Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the International Trade Center in Belgium - Brussels, April 23, 1996

Distinguished Mr. President!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I cordially greet the representatives of the Belgian Foreign Trade Organization and businessmen of Belgium, assembled here and I am pleased to meet you.

Unfortunately, my time is quite limited because of my today`s schedule. However, I shall try to give you brief information, using this limited time.

Azerbaijan is a state located in the Caucasus and has an old and rich history. However, Azerbaijan gained its independence five years ago as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. As an independent nation, it is a member of the world community, as well as of all the international economic, financial and trade organizations.

A democratic, legal, secular state is being built in Azerbaijan. The domestic economy is being established on the basis of the principles of market economy; based on these principles, large-scale economic reforms are conducted, while serious measures are taken for the privatization of the national property. Azerbaijan is situated in a very important geo-political position and enjoys rich natural resources. Oil and gas deposits are the biggest of these resources. Azerbaijan is the most famous oil country in the world. I want to inform you that the commercial of oil was first produced in Azerbaijan in 1848. Much oil has been extracted from our oil fields so far. Nonetheless, the oil deposits existing today are also rich. At present, Azerbaijan cooperates with the biggest oil companies of the world on joint developments of these oil deposits. Our oil and gas deposits are mainly located in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. In addition, there are many other rich oil deposits in other regions of the country. As I noted, developing our economy based on the market economy, we have integrated into the world economy. Our doors are open to foreign investors. Taking the advantage of my presence here, I invite the businessmen and companies of Belgium to Azerbaijan, and assure you that your joint works with Azerbaijan will be successful. We have signed several agreements with the largest oil companies of the world on joint exploitation of oil deposits of Azerbaijan. These contracts are being implemented. But we carry out preparatory work in many oil fields and new contracts will be signed.

Besides oil and gas industry, Azerbaijan enjoys vast industrial, scientific and human potential. Our country has great advantages in food production and agriculture. Azerbaijan is situated in the intersection of Europe and Asia, in a very important geo-political position in the Caucasus, surrounded by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasian Mountains. Most transportation routes and communication lines connecting the East and the West cross our country. Therefore, there are good opportunities to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the field of transport and communication.

The most important is that necessary legislation for the free investment, business and cooperation in Azerbaijan has been adopted. These laws create favorable conditions to attract foreign investments. As I noted before, we are building a democratic state. A new constitution was adopted, our parliament was elected on the basis of democratic principles. Azerbaijan is a country that has joined the world democracy. Thus, there are great opportunities in Azerbaijan for entrepreneurship.

Participation of foreign companies in the privatization of property, which has promising opportunities, is also possible. I want to state that the large companies and businessmen of other countries have come to Azerbaijan, started joint cooperation and created joint ventures in the recent years. This process is already developing. I invite you to Azerbaijan and want to say that those who come to Azerbaijan earlier will certainly benefit, those who are late will lose

My speech is coming to an end. I thank you for your attention and your participation in this meeting. I hope that we shall meet again in future. The representatives of the Azerbaijan economy in our delegation, as well as the President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and other officials can provide more information to you when I leave. Thank you.

Translated from "Azerbaycan", April 25, 1996.