Interview of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev to the reporter of the Japanese newspaper «Sankei Shimbun» - February 27, 1998

Question: Mr. President, my first question is about the results of your visit to Japan. What can you say about this?

Answer: The results of my visit to Japan are good. I think they are positive. I am pleased both with my visit and its results.

Question: Yesterday, it was reported that the signature of documents between the consortium of the Japanese companies and Azerbaijan was postponed. What is the reason?

Answer: We have signed many documents. I attach particular importance to the fact that our main purpose was to sign interstate and intergovernmental documents here. Thus we signed two very important documents between Japan and Azerbaijan - a joint declaration on friendship and partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Japan and a joint declaration on cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Japan in the field of trade and economy. Both statements were signed by the Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto and me. A few other documents were also signed between our countries and governments.

In order to give the «Nichimen» company a broad field in Azerbaijan, we took loan in the Japanese Export-Import bank and signed on this issue an agreement. Then, we signed an agreement between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and the Japanese «Mitsui» company to give it a share, which allows this company to develop jointly a part of the «Kurdashi» oil field.

Many documents were signed. But the contract between the consortium of the Japanese companies and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan is not signed, because some of its provisions have not been determined completely yet.

Question: Can you say exactly what conditions you mean?

Answer: There are several conditions of economic nature. I do not remember them all. That is not an interstate and intergovernmental contract to know it thoroughly. It is a contract between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and a consortium of the Japanese companies.

Question: On February 4, President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan left his office. What impact will it have on the overall situation in the Caucasus in your opinion?

Answer: Of course, the resignation of the Armenian president complicated the internal situation in Armenia. Now new presidential election is announced and there are many candidates. There will be a competition between the candidates and, of course, someone will be elected. But you know that there is a military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and as we hold negotiations on the peaceful resolution of this conflict, the current situation in Armenia, of course, slows these negotiations.

I cannot say what impact it will have on the overall situation in the Caucasus. It is the internal affair of Armenia. But, of course, this is important for our relations. As I said, our talks, we can say, are frozen today.

Question: President of Russia proposed to hold a summit of the five pre-Caspian Sea countries and identify the international status of the Caspian Sea. What is the attitude of the President of Azerbaijan to this?

Answer: There is such a proposal for a long time. It is not a new one. But there is no proposal on holding a summit. You have wrong information about it. It is intended to hold a high-level meeting of 4-5 countries. But this is not a final proposal as well. Separate countries are negotiating with each other about it. For example, to resolve the issue between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan the both sides determined a large delegation and I have appointed a group of experts. Our delegation visited Turkmenistan, Ashgabat 15 days ago. The next meeting will be held in Azerbaijan.

This issue between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan was discussed by President Nazarbayev and me a few times. I have had talks on this issue with the Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Primakov. I mean such negotiations and consultations are held periodically.

Question: Russia and Azerbaijan have different opinions on the status of the Caspian Sea, what can you say about this?

Answer: Yes, you are right, here we have different positions. We are for the sectoral division of the Caspian Sea, but Russia is the supporter of the condominium. Therefore, the opinions are different.

Question: Do you consider the Caspian Sea a lake or sea?

Answer: This question should also be discussed. Some say that the Caspian Sea is a lake, others say that it is a sea, and even some believe that it is an inland pool. Opinions differ. All this is to be determined. Until now, this issue has never been discussed, because in the past, a large part of the Caspian Sea belonged to the Soviet Union. Iran, owning a part of the Caspian Sea in the south, did not forward other claims. Now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there are five countries and each of them has their own opinion. All this is the subject of discussion.

Question: I have information that Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan share the same opinion but Russia is against it.

Answer: Yes, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have the same opinion, Turkmenistan is also close to it but Russia and Iran have a different opinion. But I think that they will agree with us, with our opinion.

Question: When it will happen?

Answer: I would like to make it faster. But time will come.

Question: In addition to economic relations between Japan and Azerbaijan, what links you would like to see more?

Answer: I would like to have cooperation in all spheres. We want to cooperate with Japan on a large scale. This is reflected in the statement signed yesterday by Mr. Hashimoto and me.

Question: In an interview with Japanese journalists in Baku you said that you wanted to see a modern «Silk Road». What exactly did you mean by that?

Answer: This is a very important issue. We have already engaged in it seriously. We have created a Eurasian transport route. Freight on this thoroughfare is delivered from the Central Asia to Europe through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, the Caspian Sea to Baku by ferries, hence it is delivered to the Black Sea port of Georgia - Poti and from there it is sent to Europe. This is only one part of the «Silk Road». Most of the «Silk Road» begins in Japan and extends to Spain and Ireland in Europe. Yesterday we discussed this issue with the Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto.

Question: In an interview to the Japanese media in Baku you said that the economy of Azerbaijan is focused on Japan, is it true?

Answer: We want to establish economic relations with all the countries. Japan is the most economically developed country in the world, has the highest achievements in the sphere of technology and we want to cooperate with you in this area as well.

Question: But the commentators say that in Russia they want to have a large impact on the countries of the Caspian basin. What do you think about this?

Answer: It is true.

Question: What is your opinion about this?

Answer: My opinion is that no country should exert pressure on another country. Each country must conduct its affairs independently. Big countries should not influence or exert pressure on small countries using their powers.

Question: There is a great truth in your words. This is a very true idea. But the other side of the matter is that Azerbaijan is dependent on Russia in many areas, especially in the field of economy.

Answer: No. Our economic relation with Russia are vast, we want to continue them. Extensive economic ties of any country do not give it the right to exert pressure on another country.

If we expand economic relation with Japan then will Japan put pressure on us? We cannot agree with it. Cooperation should be equal.

Reporter: Thank you very much.

Translated from the newspaper «Azerbaijan», February 28, 1998