Interview of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev to Turkish and Azerbaijan journalists given at the Ataturk airport of Istanbul upon return to motherland after VII OIC Summit - 16 December, 1994

Question: Mr. President, the independent Azerbaijan state was first represented at the Organization of the Islamic Conference Summit at the level of head of state, president. What could You say of the Casablanca Summit results and its significance for Azerbaijan?

Heydar Aliyev: First of all, I want to talk about common significance of the VII OIC Summit in Casablanca. I think it is a great event of the international scope. It was the seventh Summit of 52 countries related to the Islamic world. At the same time, the 25th anniversary of foundation of this institution was marked at this Summit. Of course, at the moment of its creation, it had much less members than now. Besides, within the period passed after the last event, 7 more states joined the OIC and now the total number has reached 52. They represent 52 states with more than a billion people. Within this 25-year period, the OIC has proved that it is capable of existing and playing its inherent role at the international arena. I consider that the seventh Summit, along with summarizing the 25-year period of its activity, is at the same time its apogee. Hereby, this Summit will undoubtedly have its influence on the world policy and international life.

Although Azerbaijan has cooperated with the OIC within the last three years, this cooperation was not much efficient. Therefore, Azerbaijan`s participation at the seventh Summit at the level of head of state is certainly a great event due to the situation of the Azerbaijan Republic at the international arena and its foreign policy. This is how I estimate it. Thus, I consider it was necessary for me to partake at this Summit.

There is no doubt that this Summit has passed through a definite preparation period as well as the sittings of other international organizations. We tried to have definite results attained for Azerbaijan in the period of preparation to this Summit. And we succeeded. Our intentions were aimed at spreading information about present-day situation of Azerbaijan as a sovereign state among Islam states and the OIC members in order to get them well-informed about it and at the same time, achieve adoption of definite resolutions connected with the situation of Azerbaijan using the opportunities of this meeting.

Of course, the most important topic for us in the international scope is the issue of armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and bringing to the world`s attention the fact of great damage caused by this aggression to the Azerbaijan Republic and Azerbaijan people within more than six past years. We want to inform the world on the greatest losses suffered by our country, the disasters befallen it and serious obstacles faced by the population of Azerbaijan. Therefore, our aim was the adoption of a resolution concerning armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and consideration of issue on rendering aid to Azerbaijan by the OIC and its member-states in view of the situation arisen in Azerbaijan.

It was not easy to achieve the adoption of these resolutions in the preliminary period. There were some factors and even a state putting obstacles in our way. As you know, any resolution is adopted at such Summits through consensus. If there is no consensus, i.e. if there is no agreement by one of the states, a resolution may be unaccepted. And there was such a state which did not concur with the fact that Armenia had committed aggression against Azerbaijan. Therefore, we carried out serious work in the preparatory period. When we arrived in Casablanca and understood that a resolution was under threat to a certain extent, we intensified our activity. This issue was discussed at a meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and we could overcome these difficulties.

You know that the Summit started on 13 December at 7 o`clock in the evening. So, we decided to hold meetings with heads of states during the daytime. I met many heads of states. We raised the mentioned issue at those meetings stating that there was such a resolution and its adoption could be undercut. Thus, we needed to prevent it and we did such a work too.

Finally, when the sitting started its agenda, our belief in the adoption of such a resolution revived. But we still were in the state of suspense up to the end of the Summit. Thanks Allah, our work was not wasted, it yielded results and the VII OIC Summit adopted a very serious and irrefragable resolution as regards armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. This resolution reflected thoroughly armenian aggression demanding at the same time unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied Azerbaijani lands and return of refugees to their native homes. One of the most complicated issues of negotiations with Armenia - the problem of liberation of Shusha and Lachin regions is specifically mentioned there. Just therefore, the adoption of this resolution in short time - in 10 - 15 days after the Budapest Summit at the following such a high-level meeting - the VII OIC Summit is undoubtedly a great event for us. I consider it to be an historical event of a great significance.

The second resolution - a resolution connected with rendering aid to Azerbaijan by Islamic countries in view of the present-day situation and once again the armenian aggression, as well as presence of more than a million refugees, is also of great importance for us. And I think these states will render us this aid observing the resolution. It is difficult to say exactly who will render this aid and what aid will be rendered, but at any case, its moral value is above the material. It will mean that these states recognize that Azerbaijan appeared to be in a difficult situation and demonstrate it stating at the same time on their readiness to render assistance.

A comprehensive final declaration - a resolution was also adopted at the VII Summit. Many of earlier discussed primary issues were also reflected in this resolution. Along with it, the issue related to Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, i.e. the issue of armenian aggression against Azerbaijan also found its reflected in this final document. Therefore, we attained the adoption of expected documents at this meeting. It is a great achievement and I am much satisfied with it.

The significance of this Summit for us also includes the fact that I clarified the situation of Azerbaijan in my speech made at this meeting represented by heads of 52 states. I spoke about the armenian aggression, the place of Azerbaijan within the OIC, attitude of our country towards Islamic world, its links with Islamic states, the situation arisen in our country over armenian aggression and at the same time, about our specific proposals. I also want to note that our republic is already well-known in the world scale, it occupies its deserved place and we always felt due attention and respect to Azerbaijan both at the Casablanca and Budapest Summits. The fact that I was given the floor in the first part of this meeting and was listened with great attention, as well as a positive report by many heads of states about my speech and deep resonance caused by my speech also witnesses that the Azerbaijan Republic has taken it deserved place.

At this OIC meeting we acquainted once again the member-states of this organization with Azerbaijan. I must admit that when heads of states or some delegation leaders spoke about conflicts in the world, unfortunately, the armenian aggression against Azerbaijan was not mentioned. The fact that these states did not carry out necessary work and heads of these states still did not recognize in full the acuteness of situation was perhaps the reason for it. Therefore, the work done at this meeting, my speech, the resolutions, as well as bilateral meetings with heads of states and talks held during the breaks between sittings acquainted one might say all the Islamic states with Azerbaijan.

I can also say that representatives of the Maldives located in the Indian Ocean in the territory close to India insisted hard on their president`s meeting with us. I found a time during a break to meet and talk with them. The Maldives is a small but independent state. Its president has been ruling this state for 16 years and he is very well acquainted with the situation in Azerbaijan. I was extremely pleased when saying that he knows both the historical past and present of Azerbaijan, the present-day situation, as well as about armenian aggression, he also mentioned that he had known me too for a long time.

I want to say that there are such people too. Along with it, there are also people who are informed of the issue, but since they do not fully recognize its acuteness, they do not mention it in their speeches. However, the heads of large states acquainted with Azerbaijan`s situation noted armenian aggression against Azerbaijan in their speeches and denounced this aggression.

For us, the importance of this Summit also consists of the fact that we acquainted these countries with Azerbaijan closer and provided them with sufficient information about our country`s situation setting up contacts with them.

During the Summit, I held bilateral meetings with heads of many states. You have probably watched it. Some meetings were also held during the sitting. However, you could not report over them as you were not inside. They are recorded and you will get a tape. All these meetings were very efficient. For instance, I can mention the meeting with the sultan of Brunei state located rather far from us. Perhaps, our people do not know much about these countries. While meeting with the prime minister of Malaysia, I asked what he knew about Azerbaijan. He said they knew about Azerbaijan from some articles published in the western press. Since Malaysia is one of the largest and significant states in Asia and a Moslem country, we must set up economic links with it. Nevertheless, you see that they are not well-informed about Azerbaijan.

I do not want to waste time now listing all my meetings. In a few words I can say that I had quite many meetings and we worked very intensively there. Owing to the meetings held by us, we could adjust bilateral links and raise interest of these countries in Azerbaijan. During these meetings, I invited many heads of states to Azerbaijan. They also invited me to their countries. In the future, we will certainly make use of these invitations and broaden international links of Azerbaijan in all the spheres. Thus, I think that Azerbaijan`s participation at the Casablanca Summit is of great significance for us.

King of Morocco Hassan II shows great interest as regards Azerbaijan. Upon completion of the sitting, I had a meeting and negotiations with him. He invited me to pay an official visit to Morocco after Ramazan month is over. I also invited him to Azerbaijan. We drew a conclusion after our talks that there are opportunities for establishing good contacts between our countries and we should set up them.

On the whole, I think that Azerbaijan should use the opportunities of Islamic states more efficiently. We have already established contacts with many countries and I met with the heads of those countries in Casablanca again. However, we still do not have contacts with a number of countries and we will establish them.

I consider this visit to be a very successful one. Our objective today is to make use of these resolutions and strengthen positions of Azerbaijan on a global scale.

Question: Mr. President, even one of your most irreconsible opponents has to admit the success gained by the President of Azerbaijan in your person. Such a regularity exists and this is in fact connected with the progress gained by the President of Azerbaijan at the Budapest Summit and then through recognizing aggressor at the seventh Summit. It is natural that forces being hostile to Azerbaijan will undertake certain activity in this connection. Can the pressure upon Azerbaijan grow after that?

Heydar Aliyev: To tell the truth, Azerbaijan is in such a situation now that anything may be expected. But observers can see it clearly that since the moment of my coming to power in Azerbaijan and up to now, I pursued and pursue the policy aimed at protection of independence and statehood of Azerbaijan. Thanks Allah, this policy produced positive outcomes until now and I hope it will remain the same in the future too. Nevertheless, no one should suppose that Azerbaijan will have no obstacles at the international arena. No, it is not true. The situation of our country, the war with Armenia and serious support of Armenia by many world courtiers - all this creates very complicated conditions for Azerbaijan. Besides, Azerbaijan has lost much since the day of gaining independence. Just imagine, Azerbaijan has been living independently for three years and if an intensive work had been carried out within this term, the position of our country at the international arena would be stronger and it would possess broader opportunities to implement its independent policy. As you know, all this has been accomplished only within the last time. But I think that we will follow this way in the future and overcome all the difficulties in spite of their rather big quantity.

You know, we never have to be afraid of difficulties and should never think that after these Summits, we will follow quite a straight way. No, there will be difficulties, but we need resoluteness for achievements. A free thought is needed for achievements. Independence is needed for achievements. Independent policy is needed. You can also see that I follow independent policy.

A journalist: We wish You success and strong health to carry out this independent policy for the sake of Azerbaijan`s future in order to bring it to happy days.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You.

Question: You were proposed to make a congratulatory speech on behalf of Moslem states of Asia at the Casablanca Summit on the occasion of its completion. Does it witness that the Azerbaijani leader has chosen a correct political line and Azerbaijan`s authority in the international area has grown.

Heydar Aliyev: You know that we have chosen a right way is characterized not only by it. We rest not only upon the Islamic world, we rely on the whole world community. Take for example my speech at the 49 session of the UNO General Assembly or our participation and my speech at the fourth Summit of the CSCE member-states in Budapest. And now, take our participation and my speech at the OIC Casablanca conference. You say that I was given a chance, or rather I was rendered great honor to speak with a congratulatory speech on behalf of Asian Moslem states on the occasion of the Summit`s closure and express gratitude for successful completion of the VII Summit. All this taken together witnesses that we have chosen a right way. And moreover, not only within the activity of the Organization of the Islamic Conferenceā€¦

Yes, if take it as a complex. Yes, I think so and I am confident that Azerbaijan pursues a very purposeful, correct, independent, free and meeting national interests foreign policy.

Question: Was the speech of President of Azerbaijan on behalf of Asian states in Casablanca scheduled beforehand or it became known during the meeting?

Heydar Aliyev: No, it was not previously known. It was said during the meeting that there was such an opinion to make speeches on behalf of three regions: on behalf of Arab states - Yasser Arafat, on behalf of African states - the President of Burkina Faso and on behalf of Asian states - the President of Azerbaijan. Such a conclusion was made up after discussion at the secretariat.

Perhaps, such an opinion was a result of attention and attitude towards Azerbaijan.

Question: Does the resolution adopted stipulate any mechanism of its implementation?

Heydar Aliyev: We certainly have such a mechanism of control. Henceforward, we should work and undertake necessary measures for the implementation of this resolution.

Question: One more question with your permission. It is a generally known fact that when Islamic states assemble at important meetings and pass decisions there, they are often unanimous. However, some of them, I will not mention exact names, do not follow out this course. Will the bilateral links and new contacts established here have influence on elimination of unpleasant facts?

Heydar Aliyev: There is no doubt in that. I think that vast majority of countries entering the Organization of the Islamic Conference understand this hard situation of Azerbaijan and intend to aid it. It is doubtless that our participation at this Summit and my bilateral meetings are of extreme importance. I have known many people I met there for a long time and I had meetings with them in due time. Take Yasser Arafat. We met as brothers. When he saw me, he did not know how to express his pleasure. Because in due time, to put it more precisely, beginning from the end of 70s, I received him several times in Baku and later on in Moscow. As soon as he saw me, he said: "I am very pleased that you have come to power again". I had many meeting with the President of Yemen both in Yemen and Moscow. Or when I met others, they said "we have read much about you and heard much". They were the people whom I had never seen before.

Of course, all this is of great significance. Because in due time, the Islamic world was very interested in my personality. Especially in the period when I was one of the leaders of the Soviet Union, every Moslem was interested to know that there was also a Moslem among the leadership of the Soviet Union. Therefore, their information about me was more comprehensive than the information of people whom I did not know. For instance, we met with vice-president of Syria Haddam like brothers as I had met him several times before. He was very glad that we met again. I conveyed my greetings to President Hafez Asad through him.

Undoubtedly, it is very significant for Azerbaijan.

Question: Can this OIC resolution and support of Azerbaijan by so many countries exert additional influence on more effective implementation of the CSCE decisions?

Heydar Aliyev: Of course, because it was the first such a decision adopted by the CSCE both within the 20-year period of its activity and 6-year period of Armenian-Azerbaijan war. Many thought that the CSCE would never pass such a decision. However, it happened. 52 states were represented in Budapest as well as here, in Casablanca. We had contacts with 104 states within a month. The resolutions important for Azerbaijan were adopted both there and here. I regard it as a very good contribution for the end of 1994.

Question: A great step was undertaken to recognize Armenia as an aggressor and the resolution was adopted. It has a clause prescribing to bring up this issue before the UNO. Is there hope that Armenia will be recognized as an aggressor on the UN scale?

Heydar Aliyev: You know, we should always live with hope. We cannot achieve anything living without a hope. We must always live with hope. If there is a goal, there is also an opportunity to implement it. If we could undertake one step and move ahead, we can undertake the next step too.

Azerbaijan 1994: National statehood before trial, part II, Baku, 2002, p. 382-388.