From the conversation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the tete-a-tete meeting with the President of the Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Rome, «Quirinal» Palace, September 25, 1997

Mr. Scalfaro,

First of all, thank you for inviting me to pay an official visit to your country. I gladly accepted the invitation and came here to establish personal contacts with you and to discuss the future development of relations between our countries. Expressing my pleasure with your thoughts about our country and the importance of the further development of the Italian-Azerbaijani relations, I would like to note that in late 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, Azerbaijan gained its independence. Taking this opportunity I express my gratitude to Italy for recognizing the independence of Azerbaijan immediately and for appointing an ambassador to our country. The Italian embassy in Azerbaijan is the manifestation of attention of Italy to the development of relations with our two countries. By the way, we shall soon appoint our own ambassador to Italy. We attach great importance to the relations with Italy. We consider Italy as country with democratic traditions, developed economy and a good partner for cooperation.

I thank you for your attention to the processes in our country, as well as for understanding the development and strengthening of the state independence of Azerbaijan. Despite the external and internal difficulties, we do everything possible to strengthen the irreversibility of our national independence. We are building a democratic and secular state in Azerbaijan. We build our economy on the basis of principles of the market economy and integration into the world economy. I note that these processes have been successfully implemented in our country in the recent years.

Mr. Scalfaro, You were right when you said that in the first years of our independence, the internal political situation in the country was unstable. We had great difficulties and there launched even a civil war in 1993. We managed to overcome this. Over the last three-four years, the political situation in Azerbaijan has stabilized, which is also irreversible. There have been created all conditions for political pluralism and democratic institutions. We have a lot of political parties and newspapers. There are newspapers of the opposition and these are the present-day realities of our country. For the information I note that at the end of 1995 in our country we adopted the first democratic constitution and held democratic elections to the Parliament of Azerbaijan on the multi-party system. We have taken significant steps in the field of economic reforms and these reforms, including privatization, land reform and liberalization of foreign trade, in general, are successful. The reforms have yielded then positive results. The situation in the economy has stabilized, there has been a slight increase in the production of gross domestic product, inflation has greatly reduced and the course of our national currency has strengthened.

But I want to emphasize that, in addition to all this, in our country there is a big problem. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not our fault. The conflict began as a result of the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan in order to annex Nagorniy-Karabakh. Because of certain reasons the Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory, Nagorniy-Karabakh and seven surrounding. Over one million of Azerbaijanis have been forcibly expelled from the territories and live in very difficult conditions, in tents for four or five years. I would like to stress it in particular that one million of the 7.5 million population of Azerbaijan are refugees. Despite all of this, in the May of 1994, we signed an agreement on ceasefire and negotiated on peaceful resolution of this problem.

Mr. Scalfaro, you emphasized that the ceasefire is successful and it is observed. The ceasefire is successful because it is observed over three years. Secondly, we follow it without the foreign peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone.

Mr. Scalfaro, I think it would be better to give information about this conflict using the map: it is the territory of Azerbaijan. The colored part of the map is the territory occupied by the Armenian forces. In accordance with the proposals of the Minsk Group of OSCE, the territories painted green should be liberated in the first phase. In the territory painted in yellow there are two districts, Lachin and Shusha. The road connecting Karabakh with Armenia passes through these districts, it is expected to release these two districts in the second phase and the discussion of the status of Nagorniy-Karabakh within the Republic of Azerbaijan.

I recall that at the Lisbon Summit of OSCE there were identified three principles for the peaceful settlement of Nagorniy-Karabakh conflict: recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia, providing Nagorniy-Karabakh a self-administration status within the Republic of Azerbaijan, ensuring the safety of all the Armenian and Azerbaijani population of Nagorniy-Karabakh. Before the conflict the number of population Nagorniy-Karabakh was 170,000, 70 percent of them were Armenians and 30 percent- the Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijanis were driven out from there. Now only, approximately, 80 to 100 thousand Armenians live there.

Responding to your question, I note that when the conflict began, in Armenia there were about 300,000 Azerbaijanis. These Azerbaijanis deported from Armenia and now they live in Azerbaijan. In response, the Armenians living in different areas of Azerbaijan were also deported. But the difference is that the Armenians deported from Azerbaijan went to Russia, Europe, America and other places, but not to Armenia.

Speaking of the reason of why the problem has not been solved to this day, I must note that in the Lisbon Summit of OSCE 53 states of 54 voted for the three principles for the resolution of the conflict, but Armenia did not accept them. Armenia tries to get the status of independence for Nagorniy-Karabakh. Naturally, Azerbaijan cannot accept it. We cannot allow the establishment of a second state in the territory of Azerbaijan.

Scalfaro: Apparently, Armenia wants to annex Karabakh.

Heydar Aliyev: In accordance with the international law, they cannot do it. According to them, Nagorniy-Karabakh will be formally independent, but in fact will join Armenia.

Mr. Scalfaro, in memory of our meeting, I present you a photo of rock inscription in Latin, associated with the Roman Empire found on the territory of our country. There is an inscription on the rock located in the south-eastern slope of Beyukdash mountain in Gobustan, which has a history of about two thousand years. It is said: «İmperator Domisian Sezar Avqust Germanik. L. (Yusi) Yuli Maksim, Senturion of XII legion of Fulminat».

Mr. Scalfaro, I invite you to pay an official visit to our country.