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First Summit of the OIC on Science and Technology: the strong messages from Azerbaijan

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Baku, 12 September 2017 – Newtimes.az

On 10-11 September 2017, in Astana, Republic of Kazakhstan, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hold its first science and technology summit at the level of head of state and government.

Astana Summit witnessed a historic milestone as it evolved a unified collective position at the highest levels of decision-making in OIC Member States with a view to advancing the different fields of science, technology and innovation, while emphasizing the Muslim world’s resolve to promote scientific and technical development.

The Summit was important as it underscored the Member States’ support for scientific fields by demonstrating the Muslim world’s knowledge contributions away from the negative stereotypes that have become widespread recently.

The Summit was also of significance considering that Muslims constitute a quarter of the world population and their countries possess abundant natural resources, although many Islamic countries still suffer poverty and diseases. It is therefore imperative to address these challenges using available resources, especially as this Summit is only the starting point for finding solutions to the countless problems facing the Muslim world using science and technology.

Statistics have shown that OIC Member States are below the 2016 innovation index general rate standing at 36.9, particularly in the areas of space, information technologies, pharmaceutical industries and electronics. Muslim countries, however, have a large youth population; a situation that imposes more challenges but also offers greater opportunities. So, the Summit contributed to combating extremism and terrorism by reducing unemployment rates and attracting the youth to work in scientific and technological fields.

Azerbaijan, as an active member of this organization, was represented at the Summit at the level of the head of state.

Indeed, being a crucial and integral part of the Muslim world, Azerbaijan is renowned as one of the important places where the Islamic cultural legacy was established and preserved. Ashabi-Kahf pilgrimage site, the most ancient mosque in the Caucasus – Shamakhi mosque built in 743 – Bibiheybat mosque and pilgrimage complex, Ganja "Imamzade” complex and many other sites can be considered as Azerbaijan`s outstanding contribution to the system of Islamic religious and cultural values.

After restoration of state independence, significant work was done in the country to restore religious monuments, mosques and temples. If there were only 17 mosques in Azerbaijan during the Soviet period, their number reached 2166 at the beginning of 2017. 306 mosques are currently under state protection as historic monuments.

Today cooperation with Islamic countries is a priority for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan believes that solidarity among Islamic countries is absolutely essential for addressing common challenges and threats which endanger us all. "Solidarity is Our Strength'' – the theme of the fourth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games held in Baku in May of this year echoes Azerbaijan’s attitude towards solidarity. Declaration of 2017 as a year of Islamic Solidarity in Azerbaijan is yet another demonstration of the importance that this country attaches to the Islamic solidarity.

Azerbaijan also initiated the establishment of new organizations that contribute to the strengthening of Islamic solidarity, including OIC Youth Forum, OIC Labor Center and the Journalist Association of OIC Member States.

Azerbaijan actively contributed to the organization of the Department of Islamic Arts in famous Louvre museum in France, and was the first Muslim country to demonstrate its exhibition in the Vatican. In 2009, Baku was declared the capital of Islamic culture with the support of ISESCO. In 2018, Nakhchivan, another ancient Azerbaijani city, was awarded this honorary title.

Azerbaijan has a solid scientific potential and STI has always been high on the agenda of the Government. Literacy is nearly one hundred percent. Science and modern technologies are developing successfully in Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan is one of the limited members of the world’s space club.

For instance, Azerbaijan’s success in the field of E-Governance attracts a number of developing countries to benefit from it. As the Government of Afghanistan considers Azerbaijan’s success exemplary, UNDP Country Offices in Azerbaijan and Afghanistan have agreed to involve Azerbaijan in the development of Afghanistan’s information-communication technologies sector.

As an important constituent element of STI, building ICT connectivity can bridge the digital divide and provide new solutions to development challenges, access to information and knowledge as well as have an immense impact on social progress.

Azerbaijan has put forward a proposal to establish the Eurasian Connectivity Alliance - a regional platform of broad regional efforts in support of improved connectivity and greater cooperation in the field of ICTs which was backed by UN General Assembly to ensure policy dialogue and to encourage partnership and cooperation among the connected countries.

Another important initiative put forward by Azerbaijan is Trans Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM), a major regional initiative aimed at creation of transnational fiber-optic backbone targeting primarily the countries of Eurasia from Western Europe to Eastern Asia. It should help to promote development of ICT infrastructure and e-commerce across Eurasia and will further contribute to bridging the digital divide well beyond the boundaries of the immediate region.

At the Summit, the speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev was very comprehensive and important.

Underlining the role of Azerbaijan, he mentioned that Azerbaijan is an active member of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. In the recent years, Azerbaijan has hosted nearly 10 OIC meetings of ministers of foreign affairs, culture, tourism, education, labor and others. He noticed that Azerbaijan is cooperating actively with the member states both in the bilateral format and within the international organizations. Azerbaijan always supports the Muslim countries within the international organizations to which it is a member. In its turn, the OIC also provides broad support to Azerbaijan and highly appreciates the policies pursued by our country. 

President Aliyev devoted important part of his speech to Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict, one of the main problems not only for our region, but also for Islamic world. Indeed, over the past 200 years the Armenians have committed bloody crimes in order to occupy Azerbaijan`s historic lands and build their own state in those territories. Today`s state of Armenia was established in the ancient Azerbaijani lands. Continuing its policy of aggression, Armenia occupied 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territories at the beginning of the 1990s, and as a result more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs, our fellow countrymen were subjected to ethnic cleansing and genocide. In 1993, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories, and recognizing the country`s territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of its internationally-recognized borders. Similar documents were adopted by the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, Non-Alignment Movement, and other influential international organizations. Those documents all demand immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories. As President Aliyev said, "Armenia does not fulfill those resolutions, however no sanctions are imposed against them''.

From this point of view, President Aliyev said that the OIC has always demonstrated a fair position by supporting the resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict based on Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders and had adopted a number of resolutions that reflected Azerbaijan’s just position. He added that last year, during the OIC Summit held in Turkey, a Contact Group regarding Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan was established and Azerbaijan highly values that decision.

Referring to Khojaly genocide committed by Armenia in 1992, President of Azerbaijan noticed that as a result of that war crime, "613 Azerbaijani civilians were brutally murdered by the Armenian fascists'' and added that "over 10 countries have officially recognized the Khojaly genocide”. By the way, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia refused to officially recognize Armenia because of its occupation of the Azerbaijani territories, while Turkey has not established any relations with this country. Currently OIC and its 4 members have officially recognized Khojaly genocide.

Stipulating that today, the Armenian atrocities still continue, he showed as evidence that a two year old Azerbaijani child together with her grandmother lost their lives as a result of shelling by the Armenians this July and qualified this as "barbarism'', as "another bloody crime perpetrated by the Armenian fascism''.

Accentuating that Islamophobia in Armenia has reached its peak, he said that "Armenia is trying hard to expand its ties with different Muslim countries''. However, Armenia`s policy of occupation is an attack not only on Azerbaijan`s religious and cultural assets, but on historic and cultural legacy of Islam in general. Hundreds of Islamic culture monuments, mosques, temples, cemeteries, etc. were destroyed in the territories occupied by Armenia. So, he called not to believe to their hypocritical and dishonest words and concluded that "Armenia – a country that destroys holy mosques in Azerbaijan – cannot be a friend of the Muslim countries''. I think, it was the strongest message of the Summit, expressed by the President of Azerbaijan. 

Referring to the new settlement of Jojug Merjanli liberated from the Armenian occupiers, President Aliyev cited that Azerbaijan has built there a mosque similar to the Shusha mosque destroyed by the Armenians. Showing this as an "undefeatable spirit of the Azerbaijani people and its commitment to their own religious values”, he resumed that even if "Armenians have destroyed Azerbaijani mosques, those mosques stand tall in Azerbaijani people’s hearts”.

In one word, "no power can destroy them''!

I think this is the second important message delivered at the framework of this Summit.

Dr. Turab Gurbanov

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