From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, with OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Mircea Geoana - March 1, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Honourable Mr. Minister!

Highly esteemed guests!

I heartily greet you in Azerbaijan. Welcome to Azerbaijan!

Today, the OSCE organization plays an extremely important role not only in Europe, but also all over the world. We, as the OSCE members, of course cooperate and will cooperate with it henceforward in all the spheres. Therefore, I consider the present visit of the Chairman-in-Office and OSCE delegation to Azerbaijan very important.

I congratulate friendly country, Romania, on its election to the post of the OSCE chairman and want to express hope that Romania and personally you, Mr. Minister, will do utmost during the period of presidency for intensification of the OSCE activity. I also want to especially mention that as soon as Romania assumed with great satisfaction responsibilities of the OCSE chairman this year, You, Mr. Minister, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, have paid a visit to our region, Azerbaijan. It means that You express concern and the OSCE attention to the processes ongoing in our region. Please, Mr. Minister.

Mircea Geoana: Thank you very much, Mr. President. We express our gratitude for the warm meeting in the capital of Azerbaijan. We are pleased to be here. The delegation also consists of representatives of the European Union, Austria and Portugal. Besides, the persons representing various OSCE institutions are included into the delegation as well.

Thus, the deputy director of Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as well as representatives of one of the most important institutions - the Conflict Prevention Center are present here together with us. To all appearances, You know very well these two persons sitting on my left and right. They also carry out very tense work. We appreciate their activity. The deputy director of the European Office of the UN Supreme Commissariat for Refugees and Displaces Persons is also a member of the delegation. It is also a very important organization accomplishing active work here. Our ambassador is certainly included into the delegation as well.

As soon as Romania started its presidency in the OCSE, we decided to visit this region in the initial period of our activity since this region has extremely important significance from the geo- strategic viewpoint. This region is also a neighbour region for our country - Romania and we have our own interests here.

At the same time, I want to express satisfaction that interest of the European Union in this region has grown up. They share our interest. As a matter of fact, we have arrived in the region after high standing delegation of the European Union. It proves that both the OSCE and European Union aspire to raise concern towards this region and achieve settlement of local problems.

Taking an opportunity, I want to congratulate you and Azerbaijani people on the occasion of your affiliation to the Council of Europe. It proves once again and is another evidence of the fact that step-by-step Azerbaijan integrates more and more into the family of democratic states of Europe. It allows the OSCE, as well as the OSCE Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to cooperate more actively in the future and broaden their contacts in different spheres. Strong democracy and civil society, as well as well-operated economy are today the recipe for European development and we are very pleased that it is spreading over this region as well.

Mr. President, during the period of its presidency in the OSCE, Romania sets two primary goals before itself. First, it is involvement of missions and OSCE representations in regions into cooperation over the matters of common interest for the regional countries and speaking based on their common position since the problems existing in the regions are usually very similar. The hardships dictated by problems are organically interrelated and therefore it is necessary to achieve their solution based on common approach. Speaking about the region of Southern Caucasian I can say the same words about the Balkan region. Second, it is necessary to transform the OSCE into such an organization which will not duplicate other international agencies such as the UNO, Council of Europe, European Union and NATO, but carry out its activity in the environment of close cooperation with them so that their missions could be mutually complementary and well-coordinated.

We consider this region to be extremely important for the OSCE. The OSCE should play and plays a very important role here and we want it to continue in the future. We think that we can achieve a serious advancement in the nearest future owing to which the OSCE role in this region can significantly expand.

Mr. President, allow me to state also that we welcome direct negotiations held between you and the Armenian president. We approve these negotiations and think that these negotiations and the negotiations held within the framework of OSCE, in particular, within the framework of the OSCE co-chairmen do not replace each other. We are looking forward to success at these negotiations.

We know that there were many discussions here about the OSCE Minsk Group, about the co-chair countries and their representatives. But Mr. President, I want to assure you that the OSCE and its Minsk Group, as well as the leaders of co-chair countries for the Minsk Group are trying to do their utmost in order to play a useful and positive role in the settlement of this conflict. We will henceforward continue this activity. At the same time, we consider that in case the conflict is settled, and we hope that the conflict will be peacefully settled soon, the OSCE will play a role of catalyst in mobilization of international community and international resources to support the process both from politically and financially.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I appreciate that you have stated about the views and opinion of the OSCE as regards our country. I regard the affiliation of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe as a historical event for our country. Thus, Azerbaijan being situated in the European continent has become at the same time a full member of European family. And it is natural that our goal is to implement in Azerbaijan all the principles of the Council of Europe and OSCE.

The attention of the OSCE and, as you have mentioned, the Council of Europe to our region causes our great feeling of satisfaction. The cooperation of our country, Azerbaijan, with the OSCE is implemented in several directions. But we attach great importance to the cooperation with OSCE and especially with its Minsk Group established in 1992 and its co-chairs for realization of the OSCE principles in Azerbaijan and strengthening of state independence, as well as for providing its territorial integrity and inviolability of borders and we strongly believe in this cooperation.

Over 7 years, we closely cooperate with the Minsk Group. The objective and reason for this cooperation is peaceful liberation of our lands occupied by Armenian troops as a result of territorial claims raised by Armenia to Azerbaijan.

The question obtruded as Nagorno-Karabakh problem turned later into a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan which brought to huge losses and delivered a blow to Azerbaijan. The Armenian troops first occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and then 7 adjacent regions which made 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory in tote.

As a result of this occupation, over a million Azerbaijanis were banished from these lands. They live in hard conditions in various regions of Azerbaijan. Their majority lives in tents.

A cease-fire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia in May 1994 and after that, peaceful negotiations started. We still maintain the cease-fire regime. The OSCE envoy sitting next to you has been observing the situation for already several years in a raw and helps us to maintain the cease-fire regime. We positively appreciate it, but peace has not been attained yet. The occupied lands have not been liberated and the people banished from their native lands still live in hard conditions.

The Minsk Group co-chairs - Russia, the United States of America and France are great powers of the world. But unfortunately, despite their great potential, great power and influence in the world, neither the leaders of these states nor their representatives could achieve the desired result so far.

Several days ago, we discussed these issues in the parliament of Azerbaijan, in the Milli Majlis. Three proposals forwarded by the OSCE co-chairs since 1997 were for the first time published in the press and introduced to the Azerbaijan community. Although we conditionally approved two of them made in 1997 - the first was advanced in July and the second in September, Armenia rejected them. Those proposals were seriously criticized by the Azerbaijan parliament members, and now I can say that by the community too.

In 1998, the first proposal - a common state formula was put forward. Having received this proposal we told the Minsk Group representatives that there could not be a bigger injustice as regards Azerbaijan. We declined it. But Armenia approved. Why? Because it suited them in full. That document fully legalized the activity carried out by Armenia in respect of Nagorno-Karabakh since 1998. I stated about it in the parliament. But although we declined that proposal in 1998, I can openly say that people cannot get quiet until now: how could it happen that the Minsk Group acted so unfairly and introduced Azerbaijan such a proposal? We are grateful to the OSCE that it established the Minsk Group co-chaired by superpowers of the world in order to settle Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. But at the same time, we are indeed unsatisfied that the Minsk Group and its co-chairs cannot settle the problem so far and our community, the state of Azerbaijan, regards their activity with serious criticism.

Direct meetings and negotiations between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan started in early 1991 on the initiative and recommendation of the Minsk Group. We have had numerous meetings since that time. Even 15 or 16 according to some calculations. We stated from the very beginning that mutual compromises should be made to solve the matter. However, there is no result yet as long as Armenia claims for excessively big concessions from Azerbaijan, but we cannot meet their claims. On the one hand, Armenia has occupied Azerbaijani lands, made one million people refugees and it is an aggressor. Moreover, it strives now for legalization of what was violently seized. Therefore, we in no way can agree with it. A new meeting of presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia will take place in Paris on 4-5 March. After that, a trilateral meeting of presidents of France, Armenia and Azerbaijan will be held. I would like very much the Armenian president to take a constructive position at the forthcoming meeting. We have repeatedly stated and I restate it once again to You as a high-ranking representative of the OSCE that Azerbaijan sticks to a peaceful way of settlement of the issue and strives for its peaceful solution. And it is despite the fact that after the discussion in our Milli Majlis, the community of Azerbaijan gives preference to a military way of the conflict settlement, i.e. through a war. And it is understandable. Historically, force was always used against force and a big liberation movement was always launched against aggression. Nevertheless I, as the head of the Azerbaijan state assert that there are still many means for peaceful solution of the issue. And these means are first of all concentrated in the hands of Minsk Group and its co-chairs. Of course, the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan has these means. Azerbaijan takes a constructive position, however we cannot fulfill all Armenian demands. Therefore, Mr. Minister, I ask You once again to raise this question in the OSCE Minsk Group.

Not once have I met with all the heads of Minsk Group co-chair states and discussed this issue. However the parliament of Azerbaijan considers it insufficient and it was decided on behalf of the parliament to send the Minsk Group co-chairs, i.e. the heads of these sates, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the leadership of the UNO including the Chairman of Security Council letters urging to take serious measures.

I think that the meetings of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan should be continued, but it should not lead to weakening of the Minsk Group co-chairs` activity. We should speed up the work in two directions.

I want to say frankly that the patience of people living in tents for 8 years has run short since the measures taken by us for peaceful settlement of the issue do not yield any result so far. Therefore, I ask you, the OSCE leadership, to take new and very effective measures in this line.

Mircea Geoana: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Allow me to ensure you that the OSCE and its Minsk Group will continue to be partners, reliable partners at these difficult negotiations between You and the president of Armenia. The co-chairs negotiate with the parties, fulfill their work and will henceforth continue this activity. As the Chairman-in-Office for the OSCE, I am also ready to do my best for intensification of this activity.

France, Russia and the United State of America claim at the highest level that they adhere to the attainment of peaceful settlement of the conflict and are ready to make all the efforts for that.

However, it is necessary that all the parties be ready to make serious concessions and demonstrate the intention to attain peaceful and lasting settlement of the conflict. Nevertheless I, as a human and as a representative of an international organization was concerned that such people who live with the mentality of a military period and do not adhere to the philosophy of a peaceful period still exist in the society.

Mr. President, let us prove such people that they are mistaken. Let us show them that peace, progress and national pride are possible through negotiations as well. As the leader of Your country, You touched quite fairly the question of deportation of your citizens from their native hearths as a result of the conflict and their long-time residence in hard conditions.

Repeating the thoughts stated at our tete-a-tete meeting with You taken place before this meeting I want to state once again: as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office I will do utmost to reveal and mobilize existing capabilities in order to direct them to the assistance over peaceful settlement for the conflict. Besides, we are ready to assist the implementation of measures on de-mining of territories in the region of conflict, return of refugees and internally displaced people to their native lands and realization of reconstruction and creative work, as well as creation of infrastructure in the territories liberated from occupation.

And finally, let me assure you that the activity of Minsk Group will not become more passive or weaker. On the contrary, we have energy and strength, as well as political will for intensification of the Minsk Groups` activity to have it render aid to the negotiations of the two presidents and contribute to the peaceful process.

At last, Mr. President, I ask You to make use of this OSCE mission, its office functioning here and the OSCE institutions on the whole. You must consider us your partners in order to implement together with the OSCE institutions, together with us and the Council of Europe the activity over solution of existing challenges and problems, including improvement of work in the field of human rights. We want You to make use of the opportunities we have so that we could intensify even more our efforts for strengthening and democratization of your country.

We wish you success during your Paris visit. We wish success to your minister of foreign affairs too.

Mr. President, allow me to hand you the letter of President of our country, Iliescu. President Iliescu sends you and Azerbaijani people his frank greetings and wishes your country peace and progress. In his letter he once again invites you to pay an official visit to Romania in any time convenient for you.

Heydar Aliyev: I appreciate you. I am very pleased to receive such a letter. I ask you to send President, Mr. Iliescu, my greetings and best wishes. I accept his invitation with great pleasure.