From the talk of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe - April 21, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished guests, you are welcome to Azerbaijan. I welcome you and wish you success in your work in Azerbaijan.

The seminar which you planned is very important for us. As a young democratic and legal state, Azerbaijan considers the establishment and development of democracy in every sphere of our life and state building as the main goal. Recently, we successfully cooperate with the Council of Europe and try to use its recommendations in our works in Azerbaijan. The Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan plays an important role in these issues. On this occasion, your joint initiative with the Constitutional Court to hold a seminar in Azerbaijan on a very significant topic for us is very important. The topic of the seminar is very important and interesting in connection with the ongoing processes in the world and it is of special importance for Azerbaijan. We hope that your seminar will be very important for right and correct formation for the problem of autonomy and its consistence with the international law. Please, the floor is yours.

Gianni Bucciccio: Mr. President, let me thank You on behalf of me and my colleagues for sparing Your precious time and for receiving us. Everybody knows this hall, and it is very familiar to me, too. Because, I have personally had the honor to be received by You four times in this hall. It was the time when the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan was just being established and I was participating in its establishment and inauguration. We are again in Baku after some months. We saw that great changes happened since that time and the Constitutional Court is located at a grand building. Today, it is busy with very important issues of Azerbaijan. Yet, the Constitutional Court took very important decisions during this period and it is highly appreciated by the world community. Of course, all of these were realized with Your support.

We have noted it in all our meetings. In general, the support of the state for the Constitutional Court is of special importance. The Constitutional Court is a guarantor of stability, democracy in the country. At the same time, the Constitutional Court is a kind of window for the development of democracy in the country, government and society. I must note that the judicial activity of the Constitutional Court is highly appreciated abroad as well, and it increases the prestige of Your country.

As You pointed out, our current visit is dedicated to discussions of a very urgent and important issue - the issue of autonomy. That is why, I firmly indicate that this issue is very urgent. We will study it. I would like to point out that the tendency of regionalism and aspiration for autonomy is very great in the world. Spain and Italy in Europe could be examples. It is a very urgent issue, as I noted. Because, we live in a very hard and complicated period. For example, I can cite the events in the former Yugoslavia.

Unfortunately, we usually face the issues of autonomy after the birth of a conflict. That is why, the main goal in approaching these issues is to prevent them before the conflict. It especially concerns the conflicts connected with the territorial disputes. One of the main tasks is to reconcile the parties by bringing them together to prevent the conflict, and to harmonize the two emerging global issues.

First of them is the efforts of separation on the territorial grounds by preserving the territorial integrity. We are charged to prepare a special status in conformity with the local laws. The development of a special status aims at the settlement of the conflict by bringing the parties together. At present this question is very urgent for Yugoslavia, too.

Before arriving in Baku, at the end of the last year, the Venice Commission developed an autonomy status for Kosovo, approaching it from the territorial point of view. But it must be noted that the Venice Commission has neither political weight, nor political role. That is why, the contact group is busy with broadening and shaping Ambassador Kyr`s ideas based on his own proposal. Therefore, the Venice Commission took part in the talks and negotiations on this conflict in Rambouillet, France. In the process of negotiations the Venice Commission did its best to improve the proposal, that is, to settle the conflict on a high level. In this issue, major efforts of the Venice Commission were to conform the proposals to the European standards. As a result of negotiations, we drafted such an autonomy project and it was nearly accepted by both parties. But unfortunately one of the parties refused it at the course of events.

In my opinion, the European continent must play more important role in the settlement of these conflicts. Because, they are conflicts of Europe. Both the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission are engaged in this solution of these conflicts, they intend to take an active participation in the settlement of these conflicts in future, too.

The Venice Commission is also called "the European Commission for Democracy". But if we take into account the ongoing processes it would be better to name it "The European Commission for peace by means of democracy". Because the settlement of these conflicts is a juridical procedure as well as a political one, thus, if they are settled in both ways, then peace will be completely restored in the European continent.

Mr. President, I must say that your activity is fully dedicated to peace. Recently I learned from the press that You have been awarded with the "Ataturk Peace Prize", I congratulate You cordially on this occasion.

You will soon leave for the United States for partaking in the 50th anniversary of NATO. I got interested in it, and learned from the press that you are going to have important negotiations there. You will especially make serious efforts for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which bothers you so much.

Mr. President, I assure You that both the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission are always ready to support and assist You in the solution of this complicated issue.

Mr. President, let me tell you one idea which comes from my heart: I am very glad to see You in such a good physical condition and wish You much better health.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. Thanks for the nice words about Azerbaijan, especially about the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan. Thank you for your congratulation me on the occasion of the "Ataturk Peace Prize".

The views you shared once more confirm the fruitfulness of my ideas which I declared just before, that the seminar you are going to hold here is of international importance. Indeed, separatist tendencies have grown and expanded in the world for the recent years. We witness separatist movements in a number of regions of the world as well as in Europe. Some of them resulted in military conflicts. You know that we also suffer from such separatist activities in Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict are the result of it and continue for more than 10 years.

In May 1994 we stopped the war which broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988 and signed a ceasefire agreement. Nearly five years we are busy in the peaceful settlement of the conflict, liberation of the Azerbaijani territories from the occupation, and in the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But unfortunately, the Armenian separatists of the Nagorno-Karabakh along with Armenia do not have a constructive position for the settlement of the conflict.

In December 1996, the principles were determined for the peaceful settlement of the conflict at the OSCE Lisbon Summit. One of the principles is to grant a high autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. We offer such autonomy. But Armenia does not accept it, because from the very beginning they want to achieve independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Naturally, we cannot agree with it and the world community international law, and the OSCE must not agree with it either. Because if each separatist demands independence as a result of some actions, or military conflict, then all the states of the world will collapse. You see, the events in Yugoslavia, Kosovo led to a great conflict in the world. Here one can not justify either the government of Yugoslavia or the Albanians of Kosovo. Kosovo had an autonomy within Yugoslavia for tens of years. But the Yugoslavian government, Miloshevich unjustly annulled the autonomy of Kosovo. As a result, war broke out. Now Kosovo wants independence, but not autonomy. Naturally, we think, and in general the international law demands that the territorial integrity of any country must remain inviolable. From this point of view, we support the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. Bu at the same time, we denounce the ethnic cleansing conducted by the Yugoslavian government, Miloshevich in Kosovo. It is unacceptable.

You see, by having autonomy sometimes people demand more and they are not satisfied with it. Sometimes states also violate the rights of autonomy of different peoples, and it leads to bloody conflicts. The Nagorno-Karabakh had autonomy since 1923. But not satisfied with this autonomy, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh made efforts either achieve an independence for Nagorno-Karabakh or annex it to Armenia. This resulted in a conflict and bloody war.

Therefore, we highly appreciate your activity. We suppose that your model of an autonomy as a result of all researches and discussions and its application to all the countries will contribute much to the peaceful settlement of the conflicts, including to us.

We have made some proposals for granting a self-government status to Nagorno-Karabakh. But they always claim that the authorities granted within such an autonomy are not sufficient. Therefore, we would like you, the Council of Europe, to determine the limits of the highest level of autonomy and submit it as a model for the world community, for Europe. We wish that such useful proposals appear as a result of your studies, researches, your seminar in Azerbaijan and your works. You would have helped us much with it.

Not only we, but our neighbor Georgia has also such problems. Russia and Moldova share the same problem. This issue is very urgent now.

Gianni Bucciccio: Mr. President, if You let me, I would like to mention something. When You talked I remembered that I used to think much about the problems which You pointed out. That is to say I thought about the problems in Osetia, Moldova and others. We came to such a conclusion that it is necessary to prepare a model of autonomy for each case. In general, it is possible. As regards a common model, it would be impossible to apply it to Moldova, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya and Abkhazia in the same way. It would not justify itself. It is such an issue that so to speak, the representative of every country must wear his own clothes.

Mr. President, namely from this point of view, I would like to say as you said before, we have participated in the negotiation on the settlement of the Kosovo conflict and in drafting a model of autonomy. Now, we are at Your disposal and we can participate in drafting of a certain model for

Nagorno-Karabakh and we are ready for it. Certainly, I must say in advance that the status of autonomy must not violate the principle of territorial integrity and the principles of Lisbon Declaration. We have studied the status of Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. We are aware and want to convey to you that yet the Georgian authority want to appeal us to summarize our ideas about the issues of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and deliver to them. From this point of view, I want to tell you that we are at Your disposal and we are ready to do our best for the settlement the conflicts.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you, that is what we are in need of. If you can give a proposal of autonomy or self-administration for Nagorno-Karabakh, then we can apply and co-ordinate it with Armenia. It would be great. Probably your proposals can assist us in the settlement of the issue with Armenia, because they reject whatever we propose for autonomy. But if you, the Venice Commission as part of the Council of Europe arrange and insist on its acceptance, it would assist us much. I wish you success in your work. Thank you.

Translated from "Azerbaijan" newspaper, April 22, 1999.