From the talk of Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, with Lord Russell Johnston, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council - September 15, 2001

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Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Lord Russell, I welcome you in Azerbaijan and I am glad to meet you here again.

Our first meeting here was held in the framework of the process of admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. Now Azerbaijan is a full member of the Council of Europe. As the co-chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, you are on a visit to Azerbaijan, a member of this organization. That is pleasant. I think that your visit to Azerbaijan and other countries of the region will give you direct information about the current situation in the South Caucasus.

I am aware that you have already had a lot of meetings here, with the members and the chairman of our parliament, with the Prime Minister, with the Foreign Minister. I guess that all the issues have been discussed.

I thank you that you have visited the refugees who live in hard conditions. I suppose you have been informed that their conditions are better than others because most of them live in tents. I told you last time that they have been living there for 8-9 years.

I guess you have already visited our city. You are aware of the mood of the population, too. I watched some of your meetings on TV, also your visit to the Martyrs` Avenue. Thank you for that visit.

I think that our cooperation has become more intensive since Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe. It is just the beginning of the work, and I guess this cooperation will be more intensive and more productive in future. Thank you for this visit. Please.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality and kind words. Indeed, it is my second visit to Azerbaijan. When I visited first Azerbaijan was not a member of the Council of Europe.

After your country became a full member of the Council of Europe, I wanted much to pay a visit to Azerbaijan. As you said, I had a lot of meetings here. However, I had no time to walk in Baku.

Heydar Aliyev: It is really not good. It is the fault of the chairman of our parliament.

Lord Russell Johnston: You are right.

Heydar Aliyev: You had a lot of meetings during the visit. They had an intensive program for you.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, you are well informed.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, I am aware.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, anyhow the issues I discussed here up today will not probably surprise you. Because all the issues discussed are familiar to you. They are issues Azerbaijan has undertaken to discuss and implement as a member state. Furthermore, we had discussions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in a number of meetings. Unfortunately, all these problems and meetings remained in the shade of the events which happened in the United States.

That is why I`d like to ask you a question at first. As an experienced person what do you think about the impact of those events on your country? Undoubtedly, those events will have a global impact; it will be felt in all countries, in our countries as well. Probably, safety measures must be increased; as a result, it is not excluded that people even in streets may be detained and searched. Their bags can be searched in markets. Possibly, citizens won`t like it.

I also talked to the President Shevardnadze. He also thinks that this is such a terrible and large-scale event that the international community must join its efforts and fight against terrorism.

Heydar Aliyev: All we know both the present and the past history. As I am aware, there has never been such a terrible terrorist act in the world. The people who prepared and realized that terror can not be called human beings. It shocked us. At the same time, it perhaps may awaken the whole world that the international terrorism is dangerous not only for some persons or some nations, but also for all the mankind, and it will become more dangerous in future.

Because terrorism, especially international terrorism which has grown in the recent years, used to be of local nature. It used to cover a country or a region. But the last terror act shocked all the world. Not only that terror was committed against the American nation, but also against the mankind. Naturally, this terror was committed against peace, culture, humanity and democracy as well.

Terrorism has various forms. For instance, our country knows it well from its contemporary history. Now the cardinal issue is the peaceful resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Today we still share the same opinion that it is the right way. However, the events currenting in the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations up to now such as the genocide in Khojaly, ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories are the forms of terrorism.

There have been terror attacks against political figures in different countries. We still remember the terror act against John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy or Ronald Reagan or the Israeli Prime Minister; all of them are reality of our contemporary history.

For example, the long-lasting terrors in your country in Ireland are examples of terrorism. We have experienced not only the Armenian terrorism, but there have been acts in the country since 1993 when I began to work here. Some were prevented, but some of them resulted in human casualty.

For instance, we think that sending the military units by the Soviet government to Azerbaijan on January 20, 1990, and the manslaughter here was an act of terrorism conducted against Azerbaijani people; Avenue of Martyrs was erected in memory of that event.

I myself faced terror danger several times. I can face such events today or tomorrow, as well.

Not all the countries understood the expansion of the terrorism in the world up to now. Some used to think that terrorism did not threaten their countries. Any country where acts of terrorism have been organized understand the horrors of terrorism. We know it and therefore we know it better than other nations what happened in the USA. It enraged us. I called the meeting of the Security Council immediately and declared the readiness of Azerbaijan to take part in the fight against the international terrorism by using all the means.

Terrorism has spread all over the world. This is why, the search of terrorists and response to the act of terrorism against the United States demand adequate measures. Naturally, all measures must be undertaken. If it is necessary to carry out search in any country, including Azerbaijan, the law enforcement agencies will investigate all suspicious cases and persons - all these measures will be undertaken. My country has joined the combat against terrorism. We are ready to organize any kind of measure that is necessary.

The US is a mighty, powerful country. NATO has already declared its position on it. Tens of non-NATO countries have announced their solidarity with the US in the fight against terrorism. So has Azerbaijan. It means that most of the world countries have already declared the necessity of the combat against terrorism together with the USA.

I think that measures can be realized and the realization is quite reasonable.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, let me add something. For example, I highly appreciate the statement made by the President Bush right after the terror act. I think that he took the necessary initiative in time. Although he had to carry a heavy burden, there were destructions in his country, and the people were shocked, President of the United States declared that the issue could not be generalized, despite all the suspicions against the Palestinians and Afghans. Certainly, it is incorrect to turn terrorism into the war against Afghans or Arabs.

Mr. President, as you are aware, one of the duties of the Council of Europe is the protection of human rights. Protecting human rights, we do not generalize either. Therefore, I am firmly sure that it is impossible to defeat terror with the use of terror. Heads of states must treat the realities, and behave quite carefully.

Mr. President, you mentioned the Irish Revolution Army and the crimes committed by it in the territory of Great Britain. I am keen to remind another example.

As it is known, during the Second World War, a lot of Italians were imprisoned in the territory of Great Britain without any reason. The main cause was that Italy fought against us with its allies during the war. You are aware that there are a number of citizens of the Italian origin in the territory of Great Britain. They are descendants of the people who migrated from Italy to Britain in the 19th century. Now - 60 years later after those events, such measures are inadmissible in Great Britain. Today human rights ban such measures.

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Russell, you are quite right. I also listened to all the statements of President Bush, including the one you just mentioned. I completely agree with him. I also agree with you that it is not correct to fight against nations or countries as an adequate reply to terrorists.

It is still unknown who concretely organized this terror, although there are many doubts and many suspects. I suppose that the respective bodies of the US, of its allies and of any country that want to prevent terrorism will do their best and even join their efforts in order to identify those people and organizations. Of course, further measures can also be realized.

You said that the reply to terror with terror would be incorrect. I remembered the words of Lenin. He said that they should reply the white terror with the red terror. The white terror was the act of their enemies, the red - of the Bolsheviks. That was the Bolshevik regime. I do not believe in the birth of the Bolshevik ideas in the world again.

Your organization makes great efforts for the protection of human rights. Thus, I understand why you approach this issue so sensibly and attentively. When something terrible happens, there is always an outburst emotion in the beginning. Steps taken in such an emotional state can be sometimes incorrect. However, after studying the issue in detail some time later, measures taken against such crime can be fair. This is why our opinions are tantamount.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, before I leave you, I would like to talk about the realities of Azerbaijan, too. As you know, I had a number of meetings since I came here. I met almost all the main political figures in your republic, including my friend Mr. Alesgerov. Mr. Alesgerov presented me a list. That was a list of obligations of Azerbaijan as a member of the Council of Europe. Mr. Alesgerov told me about the work done and the progress achieved. I am glad to know that Azerbaijan has made a remarkable progress within a short period. It is my personal opinion that the admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe as a full member was a right decision in time. Finally, Azerbaijan which is part of Europe became a real member of Europe. Now it seems that Azerbaijan is moving forward gradually, but steadily.

Heydar Aliyev: I thank you for your appreciation of the work done after the admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe.

Being a candidate, for a few years we tried to become a full member of the Council of Europe, first, in order to feel as an inseparable part of Europe and to be recognized.

Secondly, to accelerate the application of the universal and European values in Azerbaijan is also natural. We realize it. Mr. Alesgerov has already informed you. I think that there is no need to repeat. You can be sure that other obligations will also be fulfilled. But I wish the Council of Europe to have true information on the real social-political situation in Azerbaijan.

For example, when the Council of Europe reproaches our country in some issues, we make efforts to remove the cases for which we are reprimanded. But the Council of Europe represents 43 countries. The delegation of the each country does not necessarily consist of people of the same opinion. I suppose that you understand me. It is impossible to think that all the people in delegations are completely objective. Generally, man cannot be completely objective. No one can think of himself to be ideal. Thus, we wish the information provided to be examined in detail and discussed together with us. I reiterate that we are ready to accept your just proposals and remarks immediately.

I told you at our previous meeting that the process of democratization, protection of human rights, freedom of press and speech are going on. The process is not complete yet. Nothing can be ideal. But we should do our best. Thus, we must intensify our cooperation.

Lord Russell Johnston: I completely agree. If I had an opportunity, I would speak more about the objectivity. I think that non-objectivity is result of illiteracy. Full objectivity or perfection looks like a mirage in the desert. In any case we must do our best in order to make everything fair.

Using this opportunity, I want to express my thanks to you at the end of our meeting. I thank you for your hospitality and your attitude to me. Mr. President, I wish you good health, first of all, for the rule of your country.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I`m quite satisfied. But I do not want to forget one thing.

When joining the Council of Europe we undertook some obligations and we try to implement them. We joined the Council of Europe with great hopes. I mean the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the return of more than one million refugees to their homes, liberation of our territories occupied by Armenian armed forces.

All we know that the Minsk Group of the OSCE, especially its co-chairs Russia, the US and France are engaged in this case. However, the Council of Europe should also pay attention to this issue.

Our policy is to join all the conventions on human rights. But the rights of the people driven away from the occupied territories and who live in hard conditions have also been violated. I think that these problems are not the direct duty of your organization. But as I noted, since we joined the Council of Europe we hope that the it will make more efforts for the solution of this conflict in the frame of its opportunities.

Lord Russell Johnston: Mr. President, undoubtedly, the Council of Europe can and must contribute to the solution of this problem. We have already made definite steps and efforts in this direction. For example, in the meeting of the chairpersons of the parliaments of the South Caucasian states organized by the Parliamentery Assembly of the Council of Europe we agreed that at least a dialogue must be held. We assist to hold a dialogue and remove some obstacles at this level.

As it is known, the governments have laid all the responsibility on the Minsk Group. The Minsk Group functions as a mediator and assistant in the resolution of the conflict. At the same time, we both agree that the Council of Europe has its definite responsibilities. Unfortunately, not any step has been taken since the ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Certainly, we must take some now. Much depends not on the mediators, but on Azerbaijan and Armenia, the belligerent parties. The two states should come to an agreement and determine the concessions. I understand that it is hard. If we take into consideration the details of concessions, we realize how disputed and difficult the process is.

Unfortunately, in a document recently published by the Council of Ministers of the EC, your Foreign Minister is also a member of that Council, it is written that though Azerbaijan and Armenia joined the EC, there has not been any progress in the resolution of the conflict. That was a document elaborated under the presidency of Liechtenstein.

Mr. President, I always find a way to talk to people, believe them, listen to them. It seems to me that if the parties can listen to each other, it is possible to find a solution for the problem.

Heydar Aliyev: I also think that we can do that. Probably, concessions are unavoidable. However, I have always declared that the concessions must be acceptable for both sides. There is a dialogue; I meet the Armenian President. Meetings at other levels are also held. Unfortunately, we cannot come to an agreement on concessions. The public in Azerbaijan insists that no compromise can be made. Thus, it is a very difficult issue. The Armenian side does not want to compromise.

Lord Russell Johnston: I understand that it is a hard duty for you.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, it is. Thank you very much.