Statement of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the meeting with the editorial staff of the Newspaper Chicago Tribune - Chicago, on August 4, 1997

I am very pleased to meet you-the representatives of Chicago Tribune editorial staff. I arrived in Chicago last night. This is my first meeting in Chicago today. My first meeting here is with the newspaper, the journalists. My attitude to the journalists, the newspaper workers, the organs of information have always been positive.

As you know, I have been paying an official visit to the U.S. at President Bill Clinton`s invitation. I have been to New York, Washington D.C, Houston and now have come to Chicago. There have been a lot of meetings. I have had more than 70 meetings.

The most significant meeting for me in the U.S. was my meeting with President Clinton in the White House on August 1. We had very significant negotiations. As a result, we signed very important documents. We stated that the Azerbaijani-American relations are on the level of partnership relations. The joint statement, signed by President Clinton and me, approved the development of the relations between our countries and the existence of the friendly, partnership relations. We also signed several interstate and intergovernmental documents.

Contracts on the joint work of the U.S. oil companies with Azerbaijan were also signed in the White House with the participation of high U.S. government officials. I consider it a historical event in the Azerbaijani-American relationship. I appreciate it very much. A new stage has been opened in the development of our relations in all areas: political, economic, security, humanitarian, cultural spheres. That is why I am very pleased. Generally, I am extremely pleased with the care, attention and hospitality shown to us in the U.S.

After my tour round Chicago today and tomorrow, I am returning home in a very nice mood. This is what I wanted to say. Now I am ready to answer your Questions.

Question: Mr.President, with your permission, I shall ask the first Question.

There is a very great interest in the U.S. concerning the pipelines built in Azerbaijan, Central Asia, the Caucasus, in general. Some claim that these pipelines will pass through Russia, others claim-through Iran and there are people who think that they will go through Turkey. Some people even consider that the pipe-lines should go the Novorossiysk in Russia. We would like to know which routes of these pipelines you prefer as a President? Generally, what can you say about the pipelines which will be built for the export of rich energy resources from the region to the Western markets?

Heydar Aliyev: Azerbaijan and the Caspian basin are very rich in energy resources. There are also big energy resources in the Central Asian countries in the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan has already started the joint exploitation of these oil and gas fields with the big companies of the world, especially with the U.S. companies. The work, done until now, shows that these resources are more than expected. That is why it is impossible to export them through only one pipeline. There must be several pipelines for this purpose. The other reason here is in case of obstacles in one place, it would be possible to export the oil in the other directions.

We made negotiations, consultations with Mr. Bill Clinton two years ago on the export of the first oil, which would be extracted in the result of the joint work of Azerbaijan with the consortium of the Western companies, and we decided to build two oil pipelines. We have already been carrying out it. One pipeline has been built from Baku, Azerbaijan to the Novorossiysk port in Russia. In the coming September-October we are getting the first oil from the oil fields, worked out jointly with the consortium. We shall be able to export that oil through this pipeline. There is a little obstacle here. This pipeline passes through 100 kilometers in the territory of Chechenstan. There was no agreement on it between Chechenstan and Russia. But during my official visit to Moscow in early July we solved this problem. The president of Chechenstan Asian Mashadov visited Azerbaijan. He asked for the trilateral contract to be signed among Russia, Azerbaijan and Chechenstan on the reliable and safe pass of the pipe-line through Chechenstan. I discussed this issue in Moscow. President Boris Yeltsin agreed to it too. A few days later the representatives of Russia and Chechenstan arrived in Baku, where we signed a trilateral contract. Therefore I consider that we shall export the oil through this pipeline.

We have started the construction of the second oil pipeline. It will be completed in September of the next year. This pipeline is being built in the western direction through the Georgian territory to the Supsa port in the Black Sea. There is no problem here either.

I mentioned that the oil fields in Azerbaijan are very rich, and a very big oil extraction is expected. Those two oil pipelines will not be able to provide the export of the oil. Therefore the consortium has worked out several proposals. We must start the construction of a big oil pipeline. There are several proposals on the routes of this pipeline. All of them will be discussed. But I personally prefer the route passing through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and reaching the Ceyhan port in the Mediterranean sea.

For now it is not satisfactory either.

For oil has already been produced in the oil field Tengiz of Kazakhstan. We signed a contract with President Nazarbayev during my official visit to Almaty in June. We want to build a pipeline through the depth of the Caspian to carry the oil from Tengiz to Baku and from there to export it to the West through the pipelines above mentioned.

Question: Mr.President, with Your help we would like to have fresh information about the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Are there any diplomatic relations with Armenia at present and are there any contacts? I would like to know Your opinion about it.

Answer: As you know, Armenia used a military aggression against Azerbaijan in 1988 when both Azerbaijan and Armenia were still in the Soviet Union. Armenia aimed at splitting the Nagorny-Garabagh Region from Azerbaijan and annexing it to herself. This conflict could have been prevented then. But they did not try. The following years the conflict was extended. In the consequence, because of some reasons the Armenian armed forces occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani territory with the help of foreign countries. More than one million Azerbaijani were forcibly driven out from the occupied territory. They have been driven out from their homes and now are living in tents in different regions of Azerbaijan.

All the territory, shown in three colors in the map in front of you, has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces and is still under occupation. More than one million Azerbaijanis who lived there have been forcibly driven out from this territory.

The territory, painted in red, is the territory of Nagorny-Garabagh. The territories, painted in green and yellow, are the territories of our administrative districts around Nagorny-Garabagh, which do not belong to Nagorny-Garabagh. It has been the fourth year that this territory is under occupation. We have agreed on the cease-fire, despite the facts that our territory is under occupation, they inflict on us heavy blows in the occupied territory, we have suffered great losses, our people are living in tents. We signed a contract on the cease-fire with Armenia three years ago.

Negotiations are being held for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. These negotiations are held through the OSCE Minsk Group. In the consequence of the negotiations, held by the OSCE Minsk Group, and our efforts, principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict were defined at the Lisbon Summit of the state and government leaders of the OSCE member-countries last December. These principles comprise three articles: first, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia; second, the provision of Nagorny-Garabagh with the right of high-level self-administration; third, the guarantee of the security of the entire population of Nagorny-Garabagh, including both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. We have accepted these principles. At the Lisbon Summit, 53 states out of 54 OSCE member-countries voted for these principles. But Armenia protests against it. They claim the status of state independence for Nagorny-Garabagh.

We have made a lot of concessions. But we cannot allow the status of state independence for Nagorny-Garabagh and the establishment of another Armenian state on Azerbaijan territory.

At the same time, it is against the international legal standards, the UN Charter, the OSCE principles.

Three co-chairmen have been appointed to the OSCE Minsk Group since the beginning of this year. Now the U.S., Russia, and France are co-chairmen of the Minsk Group. The Presidents of the three countries: Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac signed a statement on the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in Denver on June 20. All this gives us great hopes for the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Unfortunately, there have also been some negative occasions lately. At the beginning of this year, it was found out that the high officials of the Russian Defense Ministry have illegally given to Armenia weapons worth of one milliard dollars for the last three years.

Among them there are very horrible heavy weapons, including zenith missiles, long-range missiles. There are even nuclear-headed missiles among them.

We know the lists of these weapons because the Russian press has already published most of them. Even the copies of some orders, adopted by the Russian government for giving these weapons, have already been published in the press.

We are very concerned about this issue.

During my visit to Moscow in March and July of this year, I raised this issue very sharply at my negotiations with President Boris Yeltsin. I have appealed to him in the official press too. We demand the return of these weapons from Armenia to Russia. For it is very dangerous to have so many weapons kept in Armenia, which is a small territory. This is threatening not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the entire region.

The possible targets of these weapons are reflected in the map you have got now. As you know, there are Russian military bases in Armenia. Big Russian military forces are located here. But Azerbaijan is a completely independent state. We do not have even a single soldier of any foreign country, including Russia, in our territory.

No doubt, having Russian weapons in Armenia complicates the situation. But at the same time, I am in a very hopeful mood because of my negotiations with President Clinton.

This issue holds a very important place in my negotiations with President Bill Clinton. I stated that I accepted the proposals, given to both Armenia and Azerbaijan by the Minsk Group, as the basis to intensify the negotiations. According to the joint statement, signed by President and me, the U.S. will make special efforts for the settlement of the conflict in 1997.

We are for the restoration of peace in our region, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored, the refugees should return to their homes, Nagorny-Garabagh should get the status of high-level self-administration within Azerbaijan. I consider that on these conditions we can get a great peace.

Question: Mr.President, we know that the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is situated near the territory of Armenia. And in the territory of Azerbaijan there is an Armenian enclave, named Nagorny-Garabagh. Is the defense problem of Nakhchivans territory discussed during the negotiations with Armenia? Generally, how would you interpret this case?

Answer: You know, they are not the same things. Simply in early 1920s they did a lot of injustice when preparing the map of the Soviet Union. The ancient Azerbaijani territory of Nakhchivan was split from the main part of Azerbaijan through this small corridor, given to Armenia. But Nagorny-Garabagh is a place in the center of Azerbaijan, it is not an Armenian enclave. At the beginning of the conflict 70%t of the people there were Armenians, 30% Azerbaijanis.

The protection of the security of the Nakhchivan autonomous republic is one of our main duties. We never associate this with the Nagorny-Garabagh issue.

The situation, I described now, was created in Nagorny-Garabagh after the conflict started. I would like to repeat that Nagorny-Garabagh has never belonged to Armenia. In the U.S., there are states where Armenians are densely populated. That does not mean that it is an Armenian territory. Therefore, I point out again: these issues are not alike, they are not connected with each other.

Question: Mr.President, my Question is on the weapons. Do you have information, confirmations that the weapons, given to Armenia, were intended to be sent to Chechenstan by the Russian official circles, but were delivered to Armenia, instead of Chechenstan? That is, different Russian forces, circles had bought these weapons with the intention of sending them to the Russian troops in Chechenstan, but later passed the weapons to Armenia with the intention of getting richer?

Answer: We do not have such information but we have exact documents showing that those weapons were carried by big airplanes to Armenia from certain military circles in Russia and in the places far away from Armenia. I told you that there are Russian military forces and military basis in the territory of Armenia. The weapons, given to Armenia, were carried there from the military forces in Armenia, also in Georgia. We have documents about it.

The prosecutor`s office in Russia is carrying out investigations in this connection. I can tell you that the high officials of Russia, for example, the ex-Defense Minister Grachov, the ex-head of the main headquarters General Kolesnikov, admitted that they had given these weapons.

You know that the U.S. Senate has adopted a decision in this connection. They gave time to the U.S. President to clear out this issue and to report to the Senate till August 1. We are grateful to the Senate for the adoption of such fair decision. Because you know, this is a horrible case directed not only towards Azerbaijan. Generally, while one should limit weapons to prevent the conflicts all over the world, it is beyond these principles that Russia gives such weapons to Armenia.

Question: Mr. President, are you planning to sign any trade contracts in Chicago? Which companies are you meeting in Chicago?

Answer: I am very pleased that four big contracts have been signed in the White House. We have signed these contracts with Chevron, Exxon, Mobil and Amoco. Each of them has been signed on the joint exploitation of the big oil fields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. It is a great step in the development of economic relations between Azerbaijan and the U.S.

Here in Chicago, we plan to sign one document. There will be a lot of meetings in Chicago. These meetings may lead to signing new contracts in future.

The leader of the editorial staff of Chicago Tribune Jim Kallaher: Mr. President, we are grateful to you for your respect to us and for your visit here.

Heydar Aliyev: I also thank you for your interest in Azerbaijan. I express my gratitude and respect to your newspaper. I hope your newspaper will publish objective materials about the truth in Azerbaijan in the future, too. At the same time, I am pleased to meet again the people whom I have known before. In the past we worked together in Moscow. It is true we were on different sides. But now we are together. This is also a historical event.

Jim Kallaher: We would like very much our correspondent in Moscow to go to Baku and write articles on economic development and some other issues in Azerbaijan.

Heydar Aliyev: Let him come. I am ready to receive any correspondent from your newspaper. Every correspondent, visiting Azerbaijan will have a chance to learn everything about our country. The doors of our country are open to everybody. There is democracy, pluralism, freedom of the press in Azerbaijan. The doors of Azerbaijan are open especially for foreign investments. For foreign journalists they are wide open.

I invite all of you to Azerbaijan. Come to Azerbaijan. Thank you. I give these books and maps to you as a present.

Jim Kallaher: Mr. President, our newspaper will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. Chicago Tribune was founded in 1847. We will celebrate it as a jubilee because there are very few newspapers in the U.S. as old as Chicago Tribune. Like Azerbaijan, we are also living the self-transition period. You see, changing are taking place here, we are doing some repairs.

Heydar Aliyev: I congratulate you on this jubilee.

Jim Kallaher: Mr. President we would like to give the book, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Chicago Tribune to you as a present. This is the reflection of 150-year-history of the U.S. in the eye of Chicago Tribune. There is very useful information about Chicago and the U.S. in this book.

Heydar Aliyev: That`s very nice. I thank you for the book.

The document was taken from the edition "Together towards the New Century"