In the South Caucasus countries, leaders struck an optimistic note in messages to their compatriots gathered to celebrate the new year. Traditionally broadcast just before midnight, the messages are usually watched by millions, as families gather for the new year celebration.
Pashinyan - the best is yet to come
In Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, who took over the reins of the country in May after massive but peaceful street protests, hailed 2018 and said it "will remain in the history of the world and the Armenian people, in the memory of each Armenian as a year of reinstatement of people's power, civil dignity, optimism and statehood." Pashinyan however said "2018 was not the summit of our victories, but only the start, not the end of line of our march, but just the beginning. In 2019 we must achieve new heights, record new achievements first of all in our socio-economic life."
"Our main task in 2019 is the economic revolution and making its results more tangible. But next year will not be the climax of our victories, not because our flight will be low, but because our national and state ambitions will be higher and higher", Pashinyan said. The Armenian prime minister said "2019 should become the year of creative talent's victory when every individual citizen of the Republic of Armenia, every Armenian who have immigrated to Armenia can see themselves not as consumers, but creative individuals, not followers but leaders, not tax-evaders but taxpayers, not unemployed but employed citizens, not in the role of a poor person, but as people fighting against poverty with creative thinking and just work."
Aliyev: "My mission is to build a strong Azerbaijani state and serve the people with dignity."
As in previous years, Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev's address was longer and reviewed in some detail events in 2018, saying that it was "a successful year". "Our country has developed successfully in all directions. Azerbaijan has asserted itself as a strong country in the world. Our international positions have consolidated further. We have managed to secure a worthy place in the international arena." The president singled out relations with the European Union and with the Islamic world for special mention. On the EU, he said:
"We have further strengthened our relations with the European Union. The Partnership Priorities document signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan this year is a manifestation of the high level of these relations. This document clearly states thoughts on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of our borders and shows again that the European Union adheres to the right position on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
On relations with the Islamic world the president said:
"Our role in Islamic solidarity issues is growing. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation gives a high assessment to our policy in this area and we can say with full confidence that Azerbaijan has strengthened its strong role in the Muslim world. The attention, respect and sympathy we enjoy in the Muslim world shows that Azerbaijan has achieved great success in this area as well."
The president dwelt on the Karabakh issue, reiterating previous positions, saying that "Azerbaijan made very serious steps to resolve this conflict in 2018." Aliyev said that the overthrow of the previous government in Armenia was also due to the policy of isolation that had been pursued by Azerbaijan, but looked positively at 2019: "I think there is a new situation for the settlement of the conflict today. I do hope that 2019 can be a breakthrough year in this area." However he also sounded a word or warning: "We will continue to increase our military power. We want to settle the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully, and our participation in the negotiations is a clear proof of that. However, everyone knows and should know that the military factor plays a special role for the solution of the conflict, and we will increase our military power further."
The president said also hailed achievements in the economic sphere saying that $10 billion had been invested in the country's economy in 2018. "We attach great importance to modern technologies. This year, our third satellite was launched into orbit. This is a great event. Azerbaijan is a member of a limited club of space-faring nations and we are strengthening our positions in this field", Aliyev said.
The president ended his 12 minute address on a personal note: "This year, the presidential election was held in our country. The Azerbaijani people once again showed confidence in me and gave a high assessment to my work. Over the past 15 years, I have been working as President and serving my people with dignity. I will try to do my utmost for the further development of Azerbaijan, for the strengthening of Azerbaijan and for the prosperity of the people. I have one mission: to build a strong Azerbaijani state and serve the people with dignity."
Bakhtadze: 2019 will be a year of success and progress
In a short three-minute address, Georgian prime minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said that education will be the government's unconditional priority in 2019. "Education-based policies and innovations will put Georgia together with the developed and European countries where our natural place is and which is our civilizational choice. I believe that we have all the resources and opportunities to be a successful country where each family lives in dignity."
"To do this we need progress - the country needs new ideas, new vision, bold and quick decisions and this energy is in our youth, they are the future of our country", the prime minister said, greeting young people for the new year.
Bakhtadze also sent greetings to Abkhaz and Ossetians. "We have a common future with you", he said.
"I believe 2019 will be a year of success and progress", the Georgian prime minister concluded.
Most of the festivities were this year held outside Yerevan, in the city of Gyumri. The main event saw 13 citizens being awarded the title "Hero of our times".
Ahead of a scheduled meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan later this month, Ahmad Alili looks at the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, and argues that public opinion now requires answers and clarifications