From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - October 27, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Welcome to Azerbaijan. I am informed that you have been here for a few days. We appreciate it. As a young independent state, Azerbaijan strives to be more recognized. It is a long process. Some countries, after gaining independence, may think the whole world will recognize them. But we dont think so.

Azerbaijan has been independent for 9 years. I can say we have done much so Azerbaijan takes a worthy place in the world community, Thus, our country, its past, modern life, rich culture, science, and democratic state-building process become well-known.

As the President of Azerbaijan, I am glad for a visit of every guest. It is true that some guests see only negative points in Azerbaijan, and do not appreciate positive things. They try to create a negative image on Azerbaijan in their countries. But they are minority.

Every country has negative features. It would be unjust to claim that some do not have. But it is always necessary to measure both positive and negative features. I do not protest visit of biased people to Azerbaijan. Of course, most visitors gain positive impressions about Azerbaijan; it helps our country become more famous.

Your visit is not a tourist trip. Your visit is political and of great significance for us. Thus, I don`t want to compare your visits with others.

Azerbaijan is establishing a democratic state and democratic institutions. It is our way. No one forced us to pursue this way. We once lived in the Soviet time. At that time people were not asked if they wanted that system or not. The Bolsheviks came to power as a result of the 1917 October revolution. They founded a new state on the remnants of the former Russian empire. There were a lot of forces which fought against the Bolsheviks. But they lost and the new system won. We were born and lived in that regime.

We had no option then. We lived in that regime and got used to it. We were not interested in other regimes and propaganda on them. Yet we were concerned because we did not have an independent state. Naturally, we changed the regime after we became independent. What direction should we pursue? There are a lot of ways in the world. But we chose democracy, which is not an easy way. Declaring democracy in a country does not mean democracy is applied and spread across that country.

Neither socio-political process, nor democratic principles is implemented easily. We also learn it. Because it is not a familiar system to us. On the other hand, we apply it. Application is always gradual, it can not happen all at once. Otherwise, it would be unnatural. We have some achievements on this way. By pursuing this way, we have reached a new stage, which is parliamentary elections.

As an independent state, Azerbaijan had the first democratic parliamentary elections in 1995. We adopted our first independent and democratic Constitution; we have been applying democratic principles for the last five years. All branches of the power in Azerbaijan have held their positions. Milli Majlis adopted up to 900 laws during the recent five years. Most of them were adopted by the initiative of the Azerbaijani President.

In the past we lived under the Soviet laws. The adoption of new laws based on democratic principles is one of the main tasks. We have done a lot in this field.

Adoption of a law requires a global experience, knowledge, and wisdom. It is not so hard. But implementation of a law is much harder. It was not so difficult to achieve the independence of Azerbaijan. As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, its 15 constituent republics declared their independence.

Russia demonstrated the first example. It was the core of the Soviet Union. The USSR was controlled by Russia. Therefore, when the Soviet Union was called an empire, it implied to the Russian empire. However, Russia declared its independence and sovereignty earlier than other constituent republics did. It opened a new way for other nations.

I want to note that independence was not achieved with much difficulty. But maintaining, protecting, and developing independence are much harder than achieving it. I consider we have done much in this field and established a basis for more work to be done in future.

We are preparing for the second parliamentary elections during the period of independence. As I understand, the purpose of your visit is to learn the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan. I thank you for your visit. You see our country as it is. I consider, your impressions, recommendations, advices, and experience will help successful organization of the parliamentary elections on November 5. I welcome you once again.

Dadli Smith: Mr. President, first, let me thank you for spending your precious time by accepting us. I know that as the head of the state, you have an intensive schedule and the number of people who want to see you is very high.

Recently I met an old acquaintance of mine. He asked me what I was doing here. I answered him that I was on a trip to Azerbaijan. I asked him the same question. He said he wanted to see the president. I told him we would meet the president the next day.

Mr. President, you are right, our visit has two aims. First, we, the members of the delegation are honored members of the Council of Europe. We have come to your country to give our recommendations for Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe and to encourage you in this action.

The second aim of our visit is to establish close ties with the Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan. I am pleased to say that we could create constructive relations of cooperation with it. We are hopeful our directions and recommendations we gave at our meetings will help it successfully organize the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Mr. President, we visited your country five weeks ago. We desired to meet you then. But you were on the trip and you were meeting the US President Mr. Bill Clinton while we were staying in Baku. As you see, we have returned. We are glad we got an opportunity to meet you this time. I want to say that though we are about to leave for our countries, we will come back to Azerbaijan before November 5 and participate in the elections as observers.

As representatives of countries which gained their independence centuries ago and have lived freely ever since, sometimes it was hard for us to understand how a country that gained its freedom from a totalitarian regime was creating its life, what was being done here. For representatives who had never lived in totalitarian regime and had had no similar experience, it is not so easy to understand difficulty of achieving successes and completing tasks.

We, the people who have devoted their lives to politics and polity, understand well that the road to democracy is not easy. It is a tough way with huge difficulties.

I want to note that if we attempt to compare Azerbaijan to the developed countries of the world, without considering objective difficulties your country faces, we will be wrong. We were pleased to see the achievements and successes Azerbaijan has attained since it gained its independence. Our two visits to your country reconfirmed our impressions on these achievements of Azerbaijan.

When I was in London a week ago, I got acquainted with an information bulleting on your region, including Azerbaijan and Georgia. It impressed me positively. There was information about the events in Afghanistan, too. The part of bulletin about Azerbaijan states that there is big progress and people are optimistic towards future in the country established on the ruins of the Soviet time.

Therefore, we support the idea on Azerbaijan`s full membership of the Council of Europe. I think admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe opens wide opportunities for your country, and it is important for Europe and the world as well.

I want to note that we represent different political parties in our countries. For example, I belong to the Conservative Party. The gentleman sitting on my left represents the German socialists, this lady is liberal-democrat, and the gentleman on my right is Christian-democrat. But we all believe in one thing in the world - freedom. If we can give any support and help for freedom, then we hold the same position on struggle for freedom. But during our visit to Azerbaijan we are politically neutral, that is we don`t support any political party.

Mr. President, speaking as politically neutral people, we wish the parliamentary elections to be successful. We want these elections to be successful elections for Azerbaijan.

We are hopeful that these elections will contribute to Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe. So we are going to continue our cooperation with you more closely in future.

Mr. President, we thank you once again for spending time for a meeting with us today.

Heydar Aliyev: Honorable Mr. Smith, I thank you for your words. I appreciate your neutrality. I am coincident that you can analyze and evaluate the situation in Azerbaijan objectively. It is enough for us. Why do I say so? Unfortunately, we sometimes face malicious opinions. We have heard so many malicious opinions that we appreciate any objective, neutral position.

As the bulletin you read in London says that it is a big success to establish a democratic state and achieve some progress in ruins of the totalitarian regime.

I briefly told you about the history of the Soviet regime. People were forced to accept that regime. People did not see any real democracy, even though we considered the soviet regime was democratic. It is very difficult to adapt present democracy as it was hard to adjust that regime back then. The mental transformation of people is under way now. The main thing is that this process is peacefully heading to the direction we want. It is necessary to explain it to people and switch them from old mentality to new outlook. We are doing it.

You are right by saying that we can not compare developed countries which have been demoractic for centuries with emerging democracies. However, some internal forces in our country claim that Azerbaijan must be as democratic as the United Kingdom, France, the USA are. Those forces actually do not need real democracy. They just continue their struggle under this slogan. However, it is not a healthy rivalry. We have such forces in our country. Morover, some external forces, circles, and centers also demand Azerbaijan be as democratic as European and American countries, and otherwise they state negative opinions on Azerbaijan.

There was a dialectic concept in former Soviet science. It is not Soviet philosophy, but ancient human philosophy. Any country has pursued a specific way and achieved a definite stage. It is impossible to find very similar people in the world except twins. However, even twins can differ. Similarly, it is impossible to find countries of same size, same features in the world. These are objective features. Western people who do not consider the realities of Azerbaijan, history and mentality of our people claim it must be so in Azerbaijan, too.

But there are so many people in Azerbaijan, who have never left their villages, have never seen any other places. They want to teach us, including me democracy now. Thanks to God, I have seen the entire world. There are few countries I have not seen. I repeat, people who have not seen many things, try to teach me democracy. We meet such paradoxes. One of their reasons is malicious attitude of some foreign circles towards Azerbaijan.

You say as honored members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, you are engaged in Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe. The admission process has lasted long for us. A decision was adopted a year ago on admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe at the same time. It is a good idea. Because the Council of Europe can take a new step for settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

As you know, we want to stop the conflict. 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territories was occupied by the Armenian armed forces. One million out of the eight-million population of Azerbaijan live in tents as refugees. We want to solve the problem peacefully. The solution of the conflict must include restoration of the territorial integrity of Azebaijan, withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from our occupied lands, and return of one million refugees to their homes. Thus by using each possible means, we want to solve the problem.

When this issue was being discussed in some commissions of the Council of Europe, there was no protest against Armenia, but there were some against Azerbaijan. It hurts us. No one can claim that Armenia has more democracy than Azerbaijan does.

Violation of human rights in Azerbaijan is sometimes discussed. Every country has such cases. So does Azerbaijan, I don`t exclude it. However, Armenia has violated rights of one million Azerbaijanis. Therefore, claims of people, who do not see or do not want to see violation of rights of one million people, about violation of rights of some prisoners in Azerbaijn hurt us. I state that we witness double standards by some forces towards Azerbaijan. And they are wrong.

We want to be admitted to the Council of Europe. But we perceive it will put more obligations on our shoulders. I believe Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe is very important for the Council of Europe, too. Because rejection of a nation, which is situated in the intersection of Asia and Europe, which has a culture combining Eastern and Western cultures, which reflects universal values along its national values, will not benefit the Council of Europe. We spend much time for struggle against those malicious forces. We see so much offensiveness that we appreciate such objective people like you.

You mentioned that it is your second visit during the preparation for elections and you witness the realities of our country. Of course, this process can not be perfect. If someone claims everything is ideal in his/her country, s/he is wrong.

We do our best to organize democratic parliamentary elections in accordance with international standards in Azerbaijan on November 5. We do our best and we will do it in the days to come.

I hope you will visit Azerbaijan again, observe the election campaign and help us with your objective thoughts. I said what I wanted, though it took much time. Thank you.

Translated from "Azerbaycan" (newspaper), October 28, 2000.