Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the Confederation of the British Industry – February 22, 1994

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!

I am very pleased to meet you today. First of all, I would like to thank BP and Statoil companies for organizing this meeting.

As you are aware, I am on official visit to the United Kingdom at the invitation of Prime Minister John Major. Since my arrival in London I have been hosted with hospitality and our meetings have been held in a sincere atmosphere. During my visit I shall meet and negotiate with Mr. Major. But it is also very important for me to meet the businessmen of the UK now.

The main purpose of my visit is to expand and develop the relations between the independent Azerbaijan and the UK. For a long time Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union and achieved independence in late 1991. For over two years Azerbaijan has been recognized as an independent nation by the world countries. Azerbaijan pursues the policy of building mutually beneficial relations with all the countries, including the United Kingdom, which is one of the advanced nations in the world.

Broadening the relations with the UK, Azerbaijan pays special attention to economic relations. I would like to inform you that Azerbaijan possesses huge economic potentials and rich resources. Therefore, Azerbaijan can be a valuable partner for all the countries, including the UK in all the spheres.

Azerbaijan pursues market economy in its internal policy. Our country intends to create a large space for entrepreneurship, initiative and freedom in economy by reforming the present economic system. Necessary measures in this sphere are being taken. Therefore, favorable conditions have been created for establishing economic relations with other countries, including the UK. 

One of the main factors creating favorable conditions for economic cooperation with other countries is the geopolitical position of Azerbaijan along with its economic, scientific and intellectual potentials and huge resources. Azerbaijan is an independent nation now and will never give up its independence. Our historical and national traditions, as well as world experience and democratic principles are taken into consideration in state-building. Legal democratic state and society are being built in Azerbaijan. Favorable conditions have been created for the establishment of democratic principles. We want to implement principles, such as political pluralism, freedom of thought, freedom of man, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech as significant principles both in state policy and socio-political sphere. All these factors have led to democratic situation and socio-political stability in Azerbaijan.

Realizing plans of expansion of its economic relations with the world countries, first of all, with economically developed countries, Azerbaijan pays special attention to the interests of foreign companies and businessmen in Azerbaijan. Thus, we desire to attract the British businessmen and companies. I want to state that favorable conditions can be created for them to launch joint businesses, make investments and implement other projects in Azerbaijan.

Historically Britain has always been interested in Azerbaijan. The historical data prove that the English merchants, travelers, businessmen visited Azerbaijan in the 15-16th centuries, the British companies launched big projects in Azerbaijan in the late 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. During my meeting with the president of BP today he told me BP has been operating together with Statoil in Azerbaijan for a few years. But I reminded him that BP came to Azerbaijan and took part in oil production in Baku approximately 90 years ago. The British businessmen had a broad activity and big projects in Azerbaijan at the beginning of the 20th century until 1920. Undoubtedly, they also earned a lot of profit from their participation in the Azerbaijani oil industry. But there were no relations after this process broke in 1920. I am pleased to note that we are now taking steps to restore and expand these relations.

Mentioning some historical facts, I invite you and all the British businessmen to Azerbaijan and assure that there are good opportunities in Azerbaijan for investments, businesses, joint enterprises. I hope that the British entrepreneurs will effectively use these opportunities.

I want to touch upon another issue. Because it might prevent some people from starting business in Azerbaijan. The problem is the Armenian-Azerbaijani war, which has been going on for six years. Some territories of the Azerbaijan Republic have been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. The conflict broke out from the artificially created Mountainous Garabagh problem and turned into a large-scale war between two nations – Armenia and Azerbaijan. We want no more war. Our aim is to end it and solve the problems peacefully with the help of international organizations. We are taking serious steps in this direction. But our primary condition is the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Peace negotiations must be conducted and peace must be achieved based on this condition. We are sure that the war will come to an end, peace will be achieved and the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of Azerbaijan will be secured. Therefore, that problem can not be an obstacle for businesses in Azerbaijan. I confidently state that this should not worry anybody and prevent from launching a business in Azerbaijan.

I am pleased that today in London I had meetings with presidents of several big companies, including BP, Kaiser Engineering, GPT, John Brown. I suppose those meetings are the beginning of positive and effective businesses. Tomorrow protocols and contracts will be signed between those companies and our relevant firms. We intend to cooperate with those companies and the intended projects will be realized. Thus, I invite other businessmen and companies to put forth their initiatives. I state again: Azerbaijan`s economic potential is huge. There are large enterprises in oil and chemical industry, machine-building, electronics, agriculture, light industry of Azerbaijan. We also have big opportunities and production funds almost in all the spheres of industry. They can be used jointly. By giving all this information I invite the British businessmen to start joint businesses.

Azerbaijan is a profitable and reliable partner for the British businessmen. I think that you will take necessary steps in order to use these opportunities.

I invite all of you to Azerbaijan. Thank you for the attention. Should you have any questions, I am ready to answer them.

Question: What is the attitude of your foreign policy towards Russia, Middle East, especially Iran? What could you say about Baku-Anzali (Iran) oil pipeline? How do you imagine the role of the foreign countries, especially the countries of the Middle East and Iran in your market economy? Who is the leader of the Caspian basin nations?

Answer: Azerbaijan`s foreign policy is to establish mutually beneficial relations with all the countries, including our neighbors based on equality of rights. Naturally, the neighboring nations are geopolitically closer to us. At the same time, as President I attach great importance to the relations between the UK and Azerbaijan. Therefore, in my speech I would like to remind that Great Britain was interested in Azerbaijan a few centuries ago. The majority of investments in Azerbaijan at the beginning of the century were made by the British businessmen. Thus, the British-Azerbaijani relations have a rich history and traditions.

Therefore, our relations with all the countries should be mutually beneficial based on equality of rights, including Russia and Iran. We do not distinguish them.

I don’t know what pipeline you were talking about. Many questions are asked about this pipeline. But it is still unknown. There may be a pipeline. We are conducting negotiations. BP, Amoco, Statoil will implement it. Oil extracted by this consortium will be transported through that pipeline. But it is not known how the pipeline will be constructed and what countries it will cross. We will determine it. As for your question about Baku-Anzali oil pipeline, I have no information on it.

As for the Caspian basin countries, there is no leader among them. Each country has its own leader.

I state once again that Azerbaijan will expand free market economy, which is the economic strategic way for Azerbaijan. We have chosen this direction and used the world experience. We will further use this experience. No other country, including Iran or other neighboring nation can have influence on our market economy. In general, the entire world is experiencing market economy. As you know, until recently only the economy of the Soviet Union was based on socialism, while free market economy prevailed in other countries. Now it is our way. Thus, no other country can influence or prevent us from following it.

"Azerbaycan", February 24, 1994