Interview of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev for the correspondent of the Portuguese television - Lisbon, December 3, 1996

Question: Mr. President, can you speak about Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict?

Answer: Yes, I can. It is really, they have a little information about it in Portugal. Now after the Lisbon summit, the community of Portugal will have certain idea about this conflict. Today I specially met with the Prime Minister of Portugal. We had a talk on this theme. I understood that the Prime Minister was well aware of the matter.

This conflict began in 1988 because of Armenia. There is a small region in Azerbaijan which is called Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Once it was called Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) autonomous region of Republic of Azerbaijan. At that time all these were the part of the Soviet Union. In this region the area of which is about four thousand square kilometers lived 130 thousand men. 70 percent of this population were the Armenians, 30 percent were Azerbaijanis. This region is situated in the central part of Azerbaijan and from all sides surrounded with the territory where only Azerbaijanis live.

So, Armenia began this conflict in order to annex Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The conflict had brought to bloodshed and then led to war. The military operations so expanded, that a lot of people were killed and wounded. However, in view of the objective and subjective reasons, I tell you frankly, that in the period when Armenia and Azerbaijan was the part of the Soviet Union, the Soviet leadership and also certain circles in other states have rendered assistance to the Armenian side. The situation in Azerbaijan was unstable. Taking an opportunity, firstly the armed forces of Armenia, all Azerbaijanis were driven out from the territory of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and then enlarged their attacks to the territories situated outside of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh). As the result of this, it has led to the occupation of 20 percent of territory of Azerbaijan. It includes Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and settlements, towns and the districts around it.

Question: Does it seem to you that Russia is also guilty to a certain extent, as it cannot prevent this conflict?

Answer: Of course, the leadership of the Soviet Union is three fold guilty as much and it bears direct responsibility. At that time this country was called not Russia, but the Soviet Union.

Correspondent: But now Russia bears responsibility.

Heydar Aliyev: Now neither Armenia, nor Azerbaijan is submitted to Russia in the proper sense of a word. However, Russia has its influence in our region. In particular, it has its strong influence in Armenia, a lot of links of Russia with Armenia is active. Therefore Russia could have prevented this conflict and not admit slaughter. By the way, the leadership of the Soviet Union and then Russia pay off for their mistakes. It was the first conflict in the territory of the Soviet Union and perhaps it was the first conflict on the European continent. If this conflict had been prevented in time, Georgia-Abkhazian, Georgia-Ossetic, Osset- Ingush, Pridnestr-Moldova and at last Chechen conflict would not occur later. Look, there are so many conflicts and all of them are close to each other. All these began because of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Because certain peoples in the leadership of the Soviet Union rendering assistance to the Armenian separatists and nationalists hoped to tear away Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) from Azerbaijan and to annex it to Armenia and to yield a profit from this. However this intention was not implemented. They began war, but they did not annex the territory. This conflict continues about eight years.

Question: Do you think that this conflict comes to the end?

Answer: It does not but I think that it will be over. The conflict can not last long. This fact that today the acting chairman of the OSCE declared the principles which should underlie the settlement of conflict on behalf of the all members of this organization with the exception of Armenia. It proves that the OSCE and the countries entering it, support the settlement of the conflict on the basis of these principles. The conflict is not solved, because Armenia does not wish to fulfil these principles and does not recognize it. But now when all member-countries of the OSCE declared about their adherence to these principles, I think that the Armenian side must think about it.

Question: That is to say after eight years!

Answer: What to do, there are some conflicts which last more than that.