Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception on behalf of the President of Poland Alexander Kwasniewski in honor of the President of Azerbaijan, Warsaw, 26 August 1997

Mr. President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I convey the best wishes and warm greetings of the people of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan to you and in your person to all the Polish people.

Mr. President, I cordially thank you for inviting me to visit Poland on an official visit and express my sincerest gratitude for the hospitality, warm and friendly welcome that was shown to us from the very first minutes of my visit in Poland, Warsaw.

I totally agree with you, Mr. President, that our meeting today is the first visit of the President of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan to Poland and the event is indeed historic.

In your speech, you gave very sound facts, vividly describing the historical relations between the Polish and Azerbaijani peoples. We can be proud that our peoples, despite the great distance from each other, have always maintained the close relations and never suspended them.

Besides the words said by distinguished President Kwasniewski, there can be added a few more facts. Indeed, in the Middle Ages Poland and Azerbaijan maintained active economic and trade relations. There were delivered wonderful carpets, cotton, silk and many other important products from Azerbaijan to Poland. There were established not only trade and economic relations, but also human relations. For example, it is well known that in the fifteenth century the ruler of Azerbaijan Uzun Hasan maintained close relations with the Polish King Jagiello.

At the beginning of this century, one of the politicians and enlighteners of Azerbaijan Topchubashov translated poems of Adam Mickiewicz into Azerbaijani and the founder of the Azerbaijani professional music Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the author of the anthem of Azerbaijan, which you heard today published them in his newspaper in 1918.

In the middle of the nineteenth century the Azerbaijani writers, thinkers and philosophers, Abbasqulu agha Bakikhanov and Gutgashinly lived and worked in Poland and cooperated with their Polish colleagues. In the middle of the last century the Azerbaijani heroic epos "Koroglu" was translated and published by Hodzko, a Pole by nationality in English and French.

The end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century are characterized by a rapid development of relations between Azerbaijan and Poland. They were not only of economic, commercial and cultural, but also of political nature. In the Tsarist Duma the Pole Ledinsky and the Azerbaijani Topchubashov created a special fraction, which fought for the autonomy of Poland and Azerbaijan.

It is known in history that the movement, in fact, pursued the goal of achieving freedom, independence and autonomy for the Poles and Azerbaijanis in the Tsarist Russia. Pilsudski and one of the founders of the first democratic government of Azerbaijan in 1918 Mammadamin Rasul-zade actively collaborated in this field. As I said, Mammadamin Rasul-zade, one of the founders of the first independent government in Azerbaijan, later emigrated and for a long time lived in Poland in the 30s. President Kwasniewski talked about the emigrants from Azerbaijan. One of the major emigrants was Mamedamin Rasul-zade, who lived and worked here in Poland. By the way, his wife named Wanda was a relative of Pilsudski.

Azerbaijan remembers engineer Pototski with a great sense of gratitude, who was the first person to develop the project of production of oil from the Caspian Sea. In Azerbaijan we also remember Ploshko, a civil engineer who is the author of some very big architectural structures in the center of Baku.

The Poles in Azerbaijan also took an active part in the activities of the first Azerbaijani democratic government formed in 1918. For example, the Kuczynski brothers worked in the government of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. General Sulkevich was the first Chief of Staff of the national army of the first democratic government of Azerbaijan in 1918. After the First World War, when the Poles were deported from Poland, tens of thousands of them arrived in Azerbaijan. They lived and continue to live in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan. Now only in Baku there are more than two thousand of Poles.

There existed very close economic, scientific, cultural and literary relations between Poland and Azerbaijan in the post-war years, I mean, after the Second World War. Many works of the Polish writers and poets were translated by the Azerbaijani writers and poets, they were published in Azerbaijani and read by the Azerbaijani readers with pleasure. The same was in Poland.

All this was remained in history. But despite all the rich history of our relations, there never took place such events as it is today. Now Azerbaijan is an independent and sovereign country. Azerbaijan lost its independence in 1920 which was found in 1918. It regained this independence at the end of 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This independence is forever and eternal.

We are grateful to Poland that it immediately responded to our call and recognized the independence of Azerbaijan in the very first few months after our independence.

Over the past years, our relations have developed. However, today, a new stage is opening in the relations of Poland and Azerbaijan and we greatly appreciate it. I want to say once more that in the long history of our relations it is the first time that we establish bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Poland, which found their perfect expression in the documents signed today by the Presidents of Poland and Azerbaijan and other officials of Poland and Azerbaijan.

We believe that we have created a good legal basis for the development of our relations and sign contracts. We hope that this will give a new impetus to expand and deepen our cooperation. We have no doubt that within a short time the Polish Embassy will begin to function in Azerbaijan, Baku.

Poland is one of the biggest countries of Europe, it occupies an important strategic position and has a huge potential. We are well aware of the history of the Polish people and their fight for freedom, independence and statehood.

With a sense of great respect for the heroic deeds of the Polish people, I visited today the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who fell for the freedom and independence of Poland. It is well known what a huge loss and victims the Polish people suffered during the World War II. This beautiful ancient town Warsaw was destroyed with its great historical and architectural monuments. With a sense of great joy today we walked around the beautiful Warsaw rebuilt with the cost of work and ability of the Polish people. As your friends we are glad that great changes have taken place in the political, social and economic life of the Republic of Poland in the recent years.

As an independent and sovereign country, Poland took its worthy place in the world community and Europe. We share your successes and appreciate your actions in strengthening the security in Europe and the sovereignty and independence of Poland. I once more congratulate you on the admission of Poland to NATO. This is a great historical event for the Polish people. Besides, this is an extremely important factor in strengthening the security in Europe. Dear friends, I wish you success on this right road.

Our countries have the ability to create very favorable conditions for the economic, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. On our part we shall do everything for that. I think that the interest of Poland in the Caucasus, in the Caspian basin and in our region should further increase. I believe that the use of the energy resources of the Caspian basin by Azerbaijan evokes great interest in Poland.

I think that the Eurasian Transport Corridor is also of great interest for Poland. By this corridor that actively operates, goods are transported from the Central Asia through the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan to Europe and back. We are ready to present specific proposals to enhance cooperation between Azerbaijan and Poland in this area.

Azerbaijan highly appreciates its national independence, sovereignty and freedom. We stand strongly on this position and never, under any circumstances, allow our sovereignty be violated. However, the complicated processes in the Caucasus caused tremendous damage to Azerbaijan. The military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan which began in 1988 with the purpose of annexation of the Mountainous Garabagh region of Azerbaijan led to war and bloodshed. For various reasons, Azerbaijan has lost 20 percent of its territory. More precisely, 20 percent of Azerbaijan has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. Over one million Azerbaijanis have been expelled from these lands by force. For over four years they live in difficult conditions and the majority of them live in tents.

We have suffered great loss and our country suffered tremendous emotional distress. But, despite this, we felt the need to achieve a cease-fire. Over three years ago, in the May of 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement. Now there is no war, but there is no peace as well. We strive for a complete peace in our region, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but on condition of complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan and restoration of its territorial integrity on the basis of the three principles adopted at the Lisbon Summit. I take this opportunity to thank President Alexander Kwasniewski once more for supporting our republic at the Lisbon Summit of OSCE. The basic principles for the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Mountainous Garabagh were adopted in that Summit.

We believe that we shall achieve a peaceful settlement on this conflict. Guarantors of this are the forces of the international community, the OSCE and its Minsk Group, specifically organized to resolve the conflict and the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE, the U.S., Russia and France. We, on our part, shall do everything to maintain the cease-fire, to achieve complete peace and rely on the help and support of all members of the international community, OSCE, including Poland.

Dear friends, Azerbaijan firmly follows the path of building a democratic and secular state. We have successfully implemented economic reforms and achieved positive results. There is no old regime, the old system and the communist ideology in Azerbaijan and they will never be there. Our path is the path of a free, independent development and democracy and the path followed by all the developed countries of the world. All this is a good basis for the further consolidation and development of relations between Poland and Azerbaijan.

I wish happiness, prosperity and peace, freedom and eternal independence to the Polish people. I propose a toast to the President of Poland, my friend, a wonderful person Alexander Kwasniewski, to the Republic of Poland and the Polish people. I raise a glass to the Polish-Azerbaijani friendship and our peoples!