Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the press conference at the International Press Center in Brussels - May 4, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen!

This morning I met the Prime Minister of Belgium. We negotiated on the further development of cooperation between our countries. Recently we submitted to the Belgian government the drafts of several agreements. Now the Belgian side is studying them. Mr. Prime Minister said that his government will be ready to sign a memorandum on cooperation, agreements on commercial-economic cooperation, on tourism and others with Azerbaijan as soon as they are approved by the relevant regions of Belgium.

The visit to NATO headquarters occupied the main part of my schedule today. In 1992, NATO adopted a decision on the establishment of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Along with other countries, the former Soviet nations, including Azerbaijan were admitted to the Council. In the January of this year, the heads of NATO member-states adopted and declared the program of Partnership for Peace and called on the Eastern European countries and newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to join the program. We studied this document comprehensively and found interesting and attractive aspects in it for the Republic of Azerbaijan. Therefore, based on our attitude towards NATO, which has contributed a lot to the stability in Europe and worldwide, we decided to join the Partnership for Peace Program.

Today I met NATO deputy Secretary-General. Mr. Secretary-General Manfred Werner himself was not at work. We had a very interesting conversation. Later I took part at the meeting of the NATO Council and signed the framework document of the Partnership for Peace Program. Signing this document, we consider that Azerbaijan is to strengthen its independence, democracy, market economy, to expand its integration into the world community, especially to Europe and the West, and to have great opportunities in order to carry out its goals based on the said program and cooperation with NATO.

As you know, Azerbaijan is in the state of war with Armenia. It has been subjected to the military aggression which is going on for six years. The war damaged the Azerbaijani economy and territorial integrity, it resulted in death of many people. More than 20,000 people were killed and 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan is currently under occupation of the Armenian armed forces.

In spite of our peace efforts and the participation of international organizations, including the UN Security Council, OSCE and its Minsk Group on the solution of the conflict, the war has not stopped yet. Thus, we aim at having new opportunities for carrying out our goals by starting our cooperation with NATO and signing the Partnership for Peace Program. Our goals include peaceful settlement of the conflict, ceasefire and cessation of all military operations, withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, ensuring the territorial integrity and inviolability of the frontiers of Azerbaijan. Of course, this process also implies protection and security of the Armenian population of the Mountainous-Garabagh and the possibility of granting it an autonomy.

Guided by these considerations, we made ​​a decision and signed the Partnership for Peace Program today on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan. I am pleased with the negotiations and conversations, the friendly atmosphere surrounding us and mutual understanding at the NATO headquarters. I am also glad that we signed the document. Mr. deputy Secretary-General noted that Azerbaijan became the 15th country among the participants and the 4th country among the former Soviet nations to join the program. We have great expectations of our cooperation with NATO. I am sure they will come true. Now I am ready to answer your questions.

Question: Mr. President, I have two questions. First, I cannot imagine and understand what kind of initiatives one can expect from NATO on the solution of the conflict. Thus, I would like to ask you: did you discuss any diplomatic and other kind of efforts which NATO can provide for the solution of the problem?

The second question: A few months ago mass media informed that Russia informally supports Armenia in order to force you to restore the union with Russia, especially regarding oil issues. To what extent is this information true?

Answer: First of all, in order to help you imagine the opportunities of our cooperation with NATO in the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, I would ask you to get acquainted with the document adopted by the heads of NATO member-states on January 10. There are very strict regulations, which encourage us to hope that our participation in Partnership for Peace Program creates conditions for NATO`s involvement in the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I do not want to speak too much about it.

I just ask you to read the document; everything is clearly interpreted there. By the way, nearly half an hour ago, when the NATO deputy Secretary-General and I answered the questions of the reporters at the press conference, he replied this question saying that NATO can start consultations with Azerbaijan on the Mountainous-Garabagh problem. As for Russia`s assistance to Armenia in this conflict and pressure on Azerbaijan for oil issues, I can state that there are Russian military bases in Armenia, but none in Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan are the warring sides. The battles continue. The territory of Armenia is not so large; less than 3 times the size of Azerbaijan. Now you can make conclusions yourselves.

Question: Mr. President, in your speech you noted that the war has inflicted damages on  your country and its economy. I would like to learn what effect the war has had on the export of oil products from your country. I would be grateful if you could give some figures reflecting the situation. How has the war affected the signature of agreements with the Western oil companies?

Answer: The war has had badly affected our economy indeed. Just imagine that 20% of our territory, with its fertile soil is under occupation. Once there were large industrial and agricultural enterprises there. One million displaced persons from those regions have settled in other regions of the country and are now living in hard conditions. The damage is worth billions of the USA dollars. As for your question about the impact of the war on our oil industry, I must say that our oil industry enterprises are beyond the area of military operations. Nevertheless, the war has effected all the spheres of the economy.

As for the contracts we are going to sign with the Western oil companies, there are a lot of speculations about them. Naturally, the resources and geographic location of Azerbaijan attract many countries and companies of the world. The negotiations on contracts with oil companies are underway. The new round of negotiations started between the representatives of the Western companies and SOCAR in Istanbul on May 2. I think that we are close to concluding contracts. The day of concluding contracts is not far.

Question: Mr. President, you have great experience of work in the state bodies of Azerbaijan and the former Soviet Union. You were the chairman of the KGB and Communist Party of Azerbaijan, later a member of Politburo of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. How do you estimate the present level of statehood in Azerbaijan?

The second question. Recently it was informed that according to Mr. Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation, Russia intends to station nearly 30 bases beyond Russia, mostly in the territories of the CIS countries. I would like to learn your opinion on this issue. Is such a scenario acceptable for Azerbaijan?

Answer: I thank you for recalling and not forgetting my previous activity. I was, indeed, the leader of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, member of the Politburo and the first deputy prime minister of the Soviet Union. 

But your question is concerns the current state structure in Azerbaijan. Our country has recently gained independence. As President of Azerbaijan, I declare that the independence of our country is irreversible. Azerbaijan will further strengthen its independence. Taking into account all attributes of a democratic society, the legal democratic state building is under way in Azerbaijan.

I mean freedom of personality, freedom of conscience, protection of human rights, multi-party system, political pluralism, market economy, free entrepreneurship, and universal values. I am sure that Azerbaijan will continue this way. As President of Azerbaijan, I will do my best for it. I hope that the people of Azerbaijan also thinks so.

As for the news about Russia`s intention to station 30 military bases in the territory of the former Soviet countries, there are bases in some of them. If we talk about the Southern Caucasus, then I can say that there are Russian bases and troops in Georgia and Armenia. The Georgian border with Turkey and the Armenian border with both Turkey and Iran are guarded by the Russian border guards. There are no Russian troops in Azerbaijan. I am not aware of Russia's plans. Of course, each state may have its own plans. Azerbaijan is also an independent country and has its own plans.

Question: Mr. President, is Azerbaijan preparing to get a status of observer in OPEC? I would like to learn your opinion about it. Is it possible for Azerbaijan to become a full member of OPEC?

Answer: We study this issue. As I noted earlier, the negotiation on a big contract with a consortium of the Western oil companies is underway. The results of negotiations, of course, will determine the future development of the oil industry in Azerbaijan. Depending on the results we will determine the next steps.

Question: Mr. President, will Armenia`s preparation to join Partnership for Peace Program lead the mediation efforts CSCE, the Minsk Group and the Collective Security Treaty Organization for solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict to a helpless situation? Along with consultations, as well as political consultations, Partnership for Peace Program implies joint trainings, military planning and military facilities. Will Azerbaijan use these provisions? Another question: How will the President of Azerbaijan behave in case of collision of interests of the member-states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and member-states of Partnership for Peace which Azerbaijan has just joined?

Answer: We don’t have any information on Armenia`s will to sign the Partnership for Peace. Even if Armenia joins the program, it will not harm our cooperation with NATO. First, I suggest that we shouldn’t equate NATO and CIS. Second, I do not think that the opportunities of CIS to solve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty are exhausted. As for the Azerbaijani-NATO cooperation, its principles and directions will be determined by the documents to be signed by us following the Partnership for Peace. That document is to imply all the aspects. For example, I am not concerned about the  possibility of negative results of our cooperation with NATO. On the contrary, I am confident that this cooperation will be very positive.

Question: According to a paragraph of the Partnership for Peace, a member-state has the right to require political consultations within the framework of NATO, in case of threat to the territorial integrity of that country. Are you intending to use this right? The second question: How do you see the future of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations from economic point of view?

Answer: To answer your first question, I can say that we are not going to stop midway after signing the Partnership for Peace.  On the contrary, we aim at maximal use of the opportunities of cooperation, including consultations.

As for the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia, I must say that very active steps have recently been taken for improving them; our current relations are much better than before. Our meetings with the Russian authorities, including President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, foreign minister, defense minister and other high officials clearly demonstrate that we keep developing our economic, cultural, technical and other relations with Russia. In addition, as you know, we were admitted to CIS last September and cooperate with Russia within the framework of the Commonwealth. The prospects of our cooperation are very convenient.

Question: As it is known, Azerbaijan plays the leading role among the Central Asian countries. Is your visit and signature of the documents in NATO headquarters a preparation for those countries to join the program? Did you have any consultations with their leaders?

Answer: I have never had any claim to the leadership in the region. We have friendly relations with the Central Asian nations and Kazakhstan. We did not have consultations with any country on joining the Partnership for Peace. We made this decision independently and did not feel need of consultations with other countries. I am not informed about the position of the Central Asian nations on the Partnership for Peace.

Question: Azerbaijan has three great neighbors - Russia, Turkey and Iran. Azerbaijan and Russia are members of the Collective Security Treaty. When you signed the framework document on the Partnership for Peace, Azerbaijan entered an alliance with Turkey. As for Iran, as we know, it helps Azerbaijan, providing assistance to refugees. Do you intend to sign any treaty on mutual security? Because Iran is somehow outside from this point of view.

Answer: Iran is our great neighbor. We have friendly relations. Last October the Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani paid an official visit to Azerbaijan, we signed a number of documents for opening opportunities for future development of the interstate relations. Iran and Azerbaijan have great prospects for cooperation in many fields, including economy. If there is a need to sign any new documents, then each case will be separately reviewed. Iran provides great humanitarian aid to refugees in Azerbaijan, indeed. We are grateful to the Iranian government for this aid. We are sure that the development prospects of friendship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran will be favorable.

Question: Is your upcoming visit to Ankara related to any new directions of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey? The second question: Whom are you going to meet in Turkey?

Answer: Tomorrow morning I will leave Brussels. Our plane is to land in Ankara because of technical reasons. Using this opportunity, I intend to meet and have an exchange of opinions with the officials of Turkey, if they also wish. It is difficult to say anything now as this meeting has not been planned in advance. Turkey and Azerbaijan are connected by close and friendly relations and every meeting between the authorities of the two countries, including a possible one tomorrow, serves to strengthen these relations. Tomorrow we`ll see what will happen. But I can not say anything now.

Thank you for your attention.