a bale on their heads, while doing so today in developed countries of the West can be dangerous.
At the same time, official Baku has repeatedly denounced manifestations of anti-Semitism elsewhere and Azerbaijan today is a center and wonderful example of multiculturalism in action for the whole world. This is why Jewish Azerbaijanis love Azerbaijan and are proud to make their contribution to strengthening geopolitical, economic and humanitarian cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan.
Israel’s ninth President Shimon Peres during his historic visit to Azerbaijan said: “I know that the policy of Azerbaijan is of peace, friendship, development but also of independence. With your unique geographic location, there is no doubt that you already are, and will continue to be, a key country in this part of the world.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
During official visit to Baku last year, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Israeli-Azerbaijani ties as “something that we can show the world. The world sees so much intolerance, so much darkness, and here is an example of what relations can be and should be between Muslims and Jews everywhere”.
Israel has always been attracted to Azerbaijan, not only because there is no anti-Semitism in that country but also because Baku has repeatedly denounced manifestations of anti-Semitism elsewhere and because Azerbaijan plays today the role of a key political, economic and geostrategic player in the whole region that links Europe to Asia. And even if official Baku does not have yet any diplomatic mission in Israel, numerous high-level official delegations from Azerbaijan visited Israel and even more Israeli delegations travelled to Baku. These exchanges have a particular importance for bolstering existing economic cooperation, with Israel purchasing Azerbaijani petroleum and investing in Azerbaijani agriculture and industry with Azerbaijan demonstrating serious interest in expanding interaction in the areas like environmental protection, telecommunications, tourism, education, cultural exchanges and many others.
As an Israeli citizen of Azerbaijani background, I can proudly say that the leadership of Azerbaijan shows a great degree of respect and attention to its Jewish community which an integral part of the contemporary Azerbaijani society. Under the patronage of President Ilham Aliyev two synagogues and the largest Jewish educational center in the South Caucasus have been built. Plans are in place for the first Azerbaijani Jewish museum, which will be the first Jewish museum in the South Caucasus.
The ancient village of Krasnaya Sloboda (Qirmizi Qesebe) in the northern region of Quba is believed to be the only all-Jewish town outside of Israel and is a pride of Azerbaijan. In this region, Jewish and Muslim Azerbaijanis have been living harmoniously for centuries. Azerbaijan is a true model of inter-civilizational and interfaith dialogue. Tolerance and multiculturalism are key pillars of the Azerbaijani societal fabric. Azerbaijan has made a concerted effort to create and foster the necessary political and social conditions for developing and strengthening the country’s traditions of multiculturalism and tolerance.
Giorgia Pilar Giorgi is an analyst and researcher in energy security issues and unresolved conflicts in South Caucasus.: “Azerbaijan is known to be an example of peaceful coexistence between people of different nationalities and religions. The Azerbaijani government has always promoted coexistence between people from different religious groups and the freedom, also recognized at constitutional level, to profess their beliefs.”
It is also not by chance that the leader of the Catholic Church Pope Francis has chosen Azerbaijan, a country with a relatively small Catholic community, as a destination for his official visit in 2016 paying his tribute to and highly appreciating the policies carried out by the Government of Azerbaijan on ensuring peaceful and harmonious co-existence of persons of different ethnic and religious backgrounds in the best tradition of the “art of living together” on the basis of mutual respect and understanding.
Economic and political evolution in Azerbaijan
It is necessary to point out that even if Israel is one of the main clients to purchase Azerbaijani oil at the world market, it has several more important reasons to seek stronger relations with Baku. A significant portion of the oil consumed by Israel (an estimated 40 percent) is imported from Azerbaijan or by way of Azerbaijan through the Baku-Tbilsi-Ceyhan (BTC) major oil export pipeline.
Azerbaijan also serves as the linchpin for energy diversity and security for Europe and Western markets, as Azerbaijan is not only the major energy and transport hub in the region, but a major producer of oil and natural gas that presents Europe with a non-Russian, non-OPEC and non-Iranian energy alternative. Azerbaijani pipelines, like the BTC (the largest oil pipeline in the world next to America’s Alaskan pipeline) pumps oil from the Caspian Sea through Georgia and to the Mediterranean Sea, terminating in the Turkish port city of Ceyhan.
In addition and, perhaps, more importantly, Azerbaijan and its Western partners have already begun construction on the network of pipelines that will comprise the Southern Gas Corridor, which will transport Azerbaijan’s vast gas reserves directly to Europe, diversifying the sources of supply of natural gas for Europe and thus alleviating the risk of Russia turning off the heat in the middle of winter for some perceived affront.
Azerbaijan is trying to benefit from regional connectivity initiatives to boost transit and trade. In particular, the country is one of the sponsors of the East–West and North–South transport corridors. Construction of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway line, which will connect the Caspian region with Turkey, was inaugurated on 30 October 2017 in the presence of presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia and high-level representatives from other neighboring countries, like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, who plan to benefit from this shortest railroad route that would connect China to London. Other ambitious strategic projects initiated and led by Azerbaijan, like the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will deliver natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field to Turkey and Europe.
With oil prices, staying relatively low Azerbaijan’s economy is transforming into a value creating economy. Large-scale reforms aim to diversify the economy, lessen dependence of the country on oil and gas related revenues and further improve non-oil sector and the country’s export capacity, in particular.
Why Expo 2025
As part of the national communication strategy and desirous to strengthen it’s image at the international scene, since 2000 year Azerbaijan has been an active member of the EXPO movement. Azerbaijan’s pavilions received awards in the last three exhibitions in Milano in 2015 with more than 3 million visits, in Antalya in 2016 and in Astana in 2017. We are proud of this recognition of our modest contribution to the work of the BIE,” First Vise-President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva noted recently in Paris at the national reception organized by Azerbaijan within the framework of the candidacy of Baku to host the universal World EXPO in 2025.
“World Expos are a showcase for diversity, based on equality and respect for all cultures. They bring the entire international community together in a unique space for global discussion and cooperation. I therefore believe that Azerbaijan is one of the best places to host this universal platform,” Madame Aliyeva added.
Why Azerbaijan is interested in EXPO 2025
– Azerbaijan history, culture and hospitality that are able to take a better advantage of the country’s tourism potential – Comfortable and interesting geographical location for other countries
– Rich experience in hosting large-scale international events like Baku Global Humanitarian Forum, First European Games, Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, World Chess Olympiad, Formula 1 Baku Grand Prix since 2016, World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue “Baku Process”, World Summit of Religious leaders
– Azerbaijan is aimed at showing to the world community that being a young country with its 26 years of independence, strong economic potential, political stability, high levels of safety and security, it is able to host huge events like a World Expo.
– The theme chosen by Azerbaijan for the World Expo
– ‘Developing human capital, building a better future’ – is of global importance and of universal concern. Three sub-themes – Talent, Vitality and Achievement – align with three of 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to education, health and employment.
The site of the future EXPO in terms of its legacy will be turned into city’s biggest and newest urban park in the east of the Baku city. Two hundred hectares of undeveloped land, set between two growing suburbs, will be transformed into a major extension of the city with a fully integrated transport infrastructure.
– A physical expression of the theme has found its reflection in an eight-pointed star – the national emblem of Azerbaijan that symbolizes the ethnic diversity of Azerbaijani population and exemplary harmonious co-existence of various ethnic groups and faiths in the Land of Fire
While the intricate, geometric patterns of Azerbaijan’s world-renowned carpets provide design inspiration for the plazas and leisure spaces at the expo site area. At the center, an iconic building – the Azerbaijan National Pavilion – will be the main point of reference as visitors navigate through pavilions and parkland.
What will Baku World Expo give to Azerbaijan and to the World?
Among the advantages of hosting a world expo one may, among other things, enumerate the following: significant economic benefits for the host country, 18 million expected visits to Baku Expo 2025, creation of new jobs, establishment of new business relations, improvement of business investment deliverables and of the tourism strategy.
It will also extend the geography of world expos to a new region, a new territory, create a new platform and give a chance to young independent states to welcome the whole world in the best possible conditions
First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva
According to First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, after Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, the country immediately faced major political, economic and humanitarian challenges that posed a threat to its existence as an independent state.
“The most serious of these challenges was the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, as a result of which 20 percent of our country’s territory, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts was occupied, and the illegal occupation is still ongoing,” noted Mehriban Aliyeva.
She stressed that more than a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons in the wake of the brutal ethnic cleansing carried out by Armenia. “The United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions calling for an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan. These resolutions must be implemented and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored,” the first vice president added.
“Our theme – ‘Developing human capital, building a better future’ – is indeed of universal concern,” she said. “It addresses the great challenge of our time – the impact of technology and increasing connectivity on humankind.
“At Baku Expo 2025, we believe it will be crucial to look beyond technology, and to focus on the people who power economies, communities and creativity – from leaders to ordinary citizens. We will put people… human capital – the world’s most powerful resource – at the center of universal debate. World Expo in Baku will offer the organization a chance to engage with new audiences in a new market.
According to Mehriban Aliyeva, Azerbaijan is a nation on the rise and now it is the nation’s ambition to win the right to host World Expo during the vote due in November 2018 and to host the whole world in 2025.
“We are ready to allocate all the necessary funds for the site’s construction and operation as well as to support the participation of developing countries,” she noted.
“EXPO in Baku would be another recognition of our achievements during the 26 years of independence. It will also be a strong encouragement for all young, independent countries. It is our sincere ambition to host World Expo 2025. If you entrust us with the honor, we will proudly welcome the world to Azerbaijan and to our beautiful city, Baku,” the First Vice-President concluded.
Let us wish best of luck to our friend and strategic partner – the Republic of Azerbaijan and form a wish that Baku has a successful election campaign and wins the well-deserved right to welcome the biggest international event – a World Expo in the Land of Fire – Azerbaijan in 2025.
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