From the conversation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group - Presidential palace, March 8, 2002

Heydar Aliyev: Dear guests, friends!

I cordially welcome you and am very glad to meet you again. We have met with you, that is, with co-chairmen of the Minsk group, in New York and talked in detail. At that time, you have promised to come to the region, including to Azerbaijan. I am very glad for your coming. We can continue our talks.

Yesterday the OSCE acting chairman was in Azerbaijan, in Baku. We have met him, conducted a detailed talk, and also a broad exchange of opinions on activity of the Minsk group. We talked in detail not only about the activity of the Minsk group, but also as a whole, about the activity of the OSCE connected with the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I suppose that now you have come to Azerbaijan and the region with some ideas and, naturally, it would be better to listen to them and to conduct exchange of opinions.

I see here our girls, journalists. I do not understand why they work on a holiday. In fact, today is holiday of women and nobody works in Azerbaijan. They must not work. I congratulate women on the occasion of the holiday, I wish them strong health and happiness. If all women participating here also join this holiday, I congratulate them too.

Please, Mr. Perina.

Rudolf Perina (the co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk group from the United States of America): Mr. President, thank you very much for the opportunity to meet you. After the New York meeting it is very nice to meet you today.

As you already noted, we have arrived here on very important holiday. Today is International Women's Day. We regret very much that we compel the women to work by our arrival. I want to wish all women of Azerbaijan good luck and happiness on the occasion of this holiday.

But despite the holiday, we wanted to come here as soon as possible. If our schedule allows to it, we have come here and we shall continue the conversation about very important question which has been discussing already for a long time. At the same time, it will become the continuation of the negotiations carried on by us in New York. We consider that the meeting in New York was very important and positive. The purpose of our current visit consists in accelerating negotiations, and giving them a new impulse.

We consider the time has already come to settle the conflict. Because this conflict is already waiting for its settlement for a long time, our presence here is the proof of great importance given by our governments to this question.

Today in the morning, we met the people deprived from their constant residence inside the country, - with the internally displaced persons. We heard their very touching, mournful and pessimistic stories. We were sure that this conflict had caused huge sufferings to these people. I think that there cannot be a bigger argument than it. It is necessary to solve this question for a short time. As I already said, today we heard very touching stories. The majority of people, whom we met, were women; they have lost their husbands, close relatives during this conflict. We have arrived here with strong will, full confidence of the prompt solution of the problem. Once again thank you very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

Vyacheslav Trubnikov (the first deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation): Dear Heydar Aliyev!

As a continuation of your conversation with President Putin, I want to wish you once again my kindest wishes - sound health and long life. This is the basic aim of our leadership. We hope that our dialogue will be very fruitful as long as you are in authority in this country.

We are very grateful for very warm hospitality rendered to us. As all co-chairmen understand Russian, let me speak without translation.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, everyone understands.

Vyacheslav Trubnikov: You see, the Russian which is so respectable in Azerbaijan, it appears that, respectable as well as in all over the world. Heydar Aliyevich, thank you very much for your contribution to maintenance of the Russian at good, classical, literate level here.

Now about the basic question - about the goal of our visit. We do not have any extraordinary offers and I think that my colleagues-co-chairmen will speak about it. That is, we don`t want the negotiating process to be paused, on the contrary, we wish its deepening. We can speak about the main questions, it is really very important. We can speak about minor questions - good relations between two neighbor states, between two neighbor peoples and not damaging of the bloodsheds to these relations are not less important.

I would like to emphasize one point. Now it is fashionable to speak about the doom of cohabitation of those people, who live near to you.

Heydar Aliyevich, I express my great gratitude to you on behalf of all Russia for your contribution to the struggle of antiterrorist coalition. It demanded tremendous courage, and we in Russia very highly appreciate your personal contribution. This is a great work, and once again I admire your courage for great works in settlement of many difficult problems. They still exist, but I feel huge pleasure that we so closely cooperate in the area of the law enforcement bodies, special services. We have full mutual understanding, we work hand in hand in the struggle against terrorism. Thank you very much for it. I consider that in Transcaucasia Azerbaijan is such a country on which Russia can rely in the antiterrorist struggle. This is great support, thank you for it.

I know that you talked to Vladimir Vladimirovich connected with the situation in Georgia. I shall not make comments on it, but I would wish to all other countries of Transcaucasia the same cooperation and mutual activities existed between Russia and Azerbaijan due to your personal contribution, to your personal efforts and the most important, due to your huge civic courage.

What I would like to say? From positions of co-chairmen, we can state different points of view, and in no circumstances neither you, nor your colleagues in Azerbaijan should perceive our point of view as a method of pressure or as any influence.

We exchange opinions, we always state our point of view in order to hear from you open, very rigid answer to our offers to find a correct way and to solve the problem.

We understand well that both You and the president of Armenia have serious, deep and unchangeable obligations before the people. And therefore, helping the process, we try to consider these obligations. We understand very well those complexities which You and Kocharyan as presidents may face inside the country. These are internal political reasons. But it would be better if you consider our assistance, our role as an impartial. But it is possible only up to the beginning of bloodshed, shooting, severe confrontation. And I want to touch one more point, it is an honor for you that blood has not been shed and obligations have been implemented till now. I understand that patience has a limit. We also understand it, because people are tired. This problem should be solved, and on behalf of all three co-chairmen, I wish to assure you that we want to help you in the solution of this problem very much. Gama`s opinion, in general, opinions of the OSCE, reflect our point of view too. Though we don`t feel hopelessness, sometimes we feel feebleness. Why? Because without your strong support and constant contact about what we will also talk today, it would be very difficult for us to invent any formulas for the settlement of this very complicated problem which worries you, the president of Armenia, and mainly, all three co-chairmen, I mean, presidents of Russia, France and the USA.

We came here not as tourists, but with our will, we were sent here by the Minsk group who gave us a commission, and it is very responsible duty. And we feel this responsibility, Heydar Aliyevich. We would not like to come back from the region without result. That is all what I wanted to tell you, very dear person for me, the brilliant political leader and the responsible head of the talented nation.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you, Vyacheslav Ivanovich.

Phillip de Surmen (the co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk group from France): Mister President, today we are in Baku with feeling of deep satisfaction. We have come here not as tourists. But your nice city and this spring weather make very pleasant impression on us.

President Chirac sent you his most sincere greetings. You know, how much he has confidence in you. I am glad that in his person the countries of the European Union attach huge significance to this process. Mr. Gama has informed you about it.

After the end of our visit to the Caucasus we shall leave for Vienna. We shall inform on results of this visit there. We were glad that you had met us at a high level in New York. We are very grateful to you that you received us on this holiday. It seems to me that today we have disquieted many people. However it is an opportunity for us to convey our congratulations to women participating at this meeting, in particular, to Madam Dilare Seidzadeh.

It is extremely important mission. We realize our responsibility. We have resolutely decided to continue our activity intensively. You know, how is important to achieve urgent and fair peace. Today in the morning we saw impatience and sufferings of IDPs. Hundred thousands of people cherish hope to come back to their homes. We also know how much this peace is important for Azerbaijan. This peace is extremely necessary in regional relationships. You, all Azerbaijanis, as well as all of us are interested in stabilization of the region. We have arrived here with great belief, hope and aspiration to be useful to you as much as possible.

Mister President, once again we express our gratitude to you for receiving us.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. Does anybody else want to speak?

Dear friends, I express all of you my gratitude for the kind words about Azerbaijan and about me. First of all, you aspire to accelerate the activity of the Minsk group and you are ready to take necessary measures in this direction.

You should know, and naturally, may be you know that at the end of March of this year the Minsk group will be 10 years old. Imagine, ten years! The Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started even earlier, approximately in 1988-1989. However, since 1992, the OSCE has been engaging in this matter, and the United Nations Organization charged the OSCE with this question. The OSCE has created special Minsk group for this purpose.

As a whole, the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had lead to very heavy consequences and caused huge damage, in particular to Azerbaijan. I am very glad that today you found time and met refugees, IDPs living in incomplete building in Baku. I feel that their position, conversations touched you very much. I would like to note that the refugees whom you saw in Baku, it is possible to tell, are even in good position in comparison with the refugees living in heavier conditions in tent small towns. But the picture which you saw today, made deep impression upon you. And this continues and, not a year, not two years. If the OSCE Minsk group has been functioning for ten years, it means, there is a problem of refugee and IDPs, the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict for ten years.

When the Minsk group was established, I think, many people were considering that the Minsk group - there are 12 states - established by such an authoritative organization like the OSCE, would help the prompt settlement of this conflict. But ten years have passed and there is not any result. However, for these years the Minsk group and its co-chairmen have carried out hard work, made many efforts. In particular, I wish to estimate the activity of the Minsk group co-chairmen in this format from the beginning of 1997. The reality consists of that within these years, we have discussed various variants for the peace settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani  Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and carried on negotiations on various subjects together with the Minsk group. Each such discussion has once again shown how this conflict is deep, heavy. At the same time, it has shown us which new steps can be undertaken in a direction of settlement of the conflict.

Therefore, we at all do not consider that the OSCE Minsk group and, in particular, its co-chairmen have made a little during these years. They have made much, and I am grateful to you for this work. However, at the same time, unfortunately, we could not provide the settlement of the problem. In some cases, we were close to it. But, it was impossible to make any final decision.

Despite all these, I think we should continue our work. Because the OSCE Minsk group and co-chairmen of a today's format are the most perfect structure for the peace settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Therefore, today we should conduct an exchange of opinions to find out what we will do in the future, on which way we should go to solve the problem at last.

Speaking to you about it, I wish to note that I am the supporter of the peace solution of the question by all means. However, at the same time I am not the supporter of its only peace solution. I want the prompt settlement of this problem. For this purpose, all of us - both you and we - should make active efforts and achieve the settlement of the question. I believe that it is possible to achieve it. Therefore, I consider that your current visit is of great importance. I think that it is possible to discuss the offers which you will put forward during this visit. And now we can finish our conversation if you don`t object. We shall continue it later. Thank you.

Translated from newspaper "Azerbaijan" , 10 March, 2002