From the conversation of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of Canadian Parliament headed by Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Bill Graham - Presidential palace, 10 May, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Honorable guests, welcome to Azerbaijan, I greet you. If I am not mistaken, the delegation of Canadian parliament has arrived in Azerbaijan for the first time. It is a very pleasant event. Canada is a big state and plays a very important role in the world, especially, in American continent. And therefore, we attach a special significance to our contacts with Canada and wish to have links in all the spheres. From this point of view, we of course, appreciate the initiative of the parliament.

However, you allocated very short time for the visit to Azerbaijan. At the same time, I got acquainted with your program and I was very glad that you want to visit Barda region where our refugees, forcibly driven out from the occupied territories as a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, live. This point of your program pleases me most of all. Because the representatives arriving here, most often stay only in Baku and in rare cases, they travel outside Baku and visit the camps where refugees live although it is the hardest, the most difficult and the most painful problem from the political and economic points of view.

As a result of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the conflict, more than a million of Azerbaijani citizens have been forcibly expatriated from the occupied Azerbaijani lands. They have been living in tents, in hard conditions for seven-eight years already. You should see it. Those who saw it were horrified by sufferings endured by these people, saying that how long they can live in such hard conditions! I appreciate you for this initiative.

However, I think that your visit will certainly lay the foundation for the development of contacts between Canada and Azerbaijan in all the spheres. You are welcome!

Bill Graham: Mr. President I appreciate You for Your warm greeting. Mr. President, I congratulate You with Your birthday on behalf of the delegation.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You, I appreciate You.

Bill Graham: I highly esteem that You have found time to accept us on such a momentous for You day.

You are absolutely right that our delegation is the delegation of Canadian parliament. It basically consists of the deputies representing commissions on trade and foreign policy of the House of Commons of the Canadian parliament. Our delegation has two deputies from the Liberal Party, as well as two deputies representing an opposition party.

I want to introduce You our working order. Upon returning to our country, we will prepare a special report connected with the results of the visit. This report will be submitted to the government and the government will share its thoughts regarding a necessary policy to be determined as regards the region. And therefore, we appreciate that You receive us yourself and provide the opportunity to hold meetings in official circles of Your country. In particular, we appreciate You for the conditions provided for us to visit refugee camps. In our opinion, such meetings will give the opportunity to have deeper impression about Your country and upon returning to the motherland, acquaint both the government and the community of Canada with problems existing in Azerbaijan and make our presence felt regarding the policy to be formed towards this region.

In our opinion, we will be able to prepare a very thorough report based on the results of our visit and it will play in its way a role of the track for our government to form its policy regarding Azerbaijan. Along with it, we think that people belonging to Canadian business circles, as well as common citizens of Canada willing to visit Azerbaijan can make use of the report prepared by us. In my view, such a report can be used for establishing business contacts, deriving advantage from favourable commercial conditions existing in Azerbaijan. At the same time, it will help to hold exchange of views about the democratization we are striving for in the world where the globalization process is going on, about relations of World Trade Organization with separate countries and other issues.

Mr. President, I regret that this is the first delegation from Canada that arrived in Azerbaijan, however, I am sure that it will not be the last one. We have worked together with your delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. We hope we will be able to establish more thorough cooperation with the members of your parliament in the future.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I reiterate that I am very pleased to see You in Azerbaijan. As You have mentioned, the initiative of Canadian parliament to study Caucasian region and submit appropriate information and proposals to the Canadian government is also highly estimable.

Caucasus, especially the region of South Caucasus is very interesting and at the same time, very complicated region. On the one hand, our country possesses very rich natural resources and has a very important geo-strategical position. Being situated in the junction of Europe and Asia, East and West, Azerbaijan plays a special role in restoration of the Great Silk Way. On the other hand, the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been going on more than 12 years already.

As far as I know, You will also visit Georgia and Armenia. I think in each of these countries You will be able to obtain necessary information about their problems. But I want You to know that this conflict is the major reason for the tension in the region of South Caucasus, I mean the independent states of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. I think the chairman of the parliament has provided You with detailed information about the reasons for this conflict and its tragic consequences.

Murtuz Alasgarov (the chairman of the Milli Majlis): They have met Arif Ragimzadeh.

Heydar Aliyev: The chairman of the parliament says that You have met his deputy. And now, I have arranged the opportunity to meet him personally. At any case, I think You have obtained the information. Therefore, I am not going to speak of it in detail.

But the basic matter is that Armenia asserted territorial claims to Azerbaijan as early as in 1987. It attempted to separate the Nagorno-Karabakh district from Azerbaijan, a constituent part and a territory of Azerbaijan and to annex it to Armenia. Of course, the Azerbaijan side did not agree with it. Later, the conflict grew into a big military conflict and the Azerbaijan side was not guilty of it. Azerbaijan did not commit any aggression against Armenia and did not declare any territorial claims, although Azerbaijan had many grounds for it. However, Azerbaijan always considered that it was necessary to reckon with the realities of XX century. In particular, during the collapse of the Soviet Union when Armenia and Azerbaijan gained state independence, the territories of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the borders of Armenia were determined.

As a result of the war and due to a number of reasons, Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijan territory. Up to a million Azerbaijanis were forcibly driven away from the occupied territories and it means that the ethnic purge was carried out. All the property in the occupied territories was destroyed and wasted. And the people driven out from there live in very hard conditions in tents.

Despite all these losses, we signed a cease-fire agreement with Armenia in May 1994. In three days, it will be six years since the cease-fire agreement was concluded. We have tried and we are still trying to settle the matter peacefully. But we cannot achieve this end because Armenia takes non-constructive position and having occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and a big territory of Azerbaijan surrounding it, demands to grant for Nagorno-Karabakh only and only the status of state independence.

You have been handed out these maps. Probably, You have not seen them yet. Have You seen these maps?

Bill Graham: We have seen them this morning, but we had not seen them before.

Heydar Aliyev: If You saw them, there is no need for explanation. Look, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is covered over with red color here. In 1923, Nagorno-Karabakh gained the status of autonomous district within Azerbaijan. Armenians made 70 percent of the population and Azerbaijanis made 30 percent. When the conflict started, the total number of the population made approximately 170 thousand people. Armenia started the war to seize Nagorno-Karabakh. At first, they occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and then, the territories around it. The regions occupied by Armenia are covered with green and yellow colours on the map of Azerbaijan.

In 1996, a decision was adopted at the OSCE Lisbon Summit. It was stated there that Armenian armed forces should be called off from the occupied territories, territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored and Nagorno-Karabakh should be rendered the high status of self-government within the Azerbaijan state. We accepted this proposal and we are ready to implement it. But the Armenian side did not agree with it. They state that they will vacate the occupied territories of other Azerbaijan regions provided that Nagorno-Karabakh will be rendered only and only the status of state independence.

Look at the map. Azerbaijan has not occupied a single inch of Armenian territory. Therefore, it is unnecessary to prove who is just and who is not.

Today, we still remain to be the supporters of peaceful solution of the conflict. We do not intend to wage war and achieve the destiny by war. We hope that with the help of international organizations, especially, through the activity of the OSCE Minsk group, we will come to any agreement and will be able to establish peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

If peace is established between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenia will gain even more because it deprives itself of the participation in many economic processes of South Caucasus over this conflict by retaining such a tense situation.

You know that Azerbaijan possesses large oil and gas deposits. Since 1994, we have invited big oil companies of the world to Azerbaijan and they have already made big investments. Nowadays, 32 companies from 12 countries carry out joint work with Azerbaijan in the republic`s sector of the Caspian Sea. One Canadian company also works here, You know about it. And therefore, Azerbaijan has great development. It is true that we overcome some difficult problems in transition period. But at the same time, large investments come to Azerbaijan.

We have started exporting oil produced together with foreign oil companies since 1997. From 1994 up to date, we have signed 19 contracts. They assume that investment at the rate of 60 billion dollars will come to Azerbaijan and millions tons of oil and billions cubic meters of gas will be produced in Azerbaijan and exported to the world markets.

We, I mean Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia can realize very good economic cooperation in South Caucasus. But Armenia impedes it and thus, it deprives itself of the participation in economic processes going on in South Caucasus. I think that while in Armenia, You will see at first hand that economic situation there is very hard. However, if peace is achieved and the lands of Azerbaijan are liberated from the occupation by Armenian armed forces, very efficient economic cooperation can be established among the countries of South Caucasus.

For instance, a very excellent railway joining Baku with the capital of Armenia Yerevan existed in due time and it still exists now. At the same time, this railway extends from Baku to North, up to Russia, to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other cities. In due course, Armenia also used just this railway to satisfy its needs. And now, this railway is closed and it was Armenia that closed it.

If You look at the map, You will see that the railway separating the border of Iran is painted in green. This railway passes along the border between Azerbaijan and Iran, then goes to Nakhichevan and from there to Yerevan. But after occupation of our territory by Armenians, 130 km of the railway is in their hands. Today, this railway is closed. It causes harm both to us and to a greater extend to Armenia.

These are not the only facts, but there are much more of them. Therefore, Armenia should finally understand that nothing could be achieved by such act of violence.

It is natural that Azerbaijan experiencing the transition period has faced great economic problems too. But along with it, the existence of large natural resources and location between Europe and Asia, i.e. on the way between Europe and Central Asia, brings us much benefit. But Armenia is isolated of it. We will cope with these difficulties and the economy of Azerbaijan will develop intensively in such a hard situation as well. But the economic situation of Armenia will gradually worsen even more.

I know, You will visit Georgia. I want to mention that there is very sincere and friendly cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia. There are no problems in our relations.

Half a million of Azerbaijanis live now in the territory of Georgia. They do not show any separatism towards Georgia. At that, I want to stress that Azerbaijanis live in the territories of Georgia adjacent to Azerbaijan, i.e. the only Azerbaijanis live in the territory of Georgia on the other side of our border. It is their historical motherland and they live there. We do not see any problem in this and it does not prevent, but on the contrary, helps our friendship.

It is true that there is a number of problems in Georgia as well. It is the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and the Ossetian conflict. Economic situation in Georgia is also hard. We help them as far as we can.

You know that, we have laid an oil pipeline ranging over 800 km. from Baku to Georgian Supsa port at the Black Sea to export oil extracted in Azerbaijan. After concluding the contract on the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan oil pipeline, the commercial issues have been solved and we will start its construction soon. It will also stretch out from the Georgian territory to the territory of Turkey, up to Jeyhan port at the Mediterranean Sea.

We are going to export yearly 60-70 mln tons of oil through this pipeline. All this is of great importance for the further development of the Azerbaijan-Georgian economic cooperation. Thus, we do our utmost for the solution of problems taking place in the economy of Georgia. Now You see that friendship contacts between Azerbaijan and Georgia in South Caucasus help both countries. But the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan causes damage to both countries. It causes much economic damage to Armenia and as a whole, prevents providing security in South Caucasus.

I repeat once again, You will go to Armenia. We strive for peaceful settlement of the conflict with Armenia and want to establish lasting peace. The primary condition is that the usurped lands should be cleared out from the occupation by Armenian armed forces and over a million Azerbaijanis should return to their native hearths. I think that very efficient cooperation can be established in the future between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in South Caucasus as a whole.

Bill Graham: Mr. President, We express You our gratitude for these historical and very interesting for us facts. We know that You personally exert every effort for the establishment of peace in this region. We whish You success in Your efforts.

I am an historian by specialty. When You spoke about the prospects of economic cooperation among the countries of South Caucasus, I recalled for a moment the situation, which arose among the countries of the European Union founded in 1956. In that period, if I may say, the ore and iron communities pursued a course of the elimination of confrontation among the countries through economic cooperation. We Canadians are ready to help You in the solution of these problems. I think we will also give necessary recommendations to our government. I am confident that both the ambassador of our country and we will henceforth render You every possible assistance in this area at the level of experts or in any other form.

The deputy chair of Your parliament informed us today that a new law on elections is being worked out in Your country, Azerbaijan is on the threshold of joining the Council of Europe and the significant reforms are underway. I have to tell You that many reforms are taking place in our society too and all this is implemented via evolution. Therefore, we are always ready to work together with You and cooperate towards the construction of even a more developed society.

As I have already mentioned, the deputies representing opposition parties are also the members of our delegation. If You have time, I would like them to express briefly their opinions too.

Gurman Greval (member of committee): You Excellency, You know well that Canada has become a force center for the improvement of situation in the world.

Heydar Aliyev: I beg Your pardon, I have to answer urgently the telephone call. You just wait for a while here, I will be right back…

I beg Your pardon for this little break. But I do not want to keep it back from You: President of Russia Vladimir Putin phoned and whished me happy birthday just as You did. In this connection, we had a very important talk concerning the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan.

Bill Graham: I hope You informed Putin that Canadians had outstripped him.

Heydar Aliyev: Quite right. Please.

Gurman Greval: Mr. President, we understand that today is a special day for You. We appreciate You once again that You have found time for us.

I want to mention that Canada is a country having great merits before the world community. We, as the representatives of opposition consider that Canada has to enlarge its relations with other states and increase the number of its allies. We want to work out a strategy of development and cooperation of Canada based on long-term frames. We wish to expand the role that Canada plays in the entire world and spread in all the countries of the world inherent in Canada idealism, respect and protection of human rights and social order, under which the free society and rule of law and human values are guaranteed.

Mr. President, I want to appeal to You with one question. But before asking it, I should say that one of our former prime ministers Pirson was awarded with Nobel Prize for a special role in settlement of regional conflicts.

Your Excellency, I would like to know wherein You see a role of Canada in contributing to the establishment of stability and security in this region? What ideas, proposals and advice do You have over strengthening the political, diplomatic and economic relations between Azerbaijan and Canada that we could bring them to the notice of our government?

Heydar Aliyev: Today, at the beginning of our meeting we emphasized that we want to extend and develop the contacts with Canada in all the areas - economic, political, humanitarian, scientific and cultural. Among the world states, Canada is an extremely important state for us.

I informed that one of Canadian oil companies together with the companies of other countries is dealing together with us in the oil extraction in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. Some other Canadian companies also operate here. I think mister ambassador has informed You on it. But it is insufficient yet. We can establish broader contacts. We are adherent of this.

As to the participation of Canada in the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, I can say that we would accept any proposal with pleasure.

You know that the OSCE Minsk group has been established for peaceful solution of this conflict. 12 member-states of the OSCE have entered this group. But the Minsk group has three co-chairs. It is Russia, the United States of America and France. Basically, we try to settle the conflict with the help of this organization. Along with it, we welcome an initiative of any other country having such an opportunity. The one who will help us to settle this conflict, can be awarded with Nobel Prize twice. So You may offer Your proposals.

Bill Graham: Mr. President, we know that yesterday, You received the US co-chair of the Minsk group. Was the meeting effective?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, it was a good and fruitful meeting. Before arriving here, he visited Armenia. Yesterday, we had a thorough talk. Our meeting was very productive.

Bill Graham: Mr. President, Mrs. Lalond and I will take part at the OSCE Parliament Assembly and we will carry on further activity connected with these issues there.

Mrs. Fransin Lalond (member of committee): Mr. President, I express my gratitude that You received us. I represent Quebec province from where I was elected a deputy. I want to say that the inhabitants of Quebec never hide their reverence to Azerbaijan people who gained independence in this century twice. We know well what a great potential Your country possesses.

I want to note that our members cooperate with each other in the atmosphere of mutual understanding in this committee, the members of which we are. I will leave here for my country with thoughts that Azerbaijan possesses both rich natural resources and very high intellectual potential.

Mr. President, in this connection, I will try to convince everybody in my country, both in the parliament and in the government, as well as among the population to get state and business people and separate enterprises to expand their cooperation with Azerbaijan even greater.

Mr. President, I have one question. Azerbaijan is on the threshold of affiliation to the Council of Europe. What can You say about it?

Heydar Aliyev: I can say that I am grateful to You for these words. We want much objective realities about Azerbaijan to spread all over the world. If You render us services in this area, I will be very grateful to You. What can I tell regarding Your question on Azerbaijan`s admittance to the Council of Europe? I can say that we have been attending the Council of Europe for three years as a candidate.

Fransin Lalond: We are also observers in the Council of Europe.

Heydar Aliyev: You are observers in the Council of Europe and we are quests. We are a candidate member of the Council of Europe because we are a European country.

Apparently, we have passed an exam within the last three years and we deserve to be a full member of the Council of Europe. We are waiting for Azerbaijan to be accepted as a full member of the Council of Europe in the nearest future. We realize that it makes us much responsible, as the Council of Europe has its inherent principles. Within three years, we have been trying and have already proved that both today and in the future, we are able to develop our state based on the principles of the Council of Europe.

Bernard Patry (member of committee): Your Excellency, I have no questions, but I have two short comments.

I want to mention that our visit was very successful. The aim of our visit was to study Azerbaijan. Now the process of acquaintance continues.

We want You to know that we understand well that the cease-fire regime was achieved due to Your leadership. We understand that You make serious efforts to settle the conflict peacefully.

As we know, there were three resolutions of the United Nations Organization and one decree of the UN Security Council. The resolutions and the decree demand liberation of the occupied territories and their return to Azerbaijan.

I have learned from a deputy foreign minister of Your country that a new Civil Code is to be accepted next year in Azerbaijan. I have also learned from the deputy chair of Your parliament that 10 different parties are represented in the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan and there will be elections to the parliament of Your country this autumn. We would like to cooperate with You in these issues as well.

Mr. President, thank You very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You very much. I am very pleased. I appreciate You.

"Azerbaijan" newspaper, 11 may, 2000

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Historical backgrounds