Speech of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the Secretary General of NATO Javier Solana visiting Azerbaijan - Presidential residence, February 13, 1997

Distinguished Mr. Javier Solana!

I warmly greet you in Azerbaijan and hope that you will have a good imagination about Azerbaijan in your meetings and talks during your visit. Azerbaijan joined NATO`s "Partnership for Peace" program in 1994, a necessary presentation document was submitted during the visit of the President of Azerbaijan to the headquarters of NATO in Brussels in April 1995 and thus, cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the North Atlantic Alliance began. Azerbaijan fulfills the tasks which it undertook due to this document and the Secretary General of NATO can be confident about it during his stay in Baku. At the same time, there are a lot to be done. A number of issues need to be determined and we shall achieve it during the visit.

The Caucasian region, where Azerbaijan is situated, is very spesific. Azerbaijan is independent for five years. Our main task is to protect and strengthen our independence. We build a democratic and legal state. We adopted the first constitution of our independent state in 1995, and held free parliamentary elections in the same year. Presently, we conduct economic and political reforms. I think that democratic principles, political pluralism and freedom of press have been established in our state. Various political parties function in our country. In brief, we have taken serious steps on the path of establishment of a democratic society and continue to do it.

As regards the economic reforms, I want to say that we conduct reforms to ensure the democratic development of the national economy and some positive results have already been achieved. From this point of view, the land reform and privatization of the lands are of great importance. I think that free market relations will be established in Azerbaijan in 2-3 years.

Let me to add that foreign investments are of great importance for the development of the economy. As you know, Azerbaijan signed a number of contracts with foreign companies on joint production of oil and these agreements are implemented at the moment.

Azerbaijan lives its transition period and this period is observed in a number of problems. But the reforms provide the elimination of present hardships. However, the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, occupation of 20 per cent of our territory as a result of this aggression and displacement of more than one million of our citizens made the situation more complicated. You are aware that in May 1994, we signed a ceasefire agreement with Armenia, and we live in the ceasefire regime for two years and nine months. Undoubtedly, it is a positive case to settle the conflict peacefully. In last December, the OSCE Lisbon Summit defined the principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict. We hold negotiations in the framework of these principles in order to end the armed confrontation. As you know, the OSCE Minsk Group is charged with the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Some changes have already been done to this Group and it will be co-chaired by the USA, France and Russia. We hope that the Minsk Group will work more active after the decision of appointment of the co-chairs.

I want to point out that NATO is charged with such important issue as security in Europe. Azerbaijan is a part of Europe. I suppose that you also make efforts to provide stability in our region and your talks will contribute to the solution of this issue.