From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the representatives of international organizations - 6 January, 2001

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Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished guests, I welcome You in Azerbaijan. Perhaps, Azerbaijan has never seen so many members of parliaments or ambassadors of different countries together. I see that attention towards our country, our people grows increasingly in Europe. And I think that not only attention, but also care grows. And therefore, I am highly satisfied to meet you.

The purpose of your arrival is obvious. We have already met you with regard to this issue. At our last meeting we decided to meet again. And the time has come. You are in Azerbaijan. And we have done a huge work concerning your arrival in general, as well as re-election to the parliament. I hope that tomorrow you will be able to observe the results of this work.

Paula Kokkonen: Mr. President, thank You very much for receiving us. I regret that last time, being here in November, I could not join the last meeting.

However, I am very satisfied that I am in Azerbaijan again. We are very pleased that we are here together with our colleagues, and we are pleased with our meeting. We said to each other Azerbaijan is similar to a "Nokia" mobile phone. It connects people with one another and unites them.

Mr. President, we really consider that holding parliamentary re-elections is a step forward, development. We have arrived in your country in an effort to support these steps of Azerbaijan and strengthen the integration into the western structures. Building democracy means cooperation. This is the cooperation established both among the states and inside a state itself.

Mr. President, we know that You have given necessary instructions to the bodies of authority to avoid falsification at the elections, conduct everything in a transparent circumstances. We know that Mr. Panahov has also given such instructions to corresponding bodies. But we are concerned that certain shortcomings can take place again. 

Andreas Gross (chairman of Special Committee on observation of elections of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe): Mr. President, I also want to express you my gratitude for your allotted time for us. We appreciated the adoption of decision on holding re-elections, though over a part of election districts, as a step of good will, a step towards progress. Our participation is aimed at strengthening mutual belief among the forces existing in the society. However, our observations within this short time brought us to the conclusion that there is no expected trust in the society yet. Mr. President, therefore I want to appeal to You with such a question: how would You explain the fact that although one day has remained until the elections, mutual trust among the forces in the society has not yet been achieved?

Heydar Aliyev: I do not understand it explicitly. Could you please elaborate it?

Andreas Gross: Usually the signs for holding social debates, organization of propaganda work that reflect a process of holding elections, are visible in a country facing a similar important event. People in such countries usually dispose themselves to go voting on Sunday. But indifference is the most dangerous thing for democracy.

A part of our representatives has been here for two weeks already, and another part has been in Azerbaijan for a week. We witness low-key activity of the society in connection with the elections. It is true, some parties participate at these elections, but others do not. We have also undertaken certain attempts for their participation though and tried to contribute to this process. My question is why, in Your opinion, do the public and political parties not believe and trust the processes taking place in the country?

Heydar Aliyev: Now I understand. First, I do not know what You mean. The elections will be held here on January 7 not throughout the country, but only in eleven districts. You know that the Election Law specifies that parties or separate candidates taking part at nation-wide elections should organize and carry out their propaganda work. For that purpose they use mass media. Besides, they carry out work within the constituencies. But to observe it on a national scale is difficult. Because these are the elections to be held in the constituencies based on a majority principle.

According to the information submitted to me, necessary organizational work has been fulfilled in each constituency, candidates held meetings with their electorate and undertook necessary measures to be elected. Eight candidates, on average, vie for one place in the parliament in eleven constituencies. Consequently, this speaks in itself about the activity of the people. There are no grounds to speak about indifference. Sometimes I watch how candidates speak in our television. They use state television free of charge. But they possibly pay a certain amount on private channels to make their speeches. I can see the representatives of private televisions are sitting here, they also know that there were some speeches. I repeat once again that these are not nation-wide elections, it is the work carried out to elect separate candidates over separate constituencies. This work is done, first of all, by those who proposed their candidacies and constituencies create conditions for them. State and executive structures cannot interfere in these matters, and we have once again given them instructions not to interfere.

I understand the reverse side of what You want to say. The point is that some parties refused to join the elections. For instance, "Musavat" Party refused to join the elections from the very beginning. National Independence Party - I see what is written in our newspapers and what private television broadcasts every day - one day they say: "We are going to the elections", - the next day: "We are not". As far as I know, according to the information obtained from the press, they finally endorsed those members of their party who want to be elected. Many active members of the National Independence Party, whom we know, submitted their applications to constituencies, collected signatures, are registered and invested much energy to be elected. But on January 4, some of them informed the constituencies that they refuse to participate at the elections. But not all of them do. Six representatives of the National Independence Party are taking part at the elections. Besides, four people from the Popular Front Party, one person from "Yurddash" party and one from Social Democratic Party join the elections. I speak about the opposition parties. But there are some parties adhering to a centrist position. They are not neither in opposition nor in power. Their representatives do also participate in the elections. We can not force any party to nominate more candidates.

For example, one of the very well-known and respectable leaders of the National Independence Party - Shadman Huseinov submitted his application to the constituency No.7, collected signatures and was registered. He even brought agitation posters for use. But he came on January 4 and stated that the Party had decided that he should withdraw his candidacy. When asked why, he answered that the Party had taken such a decision. I was very sorry to hear about that on January 4. Because he has been a member of the Azerbaijani delegation since the moment when we became a candidate to the Council of Europe and worked very actively there to this very day. But now we can neither influence him, nor force him.

In general, many candidates are neutral as they do not join any party. But You know that in Azerbaijan, parties do not represent all the population. The majority of population is non-party. They do not join any party and have no contacts with any party. 49 candidates to deputies are non-party. It means that we cannot control this process. Therefore I do not think that the population is indifferent.

It should be taken into account that general propaganda work was carried out within several months during the nation-wide elections. Parties carry out their own propaganda, and independent deputies - theirs. This work covers, one might say, the majority of population. But now, let`s suppose that there are five-six candidates in constituency No. 7 of Yasamal district. No one shows interest in the election holding there or in Khatai district - I take Baku as an example. We have 100 majority constituencies. One thing is when the elections are held in all the constituencies as on November 5, and another - when only in eleven of them. It is natural that the latter one cannot turn into a nation-wide issue. Therefore, it is quite possible that people in some districts cannot know in what constituency elections are being held. But according to the information given to me, I know that candidates carry out very intensive work. And some of them, as I have already mentioned, first initiated their candidacies, were registered, but afterwards they withdrew their candidacy. And nothing is possible to do in this case.

Paula Kokkonen: Mr. President, allow me to let the floor to ambassadors, then I will give the floor to the reporter of the Council of Europe on Azerbaijan.

Pietro Ercole (leader of the AGO monitoring group of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, ambassador of Italy in the Council of Europe): Mr. President, allow me to appeal to You as a representative of ambassadors on behalf of the AGO monitoring group of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. I am very pleased that we, cooperating together with the delegation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers and delegations of Parliamentary Assemblies of the OSCE and Council of Europe, witness the observation of the elections.

Last year in June, when Italy was presiding the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we visited your region together with the minister of our country. Our purpose was to prepare a PACE report with regard to the situation in the region and, particularly, to the admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe.

Mr. President, as You know, Italy, which then presided the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, made all efforts to have Azerbaijan and Armenia admitted to the Council of Europe. However, the results of the elections of November 5 in Azerbaijan were not satisfactory. The discussions held in the Council of Europe concluded that admission of these countries to the Council of Europe should take place in two stages. At the last sitting of the Committee of Ministers it was decided to send an invitation to both countries on admission to the Council of Europe, and make it official with the signing ceremony in January.

A monitoring group of representatives of 13 countries was set up and I am the head of the group. Our purpose was to visit these countries, prepare a report on the situation there and give them recommendations on January 17 at a sitting of the Committee of Ministers. If everything is all right, if we receive a positive feedback from the OSCE and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, we will recommend the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to approve the admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe officially at a PACE sitting during the last week of January.

Mr. President, I also want to inform You that the representative of your government, Mr. Araz Azimov, having arrived in Strasburg, held meetings with us and with Mr. Gross, as well as with the leadership of the OSCE Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. As a result of those meetings, after general consultations, we came to the conclusion that the Azerbaijani government had taken necessary steps after 5 November elections to eliminate certain shortcomings. Therefore, we decided to come to Azerbaijan with this delegation. However, as Mr. Gross pointed out, we still have definite concern.

Undoubtedly, we would like all the opposition parties to take part at the elections. We take into account Your explanations with regard to non-participation of some opposition parties at the elections. Perhaps, these parties consider their non-participation at the parliamentary elections an integral component of their strategy.

We are satisfied with the meeting held with the chairman of the Central Election Commission. We received satisfactory information that at least one representative of an opposition party in 11 constituencies nominated his candidacy. But along with it, we think that the elections should be independent, free and fair, and serious shortcomings fixed on November 5 should not be repeated this time.

I want to inform that we gladly accept the fact that all the Azerbaijani society, including the representatives of opposition parties considers the admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe a top-priority. They also want Azerbaijan to be admitted to the Council of Europe. Therefore, we think that this issue is a will of the whole society.

The question of non-participation of the population at the elections causes another concern. In other words, such concern exists. 25% threshold is not likely to be met. In this case, i.e. if 25 % of the population does not take part at voting in certain districts, the results of the elections in those districts should be cancelled.

I reiterate that we also hope that after the endorsement by the representatives of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and OSCE, i.e. after receiving the observers` opinion, and taking into account at least the partial participation of opposition at these elections, we will be able to give a positive recommendation on Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe. I especially inform that now our objective is to provide Azerbaijan`s admission to the Council of Europe, as it is just a starting point, the beginning of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe. We hope that as a result of this cooperation, and relying on the Council of Europe`s experience, we will make joint efforts towards greater deepening of democracy in Azerbaijan, and we shall be able to achieve it.

I want to declare once again that your government follows skillfully the line of cooperation, the line of construction of a democratic society. 

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You, distinguished Mr. Ambassador. I am very pleased with your detailed information regarding the process of admission of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, regarding the work done in the period when your country presided the Council of Europe. Although we think that unfair statements on Azerbaijan also sounded in separate committees during that period we do accept all fair criticism. But injustice, naturally, worries us, and we cannot agree with it. We always stated and we state now that Azerbaijan wants to join the Council of Europe. You also say that you want Azerbaijan to join the Council of Europe. In this period, Azerbaijan constantly proved its desire to join the Council of Europe.

We know well that democracy is the primary principle of the Council of Europe. But we are establishing a democratic system in Azerbaijan, we are building a democratic, secular and legal state in our country. Reforms are carried out in all spheres. Freedom of speech and press is fully provided. Freedom of consciousness and equal rights of people irrespective of their nationality or race are fully provided in Azerbaijan. Of course, elections are part of the democratic process. If we want to join the Council of Europe, it means that we will try and must try to observe all basic principles of the Council of Europe. It is not always successful.

You mentioned that admission to the Council of Europe constitutes two stages. Along with the desire to join this organization, we are simultaneously aware of our responsibility. We understand that it is a tool to master democratic experience better, and further develop the process of democracy building.

Naturally, there were shortcomings at the November 5 elections. For this reason, the Central Election Commission and the Constitutional Court declared the results of elections invalid in 11 districts. However, the negative evaluation of the elections as the whole is wrong. I cannot agree with it. If you consider that there should be more representatives from opposition, you should know that they received places equal to the collected votes. However, some opposition parties attempt to dictate to the state, to the government and the administration their criteria and achieve their implementation. Therefore, some parties make all kinds of maneuvers.

But what is the reason? It is the desire to undermine the elections in Azerbaijan, to have the Parliament of Azerbaijan be illegitimate and so on. They want to achieve these ends. They try to destruct the socio-political stability attained by us in the recent years with great difficulty, and take advantage of it for their own good. Who impedes them to propose two or three candidates in eleven districts? At the same time, they know that the forthcoming elections in these eleven districts will be under a special control. It is necessary to take part at these elections being under a special control. However, they do not take chances. They are not self-confident. You are also not right to think that each of these parties has, according to them, a sufficient social base.

Mr. Ambassador, you say you have postponed this issue, i.e. admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe. And we accepted it. We do not have right to dispute it. It is your will. At present, according to the data I have, the bodies of authority, the Central Election Commission and constituency election commissions have done necessary work to hold elections in eleven districts. And you, the high-level ambassadors, very experienced members of parliament have arrived here to carry out control over this matter. Excellent! Control, and then make your conclusions. Nevertheless, I do not understand how it can be possible to allege something in advance. Our relevant agencies have done their utmost for it.

You said that the turnout rate should be above the 25%. Naturally, if 25% of electorate does not come to the elections, the elections cannot be considered valid. If you really think that we can do that, then I am much worried about it. What a negative opinion you have about us!

In sum, control us as you consider it necessary. However, be fair, unbiased and do not take everything stated by the opposition as an absolute truth.

Paula Kokkonen: Thank You, Mr. President. Please, allow the reporter of the Council of Europe on Azerbaijan to speak, too. 

Heydar Aliyev: Please. I know that he is a reporter and he says that everything depends on him.

Guillermo Martinez Casan (reporter at the Special Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, member of the Spanish Parliament): Mr. President, everything is in Your hands, everything depends on You. Building authentic and stable democracy is the duty of everyone. It is the duty both of the government and opposition. Therefore, we considered important and necessary the participation of all opposition parties at these elections although they have certain anxiety, claims and demands.

We consider these demands legitimate. It seems to us that decisions in the democratic society should be taken within the frames of a legal state, in the circumstances of rule of law. We think that building democracy in the society and its further development should be formed by a parliament within the limits of legitimate structures and laws, since it seems to us that when the political parties do not take part at discussions and debates at the parliament or they are not represented in it, they start, as we think, to practice illegal activity as a result, and try to achieve the assigned objectives illegally in the society. And in the long run it brings about violation of stability in the society. We will not allow or create conditions for any country, being a member of the Council of Europe, to attempt to achieve any transformations in Azerbaijan through the violation of stability.

Mr. President, we want to express the hope that a conclusion which we shall draw in two days will consist of the following: Azerbaijan can be admitted to the Council of Europe, which we consider a school of democracy, and it will be able to make use of its values.

Mr. President, if You remember, I told You about it at our last meeting. I will recommend my colleagues, working at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to hold under strict monitoring the process of cooperation of Azerbaijan with the Council of Europe this time again in order to safeguard you against facing with mediators or some difficulties in the relations between your country and Europe.

Mr. President, within the coming years, we will hold discussions both with the authorities and opposition of Azerbaijan to implement some strict measures. Sometimes you will feel necessity in taking painful decisions. However, I ask you to regard us as your friends and colleagues. We intend to cooperate with you in future, too, and we are looking forward to it.

Hedrick Wagenmakers (ambassador of Germany to the Council of Europe): Mr. President, I am very pleased to be here and, taking the opportunity, I express my gratitude to you for your hospitality.

I have been in your country for already several days. I used to be here with a delegation accompanying the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. As You know, Latvia presides the Committee of Ministers. During the days of my stay in Baku I enriched my knowledge about Azerbaijan, its people and accumulated more information. When coming here I considered myself a friend of the Azerbaijani people, now I think I am even a closer friend. At the same time, as it seems to me, the results of re-elections are extremely important. I hope that the results of tomorrow`s elections will become the results of free and fair elections.

I would not like to limit the bounds of our cooperation only by elections. I would like to look further. Mr. Ambassador Pietro Ercole and Mr. President, I want to refer only to the issue of beginning our cooperation touched by You. In other words, a deed must back a word. Therefore, I would be very grateful if You, making a favor, explain some issues to this delegation, too.

Mr. President, it would be very important both for the government I am representing and me personally, as well as the delegation attending here, if You clarify how You provide the implementation of commitments advanced by the Commission of the Council of Europe on human rights mentioned by reporter on Azerbaijan, Clerfait, and which You also agreed with?

In particular, I am interested in how Azerbaijan will implement the commitment assumed on the reconsideration of political prisoners` case. I am asking it, because the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs is appealed regarding this matter at the parliament. Therefore, I should help him to answer this question. Thank You.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You, Mr. Ambassador. Last time, You asked me about that. And I answered You. Therefore, I think there is no need to repeat all. However, on the whole and in particular, after the speech of our friend, the reporter on Azerbaijan, I have such an impression that you try to intimidate us in order to make us think whether it is worth entering the Council of Europe or not. You already stated that you are going to speak with us harshly. In that case we have to think, too. Now we are an independent state. But the Council of Europe is an international institution. Desiring to join it, we accept the requirements of this institution. However, you are frightening us now. I do not know the purpose of it. Do you want us to run away? But we will not run away. And we are not afraid of anything. We will do all what is possible.

Within the last 4-5 months, I have been listening to many lectures about democracy given by coming delegations, including your lectures. I understand that you are all the professors of democracy. But we are not first class either. Could we keep up with this system if we had not had a clear idea of democracy, had not known the history and the essence of democracy? I highly evaluate your valuable recommendations. Besides, I will try to read books about democracy to achieve your level. I will come and defend a thesis for a Doctoral degree at Sorbonne University.

I am joking. I can tell you one thing: we are following and we will be following the way of democracy - whether you or someone else likes it or not. But democracy is a process. Democracy has a beginning, but no end. I do not think that even you have reached the peak in the field of democracy. In comparison with you, we are at the foot of a mountain. But you also have to move ahead. We will try to move faster than you, make our hearts and muscles stronger in order to stand such a high pace. But we will not be able to achieve it in full, since time is needed for that. Therefore, let`s come to an understanding that we live in one democratic family. But the members of a family differ in height. Children of the same parents also differ in intellect and experience. We implement the things we can do and learn the things we do not know. And your recommendations are also useful for us.

Paula Kokkonen: Mr. President, we, by no means, think that only the people sitting on this side of the table can tell the truth. Some of our countries are flat located on flatlands. There are no mountains that we can climb up. I think we are all guided by one aim: having opened our eyes and thought, to take part in this lofty business.

Mr. President, in summary of the meeting, expressing You gratitude once again on behalf of all the delegations we would like to convey one request. The last time, we met You straight after the elections, after the press-conference. We ask You to do on the contrary this time, if possible. We want to meet You after the elections at any convenient time for You but before the press-conference, and convey our opinion to You first. In other words, we want You not to receive wrong information about our opinion from the press, and television.

Heydar Aliyev: As you know, a huge work is expecting me on January 8 and 9, the President of Russia, Mr. Vladimir Putin is arriving here on an official visit. We are working over some documents. Therefore, the 8th is a very busy day for me. However, I can have a short meeting with you.

Paula Kokkonen: Mr. President, we shall meet You in a small group consisting of representatives of delegations. Thank You very much.