- Dear compatriots.
Year 2018 is nearing the end. It is possible to say with certainty that 2018 was a successful year for our country. Our country has developed successfully in all directions. Azerbaijan has asserted itself as a strong country in the world. Our international positions have consolidated further. This year I have made 16 foreign trips. Sixteen heads of state and government have visited our country, which shows how widespread our bilateral relations are. At the same time, Azerbaijan has been successfully operating within international organizations. We have managed to secure a worthy place in the international arena.
Our relations with neighboring countries have risen to an even higher level. This is very important for each country, including Azerbaijan. The work we are doing in the political, economic and other spheres together with our neighbors strengthens stability in the region. As for stability, I can say that tensions, risks and threats are rising in the world, but Azerbaijan is a place of stability. In 2018, our people lived in peace and stability. The main reason and source of this stability is the unity between the people and the government.
We have further strengthened our relations with the European Union. The Partnership Priorities document signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan this year is a manifestation of the high level of these relations. This document clearly states thoughts on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of our borders and shows again that the European Union adheres to the right position on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Our role in Islamic solidarity issues is growing. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation gives a high assessment to our policy in this area and we can say with full confidence that Azerbaijan has strengthened its strong role in the Muslim world. The attention, respect and sympathy we enjoy in the Muslim world shows that Azerbaijan has achieved great success in this area as well.
This year, the issue of the legal status of the Caspian Sea was also resolved. This is a historic achievement. As you know, this issue remained unresolved for years. However, it has now been resolved and Azerbaijan has made a valuable contribution to that.
We remain committed to our principled position on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Our position is fair. Our position is fully consistent with the norms and principles of international law. Nagorno-Karabakh is ancient Azerbaijani land. The whole world recognizes the territorial integrity of our country. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved only within the territorial integrity of our country. The resolutions of the UN Security Council must be fully implemented and the occupying forces must unconditionally withdraw from our lands.
I can say that Azerbaijan made very serious steps to resolve this conflict in 2018. As you know, the regime of criminal and corrupt junta that which remained in power in Armenia for 20 years has collapsed and this represents a complete failure of Armenia's aggressive policy against Azerbaijan. I can also say that our thought-out, focused and principled policy against Armenia has yielded fruit. We have isolated Armenia from all regional and international projects, and our share in the collapse of the Armenian economy is quite large. I think there is a new situation for the settlement of the conflict today. I do hope that 2019 can be a breakthrough year in this area.
Along with this, of course, I think that our strong military potential is a key factor for the resolution of the conflict. In recent years, we have significantly enhanced our military power. Today, the Azerbaijani army is among the strongest armies in the world. This year's military parade in our country shows our strength, the great potential of strong army. The Azerbaijani army has the most modern weapons and equipment, a very high combat potential, and we proved this again this year. The Azerbaijani army has carried out a successful operation in the Nakhchivan direction of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and is now in control of 11,000 hectares of land. The takeover of strategic heights enables us to exercise full control over important communications and routes passing through Armenia.
We will continue to increase our military power. We want to settle the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully, and our participation in the negotiations is a clear proof of that. However, everyone knows and should know that the military factor plays a special role for the solution of the conflict, and we will increase our military power further.
A great deal has been done for the IDPs this year. New homes and apartments for 5,800 IDP families were built and made available to them. This is a record figure in recent years. A total of 626 apartments were given to martyr families and those handicapped in the Karabakh war, and we will continue this policy next year.
Of course, all this requires a strong economy, which we do have. Today, Azerbaijan does not depend on anyone in terms of economic development. Azerbaijan's economy is independent and represents a factor that strengthens our independent policy. This year, the gross domestic product has grown, the non-oil sector has grown, industrial production has grown, and the non-oil sector has grown by more than 9 percent. Our exports grew by about 40 percent. $10 billion has been invested in the country's economy. The World Bank's latest "Doing Business" report ranks Azerbaijan 25th in the world. This shows that our reforms, transparency and major economic transformation are producing results, and the World Bank appreciates it.
We attach great importance to modern technologies. This year, our third satellite was launched into orbit. This is a great event. Azerbaijan is a member of a limited club of space-faring nations and we are strengthening our positions in this field.
This year, the Southern Gas Corridor was officially opened. In May, we celebrated this magnificent event. This is a great and historic achievement. At the same time, TANAP project was officially opened in June this year, and thus great opportunities were ushered for the completion of the Southern Gas Corridor. It is our historic achievement and the people of Azerbaijan will benefit from these projects for decades to come.
This year, we celebrated the opening of the Alat Trade Seaport. This is also a historic project. Azerbaijan is becoming a very important transport hub not only of the region but also of Eurasia. The North-South and East-West corridors pass through our territory. A very strong transport infrastructure will enable us to use our transit capabilities with great efficiency.
As you know, by my order earlier this year, year 2018 was declared a Year of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. We extensively celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic both in our country and in many foreign states. The present-day Azerbaijan is the successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Azerbaijan has never been so strong and so independent in history. Azerbaijan has never been so liberal.
This year, the presidential election was held in our country. The Azerbaijani people once again showed confidence in me and gave a high assessment to my work. Over the past 15 years, I have been working as President and serving my people with dignity. I will try to do my utmost for the further development of Azerbaijan, for the strengthening of Azerbaijan and for the prosperity of the people. I have one mission: to build a strong Azerbaijani state and serve the people with dignity.
It is the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis today. Taking this opportunity, I extend my greetings to all Azerbaijanis, to all our compatriots living in the world, and wish them every success.
Dear fellow countrymen, dear sisters and brothers.
I sincerely wish you a Happy New Year and the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis.