Speech of President of the Azerbaijan Republic, Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with our fellow countrymen living in Great Britain - London, 22 July, 1998

Dear fellow countrymen, friends!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is three days since I am in London. We held numerous meetings here. Today, I can already state that my official visit to the United Kingdom is passing successfully. Our meetings, talks and discussions held yesterday with Her Majesty Queen, the Prime Minister, as well as the documents signed provided a good foundation for further development of contacts between Great Britain and Azerbaijan. Both the British side and we stick to a single opinion that a new stage has opened for the development of these contacts. It is very important for Azerbaijan, for our young independent state.

You know that to strengthen independence in the world, make it inviolable, perpetuate it, and do it steadfast we should show the world community what Azerbaijan represents in itself today and what kind of country it will be in the future, because Azerbaijan, being for two centuries within the structure of tsarist Russia and then the Soviet Union, was not acknowledged as a country, state, no matter how it is well-known for its oil, culture, music and scientists.

When in 1918, a democratic republic was established in Azerbaijan for the first time, the world was quite different. And the attempts of that government to get Azerbaijan to be well-known in the world were symbolic in their character. At that time, some countries recognized the independence of Azerbaijan, but nothing followed afterwards. And it is natural, because those years were very hard and difficult.

Therefore, I repeat that whatever country Azerbaijan is for us, we, Azerbaijanis having such an ancient culture, music, poets, writers, artists and historical-architectural memorials could not achieve to get recognized throughout the world. It was impossible to do within those frames. On the other hand, there was not a sufficient number of our fellow countrymen from Azerbaijan, our representatives who would have taken definite posts, possessed political and economic opportunities in other countries of the world, in particular, in Europe, America, i.e. in the countries regulating the world policy. Therefore, after Azerbaijan gained state independence, along with other objectives, our primary task is to popularize Azerbaijan day after day and month after month in order to make it recognized, and show today`s Azerbaijan to foreign countries, particularly, to highly developed states of the world having influence on the world policy, economy, as well as prevent propaganda against our republic. I repeat, it is our primary objective along with other assigned tasks.

To fulfill this task I paid visits to a number of countries within the last five years where I held negotiations. Very important documents of special significance - treaties and agreements were concluded between Azerbaijan and some other countries. Hence, Azerbaijan is already well-known, the interest in our country grows day by day, and special significance of Azerbaijan is now understood in dozens of countries.

The work I accomplished these days pursues just this aim. Of course, I have arrived here not for the sake of Azerbaijan`s popularization, not to get it to be well-known, but aiming at the development of cooperation of our country with Great Britain in all the areas, and I have been engaged with this work for already three days. I repeat, this work is ongoing successfully. I am satisfied with all the meetings I held, negotiations and concluded agreements, as well as the documents signed.

You are representatives of Azerbaijanis living here, in Great Britain. Azerbaijanis live in many countries of the world. Since 1993, I have been the President of the Azerbaijan Republic and I constantly mention that one of the problems of Azerbaijanis living in different countries is that our fellow countrymen cannot adjust close links with each other, cannot unite for the sake of allegiance to common Azerbaijan.

The biggest problem of Azerbaijan in the world-scale is that on the one hand, we have a neighbour always bringing troubles to our country - it is Armenia that in the past, as well as now hankers after Azerbaijani lands, Armenia that wants to conquer these lands. The military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been going on for ten years already. On the other hand, Armenia has, one might say, very powerful diaspora in most countries of the world, in particular, in highly developed countries. We undertake different measures in our republic to popularize Azerbaijan, to make it well-known by everyone. But Armenia does not need it. Armenians living in America, England, France and other countries, as well as armenian diaspora do it for Armenia. In terms of quantity, Armenians are prevalent in those countries. They created great opportunities for themselves while living in those countries, took up positions and possess large wealth. Making use of all these opportunities, these states raise among other countries the small Republic of Armenia being our neighbour, which is constantly inclined to commit aggression against our country, occupy our lands.

Imagine that starting from 1988, Armenia committed aggression against Azerbaijan, but Azerbaijanis were accused in the majority of those countries that they do not ostensibly provide Armenians with the opportunity to live in Nagorno-Karabakh, hurt and kill them.

But in fact, it is not true. The truth is that Armenians living in Azerbaijan were always wealthy people. The material and living conditions of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh were better than the conditions of citizens living in other parts of Azerbaijan. But nevertheless, this conflict was started by Armenians, Armenia. They started this conflict with the attempt to cut off Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and annex it to Armenia. However, the Armenian propaganda went in different direction. It rooted in the minds of majority of people living in these countries so strongly that Armenians started to seem a poor and pitiful nation which, allegedly, was regularly killed by Turks, they underwent genocide, now they are killed by Azerbaijanis, and it is necessary to help Armenians.

Therefore now, along with the policy of Azerbaijan as an independent state pursued in all the countries of the world, our fellow countrymen should be solidary with each other. They should be united, because it is necessary to unite for the sake of Azerbaijan, our nation, our independent country. There are Azerbaijani communities here; the ambassador informed me that there are several communities. Each community was created independently, no one created them by order form above. All this is natural, I cannot say anything in this regard to you. I just wish Azerbaijanis living in Azerbaijan and outside it, in other countries, to be able to come to unity. If we can achieve it and Azerbaijanis can take up a required position for themselves in the countries where they live, the quantity of Azerbaijanis living abroad will be likely not less than that of Armenians. But there is the conception of quantity and quality. It would be good if the quality prevails, then the quantity will not seem so much essential. I.e. it can be possible if the quantity is not so high, but the power is great.

I can feel such a progress in latest years. For instance, on the first day of my arrival, I attended a meeting of British-Azerbaijan Society. Perhaps, some of you also attended there. When I came here four years ago, in February 1994, this Society did not exist. Today, Azerbaijan is already well-known in England, Great Britain. Azerbaijan is perceived as a country, Azerbaijani people are perceived as a nation, and contacts with our country are whished to be set up.

This time, I arrived here again, a big economic conference has been held since 9 a.m., and about 300 people assembled there. They are not ordinary people, they are the men of business. A company arranging this conference started this work six months ago. Any person, who arrived to partake at the conference, cannot be a participant unless he pays in a fee, money. Consequently, if the people not only from Great Britain, but also from some other countries spared their time and arrived here, and spent their funds to take part at this conference, you can imagine how much the interest in Azerbaijan has increased. Nowadays, more than 100 companies only from this country are working in Azerbaijan and their number grows from day to day. It is already the third day... whoever I meet here... one says that he has an office in Azerbaijan, another one says that he is going to open an office, someone says that they will open it in ten days, a month and so on. And everyone appeals with a request, they want me to get acquainted with their offices, participate at their inauguration. They have carried out a little work in Azerbaijan as yet, but they want to carry it out and have defined for themselves the existence of such opportunities in Azerbaijan. Therefore, they want to come and work. It means that our work done within these four years has yielded its remarkable results.

But it is just the beginning of our work. The economic opportunities of Azerbaijan are large. Therefore Azerbaijan attracts business people many from many countries, large companies. I mentioned that speaking at the conference today. I said that all the companies, which arrive in our country, come for the sake of their own advantage, benefit. It is natural and should not be regarded negatively. We are also interested in it. If they get benefit, we will get several times as much. Mutual contacts and cooperation can be established.

But why should it be done? We need foreign investments because we do not have funds to carry out this work. They put in foreign investments. Modern technology, equipment and experience of developed countries of the world are needed for this work. We do not have it. For example, I said at the reception arranged for us yesterday in the evening by the Lord-Mayor that Azerbaijan is one of the first countries in the world producing oil. In 1948, an oil gusher struck in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is the first country extracting oil from the sea depth. We did it in 1949. At that time, Great Britain did not even imagine that there is oil in the North Sea and it will be extracted there. But we explored oil in the Caspian Sea as early as 1940s, and in 1949 we proceeded to oil extraction at the Oil Rocks. The BP and other large companies discovered oil deposits in the North Sea in 1976 and started to exploit them.

Yes, we are pioneers. But they, using good technical equipment, technology and large investments, intensively developed in a short space of time. In the past, when we were within the structure of the Soviet Union, our opportunities were limited, but now we experience an even more difficult situation. We could not develop. We have rich oilfields, but I remember that we could not work in 1970s during my work in Azerbaijan, when the sea depth was 80-90 meters. Then, a big plant was built on my initiative to produce platforms for deep-see work. At the expense of resources of the Soviet Union, I managed to get 400 million dollars, we acquired and delivered equipment from the United States of America, which is serving us up to date.

However now, we cannot fulfill all this by our own strength. For instance, we are extracting oil at the "Chirag" oilfield now. We produced early oil there in November, last year. We drilled an oil well at the "Chirag" oilfield, mounted a platform, but we could not work on it. After a contract was concluded, it was necessary to invest funds equal to 37 million dollars to modernize this platform, the "Dede Gorgud" drilling rig, - it belonged to Azerbaijan in the past, we acquired it as early as the period of the Soviet Union, but it did not meet modern standards. The consortium invested these funds, but not only funds were needed, it was necessary to deliver machinery, to send specialists, and it was done. Now, this drilling rig is named "Dede Gorgud", formerly it was named "Shelf-2", but we named it "Dede Gorgud", I named it because it was our ancestor, and it works.

I could speak much about that. In other words, I want to say that arrival of foreign companies in Azerbaijan is useful both for them and us. The more often they come to Azerbaijan, the more they learn about Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan becomes popular. For example, attitude towards Azerbaijan has substantially changed in this country within the last four years. It is our achievement; but it is just the outset of our work. And therefore, it is of great importance that Azerbaijanis living in foreign countries, including this country, should be united, consolidated, close the ranks around the Azerbaijani embassy and live with troubles of Azerbaijan. It is my whish to you.

You spoke here about the Karabakh problem. Yes, it is our tragedy. I told you that this conflict started in 1988. Then it was possible to prevent it and we would not have lost our lands. But unfortunately, the leadership of Azerbaijan of that time could not do it, but the leadership of the Soviet Union committed betrayal in respect of Azerbaijan. 20 percent of our territory is occupied now; more than a million our fellow countrymen have been forcedly driven away from the occupied territories, their majority lives in tents.

But what does the progress consist of? In May 1994, we stopped the fire. Just remember the preceding years - battles were waged every day, blood was shed and there were no results: lands were surrendered, people died, the situation of Azerbaijan was unbearable on the whole. We could hold up the fire, there has been no fire for more than four years, the cease-fire regime is observed, we are holding peaceful negotiations and want to settle the problem peacefully. I am confident that we will solve it peacefully.

You have to know that we will never give up even a single inch of Azerbaijani lands. Yesterday, I specified it in detail to Prime Minister, Tony Blair telling him: "Armenians want Nagorno-Karabakh to be given the status of state independence and annexed to Armenia. Is it possible? I said that we cannot agree with it, but could you? Can the world community, the public agree with it? No, no country will accept it.

It is not only our principle, it is international legal norms, the principles of the Organization of United Nations, the OSCE. It is impossible to concede violation of territorial integrity of any country. It is inadmissible to change the borders of a country by applying force, weapons. Therefore, neither we nor international organizations and other countries can agree with it.

Armenia must understand it, and they gradually start to understand that their policy has no future. We will never allow it, we will not give away Nagorno-Karabakh and not an inch of Azerbaijani lands. We are solving this problem peacefully.

The stability has been established in Azerbaijan today. If you visited Azerbaijan in 1990, 1991, 1992 and even 1993, you could see the situation Azerbaijan endured at that time. And now those who arrive in Azerbaijan ask me while meeting: "How could you establish such stability"? They compare Azerbaijan with the CIS countries, i.e. other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States or for example, with Russia or other countries saying that someone was killed here and there, but you do not have it.

For instance, when I came to Baku in 1993, the state of emergency was in force in Azerbaijan. Submachine gunners were standing at each corner of the streets. Some of them belonged to the state and others - to illegal armed groups. There were dozens of armed groups that committed so much violence against people, they killed, kidnapped so many people - they were up to whatever they wanted! We liquidated criminals, prevented their criminal acts, isolated from the society hundred, two hundred, three hundred criminals and established quietness for seven and half million inhabitants.

Today, some opposition forces state there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan. However, there is no political prisoner there. Of course, there are prisoners in Azerbaijan, there are prisoners in any country or aren`t there prisoners here? Aren`t there prisoners in the United States of America? Of course there are! Why? Because they committed crimes. A criminal should suffer punishment. The circumstances of impunity cause arbitrariness which reigned in Azerbaijan in the past. A state should be able to protect itself, as well as rights of every citizen. And protection of rights of a citizen means that he can sleep quietly, wake up, have a walk, rest and work quietly. And we have provided it.

The face of Azerbaijan has completely changed now. For example, minister, John Battle is present here, he visited Azerbaijan a year ago. He came in June for the second time to attend an international exhibition and said that many changes had happened in one year. All this is not accidental, this is the result of the work implemented.

Therefore, our second achievement is first of all creation of socio-political stability inside Azerbaijan. We established the cease-fire regime and there is no war any more. We preserve this stability and we will preserve it. Although separate criminal groups, i.e. the people, who attempted to overthrow the power and establish their own government by use of arms and achieve their ends, still live with such intentions to this very day. But it is impossible. The law in Azerbaijan is law for everyone. The supremacy of law is a primary principle for us. If anyone goes beyond its scopes, certainly, there is no place for him in Azerbaijan.

We have created market, free economy in Azerbaijan, and now the conference is being held in this regard. Democratic processed are underway in Azerbaijan, a democratic state is being built and developed, democracy is being created. The country you live also develops democracy. But how many years did they need to come to this level? They have spent ages to reach it.

It is impossible to establish democracy of the same level in Azerbaijan in a year, two or five. For that, we have passed laws, we have adopted the Constitution. But to change the psychology of people it is necessary to accomplish large work, time is necessary. We do it and we will do it. There are some people in Azerbaijan who think they are the greatest democrats. Why? It is impossible to understand. Was he born a democrat by his mother, or he became a democrat in his mother`s womb? I cannot understand. But they live with ambition. Let them live. There are many mentally deranged people in the world.

It is true, the reality is that a democratic society has been formed in Azerbaijan, democratic values are being established, they are developing, and the next presidential election will be held in Azerbaijan on November 11 just based on these principles. The presidential election was held five years ago and I was elected as the President. I have been faithfully serving Azerbaijan for already five years and Azerbaijan has reached today`s level. And now we are going to this election with an open face. Perhaps, many say in Azerbaijan: "What are the elections for, Heydar Aliyev is well-known by everyone and so on. You know, presidents are not elected in other republics - the republics of Central Asia. They just hold a referendum and extend a term of their authorities for five, ten years. It exists not only there, there is something of a kind in other countries too.

No, we are following the Constitution, the law. According to the law, the term of presidential authorities is five years. On the expiry of five years it is necessary to hold a new presidential election, the president must be elected. The one, who will be elected by people on November 11, will execute presidential authorities within the next five years. I hope that we will achieve absolutely democratic, free and fair holding of this election. The necessary work has been fulfilled for it, it will be fulfilled henceforth too, and you will be able to demonstrate your solidarity with Azerbaijan.

You know, four years ago, we could not have held such a meeting. But now we have our embassy. It is the property of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has become an owner of such an estate in such a country as England for the first time. We laid the foundation for great deeds. We will develop, time will come when our embassy will enlarge. And this will become possible. But yet, it meets the demands of the present day. Our embassy works well, and you assemble around it, you are together. Try to fulfill my whishes to be together, to have wormer, friendly relations, to be solidary. I repeat it is in the name of Azerbaijan!

To be Azerbaijanis is an historic factor for us. You know that Armenians try to prove that there is no Azerbaijani nation as though, but there were nomads or someone else. But we, as a nation, as Azerbaijanis, have a great history. A great and ancient history. Our language is Azerbaijani language. You know that in 1992, a big mistake was made in Azerbaijan saying that our language is a Turkic language. Yes, we belong to Turkic nations, our ancestors are of single roots. But Turkic people branched out afterwards turning into a nation. Uzbek is a Turk, Kirghiz is a Turk, Kazakh, Tatar, Turkman, Bashkir and Uigur are also Turks. But each one is a representative of his nation, he has his native language. For instance, I can possibly understand ten percent of Uzbek language, but not more. However, the roots of our languages are similar. And we are a branch of those roots. The name of this branch is Azerbaijan. We have our language - Azerbaijani language. We have very rich, beautiful and picturesque language.

You know that I got my education in Russian language. For the space of all my life, my studies and work passed in Russian language. I held up high posts in Moscow. Russian language is like native for me, but no matter how much I used it, I cannot forget Azerbaijani language, since it is priceless for me. A language preserves a nation. Undoubtedly, music, literature and some histories monuments prove national belonging. But language is the first that proves belonging to a nation. If there is no Azerbaijani language, there will be no music, songs in Azerbaijani. All this is interconnected.

Therefore, existence, strengthening, as well as development of Azerbaijani language within these five years is one of the greatest achievements. It is the question not only of language, but also a nation-wide problem. It is very important for us in the view of great Azerbaijan. We cannot be at the tail-end of any country. We are a great independent nation, we have our name, our literature, culture, music and a country. And therefore, the duty of each of us, and also your duty is to make these conceptions live and develop in order to raise high Azerbaijani language far and wide.

It is very difficult to translate here from Azerbaijani language, most of the interpreters translate from Russian language, and sometimes I am suggested to speak in Russian. For me, to speak in Russian language is the same as to speak in Azerbaijani, perhaps even easier, because I spoke Russian for tens of years, made speeches, held negotiations. But we also have good interpreters. I speak everywhere only in Azerbaijani language, even an interpreter of this country translates into Russian for me, but my interpreter translates my speeches from Azerbaijani language. Two interpreters are present here.

It is a principal question. Every minute I prove independence of Azerbaijan, demonstrate and show it wherever is possible. Let them not think that we are a colony of Russia like in the past, and speak Russian. No! We have our own language, we speak our own language, our language is wonderful and very rich.

I wish health to all of you, I which success in your future affairs. Always keep close contacts with the Motherland, come and know that the independence of Azerbaijan is in reliable hands. We raised the flag of Azerbaijan all over the world, and we will keep the flag flying in the future too. The independence of Azerbaijan is eternal, steadfast and irreversible. I tried for the sake of it, I am trying and I will try henceforward. Thank you.