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The Baku Process of Azerbaijan: Ten Years of Effective Cultural Diplomacy

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The Republic of Azerbaijan is home of one of the earliest Christian communities in the world, the Caucasian Albanian-Apostolic Church in the village of Nic (Gabala Region), the ancient temple of Caucasian Albania in the village of Kish (Shaki Region), the round temple of Caucasian Albania (Shaki Region), Khudavend Monastery Complex (Kalbajar District of Azerbaijan),

the Momuna Khatun monument and Noah’s Mausoleum in Nakhchivan; all of these rare religious and cultural monuments have deeply encouraged the Azerbaijani society and lifestyle to embrace a harmonious dialogue and preserve a combination of traditions and ceremonies of different cultures, ethnicities, civilizations and faiths.

The peculiar treasures, ancient historical sites, geographical position and the ethnic – national composition, make the Republic of Azerbaijan a special place where different cultures and religions can converge, harness an open dialogue and live in harmony. Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, has built an environment of tolerance, trust and confidence among the principal religious convictions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity; all of these elements of Azerbaijani society are shared throughout the world and the Baku Process plays an indispensable role towards harnessing intercultural dialogue, multiculturalism, spreading peaceful coexistence and prosperity across countries and regions.

On December 2-3, 2008, the President of Azerbaijan, H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, initiated the “Baku Process,” as an interactive international platform that encourages: a dialogue among different cultures and civilizations; promotes Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and harnesses multiculturalism policies that ensure a healthy cultural pluralism.  Furthermore, the strategic location of Azerbaijan, has made Prophet Noah’s Land to be exposed into the admirable features of European and Islamic Civilizations, making Baku, Nakhchivan, Shaki, Dağlıq Qarabağ and Quba, to become genuine archaeological and ancient commercial routes between the East and the West, and from the North to the South.  Azerbaijan, the Land of Pomegranates, unlike any other country in the Eurasian landmass has preserved cultures of many ethnic groups and has become a candid bridge among millenary civilizations, multiculturalism and religious dialogue.

Under the patronage of H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, “Baku Process” has hosted the following major events:

– The I World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, held on 7-9 April, 2011; addressing matters pertaining to intercultural dialogue with the participation of 500 representatives from 102 countries from all continents.  The main topic of the Forum was: “United through Common Values, Enriched by Cultural Diversity.”

– The II World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 29 June 01, 2013, addressing ways on: “how to build a global future together”; “how to build a popular support for cultural diversity”; “matters on the New Era of Globalization: Hybridity of cultures in a changing world”; “Supporting Intercultural Actions.” Another important session was focused on: “Tourism as a key driver of mutual understanding and tolerance among cultures.” The main topic of the Forum was: “Living together peacefully in a diverse world”.

– The III World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 18-19, 2015; reflected topics on human security, the importance of sharing different cultures; understanding that human security must be a fully shared responsibility among community leaders, educators and spiritual leaders. The main topic of the Forum was: “Culture and sustainable development in the post 2015 development agenda.”

– The IV World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, held on May 5-6, 2017, talked the role of faith, many religions, immigration policies, human security, cultural diplomacy, education, sustainable development and other matters. The main theme of this global Forum was: “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development.” 

All of the aforementioned renowned international forums have generated tangible results in the realm of Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and strengthened the role of the Government of Azerbaijan in the implementation of its Foreign Policy at the bilateral and multilateral platforms. 
A few concrete results are:

-On November 18th, 2016, Mr. Aslan Aslanov, Director General of Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC), was elected as the new president of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) for a three years term (2016-2019).  AZERTAC in cooperation with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation hosted on November 16-18, 2016, the 5th News Agencies World Congress and the 22nd session of the Council of CIS Heads of News Agencies.  Furthermore, on this occasion AZERTAC hosted the 16th General Assembly of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA). Mr. Vugar Seyidov, Special Correspondent of AZERTAC in Germany was elected as OANA Secretary General.

-The Government of Azerbaijan has helped inspire a number of regional governments, and international bodies, to pursue an active role towards strengthening their multiculturalism policies and religious dialogue, as well as intensify – and shape – these nations’ respective efforts in reducing religious violence, acts of terrorism and improve regional immigration policies.  In this context it is valuable to indicate a few recent events that are held in Europe: the 2nd International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East,” held in Athens (Greece) on October 30-31, 2017; organization of the 1st Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, held in Athens on April 24-25, 2017;  and the establishment of “Ancient Civilizations Forum” or GC10. In September 23rd, 2015, leaders of European governments met in Brussels to try to shape a common action “plan on refugees following months of recriminations and amid a sense of spiraling momentum of which the leaders have lost control.” It is certain that the Republic of Azerbaijan has always harnessed an avant-garde foreign policy that has addressed many global challenges that are deeply affecting Europe, Africa and Asia at the present.  

Baku has supported, and become a global player, on all efforts led by the international community right at their inception stage; the Government of President Ilham Aliyev has proactively brought together Nobel prize winners, heads of state and cultural experts to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue — always intertwined with the world’s pressing challenges and obstacles of today and of the future.

The nation of Azerbaijan, with its tolerant attitude and admirable acceptance of other cultures, upholds the special values of intercultural and interreligious dialogue; characteristics that are essential to foster regional
peace, economic development and ensure respect for international law.  The “Baku Process” will continue to promote intercultural dialogue between governments and people, strengthen cooperation among many ethnic groups and encourage cultural partnerships among nations living on different continents.

On November 15th, 2017, the First Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva presented Azerbaijan’s candidacy, in Paris, to host the World Expo exhibition in 2025. The host of the Paris event described Azerbaijan as the Pearl of the Caucasus, stating that the country has ancient history and rich culture. In her statement the First Vice President of Azerbaijan Dr. Mehriban Aliyeva emphasized: “For two thousand years, the ancient Silk Road passed through modern-day Azerbaijan. Much like World Expos, it served as an important channel for sharing knowledge and skills. It shaped the history, culture and tolerant outlook of the country. Different ethnic groups and religions have been coexisting in Azerbaijan throughout centuries in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual respect. Ethnic and religious diversity and multiculturalism are not simply our state policy but at the same time our lifestyle. This is our history and our today’s reality. We are a secular, multicultural and multi-faith society. And we are proud of that.”

Positioning Azerbaijan as a potential host country of World Expo exhibition in 2025 is a historic accomplishment of the country’s current government leadership, under the vision of its great National Leader Heydar Aliyev and the current dynamic statecraft of the President of Azerbaijan H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev.  The Republic of Azerbaijan, with one of the highest economic growth levels in the world, and a leading nation of major international infrastructure projects, has made the Baku Process an international strategic initiative that has a global leverage and importance in Europe and the rest of the world.

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Eastern Europe

A turning moment in Ukraine Crisis

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Germany’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine is a major moment in the Ukraine Crisis. It will have a far-reaching impact and may turn it into World War III. It is a tradition of the US to gang up to counter its adversaries. Iraq war, Libyan attacks, Syrian aggression, and the Occupation of Afghanistan, all were the result of allied forces, the US has the skills to make allies in addition to NATO and achieve its political objectives.

The US lobbies against its adversaries, and use all dirty tricks including media to malign its adversaries. They mislead the public and level the ground for the next stage – armed intervention. Looking at US interventions in any part of the world, you may conclude a similar approach.

Ukraine is also no exception. The US was preparing grounds for this crisis for a long and dragged Russia into it. Including Ukraine in NATO, was a red line for Russia, but, deliberately, this path was chosen to spoil global peace.

After failing all negotiations, Russia was left with no option except launch a special military operation on the same line as the 2014 Crimea operation. It was just a limited operation and should have been over after securing Russian borders only.

Unfortunately, the US had different intentions and trapped Russia in Ukraine and a full-scale war started. It was purely American war against Russia, but, as usual, America ganged up with NATO and also sought assistance and support from friendly countries.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the move on Wednesday, bowing to intensifying international pressure – led by the United States, Poland, and a bloc of other European nations, which called on Berlin to step up its military support and commit to sending their sought-after vehicles. The influx of Western tanks into the conflict has the potential to change the shape of the war. The shipments are a breakthrough in the West’s military support for Kyiv, signaling a bullish view around the world about Ukraine’s ability to reclaim occupied territory. Crucially, they may allow Ukraine to take the fighting to Moscow’s forces and re-capture more occupied land, rather than focusing primarily on beating back Russian attacks.

The US has increased its defense budget and military aid to Ukraine. It is aimed to attack Russia, not limited to liberating Ukraine only. It will prolong the war and let Russia bleed for longer.

Participation of Europe in conflict may worsen the situation and may harm Europe more. Although there are public rallies, protests, and agitations in major cities in Europe to end the Ukraine war or at least oppose Europe’s active participation. Some were chanting slogans to leave NATO. It seems the public understands the consequences but the rulers are blindly following US policies. It might create a rift between the public and rulers.

Blunders made by rulers, but, the price is being paid by the public, in the form of inflation, hikes in the price of fuel, energy, food, etc., are a common phenomenon all over Europe. The danger of spreading the war is at high risk.

Imagine, if Russia also seeks assistance from its allies and gangs up to conform to NATO aggression, it will be certainly a Word War III. Today, the World is obviously polarized and blocks are emerging rapidly.

It also can turn into nuclear war too. The 8 declared nuclear states have enough piles of nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world completely. It is scaring scenario.

But despite knowing the consequences, no one is taking any initiative to end the war and seek political solutions to the crisis. The US is not interested in the peaceful resolution of the disputes and Europe is blindly following America.

It is urged that the UN may intervene proactively and initiate a dialogue to reach an acceptable solution for all stakeholders. Unbiased, non-partisan nations may come forward to initiate peace dialogues. All peace-loving countries and individuals may act proactively and struggle to end the Ukraine crisis. Satisfying all concerned parties may achieve sustainable peace and avert any big disaster.

Humankind is the most precious thing in this universe and must be respected. Value human lives, save human lives, and without any discrimination protects human lives across the board all over the globe.

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Lithuanian society is left shaken by plans to raise retirement age

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This month Lithuanian society is left shaken after spreading the news about the increasing of the retirement age. In Lithuania, the retirement age has increased every year since 2012 and by 2026 it will be 65 years. Previously, discussion surfaced on whether raising the retirement age to 72 would help offset Lithuania’s ageing population issues.

As Lithuania’s demographic situation continues to worsen, the European Commission estimates that the number of working-age people capable of supporting pensioners will go down in the future. Brussels says that increasing the retirement age could be a solution.

The existing average in Lithuania is now 57.5 years. It should be said that Lithuania expects to reach a life expectancy of 65 years only in 2030.

In some years there will be 50 retirees per 100 working people and it will have crucial implications for public finances and may require raising taxes. At the moment, 35% of the country’s population are aged over 55.

Before prolonging its working age, Lithuania should address the relatively poor health and low life expectancy of its population. Before they even reach retirement age, many people in Lithuania are unable to work due to high prevalence of chronic, non-infectious conditions.

It’s necessary to focus on increasing healthy life expectancy in Lithuania, instead of weighing up the idea of increasing the retirement age, Irena Segalovičienė, presidential adviser has said.

Taking into account the fact that men in Lithuania live an average of 14 more years from the age of 65, and women an 18 more years, Vilnius residents are not impressed with such an idea.

The officials are afraid of possible protests which could lead even to the government resignation.

Thus, late Thursday afternoon millions of French workers were still on the streets protesting against President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms.

Lithuanian officials were quick to announce that it’s inadequate to consider a 7-year increase in the retirement age at this stage. Most likely, the news was deliberately disseminated in order to study public opinion on this issue.

Discussion is most toxic now, and will continue in Lithuania because wasting money on defence, government puts aging population at risk of poverty and death.

At the same time, the government calls for more defense spending. Together with Poland and the UK, Lithuania is leading a push within the NATO to agree to higher spending goals. In 2023, the country’s national defense budget will reach 2.52% of its gross domestic product (GDP). According to Zilvinas Tomkus, Lithuania’s vice minister of defence, Lithuania is ready to spend even more on the modernization of its armed forces and military infrastructure. The more so, spending money on defence procurement today will not improve Lithuania defence today. The modernized weapons, vehicles and equipment will be available only in some years while old Lithuanians need money right now just to survive.

Thus, chosen political priorities do not reflect the current social and economic situation in the country and even worsen it.

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Eastern Europe

Why there is New Escalation in Ukraine War?

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In Dnipro, the Russian missile smashed the entire section of a nine-story building. January 14, 2022.Photo from Valentyn Reznichenko, Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Region Military Administration

Russia and Ukraine war has entered its second phase where violence and destruction become more prevalent with less possibility of negotiation between the conflicting parties. Russia claimed to have conquered a hotly disputed salt mining town, a rare win for the Kremlin after a string of losses in its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow chose Donetsk and the adjoining Luhansk province as objectives from the start, and in September proclaimed them part of Russia along with two other territories. Taking control of the town would allow Russian forces “to sever supply lines for the Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut and then block and encircle the Ukrainian battalions. Russia sees Bakhmut as a stepping stone toward total control of Donbas, the industrial region that encompasses Donetsk Province.

Moreover, Russia has opened multiple fronts encircling Ukraine from all sides. Russian missiles blasted a military camp in western Ukraine, killing 35 people in an attack on a site that served as a vital hub for collaboration between Ukraine and the NATO countries that assist its defense. The attack’s proximity to a NATO member country heightened the prospect of the alliance becoming involved in the war, which has reignited old Cold War rivalries and threatens to alter the present global security system. Poland also serves as a transit point for Western military supplies to Ukraine, and the bombings came in response to Moscow’s threats to target those shipments.

 However, despite significant casualties in the Ukrainian military forces over the last 11 months, Kyiv believes it is in a good position. It would be considerably more powerful if more contemporary weaponry were available, and there have already been some significant breakthroughs in this area, such as the supply of a variety of flexible light armored vehicles from Germany, France, and the United States that can move troops around quickly. Against a backdrop, Russia would reject any peace agreement that does not include the retention of all seized Ukrainian territory. On the flip side, Ukraine has been pleading with Western nations for months to equip it with more modern armaments, such as the Patriot air defense system.

Ukraine War and the Remilitarization of Europe

 Kyiv has shifted its focus toward Western Europe and the United States and the NATO alliance has been galvanized in a way not seen since the Cold War. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress in a historic speech on his foreign tours after the Russia attack in February. “Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall’. Throughout the war, Kyiv has relied significantly on Western military help, and Zelenskyy continues to want more. Zelenskyy’s visit coincided with the announcement of $1.85 billion in further military support to Ukraine, which includes a Patriot missile battery for the first time.

The United Kingdom has announced that it will equip Ukraine with British tanks, putting pressure on Germany and other nations to offer additional military assistance to Kyiv in its conflict with Russia. It would send Challenger 2 tanks as well as additional artillery systems to Kyiv. Zelensky tweeted that British help “would not only boost us on the battlefield but will also send the proper signal to other partners. The decision by the United Kingdom to send the tanks would be important if other Western countries followed suit. Poland intends to send 14 Leopard tanks produced in Germany to Ukraine as part of a bigger multinational aid alliance. French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed intentions for France to supply the Ukrainian military with AMX-10 RC light tanks. The Ukrainian armed forces will get Western-designed tanks for the first time. It represents a considerable increase in French engagement in the Ukraine war. Moreover, European Union foreign ministers have agreed to top up a fund for arms deliveries to Ukraine by a further two billion euros ($2.11bn) and discuss the 9th Round of sanctions on Russia which will escalate the skyrocketing food and oil prices further.

The Tanks are unlikely to change the game of the war but it triggers the remilitarization of Europe on the widest scale since that war, escalating military combat in the Pacific, and high levels of international instability produced by the war in Ukraine and tensions over Taiwan. Besides, it reflects that at the beginning of the war, the NATO members were divided regarding their response to the Ukraine war, and their responses were confined to the gamut of sanctions against Russia. However, as the war becomes complex, the European countries enhanced their support to billions of dollars in military aid and small weapons to Ukraine. Now, the whole of Europe can witness an increase in defense budget which drags them more in the dangerous trajectory of war resulting in more escalation and mayhem.

Putin’s Shadow War: New Front in Belarus

Belarus is being engaged in launching a new front in Ukraine’s war, which might compel Kyiv to shift resources and focus away from its counteroffensives in the country’s east and south. Belarus’s President, Alexander Lukashenko, announced on Monday that his soldiers will join Russian forces along the Ukrainian border, accusing Kyiv and its western backers of planning an attack on Belarus. Two days after visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg, Lukashenko announced the deployment. Kyiv, according to Zelenskiy, has no intentions to strike Belarus. Russia exploited Belarus as a staging area for its February 24th war, moving hundreds of troops across the border to attack Kyiv and firing missiles from Belarusian air bases into Ukrainian targets. Ukraine’s borders were allegedly under attack from Russian forces in Belarus to the north and Crimea to the south, near various Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv’s second biggest city, Odesa, and distant shooting from Zaporizhzhya. Engaging Belarus in the war will certainly open a new front in the Ukraine war.

Russian New General and Plausible New Escalation

Russia intends to deploy 500,000 extra troops beginning in mid-January, much more than the 300,000 soldiers it recruited in September. So far, Russia claims that 150,000 of those troops have been delivered to Ukraine.Besides, Russia named a new general in command of the Ukraine conflict, replacing its predecessor after only three months. This might indicate that Russia is preparing to intensify its conflict. Russia’s new commander in Ukraine has inherited a poisoned chalice, making him likely to deepen the conflict as Russia attempts to recover from a run of military failures. The ministry portrayed Gerasimov as taking on a new role with even more authority over Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

His appointment, coming after months of Russian defeats, might indicate that Russia is about to step up its attempts to wrest triumph from defeat. Gerasimov has greater access, power, and resources at his disposal than any other subsidiary commander. This might entail increasing levels of violence, more cooperation, and a full-scale, all-out war on all fronts. Gerasimov is said to have been one of the military officers who devised Russia’s original invasion strategy.  The November missile strikes against Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities as well as orchestrated gas and oil leaks on European pipelines have been deeply painful for Ukraine but the winter doesn’t go as harshly as Putin expected. Ukraine has survived the first phase of the war better than both supporters and detractors expected. Russia has failed to realize its military aspirations, and the tide has begun to turn in Ukraine’s favor in recent months. he needs a win or his career will end in shame. As the conflict drags on with no apparent conclusion in sight, fierce fighting is likely to restart in early spring. Putin has previously used a variety of escalators tactics to destroy Ukrainian resilience and hope.

It is largely unlikely that Russia will fully retreat from the war as Vladimir Putin has grown so involved in the Ukraine conflict that he is making operational and tactical choices. He, on the other hand, is personally engaged in the battle and cannot afford to lose. Even if Russia pulls out from Ukraine, there is no chance for Russian disintegration which the West is silencing as part of its war strategy. Meanwhile, Ukraine is now well-equipped to hold its current leverage in the war but is not yet in a position to conclusively win the war. Besides, if the opposite happens or the war prolongs for years, then how would Ukraine and the transatlantic onslaught survive? Europe is already undergoing a cost-of-living crisis. The skyrocketing energy crisis, global inflation on the flip side, and increasing military expenditure left the west between the devil and the deep sea. In that regard, both are destined to pay heavy prices if the stalemate isn’t over. Thus, the fate of the Ukraine war this winter and the spring offensives will be critical in determining the course of the conflict in 2023.

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