Author: Aydin BAYRAM
Historical steps taken by a group of people exactly a hundred years ago to establish of the modern diplomatic service of the Republic of Azerbaijan in fact initiated when the country was called Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). Modern Azerbaijani diplomats make a significant contribution to strengthening the country's position in the world arena, securing the national independence of Azerbaijan.
Modern Azerbaijani diplomacy originated simultaneously with the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the centenary of which our people solemnly celebrated last year. One of the key institutions of ADR was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which at different stages of our First Republic was headed by such prominent politicians as Mammad Hasan Hajinsky, Alimardan Topchubashov, Fatali Khoysky, Mammad Yusif Jafarov.
The main thesis of ADR’s foreign policy was indicated in the Declaration of Independence adopted on May 28, 1918: to develop friendly relations with all nations and states, particularly the neighbouring ones. Despite the peace loving ADR, which has been assigned a rank of state policy, the young republic consolidated itself in extremely difficult international conditions under constant pressure from various external forces. Moreover, ADR in 1918-1920 was subjected to military aggression by the neighbouring Armenian (Ararat) Republic. The latter not only carried out the most severe ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijani population of Irevan and its environs - the ancestral lands of Azerbaijan, which formed the territory of the Armenian Republic, but also terrorized the residents of the bordering regions of ADR: Nakhchivan, Zangezur and Karabakh.
The invasion of the 11th Red Army of Soviet Russia played a fatal role in the history of the Azerbaijani state. As a result, ADR ceased to exist. But, despite such a short period of its activity (only 23 months), the Democratic Republic left an indelible mark on the history of our people, having achieved a number of outstanding historical landmarks. An example of this is the recognition of the de facto ADR at the Paris Peace Conference in January 1920.
Recognition of Azerbaijan as a subject of international law was largely the result of titanic activities of the ADR delegation at the Paris Peace Conference headed by prominent statesman and public figure Alimardan Topchubashov. The invaluable significance of this event in the history of our nation was precisely described by one of the founding fathers of ADR, the first head of the republic, Mammad Emin Rasulzadeh: “One of the peoples of the East moaning under the yoke foreigners, deprived of civil and political rights, and not even allowed to be part of the government, showed such an example of creating a cultural society that attracted the attention of allies and the whole world to the Republic of Azerbaijan, despite all the difficulties of the time... Among all the republics founded on the fragments of the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan became the only Muslim country that deserved the trust of Europe. The first and only republic in the entire Muslim world was founded...”
One of the greatest merits of ADR is the establishment of institutions of modern Azerbaijani statehood, including the diplomatic service. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of ADR has functioned since the end of May 1918, but a serious impetus to the structural establishment of the ministry was given by a decree of July 9, 1919, when temporary instructions on the ministry’s secretariat were adopted. According to the decree of the incumbent President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed on August 24, 2007, this date is considered the date of the establishment of Azerbaijani diplomatic service.
The ministry carried out its activities, albeit formally, in the Soviet period as well. However, as a full-fledged institution of statehood, it returned to political life after the restoration of Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991. The bodies of the diplomatic service were finally formed during the presidency of Heydar Aliyev, who laid down the fundamental principles of the foreign policy strategy of modern Azerbaijani state - principles of equal and mutually beneficial cooperation, serving to strengthen the independence of our country, restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognised borders, ensuring national interests on international arena.
Azerbaijan is a recognized leader in the South Caucasus region, the initiator and the leading engine of major economic projects linking the West and the East, the North and the South, and an authoritative participant in the system of international relations. An indicator of the growing influence of Azerbaijan on the world stage was its non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in 2012-2013, as well as the election of our country to the UN Economic and Social Council for 2017-2019. Azerbaijan also serves as one of the leading platforms for intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
As noted in the message of President Ilham Aliyev to the participants of the 6th meeting dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the diplomatic service of the Republic of Azerbaijan, “Azerbaijan is a country that holds an independent policy in the true sense of the word, has great prestige in the international arena... We are recognised as a reliable partner, hold representative international events. Our country is treated with great respect and sympathy. Our country's foreign policy is a continuation of our successful domestic policy. Our diplomats, diplomatic agencies provide exceptional services in strengthening our independence, bringing the Azerbaijani realities to the whole world, turning our country into an active member of the international community."
Speaking at the meeting, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov stressed that under the conditions of contradictory processes in the region, the country "was able to ensure internal stability and development, positive dynamics of economic growth and, implementing large-scale projects, further strengthened its position and authority on an international scale."
Undoubtedly, the main priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy are the liberation of our territories from Armenian occupation, restoration of the sovereignty of the Azerbaijani state within its internationally recognised borders. Therefore, the efforts of Azerbaijani diplomats are focused primarily at resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict on the basis of the principles and norms of international law.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said: “By restoring its state independence in 1991, Azerbaijan faced external aggression from the Republic of Armenia. The unlawful use of force to seize the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan was accompanied by mass ethnic cleansing, violations of international humanitarian law, including the Khojaly genocide. In other words, the events of the early twentieth century repeat again. In the current situation, it is clear that the elimination of the consequences of military aggression by the Republic of Armenia is the primary and most significant problem that our republic is trying to peacefully resolve by substantive and intensive negotiations, being a responsible member of the international community."
This approach is a clear signal to all world centres, as well as to the aggressive state of Armenia, confirming the determination of Azerbaijan to restore its territorial integrity. All the resources of Azerbaijan, including the considerable potential of its diplomatic service accumulated over 100 years, are focused on this objective.