By Dashgin Shikarov.
The Day of October 18 is marked as Independence Day of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Exactly 27 years ago, after the adoption of the Constitutional Act, Azerbaijan gained the long-awaited independence, having surmounted many challenges.
History inevitably proves that it is more difficult to preserve independence than to gain it. Azerbaijan twice had the opportunity to become a sovereign state during the 20th century. Unfortunately, the first chance failed shortly thereafter because of outside interference. Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), the first secular democratic state in the Islamic world and entire East was founded in 1918 and existed for only 23 months, on April 28, 1920. The ADR established relations with more than 20 countries of the world, adopted the official state symbols and regulation on Azerbaijani citizenship, recognized the equality of men and women. The separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers was also confirmed. The establishment of Azerbaijan Armed Forces, Caspian fleet and Baku University were enacted, as well as hundreds of young students received scholarships to study in leading European universities.
The second time such situation emerged more than 70 years thereafter. At the end of the 20th century the Azerbaijani people again raised the banner of independence. It was the second brilliant triumph in the political history of Azerbaijani people during the last century.
It was the year of 1991, a hard but glorious time for Azerbaijanis. The days of people's pain, anger and high expectations, when people's excitement reached its culmination. Sensing the taste of freedom, people were ready to go to any extent to bring it closer. Those were the very people who were hardened by multi-hour rallies at public squares and witnessed the horrors of the January 1990 mass killings, when the Soviet empire, which was breathing its last, committed terrible acts in a peaceful town. But Soviet tanks were no longer able to block the path of freedom.
Azerbaijan, which lost hundreds of its sons and daughters in the struggle for independence, was persistently advancing towards a new life, a new reality. And finally, the coveted day came! On 18 October, 1991 the Azerbaijani Parliament adopted the Constitutional Act on restoration of the state independence. In accordance with this document, Azerbaijan was declared the legal heir of ADR. The Act guaranteed full equality of Azerbaijani citizens regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
After the enactment of the Constitutional Act, Azerbaijan held a nation-wide vote on December 29, 1991. The ballot paper of the referendum included only one question: "Do you support the Constitutional Act on the state independence of Azerbaijan?” Over 95 percent of voters took part in the referendum and unanimously voted for independence.
The Republic of Azerbaijan, which declared its independence, embarked on its existence in an extremely challenging historical situation. Soon after, number of states, including United Arab Emirates recognized the independence of the newly born state. Azerbaijan became a full-fledged member of the United Nations on March 2, 1992. In May 1992, the Azerbaijani Parliament approved the national anthem of Azerbaijan, and later the national flag as well as the coat-of-arms depicting an eight-pointed star with flames. The country's political and economic mainstays are getting stronger year-on-year. The principles of state independence laid down in 1991 are faithfully protected and upheld. Great attention is paid to the development of the economy, comprehensive strengthening of the state, and the preservation of national cultural values.
Today, Azerbaijan, under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, who is following the visionary ideas laid by national leader Heydar Aliyev, is witnessing a rapid and dynamic development that is comparable with developed countries of the world. Rich of hydrocarbon reserves, the country exports them to Europe, consequently taking part in ensuring of its energy security. Having taken advantage of its geographical location, Azerbaijan became not only a main point for transportation of crude and gas to Europe via diverse pipe-line net, but a transport hub linking East with West and South with North. A country with almost ten million populations has become a leading power in Transcaucasia and a main regional investor, financing multi-billion projects in different countries of the world. The economic growth of Azerbaijan goes accompanied by enormous construction boom, development of the industry, infrastructure, agriculture, sports and tourism.
The Republic of Azerbaijan conducts foreign policy, based on the interests of the country. Situated on the geographical border of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is integrated in the political structures of both continents. Being a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Azerbaijan plays an active role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Economic Cooperation Organization. It is also a member of Non-Aligned Movement and at the end of 2013 completed its tenure as a non-permanent member of UN Security Council.
Azerbaijan and United Arab Emirates enjoy close and cordial relations characterized by shared perception on major global and regional issues. The two countries signed number of agreements to provide a framework for bilateral cooperation in all spheres including politics, diplomacy, economy, justice, trade, finance, information and culture.
Meetings of leaders of two countries, intensive exchange of visits of high dignitaries further cement bilateral ties, ensure political dialogue and serve to further enhance cooperation between the countries. It is also remarkable that trade turnover between two countries increases year-by-year. Direct flights of Azerbaijani national flag carrier Azerbaijan Airways as well as UAE’s Etihad Airways, flydubai and Air Arabia, mutual participation of the legal and physical entities of respective states in international events substantially contribute to development of people to people contacts as well as promotion of trade and commercial relationships of the two states.
The author is Ambassador of Azerbaijan in United Arab Emirates.