On the occasion of the national holiday of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Azerbaijani diplomatic service, H. E. Dr. Nargiz Gurbanova,

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the country to Bulgaria, and Mr. Ravshan Sadagabili gave a reception on May 22 in Sofia Hotel Balkan. It was attended by the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mrs. Iliana Yotova, the Minister of Energy Mrs. Temenujka Petkova, Tsar Simeon II and Princess Maria Luisa Bulgarian, the Grand Mufti, representatives of religious denominations, the Parliament, business and media, friends of Azerbaijan.

At the beginning, the choir of the Municipal Cultural Institute "Nadezhda", led by the famous Bulgarian composer and conductor Mr. Kiril Lambov, performed the hymns of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Bulgaria.

Then H. E. Dr. Nargiz Gurbanova turned to the guests in her welcome speech:

It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you tonight to mark the Republic Day. Established on 28 May 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became the first secular and parliamentary democracy in the Muslim and Turkic world introducing democratic rights, freedoms and equality to all its citizens irrespective of ethnicity, religion, gender and social status. It provided suffrage to women for the first time in Muslim majority countries and ahead of a number of European countries.

This year we are also celebrating the centennial of Azerbaijan’s diplomatic service. On 9 July 1919, the Government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic adopted the decision to establish the secretariat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even before the formal establishment of our Foreign Ministry, Moslem factions of the Transcaucasian Sejm (Parliament) were closely engaged in the conduct of foreign affairs. Later, the Azerbaijani delegation led by the chairman of Parliament Alimardan bey Topshubashov attended the Paris Peace Conference and succeeded in getting the recognition of the young democratic state of Azerbaijan.

The present-day Azerbaijani diplomacy is a true reflection of my country’s domestic policy under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev that has enabled Azerbaijan to become a trusted and respected actor on the international arena. Committed to developing mutually beneficial and equitable cooperation both in bilateral and multilateral formats with our partners, Azerbaijan remains an influential player in our geography. Today we can say that Azerbaijan transformed from a security consumer into a security provider. Proceeding from the indivisibility of security, Azerbaijan participates in the peacekeeping operations, which are sanctioned by the UN Security Council. We contribute troops to the NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and participate in peace support operations in Africa.

Azerbaijan is a staunch supporter of the international law-based order. Ensuring full respect for the norms and principles of international law in international relations, in particular respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States is particularly relevant in the context of the resolution of the protracted conflicts on the European continent, including the one affecting my country.

Azerbaijan has been duly recognized as the critical enabler of the Southern Gas Corridor contributing to the world’s and EU’s energy security. Overall, energy, transport, ICT and other projects initiated by Azerbaijan have helped bring not only countries but also regions and continents together for the benefit of our peoples and economies. Today, we account for around 75% of GDP of the entire South Caucasus. Azerbaijani companies are the biggest investors and taxpayers in some of our neighboring countries.

Azerbaijan is also one of the world's recognized centers of multiculturalism. All ethnic and religious groups live in Azerbaijan in peace and harmony. We have hosted numerous international events aimed at strengthening intercultural dialogue. As a member of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan launched the Baku Process in 2008, the main goal of which is to strengthen dialogue, partnership and cooperation between the Moslem world and Europe. Earlier this month, in partnership with UNAOC, UNESCO, UNWTO, the Council of Europe and ISESCO Azerbaijan hosted the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue themed "Building dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality and violent conflict".

Dear friends,

On this important day, I would also like to highlight the excellent bilateral relations in all spheres we enjoy with Bulgaria. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, we have succeeded in taking this relationship to the level of strategic partnership. Our cultural ties have also been expanding. Last month Azerbaijan's 5-millennia old city of Nakhchivan became sister city with Veliko Tarnovo, historical and spiritual capital of Bulgaria. Outside this hall you can enjoy the exhibition showcasing landmarks of Nakhchivan, capital of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan that turns 95 this year.

Let me conclude by thanking you all for honoring us tonight and wishing you an enjoyable evening.

On behalf of the Bulgarian side, Mrs. Iliana Yotova and the Minister of Energy Mrs. Temenujka Petkova greeted the guests on the occasion of the national holiday of Azerbaijan.

Afterwards, the guests enjoyed Azerbaijan music, a presentation revealing the beauties of the country, an exhibition showing the sights of Nakhchivan, a sister city of Veliko Tarnovo and, of course, the incredible culinary specialties of the country.

The photos are provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Above, from right to left: H. E. Dr. Nargiz Gurbanova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria, the Minister of Energy Mrs. Temenujka Petkova, Vice-President Iliana Yotova, Tsar Simeon II, Princess Maria Luisa and H. E. Mr. Stefano Baldi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Italian Republic