Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the 6th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) countries – Hafiziyeh Complex, Tehran, June 10, 2000

Mr. Chairman!

Distinguished heads of states and governments!

Ladies and gentlemen!

Let me greet all the participants of the 6th Summit – the leaders of the ECO member-countries and the representatives of a number of prominent organizations. I thank President of the Islamic Republic of Iran His Excellency Mr. Sayyid Mohammad Khatami and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the warm reception, kind attitude and hospitality to our delegation and for the conditions aimed at making the summit constructive and effective.

Your Excellency!

It is difficult to imagine the development of countries in isolation and with no mutual relations while globalization covers all the spheres of human activity, at present. Therefore, in conditions of globalization and mutual relations the following factors can play an important role in the development of the Economic Cooperation Organization: first, improvement of the role of the Economic Cooperation Organization for the development of each country; second, establishment of close and mutually beneficial relations between the Economic Cooperation Organization and other international and regional entities. Taking into account these factors, our countries ought to strive for enhancing the effectiveness of relations within the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization and deepen the cooperation with regional organizations. The developing relations of ECO with other regional organizations, including financial institutions, can only be appreciated. In particular, cooperation of ECO with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Bank of Development, the Islamic Bank of Development, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the UN Program on Drugs Control and other institutions reaffirms the growth of economic and geopolitical importance of our region. It also displays that large-scale projects are carried out by the Economic Cooperation Organization. Azerbaijan can contribute to the development of the relations of ECO with other international organizations. As a member-state, we can render our assistance in establishing mutual relations between the Economic Cooperation Organization and Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Therefore, we propose to arrange a meeting in Baku of the secretaries-general of both organizations. I reckon that such a meeting can lay the foundation of future cooperation between the two organizations.

Your Excellency! Azerbaijan is ready to take part in strengthening mutual cooperation among the ECO member-states and to participate in important economic, transportation, commercial, energy, and telecommunication projects carried out within the ECO framework.

Azerbaijan closely cooperates with 51 member-states of the Economic Cooperation Organization in the field of trade and investment. Iran and Turkey, which are members of the Organization, are the main trade partners of Azerbaijan. Taking into account the further development of cooperation in this field, we want the gradual removal of the trade barriers among the member-states and large-scale liberalization of economy. We think that stimulation of mutual investments among the member-states is necessary. On behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I can state that all the necessary steps have been taken for the activity of foreign investors in our country.

The formation of legal framework of economic reforms, liberalization and privatization of the economy create favorable conditions for the attraction of foreign capital to our country. We invite all the investors from the ECO region to take an active part in the projects in various sectors of the Azerbaijani economy.

At the same time, we think that the elaboration of inter-state and regional programs within the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization is expedient. It can contribute to the expansion of economic relations and development of mutually beneficial cooperation in the region. The development of the Caspian oil deposits is of great importance for Azerbaijan. Today I am confident to say that the development of the energy resources in our region has become an irreversible process. Simultaneously, the internationalization of capital and production is under way in the example of energy sector of Azerbaijan. The participation of a number of well-known foreign companies in large-scale projects on the processing of energy resources and their transportation to the world market are obvious proofs of my words. Launching the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline (the northern route) in 1997 and the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline (the western route) in 1999 was of great importance for our country and for all the states of our region. The implementation of the Baku-Ceyhan main export oil pipeline project will play an indispensable role in the economic development of our countries and in their integration into the global economic system.

Yet I think that there is a need to set alternative ways for processing the Caspian oil and gas reserves and their transportation to the world market. At present, the littoral states (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran) carry out significant work in the development of the Caspian oil and gas resources.

However, we think that the littoral states should define the legal status of the Caspian Sea for more efficient use of the energy resources of the region. Azerbaijan is ready to conduct discussions and take necessary steps for the resolution of this problem. It will further strengthen the economic integration among the regional countries.

Mr. Chairman! Given the real and potential opportunities, the ECO member-states should focus attention more on the development of extensive transport networks in the region by exporting their products and acting as transit countries. The restoration of the Great Silk Road and the development of TRACECA are of historic importance for the ECO region. An international conference on the restoration of the Silk Road attended by 32 states and 13 international organizations took place in Baku in September 1998. The Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for the Development of TRACECA was signed by 12 states at the conference. Six of them are members of the Economic Cooperation Organization. The legal documents adopted at the conference have been effective; the establishment of the Secretariat of TRACECA is in process and will be operational very soon.

In my opinion, active involvement of Iran, which is one of the largest countries of the region, in the program on the restoration of the historical Silk Road connecting Europe and Asia is of great importance. We are ready to provide any support to our neighboring nation in this issue. The implementation of such a large-scale project creates necessary grounds for a more efficient use of the natural resources and economic potential of the countries located across the transport corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia and strengthens the process of integration of these countries into the global economic system. I can confidently stress that the historic Silk Road, which has encouraged mutual enrichment of economy, culture, science and civilizations for centuries, will justify the hopes cherished on it. The realization of this project will lead to the development of commercial economic and cultural relations and catalyze the integration processes. All the interested nations ought to take part in the implementation of the intended program as the socio-economic development of our countries greatly depends on the harmonic operation of the transport sector.

Mr. Chairman! Dear participants! At the beginning of the new millennium, the relations between some countries and the domestic situation in some states are going through a complicated period. In this new context, we ought to take real steps to ensure peace, confidence, stability, and security in the world and in the region. In this respect, we have put forward an initiative on signing a pact for ensuring peace and stability in the Southern Caucasus. Such a peace pact may give a strong impetus to strengthening peace and stability in the region.

We think that the presence of Iran in this issue is necessary, because Iran plays a crucial role in this region. This issue is of great importance for Azerbaijan. As you know, Azerbaijan faced serious political and economic tremors in the first years of its independence. This, first of all, was associated with the military aggression of the neighboring Armenia. As a result, 20 percent of our territories were occupied by the Armenian armed forces, over one million Azerbaijanis were driven out of their homes by force and have become refugees in their own country. All this factors had a negative impact on the pace of legal and economic reforms in our country.

Azerbaijan intends to achieve peace and cooperation with Armenia. However, this cooperation can be possible when the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is restored and the refugees return home. Azerbaijan is ready to grant the Mountainous Garabagh a high status of self-governance within Azerbaijan. Our position is reflected in the three well-known principles, which are the basis for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, adopted in the 1996 in Lisbon Summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The joint efforts of the world countries must make Armenia understand that there is no alternative for the peaceful solution of the conflict based on mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is also necessary to take into account that extensive opportunities for collaboration will emerge if a lasting peace is achieved. In this regard, we cherish our hopes in the assistance of the heads of the member-states of the Economic Cooperation Organization.

Finally, I would like to note that this meeting will set targets for the development of the region in the nearest future and create conditions for the consistent development of the Economic Cooperation Organization in all respects. Thank you for your attention.