One hundred years ago, an Azerbaijani delegation led by Ali Mardan bey Topchubashov waited and struggled for three months in Istanbul to get visas to the Paris Peace Conference. Then, in France, they had to engage in a diplomatic challenge of getting recognition for the newly established Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. All odds were against them, including anti-Azerbaijan propaganda by the Armenians, time pressure and a lack of resources. Despite all that, President Woodrow Wilson, who they managed to meet, wrote: "A very dignified group of fine-looking men came in from Azerbaijan. I did not dare to ask them where it was, but I looked it up secretly afterwards and found that it was a very prosperous valley region lying south of the Caucasus and that it had a great and ancient civilization."
Today's Azerbaijan is even more prosperous with investments just in Turkey exceeding $20 billion. Its civilization is widely recognized. Just a couple of days ago, the historic center of the ancient Azerbaijani city of Sheki was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. As for diplomacy, the torch of our great ancestors is being held high. Not only is Azerbaijan globally recognized, but also holds a fine record of U.N. Security Council nonpermanent membership, multiple chairmanships in international organizations and as a meeting place for global players.
If Istanbul was a launching point for the European charm offensive, today, Baku and Ankara are turning into a core for the most important global energy and transportation projects. Azerbaijan and Turkey are also in the middle of most trilateral and multilateral regional formats. In fact, Azerbaijan-Turkey relations of the last three decades should become a case study in international relations. I don't know another example of when one country has opened the doors of its diplomatic offices for the diplomatic mission of another nation, which Turkey did for Azerbaijan. Or when the president of one country defends the interests of another as his own, such as the famous line "Turkey is not here but I am" by President Ilham Aliyev to refute the accusations of the Armenian president against Turkey in 2014.There is another uniqueness in the practice of diplomacy here in Turkey, personally for me. From the first days as ambassador in this magnificent country, I realized that I would never be just another head of mission. Within my roughly 20 months in Turkey, with almost no exception, each of the almost 30 regions I visited greeted me as their own. And I never felt foreign. I am sure my colleague (and friend) representing Turkey in Azerbaijan feels exactly the same in my country.
This mutual embrace between Baku and Ankara has a cultural dimension, which has no language or cultural barrier; an educational dimension, with tens of thousands of students both ways; a defense dimension, where officers and soldiers train, exercise and serve together and on the top of the long list, a "trust" dimension, which underpins late President Heydar Aliyev's "One nation, two states!"
There is a long way ahead. There will be next July 9 after this year's 100th anniversary for the Azerbaijani diplomatic service. And every year, decade, century and millennium, we will have to take the stock of achievements. I am very confident that there will be plenty of them, since strong leadership, diplomacy and resilience are unlikely to fade away. I am also confident they will lead to a more prosperous country, more stable region and a more tightly integrated world. I also have no doubt that all that will happen together with Turkey.
* Azerbaijani Ambassador to Ankara