Interview of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev to the reporter of the Japanese newspaper «Yomiuri Shimbun» - Tokyo, February 27, 1998

Question: Mr. President, we know that you met yesterday Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Hashimoto and signed with him joint statements. The Japanese «Mitsui» company and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan signed an agreement yesterday. How do you appreciate your official visit to Japan generally, and how would you like to see the relationship between Japan and Azerbaijan?

Answer: I highly appreciate my official visit to Japan and pleased of it. I think that for the time I was here I have had very fruitful discussions with the Japanese government , the Prime Minister, members of the government and big companies of this country and as a result of it, very important documents are signed between the two countries and government.

Question: My next question is about the pipeline. I heard that you prefer pipelines, built to the west, that is, through Georgia and Turkey, compared to the pipeline going through the territory of Russia. Why?

Answer: No, this is absolutely wrong. For the first oil export, we have decided to build two pipelines. One of them, through Russia to Novorossiysk port has been built, and this pipeline is already working. The second one we intend to build to the West, through the territory of Georgia, and it is now being built. The pipeline will be completed before the end of the year. These two directions, through Russia and the West are equally important to us. But there is a big oil pipeline, too. We have searched for its route for the last three years. As a result, we came to the conclusion that the most convenient is Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey route extending to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Question: I have heard that it does not pleasure Russia, does it?

Answer: It may not please someone. It may not please everybody. Perhaps someone will be against it, someone not.

Question: My next question is about the relations of Azerbaijan with Russia and the United States of America. Last year you paid an official visit to the United States, and since then, between Azerbaijan and the USA are friendly and very close relations. But the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are a little cold. Is this true?

Answer: You know, I visited the United States of America once. Before that I visited Russia. In Russia I was a few times. Thus, why anyone should think that because of one visit to the USA relations between Azerbaijan and Russia have cooled down. Our republic wants to establish equal relations with all the countries. Of course, we want to establish close relations with the United States of America. When I was in Washington, President Bill Clinton and I signed a very important joint statement on the USA-Azerbaijani partnership. We attach a particular importance to our relations.

At the same time, we have good relations with Russia, and we want to make them better. We just do not agree with the policy of Russia in the Caucasus. For example, while Armenia and Azerbaijan is in a military conflict, Russia has delivered arms to Armenia in amount of one billion USA dollars in three years. We think that this is unacceptable. We protest against this. On this occasion I sent a special letter to Boris Yeltsin and demanded the return of the weapons.

Russia and Armenia signed a military alliance in August last year. We protest of against this. Russia has military bases in Armenia. We protest against this as well. Therefore we have such problems with Russia. Perhaps because of it, you say that our relations are cold.

We openly expressed our opinion to Russia. We have said that Russia has no need to keep military bases in the Caucasus. Secret illegal delivery of weapons of Russia to Armenia worth of one billion USA dollars, of course, has a negative effect on our relationship.

Question: But are you going to maintain good relations with Russia?

Answer: Yes. We want to have good relations with Russia. But we criticize some aspects of the Russian policy in the Caucasus and do not agree with it.

Question: Recently, we hear a lot of criticism about the Commonwealth of Independent States. Does your country want to get out of the Commonwealth of Independent States in future?

Answer: No, we do not intend to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States. But we also criticize the work of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The heads of states of the Commonwealth of Independent States in October met in Chisinau, Moldova last year. Many heads of countries criticized the work of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Most of the criticism concerned Russia, because the leader of the Commonwealth of Independent States is Russia. It is the leader, then it is responsible for everything as well.

Question: Why do you not want to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States? Because it is not possible or?

Answer: No. There is no need to leave it. That is, we do not want the collapse of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Personally, I want the Commonwealth of Independent States be an organization in line with the international standards, conduct fruitful activities and all countries have equal rights. These rights should be factual but not formal. In the Commonwealth of Independent States a country should not pressure on the other. For example, I believe that the two countries of the Commonwealth cannot enter into a military alliance. This damages the reputation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. But Russia has signed such an alliance with Armenia. It bothers us.

Question: It is known that the Armenian president left his office. Undoubtedly, this will complicate the solution of the conflict over the Mountainous Garabagh. What is your opinion about it?

Answer: Of course, it will complicate the problem a little bit. Because we have conducted direct negotiations with President Ter-Petrosyan for several years and had certain confidence in each other. Negotiations with the newly elected president should begin and then we shall see how these negotiations will continue. But I think that there is no alternative to the peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani and the Mountainous Garabagh conflict. Therefore, I believe that the negotiations will continue. We just need now the new president to be elected in Armenia and then we shall continue to negotiate. Of course, this situation hampers our work.

Question: With your permission, I have one more question. It is known that after the signature of documents the Japanese companies will participate in oil production in Azerbaijan. They expect to get from this great profit, benefit. In your opinion, would it be beneficial to both sides? How would you like to see the work of the Japanese companies in Azerbaijan in future?

Answer: First, if an economic contract is signed, it should be beneficial to both sides equally. In the contract signed with foreign companies on oil developments of course, we prefer the benefit of Azerbaijan. The company would not have signed the contract if it does no benefit from it. Hence, it is a bilateral benefit. Will any Japanese company come to Azerbaijan, if there is no benefit? None of them. If we had no interest in it, we would not allow the participation of any company in our work. As for our future cooperation, we want this cooperation to be built on strong principles and its future seems to me very good.

The relations we established and agreements we signed during my visit here, have established a good foundation for much greater cooperation between the Japanese companies and Azerbaijan in future. Six Japanese companies have opened in Azerbaijan their offices.

Question: I think that those companies are not only the ones engaged in the oil industry?

Answer: Yes. For example, yesterday we agreed to sign a big contract between «Nichimen» and chemical complex in Azerbaijan on the production of ethylene. We have signed a contract with the Export-Import Bank of Japan and gave our guarantee for it. There is not only the oil industry, but the other industries as chemistry. Meetings I held yesterday and on the previous three days showed that the Japanese companies are not only interested in the oil industry, but also in many other industries.

Reporter: Mr. President, thank you very much.