Statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at a press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - July 11, 1994

I am on an official visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of my dear friend and brother Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. This visit is very meaningful and important for the Republic of Azerbaijan because we are on the sacred land and have got an opportunity to visit the two holy cities. It is also important because Saudi Arabia is the first Arab country which I visit as President of the independent Azerbaijan. 

Saudi Arabia occupies a very prominent place in the Arab and Islamic world. Therefore, it is not surprising that I pay my first visit to Saudi Arabia. An official invitation of the King of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is very precious for me.

We have been feeling hospitality of our brothers every second since we arrived in this holy land. My visit has been surrounded by a friendly, brotherly environment. It was very valuable for me and our delegation to visit the holy Kaaba on the first day of our visit and fulfill our sacred duty. It is a great honor for us to visit the holy city of Mecca, touch the holy Kaaba stone and pray there. I thank my God that I could fulfill my intention. I also thank my dear brother, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for his help. We are very pleased with this pilgrimage that we completed on the first day of our visit to Saudi Arabia.

The aim of my visit is to establish relations between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia and lay the foundation for the further development of these relations. My meeting and long negotiations with my dear friend Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud have paved the way for our aim. Our negotiations were held in friendly atmosphere. I was treated with the highest level of hospitality. Most importantly, our talks were beneficial and important for establishing the relations between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. We had an exchange of views on all issues.

We share the same views regarding the prospects of our relations. We both approved the necessity of establishing and developing these relations. We also had a wide exchange of views on the situation in the Islamic world and in international arena. My dear friend Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud displayed great interest in the past and current situation of Azerbaijan. We also talked in detail about the situation in the newly independent states. In particular, I informed comprehensively about the situation in the Caucasus, the current Armenian-Azerbaijani war, Armenia`s aggression against Azerbaijan, and we held a wide discussion on it. My meetings and negotiations with the Saudi king and high officials were very important for establishing and developing friendly relations between our countries.

I attended the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Saudi Arabia, met the members of the Chamber, local businesspeople. I reckon my meeting, invitation and information on business opportunities in Azerbaijan will attract the Saudi businesspeople to Azerbaijan and contribute to the development of economic relations between the two countries.

I conducted meetings with the leaders of the international Islamic organizations headquartered in Jeddah, such as the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Organization of Islamic Union, the International Islamic Organization “Nijat”, the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Communications Organization. We exchanged views on the relations of those organizations with Azerbaijan, and I called on them to pay more attention to our country.

During the visit the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Hasan Hasanov held talks with his Saudi colleague. In accordance with the Saudi law, the foreign ministers concluded the general agreement between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. As an important document, the agreement covers cooperation in economic, scientific-technical, cultural, tourism and other fields. Since I am on an official visit to Saudi Arabia, I respect local laws and traditions and accept this document as an important intergovernmental agreement.

Regarding the outcomes of my visit, we shall issue a joint Saudi Arabia-Azerbaijan statement to reflect the prospects of the relations between the two countries. Once again, I reiterate that my visit to Saudi Arabia is extremely important for the Republic of Azerbaijan. With this trip we demonstrate the Azerbaijan is part of the Islamic world, and I am glad that we are establishing friendly and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia which occupies a prominent position in the Islamic world.

I think that both Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia will appreciate our negotiations and the results of my visit. I can say with confidence that this visit and its outcomes will be accepted by Azerbaijani public with great respect. The most important result of our meetings and negotiations was the opportunity to give Saudi Arabia get detailed information about the independent Azerbaijan, its current hard situation. As you know, Azerbaijan gained independence only two years ago. Until then Azerbaijan had been part of Russia, then of the Soviet Union for about 200 years. National independence is a historic achievement for our country. As an independent nation, Azerbaijan is part of the world community at present. Azerbaijan is a member of international organizations. Our people have full independence.

As an independent nation, Azerbaijan faces hard and, difficult challenges. One of them is the transition from the former socio-political and economic structure to the structure which prevails in most countries.  Of course, after 70 years under the communist ideology and socialist system, the Azerbaijani people face difficult problems in transition. It had led to a deep social and economic crisis in Azerbaijan. We must overcome this stage. It is impossible to switch to a new system without this transition stage. It is the same in all the newly independent states.

Another reason aggravating the situation is Armenia`s military aggression that ongoing over six years. This aggression has brought much suffer to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has been fighting bloody battles in order to protect its territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders. The independent Azerbaijan was born under these circumstances and is now taking the first steps as an independent nation.

While being here I feel that the people in Saudi Arabia and other foreign countries are poorly informed about the present situation in Azerbaijan, about the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan. Information received from channels of different states is not always unbiased. Therefore, I would like to give Saudi news agencies brief information about Azerbaijan.

As you know, Azerbaijan, predominantly a Muslim country with population of 7 million, is situated in the Caucasus. Under the Soviet Union, Islam was banned in our country for 70 years. Nevertheless, the Azerbaijanis kept their religion and passed it from generation to generation. When restoring the national traditions after gaining independence, Islam claimed its own place in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan enjoys huge economic, scientific and cultural potential. Our history and roots strongly tie Azerbaijan with the Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia. As you know, Azerbaijan was converted to Islam in the 7th century. The Minister of Hajj in Saudi Arabia, who is accompanying me, informed me that according to his researches, Azerbaijan is one of the countries where Islam was spread. Our traditions are very similar and may even be the same. The Azerbaijanis lived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina throughout centuries. At present, people of the Azerbaijani origin still reside in these cities. Such factors prove once more that the source of our cultures and moral is the same.

Azerbaijan is rich with mineral resources. The most important one is oil. The oil industry of Azerbaijan is 150 years old, it promises bright future. Azerbaijan possesses advanced industry, a wide range of agricultural opportunities, prominent scientific centers, well-known scientists. A number of universities operate in Azerbaijan. There is almost no illiterate person in our country. In spite of this enormous potential, Azerbaijan is deprived of the opportunity to build its future because of the aggression of Armenia.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are small, neighboring nations. The Armenians are Christians. The purpose of their aggression against Azerbaijan is to annex our lands. By spreading biased information various information agencies report this military aggression as a border dispute, or call both countries equally guilty. Such information is distributed deliberately, in order to harm the reputation of Azerbaijan, by the foreign mass media which supports Armenia. Another reason of this situation is because we do not provide true information about Azerbaijan abroad, including Muslim countries.

The Republic of Armenia with an area of 29,000 square kilometers and a population of 3.5-4 million occupied a part of the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan with an area 86,000 square kilometers and a population of 7 million.

Currently, 20% of the Azerbaijani territory is under the control of the armed forces of Armenia, while nearly one million Azerbaijanis have lost their homes and are living in different parts of the country as refugees. Battles between the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan take place in our territory. Armenia claims to the former Nagorno-Karabakh province of Azerbaijan and wishes to annex the province with the Armenian population. 50,000 Azerbaijani residents of Nagorno-Karabakh were forced by the Armenians to leave and have become IDPs. As other districts of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is also under the Armenian occupation.

Defending own lands cost the Azerbaijani people many martyrs. Our people still committe to defend our lands. The present situation does not mean that Armenia is stronger than Azerbaijan. Armenia is supported and assisted by several superpowers. That is why, the Armenian armed forces were able to obtain some advantage in the war. It is a temporary advantage though. Azerbaijan must maintain its sovereignty over all its territories.

The world community adherent to international principles and norms must adopt effective resolutions for ensuring the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of Azerbaijan. It was Armenia that launched war. We only protect our lands, and desire to put an end to this war by peaceful means. Therefore, we cherish our hopes in the international organizations and their decisions. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions regarding the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories by the Armenian armed forces. The resolutions strongly demand unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupants from the Azerbaijani territories. Armenia ignores these resolutions.

The CSCE and its Minsk Group mediate in the peaceful settlement of the conflict. We cherish great hopes in the CSCE, with which we closely cooperate. Several superpowers, including Russia also keep their mediation efforts to put an end to the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The involvement of the Organization of the Islamic Conference into this issue would be very beneficial, too. I repeated this idea in my meeting with the leaders of the organization. In my opinion, the Organization of the Islamic Conference can function with the CSCE in this issue.

We also expect the US efforts in stopping the war and establishing peace in the region. This issue is discussed in my correspondence with the US President Bill Clinton. I discussed this problem with the United States Secretary of State Mr. Christopher in Istanbul on June 9. We suppose that not ignoring our situation, the United States, the European countries will make their efforts for establishing peace in the region, for the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied lands, securing the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Our people are living under hard difficult socio-economic conditions because of the war. Imagine that one million out of seven in the country are refugees. In this connection, many countries provide humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan. By the order of the Saudi king, two planes full of humanitarian aid were sent to the Azerbaijani refugees on the eve of my visit to Saudi Arabia. The International Islamic Organization “Nijat” takes care of 10,000 refugees accommodated in Barda, 3,000 in Sumgayit. The Islamic Republic of Iran sponsors 100,000 displaced people, the Turkish Red Crescent - 15,000-20,000. As this aid eases our situation, I thank those countries and organizations. Yet, this aid cannot completely heal our wounds. Under these circumstances, Azerbaijan is in need of the assistance of rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and I hope they will aid us.

I would like to remind once more the principles which Azerbaijan observes. Azerbaijan is an independent state. We will protect our freedom, not allow dependence on any country again. Having refused the communist ideology and socialism, Azerbaijan will not return to that policy. As a part of the Muslim world, Azerbaijan will try to obtain a worthy place in the Muslim world. Democratic principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, in particular, freedom of conscience are and will further be guaranteed. We shall pursue the market economy, encourage entrepreneurship, private property. The Azerbaijani economy will be in close touch with the advanced economies.

For implementing the afore-mentioned principles, for developing and achieving our goals, Azerbaijan has potentials, which we shall try to effectively utilize. However, the state of war, occupation of our lands, socio-economic crisis aggravate our situation. We need support of the brotherly and friendly countries in order to overcome these problems.

We would appreciate setting up of an information and cultural center of Azerbaijan here, an Azerbaijani press office or any other organization in order to disseminate more information about our country in the Arab states, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

I hope that my visit, meetings and the present press conference create a strong bridge between our countries, and both sides will benefit from it. Another sacred visit awaits me and my delegation. Tomorrow we shall visit the holy city of Medina. Upon our return to Azerbaijan, we shall provide more information about these holy places and work for the development of our country with a new driving force.

At the end of my speech, I express my gratitude to my dear friend and brother Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for the hospitality. I wish the Saudi Arabian population all the best. Today we attended two enterprises – oil refining plant and a vegetable oil producing plant. We witnessed a high scientific and technical level in Saudi Arabia. I am confident that these opportunities facilitate Saudi Arabia`s rapid development.

Question: First of all, let me thank you for giving us detailed information. Your information already answered many questions we were going to ask you. My question is concerns your meeting with the Saudi businesspeople. You mentioned that Azerbaijan possesses rich natural resources and huge economic potentials. What kind of conditions can be created in Azerbaijan for our businesspeople?

Answer: All favorable conditions will be created for the Saudi businesspeople. For example, exploitation of oil fields. We negotiate with the Western companies on joint developments in several oil fields. However, there are still unexploited oil fields. I invite the Saudi Arabian companies to Azerbaijan for the joint exploitation of oil fields. Your country has an enormous experience in oil and gas production, oil refining. All necessary conditions will be made available for the businesspeople in other fields of industry, agriculture, trade. As we build a market economy, stimulate private property, entrepreneurship, businesspeople can make huge profits if they invest in Azerbaijan. I ask you to spread it via your newspaper.

Question: You spoke about the Armenian-Azerbaijani war, the Russian mediation. What can you say about the Russian-Armenian relations?

Answer: Armenia maintains very close relations with Russia. The Russian troops are stationed in the territory of Armenia. As you know, large Soviet troops were stationed throughout the Soviet Union, particularly along the borders of the constituent republics. After the fall of the USSR, the former Soviet troops were transferred to the Russian subordination. The newly independent states established their own armies. The Russian troops were withdrawn from some of the former Soviet countries, including Azerbaijan. Now there is not a single Russian soldier in Azerbaijan. But the Russian troops did not quit Armenia. On the contrary, their number has increased. At present Russia keeps in Armenia strong troops, with the status of military bases. This fact alone demonstrates the Armenian-Russian relations well.

Question: You informed about the document signed by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan. Does that document imply opening of embassies?

Answer: Azerbaijan was the first state among the former-Soviet Muslim countries to open an embassy in Saudi Arabia. The Azerbaijani ambassador Elman Arasli, who is present here, has been operating in your country for more than three months. I ask Mr. Ambassador to stand up so that everyone can see him. I am proud that Azerbaijan was the first state among the former-Soviet Muslim countries to open an embassy in Saudi Arabia. I hope that other newly independent Muslim states will also open their embassies here.

Saudi Arabia has also appointed an ambassador to Azerbaijan. He will present me his credentials after my return to Baku. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Turkey will work as an ambassador to Azerbaijan as well. I`d like Saudi Arabia to have an ambassador solely for Azerbaijan. As President, I will create all conditions for the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to Azerbaijan.

Question: Mr. President, as far as I know, the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was first included in the agenda of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Karachi. Next meeting of the foreign ministers of Islamic states will take place in Tunisia soon. Will Azerbaijan participate in the meeting? If yes, will Azerbaijan put forward this issue and submit any draft resolution?

Answer: Undoubtedly, Azerbaijan will be represented in any meeting organized by the Islamic countries. The meeting of foreign ministers in Tunisia will be attended by our Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov. He is also present here. I would ask your newspaper and other mass media to assist us in the discussion of this issue and adoption of a final decision in the meeting in Tunisia. We will submit our draft and proposals. But I wish all the Islamic countries to make their efforts for the implementation of those proposals.

Question: The Armenian-Azerbaijani war has been going on for several years. What kind of assistance have you received from the Islamic world all this time?

Answer: We have received some aid. Had Islamic countries supported Azerbaijan as much as non-Islamic states supported Armenia, we would have liberated our lands from the Armenian armed forces.

Question: Has any company or businessperson from Saudi Arabia made investment in Azerbaijan or decided so?

Answer: No one yet as I am informed. The purpose of my visit to Saudi Arabia is to open our doors for you. I invite all businesspeople to Azerbaijan.

I thank you all. I invite you, reporters to Azerbaijan so that you can get acquainted with Azerbaijan and spread information about our country all over the Arab and Muslim countries.