Ladies and gentlemen!
We are leaving 2013 behind. In 2013, the dynamic development of our country was secured. All issues facing us were resolved and the comprehensive development of our country continued.
2013 was very successful for our country. Its development in all spheres pleases every citizen of Azerbaijan. Our international positions strengthened. Azerbaijan's international relations, both bilaterally and multilaterally, became broader and stronger. In all international organizations, of which we are members, we carried out an active policy and gained great international support. This year, Azerbaijan completes its activities in the UN Security Council. During two years, Azerbaijan took an active part in the UN Security Council, in the world's number one entity. It protected international law and justice.
Unfortunately, the rules of international law are violated in the world. The unresolved status of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict shows it once again. Unfortunately, our lands have been under occupation for many years. The decisions and resolutions of international organizations are not being implemented. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions demanding the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces from the occupied lands. However, Armenia ignores this. The OSCE, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have also adopted decisions and resolutions on the subject. But, unfortunately, they are not being implemented.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved within the framework of the territorial integrity of our country. There can be no other option. Azerbaijan will never allow a second artificial Armenian state to be created in our lands. I am sure that the territorial integrity of our country will be restored, and Azerbaijani citizens will be living in all the occupied lands. In the future, all Azerbaijanis will return to their historical lands. I am confident and have no doubt about this. To achieve this, we need to become even stronger, have an even more powerful army and ensure economic development.
We have made great strides in building the army. Today, the Azerbaijani army is on a par with strong armies of the world. In this sphere, much remains to be done, and it is necessary to continue the reforms. But I can say that the military potential of our country is strong enough. The most modern equipment, weapons and ammunition are being purchased. Azerbaijan manufactures modern military products. In short, the military potential and combat capability of our army is growing, and it pleases us because any powerful state should have a strong army. We will continue to pursue an active policy in this field.
With regard to economic policy, over the last 10 years there has not been a second country developing in this area like Azerbaijan. This is confirmed by all international financial institutions and statistical data. Over the past 10 years, our economy has grown by 3.4 times, which is the highest indicator in the world. More than one million and two hundred thousand new jobs have been created. Great success has been achieved in reducing poverty. Currently, the poverty rate is slightly more than five percent. The fight against unemployment has yielded excellent results. The unemployment rate in Azerbaijan is below five percent.
Leading international rating agencies upgraded the credit ratings of Azerbaijan even during the crisis. The Davos Economic Forum – the number one economic forum in the world - awarded Azerbaijan 39th place in the competitiveness of countries. This is a great achievement and great result indicating that our country is developing successfully. Our economy is diversified, and it is not tied only to the oil factor. The economic reform and economic policy conducted in recent years contributed to the diversification of the economy. I am confident that in the coming years even more impressive successes will be achieved in the economic sphere. Our programmes related to economic policy are being consistently implemented.
A strong economy, of course, also contributes to the resolution of social problems. Azerbaijan is also conducting a consistent policy in this area. I have repeatedly said, and I want to reiterate, that at the centre of our policy is the citizen of Azerbaijan. Therefore, a strong social policy is our basic direction. In 2013, wages and pensions were increased, and deposits remaining from the Soviet era were fully paid to the population in the form of compensation. Other social programmes are being successfully implemented. I am confident that in the coming years, our policy in the social sphere will continue. Our strong economic potential gives us grounds to talk about it. Without economic independence, no country can claim to be completely free and independent. Therefore, I believe that independence in the economic sphere is our greatest achievement.
At the same time, political reform is continuing and will continue in our country. Azerbaijan is taking very positive steps aimed at building a democratic society, has ensured the rule of law and has all freedoms. Azerbaijan is also turning into one of the leading countries in political reform.
2013 saw an even greater struggle against corruption and bribery, which concern society most of all. We achieved more impressive successes. The fight against corruption and bribery is one of the main directions of our policy. Punitive and administrative measures play their role here, however, systemic reforms also enabled us to make significant progress in this area. I want to emphasize the activities of the ASAN xidmət service established at the beginning of the year. ASAN xidmət, which received great praise in society in a short time, has now also established itself as an Azerbaijani brand in the world. More than five hundred thousand citizens addressed the service in one year. Subsequently, the number of services provided by ASAN xidmət will increase and simultaneously, there should be more electronic services.
This year, Azerbaijan once again established itself as a humanitarian centre of the world. This year, Azerbaijan hosted the Third International Humanitarian Forum and the Second Forum on Intercultural Dialogue. These two events attracted the attention of the world community. Azerbaijan is already showing itself as a centre for inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue. Religious and national tolerance, tolerance in our country and the fact that all peoples live as one family are our greatest success, a great asset and a great advantage. I can say that our country's experience in this area is being studied and is receiving approval in the world.
Of course, the oil and gas sector is also of great importance for the further development of our country. In 2013, a number of important issues were resolved. These include the selection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. The TAP project has already been approved as the main export route for gas. In 2012, an agreement was reached on the construction of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, and this year a lot of work was done in this sphere. The Shah Deniz-2 project started on 17 December. This is a historic project and a historic event. It is a project of the 21st century and Europe's largest infrastructure and energy project. The TANAP, TAP and Shah Deniz-2 projects are a historic success and a historic achievement of Azerbaijan. I want to sincerely congratulate the Azerbaijani people on this major victory. This project is of paramount importance for the successful future and successful life of our nation and for the sustainable development of our country.
This year presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan. The elections were held in a free and fair atmosphere. Foreign guests who observed the elections appreciated them very much. The main thing is that the elections were highly assessed by the Azerbaijani people. The elections fully reflected the will of the Azerbaijani people. I am grateful to my people for giving me great attention and support again. I want to reassure the people of Azerbaijan that I will continue to do everything possible for the successful development and future of our country.
This year Azerbaijan became a space-faring nation. The launch of the Azerspace-1 satellite at the beginning of the year is a historic achievement. It shows that our country is doing great things and making great strides. The development of the space industry once again confirms the general, intellectual and economic potential of our country.
Dear brothers and sisters, today is also the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. I am sure that all Azerbaijanis living in the world are proud that today there is a strong Azerbaijani state - a state doing everything for its citizens and living with their concerns. It is a modern, dynamic, democratic state, which is the homeland of all Azerbaijanis today.
I want to sincerely congratulate the Azerbaijani people on the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis and the New Year and wish every Azerbaijani family happiness, peace and prosperity.