The Independence Day of the Republic of Azerbaijan was hosted by Chargé d’Affaires Mr Zaur Shukurov on 24 May 2024 in Pretoria.

Welcoming members of the diplomatic corps, H.E. Ambassador Maud Dlomo, H.E. Gwen Ramokgopa, members of the government, and distinguished guests to the event, Mr Shukurov thanked everyone for participating in celebrating the 106th anniversary of the establishment of the first democratic parliamentary Republic in the Muslim world – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which was proclaimed on 28 May 1918. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic made significant strides in building an independent democratic state, creating the first parliament and government, state apparatus, and governing institutions, defining the country’s borders, and establishing military units with high capability, ensuring territorial integrity and national security. It adopted a national flag, an anthem, an emblem, declared the mother tongue as the state language, focused attention on education and culture, and took other purposeful steps to ensure the comprehensive development of national statehood in the years to come.

“Guided by the principles of people, power, and equality from the very first day of its existence,” said Mr Shukurov.

The Republic was able to eradicate various inequalities within its society by granting all citizens the same rights. Long before other Muslim-majority countries, women in Azerbaijan were granted the right to vote.

In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan began its journey of renewed independence. Under the national leader Heydar Aliyev’s guidance, the country transformed into a strong, stable, and reliable state, emerging from the crises of the 1990s. His policies and foresight helped Azerbaijan establish itself as a key player in international relations. His comprehensive national development strategy focused on establishing independence, socio-political stability, economic growth, and integrating Azerbaijan into the global community. Today, the modern independent Azerbaijan is committed to the traditions of the Democratic Republic and, as a strong state, is confidently progressing towards achieving new strategic goals under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev. The next honourable and proud pages of state history are being written.

This year marks the first time that Azerbaijan is celebrating its Independence Day throughout its entire territory, following a brilliant victory in the 44-day Patriotic War in 2020, which ended the occupation of its territories by Armenia.

During its chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement from 2019 to 2023, Azerbaijan showed remarkable initiative and introduced several important global projects. It was during Azerbaijan’s presidency that the Non-Aligned Movement became an influential organisation.

In recognition of its commitment to environmental protection and addressing climate change on a national, regional, and global scale, Azerbaijan will host the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP29, this year. Azerbaijan has made green growth a key priority of its development strategy, and by the order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2024 has been declared the “Year of Green World Solidarity.”

According to the Agreement on Strategic Partnership in the Development and Transmission of Green Energy signed between the governments of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania, and Hungary, it is planned to export green energy produced in the Caspian Sea to Europe.

In recent years, Azerbaijan has prioritised green projects across the country, developing smart cities and villages in the liberated territories. The Karabakh and East Zangezur economic zones are projected to be “net zero” carbon emissions zones by 2050. By 2030, the share of renewables in the installed capacity of electricity generated in Azerbaijan is expected to reach 30%, up from 7% in 2023.

Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and South Africa were established in 1992, and in 1994, relations began to take on a new dimension. The Embassy of Azerbaijan opened in Pretoria in 2012, further expanding relations, which continue to develop steadily in various areas of mutual interest.

“I hope that the high-level political relations between our countries will serve as a road map for the development of our relations, and our esteemed Ministers will spare no effort for the advancement of our cooperation in the coming years,” said Mr Shukurov.

Deputy Director General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, H.E. Ambassador Maud Veyelwa Dlomo, congratulated Azerbaijan on their Independence Day.

An MOU was signed in 2014 to strengthen and broaden the scope of bilateral cooperation in political, economic, scientific, cultural, and humanitarian areas, including international agreements in various fields of cooperation within the frameworks of applicable international agencies and forums, and other areas of mutual interest.

“Through these agreements, we hope to build a foundation to explore areas of cooperation,” said H.E. Ms Dlomo.

Efforts are being made to intensify trade relations between the two countries. Exchanges in diplomacy and education have the potential to promote people-to-people contact and capacity building, especially in hydrocarbons and petroleum engineering, which is being explored by the Ministry of Higher Education.

Azerbaijan has been South Africa’s trusted ally in the multilateral forum. Congratulating Azerbaijan for assuming the chair of the UN Climate Change Conference 29, H.E. Ms Dlomo emphasised that South Africa needs to support Azerbaijan’s leadership of COP29.

“South Africa will continue to partner with Azerbaijan to advance the agenda of the Global South,” said H.E. Ms Dlomo.

Guests enjoyed performances showcasing traditional Azerbaijani dancing and singing.

by Marion Kate