Joint press conference by the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev and the Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin after signing agreements between the governments of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Russian Federation on main principles and directions of economic cooperation - Moscow, White House, January 18, 1996

Question: Victor Stepanovich, the agreement on transportation of the Azerbaijani oil through territory of Russia, probably, is the most important document among the documents signed today. According to your and Heydar Aliyev`s point of view, what will it give particularly, when it will start to be carried out? Will it put the end to disputes and hearings which are around this project?

Victor Chernomyrdin: As being the closest one to this problem both to its spirit, and for works, I would like to say that there have been a lot of conversations around it - a southern variant, northern variant. And if we take its very nature and maintenance into consideration, we will see that the scheme, which has been worked out for many years, is restored. There are specialists and experts here, all of the experts, oilmen, who took part in preparation of this agreement, are here. It will start to work from the moment of signing and it is possible to tell, even today there will be an advantage both for Azerbaijan and Russia. We consider that it is a reliable way, which has been approved by long-term work, and it will work. There is an opportunity to expand and develop it. I think it will be so, and all disputes on it should be finished eventually. As a matter of fact, there were not any disputes. And as to there are other variants, what is the problem here? Time will come; everything will depend on how much we will extract oil in Russia, how much in Azerbaijan. I am sure: Economic laws should operate, first of all, an economic efficiency should be the focus of attention. An economic efficiency will always show in which way we should go. It is necessary for both interests of Russia and interests of Azerbaijan. First of all, concerning this document development of oil branches of two states is certainly very important. It is the direction, which first of all, and most of all, gives profit quickly. I think, it is very necessary today for our economy, our people. And we attach great importance to it. Conversations should suffice and we should start activity.

Heydar Aliyev: I completely agree with everything, that dear Victor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin said. I consider that signing this agreement is one more step for development and strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan we give exclusively great value to this cooperation and we do our best to strengthen and develop this cooperation. And Victor Stepanovich is right that it is in our general interests - in interests of Russia and Azerbaijan, in interests of development of such branch, as oil industry. And signing this document will really put an end to all rumors. By the way, these rumors are absolutely interpreted groundlessly and differently in press organs. And now everything is clear and precise, the agreement was signed between Russia and Azerbaijan.

Question: Will this agreement put the end to disagreements concerning the status of the Caspian Sea?

Victor Chernomyrdin: It is a separate question. In last times, it is related to this question for some reasons. And if it is related by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then this question should be asked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have no such problems. As a whole, there is a problem concerning the Caspian Sea. Now we spoke with Heydar Aliyev, we talked about the Caspian Sea, the level of water rises in the Caspian Sea, now everybody suffers from it. It is hardly possible to solve this problem alone. There are a lot of such questions: question concerning level of the Caspian Sea, question of ecology, question of fish-farming, question of navigation and transport. If we speak about bosom of the sea, it is a special question. There are some works here, which should be carried out. I think, we will work and we already started to work. Maybe, now it is necessary for us to work more intensively above it. It is a business of the near-Caspian states, this is our internal business, those who live around the Caspian Sea, it is our internal reservoir and therefore, we will find an opportunity to understand it and we will understand all problems.

Question: What value in economic cooperation can have Azerbaijan, considering its merits both in the past, and in the present in development of the important problems of petrochemical branch? In the Soviet Union there was "the Second Baku", "the Third Baku".

Victor Chernomyrdin: In this century, everything connected with resources, especially oil resources, oil extraction, oil refining has started in Baku. Everything in the world in this field has started in Baku. Here many of my colleagues are present, if there are those, who did not finish high schools in Azerbaijan, and then each of them worked on oil fields of Azerbaijan. Therefore, Baku is alma mater for us, experts, oilmen and gas workers. Today the basic part of successes, which has been achieved in the world in the oil and gas industry, has been started in Baku. And now, the oil staffs, which work today both in Azerbaijan and Russia, and in other countries, had been sent from here. After that "the Second Baku" was created. In Western Siberia, we made so much use of the experience and works carried out in Azerbaijan, in Baku fields.

Therefore there are no obstacles, hindrances for us, for our experts in work. I can tell that many people, who were born in Baku, work in Western Siberia. Our Alekberov (he means Vahid Alekperov, the president of the oil company "Lukoil", to some extent belongs to Azerbaijan. To whom he belongs more, it should be looked.

Heydar Aliyev: I think, to whom - to Russia or Azerbaijan - he belongs more has no value.

Question: Heydar Aliyev, We would like you to give an explanation on the information of some agencies that Azerbaijan helps the Chechen Republic.

Heydar Aliyev: Using this opportunity, I want to reject categorically any fibs that Azerbaijan renders any help to the Chechen separatists in their operations. It is a lie and slander. By the way, today I spoke about it with Victor Stepanovich during our meeting. All these publications are organized by various groups, and including a group from Azerbaijan. They are criminals, who ran from Azerbaijan, and they should answer in the court. These are former President of Azerbaijan Mutallibov, the former Prime Minister Huseynov, former Minister of Defence Gaziyev and their group, which hide, unfortunately, here, in Moscow. Some structures support them, and they organize every possible article. By the way, an article was recently published in "Obshaya gazeta". Everything in the article was slander and lie from the beginning up to the end. This article mismatches the reality. We still knew twenty days ago that a group of Azerbaijanis, which hide here, in Moscow and illegally live here, have specially organized such article. And you see, it was published several days ago.

Question: Did you check yourself these data?

Heydar Aliev: What to check if it does not exist. First. And secondly, the border between Azerbaijan and Russia is firmly protected by the Russian boundary armies. We suffer from it, we asked Victor Stepanovich and he permitted us to transport some necessary cargoes through border. Because our border is closed. The border between Azerbaijan and Russia in Dagestan is completely closed. How can Azerbaijan support any separatists? In general, we are against separatism, Azerbaijan suffers from separatism for seven years, and we are against separatism and terrorism. I repeat, we ourselves suffer from it and consequently I categorically reject these fabrications.

Certainly, there are criminals in our country. In last two years, it was tried twice to overturn armed revolution in Azerbaijan. There are also such criminals in Azerbaijan; they can go both to the Chechen Republic and to other regions of Russia. By the way, some of criminals, who made an attempt to overturn in Azerbaijan, have been arrested in Moscow, Volgograd, Ryazan by means of law enforcement bodies of Russia. The criminals, who have committed a crime, hide in Russia. We are not guaranteed that such criminals can appear in the Chechen Republic. But Azerbaijan, as a state and republic, has no any connection with it and I repeat it categorically.