Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception held at the Chamber of Commerce – April 26, 1999

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I cordially greet you at this magnificent place, in Washington, and express my pleasure for being with you here. 

The American-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce has been functioning for several years and serving the development of economic relations, extension of trade, and growth of friendship and cooperation between our countries in general. Taking the advantage, I congratulate the American-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce on the gained achievements. I wish new successes to the members and partners of the Chamber in their noble work.

The American-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce serves the development of relations of friendship and cooperation between the USA and Azerbaijan at the same time. Today, I declare here that Azerbaijan considers the USA its strategic partner. We highly appreciate the relations between the USA and Azerbaijan as the relations of strategic partnership; we are faithful to these relations and will stay faithful hence.

I arrived Washington in order to participate at the ceremony devoted to the 50th anniversary of NATO. This ceremony is already over. We all attended the main assembly held on the 50th anniversary of NATO yesterday. Everyone disclosed his view. I made my speech at the assembly taking the advantage of time as well. Today I state here that in the past 50 years NATO has ensured peace, security and stability in the world and in Europe. We highly appreciate the activity of NATO. We support the future activity of NATO as well. We approve and appreciate the new concept of strategy forwarded by NATO. NATO served the civilization in these 50 years and today we can tell without hesitation that it will extend its activity in future and serve the establishment of peace, security and stability in the world.

We highly appreciate the services of the USA in the 50 years of NATO at the same time. The USA passed through the large trials in the past fifty years with the members of NATO. The “Cold War” lasted for decades. It is over at last. The socialism system, the soviet empire and the Soviet Union collapsed. As a result of it, the republics of the former Soviet Union regained their independence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Azerbaijan was one of them which gained its independence. Today I declare that Azerbaijan has preserved and developed its independence passing through difficult trials in the past eight years. Today the independence of Azerbaijan is strong, eternal and firm.

Azerbaijan is becoming a democratic, legal and secular state. The political, economic reforms are being carried out in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan builds and develops its economy on the principles of the market economy. Azerbaijan implements into life a peaceful policy, tries to establish and develop mutually beneficial relations with all the countries of the world. All of this form the bases of the home and foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Today, here in Washington, I declare once more that the road of democracy is the steady road for Azerbaijan. We shall raise Azerbaijan to the position of a fully democratic state. We can do it and shall achieve it.

The Azerbaijani economy is being developed on the principles of the market economy. We are broadly implementing into life the privatization program. We carry out a land reform and give the lands to private ownership, to, peasants. The privatization produces new achievements in the economy of Azerbaijan.

As you know, like in other former Soviet Union republics, the economy of Azerbaijan has been affected by difficult problems of transition period now as well. Nevertheless, we solve them. The inflation and the economic decline of the previous years stopped three years ago. A stability has been established in economy and as a result of it the Azerbaijani economy has taken the road of development. We have fully overcome the inflation, the value of national currency of Azerbaijan – manat has become stable. The production is developing in Azerbaijan. The growth of the domestic product is growing year-by-year.

We are cooperating with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial institutions. I am proud to say that according to the views of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Azerbaijan got the highest indicators for its economy among the republics of the former Soviet Union which now are the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. You have to take into consideration that Azerbaijan achieved all this in grave circumstances. Armenia launched a military aggression against our republic forwarding unfair territorial claims since 1988. As a result of this aggression and with the help of many states the armed forces of Armenia occupied 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory. As a result of the ethnic cleansing by the Armenian armed forces over one million Azerbaijanis have been driven out from the occupied territories by force and now live in tents in critical conditions.

We signed a ceasefire agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in May, 1994.

It is already five years that there is no fire. But we could not achieve peace still and hold negotiations. We want to solve the problem by peace. Thus, we hope for the activity of the Minsk Group of OSCE and its co-chairs Russia, the USA and France. But unfortunately, the Minsk Group could not implement its functions properly. The activity of one of the co-chairs of the OSCE is weak. I told my views about it to the Secretary of State Mrs. Albright today at the State Department once more.  For the peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict we expect more firm steps from the USA.

The USA has great opportunities in this case. It should use these opportunities, because we have an honest and sincere cooperation with the USA.  We help the USA to carry out its interests in the Caucasus, as well as in the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan. That is why we expect the USA to function more steadily in the field of peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. I hope we will witness this activity.

It must be taken into consideration that – I mentioned it today at the state department, too – one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia has been arming Armenia in the last several years. Russia secretly delivered Armenia weapons, ammunition and military equipment in worth of the amount of one billion dollars in the recent three years. There is a Russian military base in the territory of Armenia. There is huge number of troops in that military base. The new weapons, as well as C-300 missiles and MiG-29 planes have been delivered to that military base in the recent months.

We protest against that Russian military base in Armenia and its illegal delivery of weapons to Armenia. We declared our protest to Russia and the USA. Nevertheless, Russia is still pursuing this policy. In its turn, it threatens peace and security in the Caucasus. Thus, the USA should pay more attention to the Caucasian region. Its economic interest has to coincide and unite with its political interest in the Caucasus region. These must serve the protection of peace and security in the Caucasian region.

As a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict there are over one million refugees in the territory of our country. The former Secretary of State Mr. Eagleburger mentioned that they have seen our citizens living in refugee tents when they were in Azerbaijan. Imagine, those people have been living in tents for six years in grave conditions…

It goes without saying that we appreciate the efforts of the USA, NATO made for the solution of the problems in the Balkans, Yugoslavia. We consider it as the service done for the prevention of conflicts in the world. But there appears a question at the same time: five, six or seven years ago, when the Armenian armed forces were occupying the territories of Azerbaijan and carrying out the ethnic cleansing in those territories, killing thousands of people, why did the USA not protect the rights of the Azerbaijani people and raise its strong voice? I wonder.

I mention it once more - undoubtedly, we appreciate the measures taken by the USA and NATO in Yugoslavia, Kosovo and appreciate the works done for the protection of human rights. But it should be carried out everywhere. It should be both in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.

In this grave condition, there is a democratic and legal state-building process in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is developing its economy. Azerbaijan wants to integrate into the economy of the world closely.

That is why we initiated for the first time to present the energy resources of the Caspian Sea to the world. I consider it as a special service of Azerbaijan to the world community. Because the Caspian Sea has huge natural resources and Azerbaijan started to exploit the oil resources when it was a member of the Soviet Union, 50 years ago. For the first time, in November, 1949 the Azerbaijani oilmen started to produce off-shore oil in the middle of the Caspian Sea, at a distance of a hundred kilometers from the coast, a well gushed there. It was the first step in the off-shore oil production in the world. It all happened in the past. We have gained good experience.

When Azerbaijan gained its independence and became the complete owner of its natural resources, it started to rationally use these resources. Therefore, we signed the first contract with the biggest oil companies of the world in September, 1994. It was called “the Contract of the Century”. The USA – “AMOKO”, “Unocal” and “Pennzoil” joined this contract. We took a firm step in order to use the energy resources of the Caspian Sea on a global scale together with those and other companies of the world – “BP”, “Statoil” and others. This issue is in the progress for the last three or four years.

We signed new contracts last year. The total number of contracts has come up to 16. The investments in Azerbaijan under these contracts will be approximately 50 billion USA dollars. We achieved to implement the first contract. We produced the early oil in November, 1997, and exported it to the world markets. We have achieved the transportation of oil through the northern route - Baku - Novorossiysk. At the same time, we wanted to lay an alternative pipeline and achieved it. On April 17, ten days ago, we celebrated the operation of Baku - Supsa 820 kilometers tin length o the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa. The pipeline delivers oil to the world market. Thus, we introduced and presented the energy resources of the Caspian Sea to the world. Now, together with the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea, the work is going on in other sectors - the Kazakh, Turkmen, Russian, and Iranian sectors, and thus, the Caspian Sea has now become the largest region in the world for oil and gas. This is the service of democratic Azerbaijan to the world community. We are proud of it. While implementing all of it into life we closely cooperate with the USA, the private sector of the USA and oil companies.

There will be signed the new three contracts in Washington. It indicates that the energy resources of the Caspian Sea are huge, the USA is becoming more interested in the energy resources of Azerbaijan and several oil companies proposed us to sign new contracts. We shall look through these proposals and I suppose that we shall achieve to implement them as well.

This is the present reality of Azerbaijan. Besides them, we face great difficulties. Secretary of State Mr. Eagleburger very correctly pointed out here that the application of Section 907 to Azerbaijan, I can say, is the most striking example of injustice in the world. Unfortunately, we have been subjected to injustice. We try to repeal Section 907 for a several years. Section 907 was applied to Azerbaijan in 1992. The reason for this was the fact that Azerbaijan allegedly blockaded Armenia. But this is far from reality. Armenia has occupied e 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory. Armenia has occupied most of the Azerbaijani railway, captured and thus limited our possibilities. However, in the Congress of the USA the question was presented quite differently, instead of punishing Armenia, Azerbaijan was punished. Unfortunately, such things also happen.

We believe the USA is the most democratic country in the world. We believe that America is the fairest country of the world. One cannot imagine such an injustice in the Congress of the USA, in the center of the democratic world, in the heart of justice. However, it is the reality. We try, and I thank you for what you are trying to repeal Section 907. The moral aspect of it is the most difficult for us, because Azerbaijan does not deserve such an injustice. I think, finally, the USA Congress will realize the injustice of this decision, and together with you we shall achieve the repeal of this article.

I think that one of the achievements of Azerbaijan before the world community is the fact that it has became the initiator of restoration of the ancient Silk Road. You know that in the restoration of the Great Silk Road, many nations of the world are interested - from Japan to the edge of Europe, and the United States of America.

Over the past few years, we, established links between Europe and Asia, East and West, building pipelines and the Transcaucasian transport corridor, provided a base for the restoration of the ancient Silk Road. On this basis, in the September of the last year with the European Union there was held an International Conference on restoration of the ancient Silk Road in Baku. At this conference 32 countries of the world were g represented, it was attended by 14 international organizations. At this conference we signed important documents on the restoration of the Great Silk Road. I am very pleased to announce today that the Senator of the United States Senate Brownback is working on this issue over a year. He has prepared a bill on this, which has already been approved by the Senate Committee. Two days ago here, in the building of the Congress, Senator Brownback has invited the presidents of the countries located along the Silk Road, this issue was discussed together with us, and we have approved this bill by Senator Brownback. I want to express my confidence that the Senate, Congress, finally, will adopt this bill. It is necessary for the United States, Europe, Asia, the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. I think that our cooperation in this field is successful and everybody witnesses the achievements of Azerbaijan.

Thus, Azerbaijan tries to adequately carry out its partnership obligations. You can be sure that we shall continue to be faithful to friendship, cooperation and partnership. We shall continue to rapidly develop ties with the United States of America. The possibilities are great. Most part of the private sector of the United States may participate in the economy of Azerbaijan, and thus, we can further develop our cooperation.

Dear friends, by conveying these words I express my gratitude to you all for this meeting. I wish each of you good health and happiness. I wish the American-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce new successes.

I wish the American people and the American government successes in the implementation of its huge and important mission before the humanity.

Long live the American-Azerbaijani friendship and cooperation!

I wish each of you good health and happiness. Thank you.

“Azerbaijan” newspaper, April 27, 1999