From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization Abdolrahim Gavahi – February 17, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: I remember we elected you Secretary General at ECO summit in Tehran last year. I suppose you have done a lot during this time. Please, I listen to you.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: Mr. President, first of all, I want to thank you for receiving me despite your intensive work schedule. I am also grateful to you for your positive attitude on my election of Secretary General of ECO.

I started my speech in English, let me continue in Persian.

Heydar Aliyev: It is always better to speak in native language.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: You are right, Mr. President.

Your Excellency, I will tell my thoughts on the activity of ECO a little bit later. First, I want to express my feelings to you as an Iranian citizen and diplomat. I feel at home here. I consider Azerbaijan my own homeland.

Let me inform you on ECO now.

Heydar Aliyev: Do you see how comfortable it is to speak in native language? I always hear our guests speaking in English. Do our Iranian visitors want to speak in English, too? Azerbaijan and Iran are friendly nations, our languages are also similar. There are a lot of Persian words in Azerbaijani. Persian also has many Turkish words. Now you want to speak in English. Is it correct?

When we were young and studied at school, people would often ask which language was better. Then we had no information on other languages. Thus, we considered Persian one of the sweetest languages. Our joint poets wrote poems in Persian. It is a language of poetry. So is Azerbaijani. Both Azerbaijan and Iran are among the most ancient lands of poetry. Firdowsi, Hafez, Saadi…I can count more. They are Persian poets. But our poets, such as Nizami also wrote in Persian. Shortly, I told you about the Persian language. Now go ahead please.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: Your Excellency, my master for 40 years was Ayatollah Muhammad Jafari, who died two years ago – may him rest in peace. He usually made his speeches in two languages – Azerbaijani and Persian. I have learnt a lot from him for 40 years. At the same time, I understand most of what I hear in Azerbaijani, since we have a lot of joint words in Azerbaijani and Persian.

Heydar Aliyev: I also understand most of words when I hear Persian.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: One of the masters of recent times who wrote in both languages was a prominent poet of the 20th century, late Shahriyar. May him rest in peace. Shahriyar wrote poems both in Azerbaijani and Persian.

Heydar Aliyev: Shahriyar is a much-loved poet in Azerbaijan. He wrote nice poems both in Azerbaijani and Persian. He is our great poet. As time goes, our peoples will understand his greatness more. Now let`s talk about our subject.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: Mr. President, I attentively read and studied your speech delivered at ECO summit. We added four important issues from your speech to ECO agenda. We are now working on their implementation.

Your Excellency, one of the issues you touched in your speech was about establishment of a transport corridor. Establishment of a North-South corridor is of great importance. We thoroughly discussed the importance of this matter in our meetings at the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and Azeravtoneqliyyat Company. Such corridor has a great perspective.

Mr. President, the second issue includes development and expansion of trade. Development of trade among ECO-member states is an important matter. We will prepare and sign a relevant document for it. We think of reducing tariffs in 2001 for developing trade relations, thus, helping to create normal conditions for implementation of your provision.

Your Excellency, the third issue from your speech is very important as well. It includes speeding up privatization in ECO member-states and developing small and middle enterprises.

Here, I had a meeting with your Trade Minister Mr. Baghirov. I told him we would conduct a seminar in Tehran on two subjects. I asked him about participation of an Azerbaijani delegation in our seminar to be dedicated to privatization and development of small and middle enterprises.

The fourth issue is the establishment of relations between ECO and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. We have discussed this issue in the ECO Council of Permanent Representatives several times; now we are approaching its solution. We also had an informal meeting with Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in Baku. We are trying to solve the matter.

Mr. President, I think of slight modification of ECO secretary. Our aim is to make the activity of the organization more effective and influential. In my opinion, we should work on this matter in order to carry out our implementable projects instead of unrealizable ones.

Mr. President, we really need your support and assistance. I reckon we can expand and develop regional economic and trade relations with your support. I thank you once again.

Heydar Aliyev: I am very pleased that you took into consideration the issues I had proposed in my speech in Tehran and carried out relevant measures for their solution. We are ready to do what we can in order to continue practical realization of the above-mentioned issues.

A North-South transport corridor is of great importance. Realization of such corridor through Azerbaijan would ease transport issues of ECO member-states in Europe and Asia. Highways and bridges must be renovated within the frames of this project. I am sure we will liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The railway running through Azerbaijan to Tabriz and other cities of Iran will become an important transport route.

I am aware that Russia is also interested in this project. Not only Russia though, there are many railways between Russia and Europe. They all could be used.

It is a good idea to cooperate on development of entrepreneurship and privatization. We have a lot of opportunities. I am pleased you met with Trade Minister Mr. Baghirov and you want to conduct a relevant seminar or meeting in Tehran. I support the idea. We have a ministry that is in charge of privatization. I can send our minister to Tehran to take part at that seminar and explain Azerbaijan`s opportunities there.

It is very important to expand the relations between ECO and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. We conveyed our opinion on these relations in Tehran. But I don’t want the two organizations to merge. Because we can lose a lot in that case. We just need to establish and develop cooperation between them.

By its composition, ECO belongs to a certain region. If two organizations merge, it will be disadvantageous for them. I suggest they need to cooperate but should not unite. Both organizations work effectively. If they continue their activity independently and cooperate with each other, it would be more beneficial.

I am pleased with Azerbaijan`s participation in ECO. I recall high-level organization of the ECO summit in Tehran. One of its results was the election of an Iranian representative Secretary General of ECO. I hope you will work effectively representing Iran and all member-states.

Abdolrahim Gavahi: Inshallah, Mr. President. I thank you. I don’t want to take your time any more.

Heydar Aliyev: I thank you, too