Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception given by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in honor of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan - January 25, 2002

Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

We celebrated the tenth anniversary of the independence of our country recently. It is the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan. All these years, we built the interstate relations between the sovereign Russia and sovereign Azerbaijan. But the road was not smooth; there were problems, difficulties and obstacles. However, this process went on and today it is going on in the ascending line. We signed an agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual security between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1997. We noted that the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are of strategic partnership nature. Subsequently, a lot has been done. However, I have to say, unfortunately, we have not been able to implement all the potential of the agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual security between the two countries.

Last January, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. This was a historic event for us, because it was the first visit of the President of the Russian Federation to the sovereign Azerbaijan after Azerbaijan gained its independence. We appreciate it. This visit established the beginning of a new era of development of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations. Much has been done over the past year and now we indeed, completely reached the level of strategic partnership. All this has enabled us today to discuss many issues of international relations and sign very important documents. Therefore, the visit of Vladimir Putin to Azerbaijan was the basis for further development of our relations. Today we witness the practical results of our agreements and this visit. Vladimir Vladimirovich, thank you for inviting me to pay an official visit to Moscow, Russia. I express my gratitude to you for the warm and cordial meeting, for the hospitality you have shown to me and to our entire delegation. I thank you for our very fruitful tete-a-tete discussions that took place yesterday in your house and now. I believe that the negotiations held between our two delegations were successful. All of this is an event of great significance for us. Therefore, we feel among close friends here, in Russia.

The history of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations is long and rich. For many decades we were together and lived in one country. It makes us closer to each other. Azerbaijan has gained a lot in these years. Russia has played a huge role in the socio-economic development of Azerbaijan, development of science, culture and education. Today, we have every reason to say that the friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are based on such a strong foundation laid over many decades by our ancestors.

Vladimir Vladimirovich just had a speech about the main issues on which we exchanged views and the issues that are the basis for the further cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan. I totally agree with you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Thus, I shall not dwell on them. I only want to point out that the issue of peace, stability and security in the Caucasus, as we discussed with you yesterday and today, is of vital importance for us, for Russia and for Europe. In this regard, the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Mountainous-Garabagh is extremely important for us. As you know, the conflict has been going on for a long time. It started on the initiative of the Armenian side with the claims to the territory of Azerbaijan. This conflict led to the war. We stopped the war seven years ago. However, in the end, 20 percent of Azerbaijan was occupied by the Armenian forces and a million refugees from the occupied lands are already live in difficult conditions for many years and the majority of them live in tents.

All these years we are working with the Russian Federation on this issue. The Russian Federation is co-chair of the Minsk Group of OSCE and much has been done by Russia. After Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was elected President of Russia he displayed and shows great interest in the subject. I am grateful to Vladimir Putin in this regard. But the issue is still not resolved. Vladimir Vladimirovich spoke about it as well. I gratefully accept your statement that Russia will continue to implement measures for the peaceful solution of the conflict. We stand on the positions of a peaceful settlement of the conflict, we want peace in the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, between Armenia and Azerbaijan and I think that it would be important for the cooperation of all the countries of the Southern Caucasus and Russia. Therefore, we look with hope to the future and I want to thank once more Vladimir Vladimirovich, on behalf of the community of our republic for inviting me today and I want to say that the relations with Russia have a special meaning for us. Russia is our northern neighbor. Russia is a great country. Russia is a country with great economic potentials and great international reputation. Great changes are taking place in Russia. Especially positive changes are taking place in the recent years. Statehood and the international reputation are strengthening and the economy of Russia is developing. All this gladdens us and we follow it as friends, because all that is going on in Russia is important for us. Election of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin President of Russia is of great importance for all of this. It is his merits.

I want to congratulate you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, with these successes, wish you success in strengthening the Russian government, in the development of the Russian Federation and all the best for the development of relations between Russia and Azerbaijan.

I raise the glass to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, to the Russian Federation, to the Russian people and to the Russian-Azerbaijani friendship! To your health!