Heydar Aliyev - although it took much time, I think works done during this visit are worthy. As you know, from April 21, the day of departure from Baku, an intensive work has been conducted during the visit. It was connected to promoting the interests of Azerbaijan taking every opportunity at the first hand. The first part of the visit was the signature of the agreement on cooperation and partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union. We signed this agreement. The ceremony was a great event.
As you know, the foreign ministries of the EU countries were also present there. It was due to signing of the agreement namely with Azerbaijan and other Caucasian republics, Georgia and Armenia with EU. I reiterate that it is an historic event. I think signing of this agreement strengthens positions of Azerbaijan as an independent nation, as well as manifestation of steps in the internal, socio-political life, economy and other spheres of our country pertinent to the European democracy. As you remember, representatives and members of the EU also noted this in their speeches. I highly appreciate this. I think it is a great event in the life of Azerbaijan. It is a valuable step for our cooperation with the EU. There is no doubt that it will have its positive consequences.
Along this, we held several meetings in Luxembourg. We conducted negotiations about the current situation and future prospects of our cooperation with the chairman of the economic commission of the EU Mr. Jacques Santer and high commissar Mr. Van-Den Brook. It is very important since these steps represent multi-sided cooperation with the EU. We especially held discussions on our economic cooperation, steps in the TACIS, TRACECA programs of EU, humanitarian assistance program and their implementation with Jacques Santer and Van-Den Brook. It is also of great importance. I think, all this, as a whole, demonstrates advancement of cooperation between Azerbaijan and European Union.
I was in the headquarters of NATO in Brussels and met the Secretary General of NATO. I was there in May 1994 and signed NATO`s “Partnership for peace” program. We continued our cooperation after this. I submitted them a document of our country to confirm this cooperation.
I think our negotiations with NATO’s Secretary General were productive and important. I shared my ideas with him on protection of the independence of Azerbaijan. We exchanged views. It is also very important for us.
Reporter: Mr. President, many people understand that our relations with NATO derive from a certain desire. Close cooperation has been established between NATO and Azerbaijan. But these are likely to be first attempts. A basis for cooperation is founded.
Heydar Aliyev: Yes, a basis for cooperation is established. Because a call of NATO, “Partnership for peace” announced in 1994, is a call for peace. A content and sense of our negotiations with the Secretary General of NATO is that the joining of Azerbaijan to this program of NATO and cooperation with it aim to strengthen peace in our region more. These are negotiations targeted at promotion of peace. I think it must be understood like this. Undoubtedly, we will continue our cooperation in this direction.
I also held bilateral meetings in Luxembourg and Brussels. We had very important and interesting negotiations with Mr. Kinkel, German foreign minister. My meeting with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian was much needed. It was at the initiative both of Armenia and Azerbaijan. For the first time we made a joint statement as a result of direct negotiations of the two presidents of the conflicting countries. It is a very important statement. It is important since we stated that the parties will continue to maintain the ceasefire. As you know, the second year of the ceasefire regime comes to an end on May 12. It is very important that we declare the necessity to follow the ceasefire, and be confident that Armenia will also follow it. Undoubtedly, Armenia is very concerned and wants to be sure whether we abide by this agreement or not.
Second, we declared that bilateral negotiations will continue and the only way to resolve this issue is peaceful settlement. It is also very important. We decided to continue these negotiations both in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and directly. As you know, there is a direct negotiation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and it will go on.
Then we decided that prisoners of war must be freed by both sides. They must be exchanged not by proportion of their numbers, but due to principle of “all to all”. It is also very important. I think that we need this meeting and statement in this period. This once again proves that in spite of hard blows, Azerbaijan conducts policy of peace, follows a path of peace and wants to resolve the issue peacefully.
I met Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in Brussels. This meeting is new manifestation of friendly relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan. I visited Georgia in March and conducted very important negotiations and signed valuable agreements. We reconsidered them again. We held negotiations not only on Georgian-Azerbaijani relations, but also on global problems and on the problems of CIS. I think they are of paramount importance.
Obviously, there were other meetings in Brussels too. As you know, I visited trade centre of Brussels and also US trade centre there. I held other meetings. All of them are very important. I just dwelled on some points.
I was on an official visit to Norway. The visit was at the invitation of the Norwegian Prime Minister Mrs. Brundtland. I had received the invitation long time ago, but planned this time so that it coincides with my visit to the Western Europe to save my time. I consider this visit successful too.
Our cooperation with Norway is very useful. I can say that as a result of my negotiations, meetings during the visit to Norway, I came to a conclusion that this cooperation is so important that in Azerbaijan many people probably have no idea about this. Perhaps our public is not so aware of importance of this cooperation for today and future. Probably after your information on these meetings and negotiations they will understand how important it is. I would like to specially point it out.
It was the first time that agreements were signed between Norway and Azerbaijan. We signed a declaration on cooperation between Norway and Azerbaijan with Mrs. Brundtland. It is a very important declaration. Other agreements were also signed. If relations between Norway and Azerbaijan were at the economic level so far, now they are at the state level. If our cooperation was at the level of several companies of the two countries until this time, now it is at the state level. It is very important.
As you know, Norway is a country that is economically advanced and gained many achievements basing its economy on principles of democracy. One of characteristics of Norway is that the principle of the market economy is closely connected to social welfare of the population. It is different from other European countries. Social concerns are carefully treated here and there are many achievements. That is why, I would like to remark the importance of this experience while dealing with social problems of the population of our republic.
Undoubtedly, Norway`s experience in the field of oil and gas industry is very interesting. In the city of Stavanger, at 240 km distance from Stavanger, I was surprised at what I saw in the platform in the middle of the sea. This is very important. Achievements gained during 25-30 years in extraction of oil and gas from depth of the sea and their use is worthy.
Reporter: Mr. President, when in Norway, you called that platform a wonder. Azerbaijani President, a man closely connected with an oil industry calls this a wonder. What is the reason that it is called a wonder?
Heydar Aliyev: First, this platform is situated at the depth of water. Second, everything has been created on this platform. Third, high technology has been installed there and everything is managed by electronics. For example, imagine that only 5l people work in a platform where six billion cubic meters of gas is produced per year. You know, it is a great achievement.
Reporter: So, there are many things to learn.
Heydar Aliyev: Yes, there are. Now platforms, which we are going to build according to the agreements that we signed, will be like them. Maybe, we have to repeat them, build like them. All the companies building those platforms, along with “Statoil”, reside in Norway. I met with them. These platforms are built not only by oil companies. They are products of joint work of a number of companies. This is a complex integration. That is why it is very interesting for me, and it is a wonder.
There has been a time when we have created a wonder, too. For example, 20-30 years ago, “Oil Rocks” were also called a wonder. They have surpassed the achievements of “Oil Rocks” long time ago. Not only “Oil Rocks”. We have built these platforms. But we have not reached that level yet. I saw such platforms in the Mexican Gulf 15 years ago. But this is more advanced than them. That is why it is a wonder.
We may create a wonder in the Caspian Sea better than this. But today, we just have to profit from this experience. That is why our meetings in Norway are very important. My meetings with the Prime Minister, the chairman of the Parliament, the king, as well as with the ministers were interesting, productive and important. I had also meetings with a number of companies in Stavanger apart from Oslo. Yesterday I had a comprehensive talk with businessmen and made a speech before them. I informed them about economic opportunities in Azerbaijan, and invited them to invest here. I felt their great interest to Azerbaijan. It means that there are great opportunities and prospects for cooperation between Azerbaijan and Norway.
In general, I liked the country. It has a large territory, but little population. At the same time, it is a country with poor past, but rich present. Hence, it is very interesting to pass to prosperity from poverty, develop democracy and appropriate high technology in a short period. Just imagine that there are nearly 800 hydropower plants there. The electricity consumed in the country is produced by these plants. Undoubtedly, we do not have so many rivers and opportunities to build so many power plants. We want to build “Yenikand” hydropower plant on the Kura river. We took a loan from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. The Norwegian companies could help us in the construction of the plant. They are interested in such cooperation. I want to say that we may cooperate with them in economic and inter-nations and states levels. It would be very important for us. One of the positive results of my visit and meetings is that the achievements gained by Azerbaijan are appreciated in the advanced countries like Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway. In all the speeches, for example in the speeches by Mrs. Brundtland or Jacques Santer or others, their attitude towards our country, building of democratic state and promotion of democracy were pointed out. Our achievements, potential opportunities in the sphere of economy attract them, and they highly appreciate it. This is a good basis for advancement of relations between EU, democratic nations of Europe and Azerbaijan.
In general, I am very pleased with this visit and meetings. I think that enough work has been done to strengthen the position of Azerbaijan at the global scale, especially at the European level and all this can contribute to make our nation stronger. Thank you.