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Azerbaijan suggests holding UN General Assembly session on anti-coronavirus fight

Azerbaijan donated $10 million to the WHO in two installments in an effort to fight the pandemic on the global scale, the country's president recalled
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, May 7. /TASS/. The issue of uniting international community’s efforts on combating COVID-19 should be discussed at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an exclusive interview with TASS First Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman.

"Of course, a common misfortune unites," Aliyev said. "Therefore, the key goal of the [Non-Aligned Movement] summit was to show solidarity within the organization, as well as effective cooperation with leading international organizations. We proposed on my initiative to hold a special [session] of the UN General Assembly at the level of heads of state and government dedicated to the coronavirus."

Azerbaijan has made other efforts to fight the pandemic on the global scale, Aliyev added. "We have allocated $5 mln to the World Health Organization to provide urgent support to the most vulnerable member states of the Movement. This is our second donor contribution. Earlier, in March, we also allocated $5 mln to the WHO to combat the global pandemic."

Call for international solidarity

The pandemic has demonstrated positive cooperation between nations that have disagreements, and this solidarity must be only increased, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told TASS.

According to the president, the situation the world has found itself in uncovered that there is "solidarity and elements of cooperation even between nations that are in tense relations."

"In matters of international politics it is important to preserve and multiply the positive experience of cooperation, so that time does not divide the countries," Aliyev underscored.

The president admitted that the new realities significantly impact the lifestyle and the psychological state of the people.

"We realize quite well that staying home for weeks without going out is a serious test for the people who are used to an active lifestyle, used to active work," he noted. "So it is hard to imagine what the world would be like in the future."

The world leaders suffer from the lack of communication too, Aliyev is certain. "If we conducted a summit in a normal format, it would have lasted for two, maybe three days. There would have been many bilateral meetings, cultural events," he explained. "But, for example, the May 4 summit [of the Non-Aligned Movement], which took place in a video conference format, lasted for six hours and a half without breaks. I, as its chairman, had no way to leave it, so we have to get used to living in this format."

He noted that while Azerbaijan is a major venue for humanitarian cooperation, it is hard to tell, when and in what format international discussions on this issue could be held.

"One thing is certain: after we defeat the coronavirus, it will take a lot of time to get over this situation in both working and psychological sense. And it is hard to tell, how long it would take," the president concluded.

Coronavirus situation in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan so far has been able to counter the coronavirus pandemic with minimal losses, Ilham Aliyev stated in the interview.

"The set of restrictive measures, particularly the ones aimed at properly organizing the process of treatment, allowed us for now to deal with this situation with minimal losses," he noted.

The Azerbaijani leader underlined that the measures include establishment of a crisis center under the cabinet of ministers with extensive powers, timely shutdown of borders, widespread testing of the population for coronavirus, and repurposing hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. "Today, more than 20 state hospitals are provided to treat coronavirus patients. In particular, the most modern and newest hospital for 575 beds is fully reserved for coronavirus patients," he noted.

Aliyev added that about $2 billion were allocated to support those affected by the pandemic, while the businesses were offered tax holidays. "We also care a lot about our doctors and medical staff. Special bonuses were introduced for those treating coronavirus patients, which outweigh their base salaries by three, four or five times," the president pointed out.

The Azeri president highlighted that positive developments in the country regarding the infection spread observed for the past three weeks already made it possible to lift some lockdown measures. According to him, the World Health Organization also praised the results of efforts to counter the pandemic in Azerbaijan. "In a letter of the director general of this organization [WHO] addressed to me, the actions of the Azeri leadership were praised," Aliyev underscored. "Azerbaijan was hailed as an exemplary country or a country that provides an example to others in fighting this disaster."

Azerbaijan’s coronavirus cases reached 2,127, while 1,536 patients recovered and 28 died from the virus.

Plans to visit Russia for 75th anniversary of WWII victory

The president of Azerbaijan plans to visit Russia to celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory when the epidemiological situation allows, he told TASS.

"I was going to be in Moscow on May 9, because I received an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin," Aliyev said. "But, as you know, the festive events have been cancelled over the coronavirus."

He underscored plans to join the victory celebration, when the epidemiological situation allows. "I very much count on that," he said.

Aliyev also recalled Azerbaijan’s major contribution to the victory over Nazism. "We have always had a highly developed industry: our factories produced various weapons, so much needed for the victory," he pointed out. "Azerbaijan was a major supplier of fuel, which is why Nazi Germany sought to capture Baku. Had they succeeded, the outcome of the war would have been completely different."

At the same time, the president pointed out, Baku did not always honor Victory Day. "During the first years of independence, after a military coup brought the antinational regime of the Popular Front to power, this holiday was erased from the calendar, and the veterans were subjected to moral terror and targeted by a fierce media campaign," the president explained. "Only after Heydar Aliyev came to power, the Victory Day was restored in the holiday calendar. Since then, this holiday is a national one, justice has prevailed."

Taking care of the veterans

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all Victory Day festivities in Azerbaijan were cancelled.

"People over 65 should not go outside yet. We must take care of our veterans, because, unfortunately, there have been fewer of them with every year," Aliyev stressed.

Despite this, the state will allocate bonuses for its veterans. "This year it will be about $900," the president stated.

The president also revealed how he used to spend May 9 before.

"Usually, I meet with the veterans to lay down flowers and wreaths, to pay respects for the fallen," he said. "Every time I talk to the veterans, I charge my energy. Many of them, being over 90, even almost 100, are physically fit, but the most important thing is their moral spirit, optimism and love for life. Of course, it amazing and surprising, we can only admire that."