From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Gerhard Schroeder - Istanbul, the "Chiragan" Palace, November 19, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Schroeder, I welcome you cordially. I note that Azerbaijan has always paid a special attention to the expansion of relations with Germany in all areas. I present the letter and an order to the Chancellor of Germany on the return of paintings of the Bremen Gallery to Germany brought to Azerbaijan in 1947. Let me remind you that at the end of the World War Second an officer was detained in our country in an attempt to sell these works.

These works were given to the Azerbaijani State Museum of Art then and stored there. However, in 1992, 130 works, including 10 works of the Bremen Gallery were stolen from the museum. These kidnappers were arrested in 1997, in New York and the trial took place over this issue. Mr. Chancellor, we present you these two works and works, which are at the disposal of the judicial authorities in New York. I give you the documents connected with these works that we kept in our museum since 1947, too.

Gerhard Schroeder: I sincerely thank you for your sincere and friendly gesture. I am confident that this step will be a worthy contribution to the further development of relations between Azerbaijan and Germany in all areas, including the sphere of culture.

Mr. President, I shall report about it to the administration of Bremen and we shall establish the ownership of these confiscated works. I am sure that not only Bremen, but also all the people of Germany will appreciate your step and our cooperation in the field of culture and will respect our relations. The transfer of these works will be your contribution to the further development of relations between our two countries in the fields of politics, economy and culture. I am very grateful to you.

Heydar Aliyev: In late 1991, Azerbaijan gained independence and became a sovereign country. I would like to note that Azerbaijan, following the road of independence, achieved great success in building a legal, democratic, secular state and carried out democratic reforms. Much has been done to strengthen the relations with the international community. The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is the most painful issue for our country.

Azerbaijan has been subjected to the aggression of the Armenian armed forces since 1988. We observe the ceasefire, 20 per cent of our lands has been occupied by Armenia and over a million of our citizens still live in tents in grave conditions. We hold negotiations to resolve the conflict peacefully within the framework of the Minsk Group. We conduct direct negotiations with the President of Armenia for the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

We want to restore the territorial integrity of our country, to return our refugees driven from their lands home and support the provision of a high self-administration status of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

Gerhard Schroeder: Mr. President, I note that Germany will make efforts to resolve the conflict within the Minsk Group of OSCE and will support the position of Azerbaijan in future.

I am pleased with our bilateral cooperation in all the areas, expansion of the established joint ventures and direct participation of the German companies in joint development of oil deposits in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea.

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Schroeder, I express my gratitude for your sincere and warm welcome. I invite you to pay an official visit to Azerbaijan.

Gerhard Schroeder: Mr. President, I am pleased to accept this invitation.