Speech of Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the Summit of Heads of member states of ‎GUUAM organization - Yalta, June 7, 2001‎

Esteemed Leonid Danilovich Kuchma!

Esteemed Eduard Amvrosiyevich Shevardnadze!

Esteemed Islam Abdulganiyevich Karimov!

Esteemed Vladimir Nikolayevich Voronin!

Esteemed colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I want to greet you on behalf of the Azerbaijani delegation and wish successes to the work of our summit, I am confident that this summit will be an important stage in further development of our organization - GUUAM.

I would like to express my gratitude to Leonid Danilovich Kuchma for his initiative to hold this meeting, in this regard we did not have any schedule so far. I think that the initiative taken by Leonid Danilovich Kuchma has played the important role in our attendance of this high ranked summit for discussion of our GUUAM related problems, which is being held in Crimea, the beautiful region of Ukraine.

I find it necessary to note that that GUUAM has passed a progressive way in the course of the elapsed period and this is natural. Making a decision and achievement of an agreement don't result in immediate progress of the organization, on the contrary, it requires passing test of the time. Today we can say that our countries united in GUUAM organization, have passed the test of time.

GUUAM lives, exists and doesn't oppose any international organization. Of course, it helps us to settle some problems related to our national interests and I think that it will help us to do that in future.

It is important to note that our organization is creation of independence of our countries, our states. 10 years pass since collapse of Soviet Union this year. This enabled our country, as well as other republics of the Soviet Union to become independent countries.

The way leading to the independence is a difficult process. Having declared our state independence, we took an important historical step. However, in case of Azerbaijan, - in my opinion, taking into consideration their special features the other republics can say the same, - we saw that strengthening and protection of this independence after drastic changes in political and economic system was not easy.

For instance, in Azerbaijan we faced a lot of problems. The special feature of our Republic is that while declaring independence, Azerbaijan was in conflict situation with neighboring Armenia. Armenia commenced to present territorial claims against Azerbaijan having in view Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Karabakh) region as far back as 1988, during existence of Soviet Union. Therefore we were in war and we were conducting military operations.

One of the shortcomings of the system we have been living and working for in the course of many years, - the heads of states present here and I know that we did a lot for that system, - was that faced a lot of injustice.

Our republic faced one of these injustices. Unfortunately, such superpower like Soviet Union could not and did not want to prevent the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and this conflict has developed into war, which remains unsettled so far. Moreover, armed forced of Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijani territories for the different reasons and drove all Azerbaijanis out these territories. Not only in Mountainous Garabagh region, - there was a little population, - but also in surrounding region, one million of Azerbaijanis were driven out their homelands. More than one million people are refugees and live in very hard conditions; many of them live in tents for 8-9 years. We achieved our independence in such conditions. The processes that took place within the country afterwards was related with the fact that armed groups established during conflict in Mountainous Garabagh became a tool in hands of separate political forces. This resulted in violation of stability in the country and struggle for power. Thus, Azerbaijan was on the edge of abyss, on the threshold of the chaos in 1993 and it resulted in appearance of the threat of division of the country. The events threatening our independence took place afterwards as well. However, today one can say with pleasure that we have succeeded to overcome all that and to preserve and to consolidate our independence.

Being an independent state, today Azerbaijan takes a decent place in world community and is affiliated with different international organizations including such an internationally important organization like GUUAM.

First of all, taking into consideration regional principles, secondly, proximity of interests, especially necessity of consolidation and for further development of the independence, economic cooperation and, of course, for rendering of assistance to each other in this difficult transition period, our countries unified and established GUUAM organization.

Sometimes one can hear: what the GUUAM is for, what is it and is it in contrast with other international organizations? For instance, I have been always answering and answer today that these questions are groundless. There are many international organizations in the world, even within the CIS there are several regional organizations besides GUUAM. Perhaps, they were established before GUUAM.

In our opinion, GUUAM is not going to oppose any organization, in contrary, it considers as its main goal the more active involvement in the processes underway in the world. The processes underway in the world, I will say the truth, are difficult. If formerly we have been suffering from cold war, totalitarian soviet regime, actually, there are other reasons and they make suffer countries and peoples not less. Of course, in this respect the military conflicts in different regions of the world are more dangerous. Azerbaijan that is member of GUUAM is in the condition of military conflict. Our neighbor, brother Georgia suffers also from military conflict. The militant extremism and religious fanaticism challenge the Central Asian region. Of course, Ukraine has faced many problems in the result of this situation. Moldova cannot get rid of by any means the conflict in Pridnestrovye. If we take the case of 5 countries, constituting GUUAM, we can see that three of them are involved in military conflicts. In fact, we were in war. Thus, our goal is to achieve the peaceful settlement of conflicts by joint efforts within the frames of our organization. We consider it a very important goal for Azerbaijan.

These conflicts brought many other dangers. In general, actually, the issue of security is of the first importance for many regions of the world, especially for our region. The hardly noticeable previously signs of separatism delivered a great blow not only to former Soviet Republics like Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan, but look also to the case of Balkan countries and other countries. I do not want to extend the geography till Asia. Extremism, religious fanaticism, separatism - all that are present in the neighboring countries of Central Asia now. Therefore, getting information about it, taking preventive measures in due time, cooperation and exchange of experience in combating such cases are of great importance.

Our organization is a regional institution. Mutual economic activity, economy, humanitarian actions, science, culture and cooperation in the field of education are in front line here. If we look at the map, we can see that GUUAM member state constitute a complete strip - starting in North by Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan over Caspian Sea.

There are great possibilities for economic cooperation, especially in the field of realization of such important programs like TRASECA and restoration of Great Silk Road funded by European Union. All this is of great importance for our actual realities and for our future.

We, the countries represented in GUUAM, have been dealing with these issues actively and we are actively involved in realization of TRASECA program. The first international conference was held in Azerbaijan under auspices of European Union in 1998. Some 32 countries and 15 international organizations were represented at this conference. We have adopted a number of decisions, signed a number of documents and I am confident that all that have great perspectives and bright future. Restoration of Great Silk Road connecting East with the West in the shortest route and which is the most safe itinerary, of course, is the duty within the circle of GUUAM activity.

Economic cooperation is of great importance. I think that within GUUAM it is a common opinion that in the field of economic cooperation the bilateral and multilateral interests of one country in the cooperation with other countries, international organizations and regions are not an exception. From this viewpoint, GUUAM is an addition to such cooperation, it is a mean for more active development of these economic relationships.

I think that in the course of elapsed period GUUAM has taken its shape. When we established GUUAM in 1997, some of the challenging phenomena making anxious today not only our countries but many regions of the world - international terrorism, extremism, religious fanaticism, aggressive separatism, - were not considered dangerous since many countries were not paying sufficient attention to these phenomena, perhaps some countries could not foresee that, now these phenomena are very developed. Perhaps, we can face more dangerous and more difficult problems in this regard. Therefore, world security, security of its many regions, security in Europe, security in Caucasus, security in Central Asia, security in Eastern Europe is of very great importance. Factors, challenging this security and creating difficult problems are those I spoke about. Therefore, I think that we must cooperate more actively in the future within the frames of GUUAM and putting these issues in the forefront interact each with other. Exchanging opinions, taking active part in other international organizations on the issues of international security and speaking about tends fraught with the great dangers we can do a lot.

As I have told previously, in my opinion, GUUAM is a formed already organization. And the present Yalta meeting is a turning point in this regard, because we are going for the first time to sigh Yalta Charter of our organization and some other documents. For instance, I think that we must develop our organization and make it more powerful and more active.

Thus, I would like to express one again my gratitude to Leonid Danilovich Kuchma, the President of Ukraine for his initiative and this meeting which evidently will become the basis of our future activity, future active interaction and cooperation within GUUAM.