Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the reception held on behalf of the Parliamentary Association of the Japanese-Azerbaijani friendship in honor of the Azerbaijani President. Japan, February 26, 1998

Mr. President, distinguished members of the parliament, dear friends,

I cordially welcome you, the members of the Japanese Parliament.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet you this morning in such a large number. We are very satisfied that there is an association of the Japanese-Azerbaijani friendship within the Japanese Parliament. I understand that the majority of MPs of Japan present here are the members of this association and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan is the advisor of this association. I believe that if the advisor of this association is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, it will work very well. I am also pleased to see on the chest of our friend an Azerbaijani pennant at the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano. Azerbaijan is a small country and as an independent country it took part in these Olympic Winter Games for the first time. We were pleased that among the flags of all the countries the flag of Azerbaijan was also hoisted. I am pleased that you noticed that, appreciated and noted it today.

Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Japan were established in the autumn of 1992. As I said, we are a young and independent country. We gained our independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But within that short time we have occupied a worthy position in the international community, we have relations with many countries around the world and have signed a number of important interstate and intergovernmental documents. Now it is the third day I am in Japan on an official visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto. We strive to develop relations with all the countries of the world. Our policy is to have mutually beneficial cooperation and relations with all countries and to make efforts to ensure peace and stability in the world. In this regard, we attach great importance to the inter-parliamentary relations. There are many members of the Azerbaijani parliament with me, in particular, the first deputy chairman of the Parliament of Azerbaijan Arif Rahim-zade. I shall not enumerate all of them, all here are the members of the parliament. Thus, you already imagine the importance we attach to the parliament. Unlike you, we have a presidential republic. After gaining independence in 1991, our parliament, which is based on democratic principles of multi-party system, became an important part of Azerbaijan. Along with its legislative activity, Azerbaijan does a great work in establishing international relations with other countries.

You correctly pointed out, Mr. President, that Japan and Azerbaijan are on the «Silk Road» and we have a lot in common, which connect us today in the past history. I am glad to say that within short time between Japan and Azerbaijan we have established numerous economic relations. Oil companies of Japan play a special role in it. They have already established relations with Azerbaijan and carried out joint oil developments in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea. Yesterday and the day before I had the opportunity to meet many oil and other companies in Japan and became convinced that there are large opportunities in order to expand our cooperation. Yesterday, I had a meeting and a very interesting conversation with His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. Today we shall meet, negotiate and sign a number of important documents with Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto. In the time when the third day of my visit began with meeting with you, I can say that I am pleased of the days we have passed here in Japan. I hope that the remaining time will add new successes to the further development of cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan.

I think that you know our country. But still I want to say that Azerbaijan is located in the Caucasus on the intersection of Europe and Asia, on the shore of the Caspian Sea and in the center of the «Silk Road». Our direct neighbors are Russia, Iran, Georgia, Turkey and Armenia. With all our neighbors, we have good, positive relationships, with the exception of Armenia, which committed a military aggression against Azerbaijan in 1988. The military conflict began between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This aggression began with its claims to the Mountainous Garabagh province of Azerbaijan. There is no need to prove that these claims are completely groundless. The Mountainous Garabagh has been, is and will always be a native Azerbaijani territory. The fact that in this area along with the Azerbaijanis and other ethnic groups, persons of the Armenian origin lived and continue to live today it does not give them reason to claim to the territory of Azerbaijan.

This conflict began at a time when Armenia and Azerbaijan were parts of the Soviet Union, and, of course, the administration of a superpower like the Soviet Union was able to prevent this conflict and bloodshed which took many lives from both Azerbaijani and Armenian sides. Because of the unjust and unilateral attitude of the administration of the former Soviet Union, this problem and other causes, 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory was occupied by the Armenian forces. Over a million Azerbaijanis were expelled from the occupied territories. They have lost their homes, live in other regions of the country and most of them in tents.

Four years ago, we have achieved the cessation of hostilities, signed a ceasefire agreement and conducted negotiations on the peaceful settlement of the conflict. But the main condition for it, are the principles that were adopted at the OSCE Lisbon Summit in December, 1996. They provide the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and granting the Mountainous Garabgh a self-administration status within Azerbaijan. We believe that the international legal norms and principles of the United Nations on the inviolability of the borders of each country, impossibility of changing the borders by force are undeniable principles that should be observed by all, as we do. We are a peace-loving country, we do not want war, but peace in our region, in the Caucasus, in the world, and we want to solve the conflict by peaceful means. I hope that we shall achieve it. We want the liberation of the occupied territories by the Armenian armed forces, the return of the million of Azerbaijanis home and restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. These are just demands, as well as the just demands of Japan on its territorial integrity.

However, besides all these conditions there are very big changes in Azerbaijan. We lead our country along the path of building a democratic, legal and secular state, conduct political and socio-economic reforms in Azerbaijan and create a system of market economy. Azerbaijan, like all independent countries, which once were part of the Soviet Union in the past, is going through a very difficult period of transition and we are experiencing economic difficulties. But we believe that through the implementation of economic reforms, the development of the market economy, we shall overcome these difficulties. Results of the 1997 are the convincing evidences of it.

Azerbaijan is an ancient oil country. Today we develop our oil industry. In Azerbaijan and in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea there are large reserves of oil and gas. In order to effectively use these resources, we have attracted foreign investment and signed 9 contracts involving the companies of 12 countries. I am pleased to note that, among these companies is the oil company of Japan «ITOCHU». It is not the only one. Six Japanese companies have opened their offices in Azerbaijan. We are waiting for the opening of the Japanese Embassy in Azerbaijan. The ambassador of Japan to Azerbaijan, Mr. Togo sits in Moscow. We are pleased with his work. He does a lot to strengthen the Japanese-Azerbaijani relations and we propose to transfer him to Baku. You shall find someone else for Moscow. I think that it is very necessary to expand our economic cooperation.

We welcomed the idea of Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto for the «Silk Road» and the attitude of Japan to this problem. We have been engaged in this problem for several years and I can say that the «Silk Road» is functioning. We have created the Euro-Asian transport links, which connects the Central Asia to Europe via the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Black Sea. Through this transport route the shipment of goods from the Central Asia to Europe and from Europe back works just a year and a half. Together with the European Union, we are engaged in further expansion of economic cooperation in that way. In the second half of May, we are going to hold an international meeting in Azerbaijan, Baku, where the representatives of 33 countries on the «Silk Road», from the east of Japan to the west, to England, Ireland and Spain, should gather. There are a lot of advantages of the «Silk Road». It is enough to say that it connects Asia with Europe, including Japan and is 2,000 kilometers shorter than the one which is currently used. I hope that you, the parliamentarians, will support the idea of Prime Minister Hashimoto on the «Silk Road» and this area of ​​cooperation will bring great benefits.

I would say that we want to have closer and more extensive relations between Japan and Azerbaijan. In the Azerbaijani Parliament there is a group or association of friendship between Japan and Azerbaijan. Most of the parliamentarians, who are present here, are the members of this group. We hope that now after the personal meeting of the parliamentarians of Azerbaijan and Japan, the relations will grow faster.

Japan is a highly developed country, it has made great progress in economic and social spheres and occupies a worthy place in the world community. We support your efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, all the things that you do to promote peace in the world and for the development of civilization on earth.

I wish you and all the people of Japan success. In order to see all that is going on in Azerbaijan and receive a confirmation of what I said, I invite you to Azerbaijan. Thank you for the attention.