The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia extended new year greetings to their citizens in short televised addresses in the last minutes of 2016. President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia, President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan and prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili of Georgia gave special importance in their addresses to economic issues, reflecting ongoing concerns among their citizens.
Armenia's president, Serzh Sargsyan, said:
"We enter the new year confident of our strength. The coming 25 years will be the years of advancement, a period when a stronger and a more prosperous Armenia will emerge. In that very spirit, we will be moving forward on the road towards the implementation of the visible and tangible reforms. We are entering the new year with serious and realistic programs. The positive outcome of the consistent and large-scale reforms in the area of economy and other areas will be visible to everyone and soon. I am confident, the new government will be able to do that, and it will be our common success."
On his part, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev dwelt at some length on the economic situation in his address, saying:
"It has been one of the most challenging years for the national economy. Azerbaijan is an integral part of the global economy. The global economic recession continued in 2016. In addition, in the aftermath of the oil prices plummeting three- to fourfold on global markets, our revenues have dramatically declined. Under such circumstances, we could find a way out of this predicament only by conducting profound reforms, and we achieved that.
Azerbaijan has managed to maintain its economic sustainability and ensured economic stability. The drastic and comprehensive economic reforms carried out this year have opened up great horizons and prospects for our future development. I would also like to mention that despite all the difficulties, our country's non-oil industry has grown by 5 per cent and agriculture by more than 2 per cent this year. We have managed to safeguard our currency reserves this year. This is also a very important issue because our economic potential and financial resources precondition both economic and political independence.
All social programs were over-fulfilled in 2016. New settlements and townships for the internally displaced persons were built. Even though 2016 was a year of crisis, population incomes have increased by 7 per cent. The average wage has risen by 9 per cent.
In other words, despite all the difficulties, Azerbaijan continued to develop in 2016. Let me reiterate that the decisions made this year, in particular the steps towards economic diversification, will yield fruit. At the same time, we have taken significant steps to diversify our exports, because our currency revenues have dropped in the wake of a reduction in oil revenues, and we can fill this gap by developing non-oil exports."
Georgia's prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said there were many achievements and challenges in 2016 but the most important was that the "foundation has been laid for proper development of our country". The Georgian prime minister said that 2017 would be the year of new opportunities for each citizen of the country:
"I promise that 2017 will be the year of special opportunities. I am sure that our people have the ability to use each of these opportunities, to make their dreams and goals a reality with their own hands. The use of these opportunities will enable us to become stronger, for the benefit of our country, our children, our parents and the elderly, our Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots, our emigrants and our soldiers.
Together we will manage to expand our economy, create as many jobs as possible and have more economically strong families"
The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents also made reference in their speeches to the short war between their two countries in April. President Ilham Aliyev for the first time claimed in his speech that thousands of hectares of land had been retaken by Azerbaijan during the April conflict:
"The Year 2016 will also remain in history as one of our glorious victories. For the first time since 1994, Azerbaijan has managed to liberate a portion of its lands from the aggressors. By preventing an Armenian armed provocation in April, our army dealt a devastating blow to the enemy and freed a portion of our occupied lands. Thousands of hectares of lands in Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts have been freed from the aggressors. The Azerbaijani army is currently in control of tens of thousands of hectares of land.
We did have martyrs. May Allah rest their souls in peace. The Azerbaijani people, the Azerbaijani soldiers and officers demonstrated true heroism. Our flags currently fly over the freed territories of Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts. While visiting the liberated lands, I said under the Azerbaijani flag again that the people of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani state would never allow a second Armenian state to be established on our lands. The April battles are a glorious page in our history. The April battles are a historic victory for us. This victory brings a settlement of the conflict closer."
In a much shorter reference to the war, the Armenian President said:
"On the battlefield our people proved once again that its unified strength is unbreakable, the resolve to defend our Fatherland is unshakable. The unity of Armenia, Artsakh and Spyurk will not succumb to the perfidious and treacherous attacks. We will emerge from every calamity even stronger."
President Sargsyan also made reference to Parliamentary elections that are now scheduled to be held on 2 April 2017. "Our society through the joint efforts can organized a political process which will be trusted by everyone. We need elections like that so that the ship of our state doesn't hit the underwater reefs known in the past", he said.
source: commonspace.eu with president.am, president.az, agenda.ge and civil.ge.
photo: A fireworks display in Tbilisi welcomed in 2017 (picture courtesy of Tbilisi City Hall)
Georgian-Belarus relations improved after 2008, when unexpectedly Belarus did not follow Russia in recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia despite Kremlin pressure.
First Vice-President Aliyeva noted that Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads between the civilizations of the East and West, and is one of the few countries that are a member of both the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.