From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the reporter of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Azerbaijan, MP of France Jacque Bommel and other guests - Presidential palace, 10 April, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Honourable friend Jacque Bommel!

Honourable guests!

I express my gratitude to you once again for having accepted my invitation, arrived in Azerbaijan and take active part in the jubilee celebrations of "Kitabi-Dede Gorgud", which is of historical significance for us. By this visit, You have manifested Your respect to independent Azerbaijan, our people, our past history, culture and historical roots of Azerbaijani nation. I highly estimate it. I think You have felt that not only I, but also our government and, particularly, our public appreciate it highly, too. Thereby, You have demonstrated once again that You truly uphold the sincere friendship relations with Azerbaijani people.

I know You have much work to do both in Your country, France, and in the Council of Europe. Because while maintaining close contacts with You within the recent years, we know that You are always very busy. However, You have found time and arrived in Azerbaijan. I think You must be pleased that while partaking at these celebrations and scientific symposiums, You have learned the history of Azerbaijan even better. Certainly, first of all, it is necessary for us. But I think You need it, too. You are already perceived as a scholar on Azerbaijan. Therefore, the knowledge of the history and ancient culture of Azerbaijan enriches You as a scholar. I thank You.

Jacque Bommel: Mr. President, first of all, I am happy that I have been honoured to be invited by You. At the same time, this invitation has concurred with two important events having special significance for your people - the Summit of heads of Turkic states and solemn holding of 1300th anniversary of "Kitabi-Dede Gorgud" epos.

Mr. President, I express my gratitude to You once again since You have afforded me a special honour. First of all, because You invited me to Your table and offered a seat beside the general director of the UNESCO at the official reception on April 9. And secondly, the day before, at the official reception arranged by You for the heads of Turkic states, You rendered me honour to sit at the same table with the heads of states.

Mr. President, I want to advise You to be rather cautious. I think if it goes like this henceforth, I will evidently become more popular in Azerbaijan than in France. And once, facing the inevitability, I will nominate my candidacy for the elections held here and with the elections.

Heydar Aliyev: It would be great. Our parliament needs such a person as You.

Jacque Bommel: I will never forget it.

Heydar Aliyev: Perhaps, our Murtuz Alasgarov will be alarmed of it, because I am afraid that subsequently, You will like to become the speaker of the parliament.

Jacques Bommel: In this case, taking into account my age, I will become at least the oldest person of Your Milli Majlis, as You, Mr. President are much younger than me from this standpoint.

Heydar Aliyev: We will speak of it later. However, Your idea is a very valuable one. Because if You are a member of our parliament, it will no longer be discussed in the Council of Europe or in the European Union whether the democracy and human rights are protected in Azerbaijan or not. As long as there is such a person as Jacques Bommel at the Azerbaijani parliament, it means that everything is all right.

Jacques Bommel: Mr. President, despite my jokes, I am quite serious that I am at the same time pleased and happy to see You in good health. Because these days, I have also been beside You. To work in such a regime and with such a dynamics would be extremely hard even for other people regardless of their age, and I am very pleased that You are in good health.

Mr. President, I would also be very pleased to speak on the following. I want to inform that the President of the Republic of France Jacques Chirak still regards You well as before. He is delighted of Your deeds here and gives You full support in every matter.

I want to say that the friendship relations You established between France and Azerbaijan are of great factor. I am confident that this factor will have a special significance in the matter of Azerbaijan`s entering the Council of Europe and further upswing of its role in the international community and region.

Of course, this friendship should also find its reflection in further strengthening of contacts between Azerbaijan and France in political, economic and cultural spheres. I am also telling it because the positions of our countries coincide both over the matters linked with the future of Your state and problems of peace and human rights.

I wish the cooperation between Azerbaijan and France both in cultural and economic spheres to get its further development, a pole in respect to industrial and technology links to be set up between these two countries and bring our countries much closer.

Speaking of the state independence of Azerbaijan, I can say that, as a follower of General De Gaulle, I suppose that a common equilibrium should be established for providing the development of Your country. In other words, the tendencies of a more intensive inclination to one or other side should be avoided while observing mutual interests. The contacts with different countries should be built so that none of them, even France would not strive for exerting any political pressure upon Azerbaijan in future. I am quite confident that it will be possible. To that end, we need to make great efforts to have our people and our countries know each other better and especially, the exchange of information should be much expanded.

Mr. President, my friendly attitude to You allows saying frankly that today certain problems and shortcomings with regard to the recognition of Azerbaijan in Europe still exists. In particular, I want to bring France as an example.

Mr. President, these words have special meaning. Your country should accompany the eve of admission to the Council of Europe, in particular, I mean the forthcoming 3 May discussions, by a powerful propaganda campaign. By the way, I should say that ten years ago, I was not acquainted adequately with Azerbaijan myself. I had just some data found from certain books. The basic information I had in due time was that the late President of France General De Gaulle stopped in Baku for a night when going to Moscow in 1944. The other information said that Mr. Rostropovich was born in Baku.

Mr. President, since I have often come to Baku within the recent years, I am well informed of the processes ongoing in Azerbaijan and each time, I observe the progress in your country. I am saying these words by no means for the sake of courtesy. Having got rid of the 70-year fetters, Azerbaijan is successfully turning into a powerful state. I am speaking not only of the progress attained in the field of energy, oil and gas. Azerbaijan is really turning into a powerful state in the region from the political point of view.

I think all this success should be first of all linked with one factor. The basic factor providing the bright future of the country is the durable stability in Azerbaijan. Mr. President, I also want to mention that this stability has become possible in Azerbaijan just owing to Your personal activity and Your efforts.

Mr. President, the success achieved by Your country and the progress outlined on the whole, Your achievements in the line of democracy, although some opposition forces think differently in a way, as well as the measures taken recently and the summit of heads of Turkic states, instill my full confidence that You are still of a great need for Azerbaijani people in this post.

I speak about the internal stability. Certainly, it is necessary to take into account external stability too.

Your country is surrounded by powerful states. Each of these neighbouring states watches You from abroad and each has its own claims. The matter is that these states aspire to include sometime this region into the sphere of their influence. However, You need to protect Your independence. Azerbaijan is the only country in the Caucasus that has no military base of a foreign state in its territory.

Mr. President, You pursue balanced foreign policy in the framework of world, international community and the region. I compare You in a certain sense with former President of France General De Gaulle. Adhering to the same position as him, You carry on the policy that is beyond all the blocks. Europe¸ as a matter of fact, upholds You in all the spheres. And it promotes the maintenance of independence in Azerbaijan.

Visiting Your country repeatedly, I nourished the friendly attitude to your people, established close contacts with political figures and gained many friends in Azerbaijan. Mr. Murtuz Alasgarov is one of them. I met many MPs as well.

Yesterday, I visited the Baku State University. I was surrounded by the company of really high-ranking people there. It was a great honour for me to meet teachers and students of the university. Just these selected people seem to play an important role in providing the future of Azerbaijan and its development on the way to democracy.

Upon returning to France, I will tell my colleagues about everything I saw here. I will try to get the people in the political circles of France to understand better the situation and problems faced by Azerbaijan.

Today, Azerbaijan intends to implement the pact on security and cooperation in Caucasus region just as France undertook in due time the steps for implementation of the pact on security and cooperation in Europe.

Mr. President, I have spoken much as always. Since I nourish deep friendship feelings to You, I just wanted to express You all what accumulated inside me. Certainly I had to express my delight with new progress that You gain yearly. I had to say that I strongly believe in Azerbaijan`s developing future contacts with its neighbours and with the Council of Europe. I am absolutely confident that Azerbaijan will become an exemplary country realizing its political responsibility together with all the democratic and human rights institutions.

Mr. President, I convey You my best regards and the kindest hopes. Thank You very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Jacque Bommel, You have really expressed very valuable and important thoughts. It witnesses that You are a true friend of our country and show great care to Azerbaijan. You have given very clever and vital advice regarding the future of our country. I extend my gratitude You. I am pleased that You expressed once again the attitude of my friend, President Jacques Chirak to me and conveyed me his greetings.

I want to inform that we first met officially with President Jacques Chirak as the head of state in 1997. In a short period of time, very warm friendship contacts were established between us. After each meeting with President Jacques Chirak, I think for a long time and realize once again what a great experience this person has and what a smart policy he pursues.

I know well that President Jacques Chirak made and makes great efforts for the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. For the last time, we met and talked thoroughly during the Istanbul OSCE Summit taken place in November last year. He highly appreciated my meeting with President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan. Certainly, he had definite information about the subject of negotiations held with the president of Armenia and about our agreements. Mr. Jacques Chirak supported it actively, and in particular, he highly estimated my policy carried on in this line. He was confident that we would reach peace. He bravely told me that since we had chosen this way and followed this way, he would mobilize the potential not only of France, but also of the whole Europe to help peacemaking efforts in case we achieved peace. And after peace is achieved, he will try, in particular, to do his utmost to get all the financial centers to render us assistance in reconstruction of our country.

Unfortunately, the terrorist act that happened in Armenia at the end of October and the situation arose in Armenia hereupon did not allow us to continue direct negotiations. However, I am confident that we will resume these negotiations in some time. I believe that President Jacques Chirac will take active part in the settlement of these problems making use of the opportunities of both France and the European Union and render assistance in implementation of this work.

You have highly estimated the progress achieved in Azerbaijan in recent years, such as the provision of economic development, internal and external stability, as well as success achieved in the field of development of democracy and state structure. To be honest, it inspires me and I highly appreciate it

You have highly evaluated my personal activity. You have even taken interest in my health and noted the good state of my health. I am very thankful to You for this, too. I feel good. Saying goodbye to me, my friend Suleiman Demirel told me that I did not need doctor`s advice. I have passed the tests by rather prominent physicians within the last three years and those tests showed I was quite healthy.

Mr. Bommel, I am looking at You and wondering how well You look and what an excellent memory You have. It does not matter who is older. However, I think You are younger than me. I made it sure once again at the official reception yesterday evening when You watched our national dances with great interest.

Jacques Bommel: I highly appreciate these dances and their performers.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, I highly appreciate it too.

Jacques Bommel: You know, I also want to say that the beauty of Caucasians is a very ancient tradition.

Heydar Aliyev: But not anyone can appreciate beauty at its true worth. Special traits are required to estimate it. In short, both You and I are healthy and we will henceforth carry on great work together with You.

I am very satisfied with Your words that I will be needed in Azerbaijan for many long years. I also think that I will be in great demand. Since I have many plans, they have to be implemented. As You have mentioned, I have to turn Azerbaijan into a stronger and more powerful state with a high level of economy and social life. History has entrusted this mission to me and I must follow it out. You speak each time of the politics of general Sharle De Gaulle and this time, You have touched upon this subject too. Certainly, general Sharle De Gaulle is one of the outstanding personalities of the world. Everything that Sharle De Gaulle did during World War II, as well as after it, will live for centuries and will not lose its value. For me, general Sharle De Gaulle is an ideal example.

To follow a balanced policy You have spoken about and follow a policy of protection of Azerbaijan`s independence is the basis of my today`s activity. Of course, this strategy is one of the basic directions of my foreign policy as regards the further expansion of our contacts with Europe and cooperation with it. Our admission to the Council of Europe will provide great opportunities for it.

I try much to develop our direct contacts with France. However, I could not reach the desired results, in particular, in the area of expansion of our economic links. It is true, the "Total" and "Elf Akiten" companies of France have taken a significant place in the oil sector of Azerbaijan.

I remember, in December 1993, I paid the first official visit to Paris at the invitation of President Francois Mitterrand. While speaking with him, he told me that if we wanted to set up economic links with France, first of all, we should have set up the contacts with "Elf Akiten". Following his advice, I invited the "Elf Akiten" Company to Azerbaijan. This company got a worthy share in the contract concluded regarding the joint exploitation of "Shah deniz" oilfield well-known in Azerbaijan for its vast gas resources.

Later on, we invited the "Total" Company here. I will also tell You that the "Total" fulfills a great work jointly with the US "Chevron" Company at the "Absheron" oilfield. This oilfield has great prospects. The president of "Shevron" Company told me - "you will see that we will discover a few times more gas at the "Shakhdeniz" oilfield and hand it over to you". The greater part of the contract share belongs to the "Total" here.

But, of course, our cooperation in the non-oil sector should expand as well. Such cooperation exists. A number of French companies operate in Azerbaijan. However, I do not consider it satisfactory. I will take all the appropriate measures to have our economic contacts expand even greater.

France plays a very important role in Europe. France is a friend of Azerbaijan and therefore, we will step up our contacts with this country in all the spheres.

As You have mentioned, we should intensify the propaganda work until May 3. You have also mentioned that You are the greatest propagandist yourself. I appreciate You for this activity. But taking into account Your advice, Mr. Murtuz Alasgarov and the head of my executive office should make additional statements, since very short time has remained until May 3. We should take some new measures.

Mr. Jacques Bommel, our friendship is of great benefit for Azerbaijan. I thank You once again for this friendship attitude. You should know that we appreciate it. Our people are very reliable in friendship. And the President Heydar Aliyev is even more reliable.

Jacques Bommel: Mr. President, I know it. I even feel it. I want to say that the feelings of allegiance should play, so to speak, a role of cement in the friendship between our countries and it should be one of the major factors.

Mr. President, by the way, I want to say a few words about Your family. Yesterday, I saw some members of Your family. I saw Your son, Your daughter-in-law and grandchildren. In this regard, I congratulate You as a grandfather too. I am a grandfather myself and therefore, I congratulate You as a grandfather.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You, I highly appreciate it. I am very pleased with it. Both You and I are grandfathers. Grandfathers usually like their children and their grandchildren much. Obviously, our characters coincide and resemble each other in this respect too. I appreciate You for Your attention to my son and my grandchildren.

Send my greetings, my deepest respect and best wishes to Mr. Jacques Chirac. I wish You strong health and successful activity. I have also said yesterday that You have strong hands. Let this strength be with You for ever.

Jacques Bommel: Mr. President, I express You my gratitude for the kind words. I also want to say that I will likely to come to Azerbaijan again during elections in November.

Heydar Aliyev: Come by all means! The elections will not take place without You. Thank You.

The "Azerbaijan" newspaper, 12 April, 2000.

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Azerbaijan - Europe