From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of the Belgian-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary friendship group of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Belgium – November 24, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Dear guests! Our Belgian friends! Welcome to Azerbaijan. Your visit to Azerbaijan is a new step for developing the relations between Belgium and Azerbaijan. I am very pleased with it. I know you have already had a number of meetings. It is very good that you have met with people displaced as a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and with some ministers. It is very important.

You have apparently conducted meetings in the Azerbaijani parliament. I consider your meetings with our ministers important. You have probably got some impressions on the current realities of Azerbaijan. I hope you will deliver your impressions to the Belgian parliament and public so that Azerbaijan is better recognized in Belgium.

Please, I am listening to you.

Mariam Kachar (head of the Belgian-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary friendship group): Mr. President, thank you for receiving us. This is the first meeting of the Belgian and Azerbaijani parliamentary groups. The Belgian-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary friendship group includes 17 MPs.

Mr. President, as you know, the Belgian Parliament comprises 221 members, 17 of which are the members of the Belgian-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary friendship group. We think Azerbaijan is an important country for Belgium, as well as for the whole Europe. The geographical-political position of Azerbaijan, its location at crossroads of cultures and histories increases its significance. Azerbaijan is also the entry from Europe to Asia.

Mr. President, as you are aware, during our stay here we met with IDPs and refugees who have lost their homelands. Of course, their situation is miserable. It is also terrible that Nagorno Karabakh was occupied by the Armenian aggressors. We hope the world community will increase its efforts and resolve the problem.

At the same time, I`d like to note that personal relationships play a big role in solution of such conflicts. We are pleased that currently you conduct bilateral meetings with the Armenian president now. Sometimes such informal meetings can substitute conferences and summits.

Mr. President, one of the key goals of our mission is to meet not only with MPs, but with representatives of numerous sections of the people and set relations with them, as well. It may be, somehow, called as a parliamentary-diplomatic mission. We are on a visit of public diplomacy and try to deliver you information about our country and disseminate certain information about your country in Belgium.

Mr. President, I thank you for having time to receive us today. I`d like to mention that the Azerbaijani ambassador to Belgium helped us a lot realize this visit. We came here thanks to his assistance.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I absolutely agree with your thoughts and suggestions. You said you wanted to visit and get acquianted with Azerbaijan. You expressed your thoughts on Azerbaijan`s geostrategic and other importance in this region. Unfortunately, in Europe there has been almost no information on or interest to Azerbaijan until recently. Your words about the worldwide importance of Azerbaijan, which is situated at crossroads of cultures, are true. The truth about Azerbaijan should reach every country. Then, interest to Azerbaijan and to establishing relations with us will increase.

You have come to get acquianted with Azerbaijan and help us get acquianted with Belgium. Belgium is a famous country situated in the center of Europe. It has great features. There are a few communities in Belgium. Those communities have their own parliaments, while there is a federal parliament, too. There is no conflict. Each community is able to use its own language. The economy and culture are developing. It is not surprising that the headquarters of the most significant organizations of Europe, such as NATO and the European Union are located at Belgium.

I have been to Belgium several times. I invited the former Belgian Prime Minister to visit Azerbaijan and he did. I don`t know what he is doing now.

Mariam Kachar: Do you mean Mr. Dehaene?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, I do.

Every time when I visited Belgium I met with the Prime Minister. But those were not state visits. They were related to NATO or the EU. I invited him to Azerbaijan. He accepted my invitation and paid a visit to Azerbaijan. He invited me to pay a state visit to Belgium, too. Unfortunately, I could not do it. There is a good relationship between the authorities of our countries. But this kind of relationship must emerge between the peoples, too. You mentioned public diplomacy here. Naturally, it is one of the most important issues.

I feel you are informed about the current situation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and about my direct meetings with the Armenian president Kocharyan. You suggest we can achieve better results this way. I also think so. Otherwise, I would not agree with direct contact. However, the meetings of two presidents and with participation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, the USA and France have not yielded any expected result yet.

You are a lucky nation. The wellbeing is high and people live comfortably. There is no war or conflict over there. I guess you have ten million people. We have a big population, too. Eight million people live in Azerbaijan. But we have a lot of problems.

Of course, we can`t claim that we must be like Belgium. Belgium has not developed within short time. It has great historical traditions. Especially since the Second World War many positive processes have developed there. But Azerbaijan became independent just ten years ago. When declaring independence we were at war with Armenia. The internal political situation was tense. The economic, political, and social system used in your country in the last decades and centuries were to be corrected here. Because we lived in a socialistic country for 70 years. As you know, its order was totally different from your country`s.

When we were establishing our state after gaining independence we declared that our way is democracy and market economy as stated in our Constitution. Political pluralism, freedom of conscience and languages...All these are included in our Constitution. But it is impossible to implement all these principles and reach your level even within ten years. Unfortunately, some people in European countries assume that our democracy must reach the level of democracy of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, or France. Naturally, this idea is wrong. Some oppositioners in Azerbaijan, who don`t perceive democracy that much, demand that we must have the level of democracy as in Belgium or in the United States. It took the USA two hundred years to reach this level of democracy. We can`t reach it within ten years. Especially because we have external and internal problems.

In order to advance in these processes, close relations and cooperation with Belgium and with other European countries are important for us. As you know, Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe at the beginning of this year. It is very good. But we passed a big and difficult test, since hard conditions had been put in front of us. We passed the test and fulfilled the conditions. I think this also creates a favorable condition for our development and the development of democracy.

Shortly, both we and you realize that your visit to Azerbaijan or possible visits of Azerbaijani MPs to Belgium benefit the relations between our countries and the development of Azerbaijan.

You noted 17 MPs out of 200 are members of the Belgian-Azerbaijani friendship group. They are our close friends. We should use this opportunity, too.

Once again I thank you for your visit. I hope your visit is a remarkable event for developing the Belgian-Azerbaijani relations not only between our parliaments, but in other spheres, as well.

I am finishing my speech. But I would like to clarify something. You said you are of Turkish origin. I noticed your name is Mariam Kachar. Do you know where the last name Kachar comes from?

Mariam Kachar: From Karabakh, Azerbaijan, I have heard. Is it true?

Heydar Aliyev: Its origin comes from Karabakh. But the Qajar dynasty reigned over Iran for a long time. Agha Muḥammad Shah Qajar...There is a book about the Qajar dynasty. Some people in Azerbaijan belong to that dynasty. One of them is an active member of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. He wrote a prominent book on the Qajar dynasty. The book contains a number of pictures, as well. Their origin comes from Karabakh. You are right. Therefore, you should make more efforts for resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Mariam Kachar: Mr. President, thank you for your explanation. To be honest, you charge me with a hard task due to my name. I think it is a very hard task. At the same time, I feel proud I originate from Azerbaijan. Perhaps that`s why I am not indifferent to these matters. I want to say to you that the Turkish people are not indifferent to this problem and attach a big importance to it. I`ll do my best to justify the mission put on my shoulders.

Mr. President, Belgium was established in 1831. Belgium has been developing for about 200 years. Azerbaijan, however, is a young democratic nation. For a rapid development you will need assistance of foreign countries. I guess their experience will be important for you. I and my colleagues sitting next to me Mr. Jean Remaince and Mr. Louis Siquet will assist you in this field. We would like you to benefit from our advanced experience, while we learn your ancient culture.

Heydar Aliyev: I absolutely agree with this idea.

(President Heydar Aliyev shows the guest a picture from the book "The Qajars" by academician Chingiz Qajar)

This is the picture of your forefather.

Mariam Kachar: Thank you very much. You honored me.

Heydar Aliyev: This is a great book. These people are your ancestors. Get acquianted with academician Chingiz Qajar if you have time. He wrote this book and sent it to me a month ago. I present it to you. You can look through it and meet its author.

Mariam Kachar: I guess Chingiz Qajar already contacted me and intends to present his book to me. If this copy is for the president, you should keep it. I will be delivered another copy later.

Heydar Aliyev: So you have already contacted him. But I can give you the book.

Mariam Kachar: It would be an honor for me

Brief essays


General historical background

Azerbaijan - Europe‎

Historical backgrounds

Azerbaijan - Europe