Statement of Heydar Aliyev President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the meeting with permanent representatives of countries Accredited at the United Nations - July 29, 1997

Esteemed Chairman!

Esteemed Ambassadors!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I cordially greet you and express my deep gratitude for the opportunity to speak before you. I am on an official visit to the U.S. at the invitation of President Clinton, the U.S. President. This is my first official visit to the U.S. as the President of Azerbaijan. I express my great respect to the UN and naturally speak about Azerbaijan's current situation, I have been in this most important international organization for the second day today.

I met with Mr. Koffi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Yesterday I met with the members of the Security Council of the UN, and today I am speaking in front of you, the permanent representatives of the member countries of the United Nations.

I highly appreciate this opportunity and thank the Islamic section of the UN for this initiative. I would like to use this chance to provide you with the information about Azerbaijan, its progress and challenges today and, naturally, leave sufficient time for your questions.

As with other republics of the former Soviet Union, Azerbaijan gained its independence after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. The establishment of independence is a grandiose historic event for Azerbaijan, and we are determined to preserve our freedom and not allow any foreign domination over our country.

Since Azerbaijan became independent, our country has adopted the policies directed at building a law-based, democratic and secular state. We have been conducting democratic reforms in all spheres. The nationwide referendum chose the first democratic Constitution of Azerbaijan in 1995. In November of the same year, the country held its democratic parliamentary elections based on a multi-party system. Our fully functional Parliament has representatives of eight political parties. The Parliament is actively implementing its task as a legislative body.

The Azerbaijani constitution protects all human rights, and one third of the constitution describes these rights. Political pluralism and free press are established in Azerbaijan. More than 30 political parties, various movements and non-governmental organizations, are officially registered in Azerbaijan. There are more than 600 newspapers published in Azerbaijan, the vast majority of which belong to different organizations, private enterprises, and political parties. Most of them are publications of the opposition parties and organizations.

Azerbaijan is a multi-national state. We guarantee the religious freedom, and freedom of conscience and equal rights to all individuals regardless of their ethnic origin. The economic development in Azerbaijan proceeds along the path we have clearly determined. This principle is to build a market economy. All fields of our economy experience fundamental reforms. The state property and enterprises are being privatized; we have adopted a law on land according to which all the appropriate lands will be privatized. We have created all the favorable conditions for the development of the private sector in Azerbaijan. The creation and growth of the private sector is one of the main thrusts of our economic strategy.

Azerbaijan has open-door policies to the entire world for foreign capital. Recently, large foreign investments flowed into the country's oil and gas industry as well as other fields of our economy.

The law on privatization provides for the participation of foreign firms, foreign entities, and individuals. In other words, non-citizens of Azerbaijan are allowed to buy and own property in Azerbaijan. These economic, political and social reforms enabled us to lift the economic stagnation that began in the country in 1988 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We managed to reverse the process in 1996. Judging by the indicators of the first half of 1997, the current year will be a year in which more progress in our economy and social development will be attained. This outcome is undoubtedly the consequence of the economic and social reforms that allow us to further raise the living standards of our population.

At the same time, Azerbaijan faces a number of serious problems. One of the most complex problems is the aggression of Armenia against our country. As you know, this conflict erupted in 1988 when both Azerbaijan and Armenia were part of the Soviet Union. The Armenians started annexing a part of Azerbaijan, the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) autonomous region. The reasoning behind this aggression was that Armenians were residing in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well. Indeed, when the confrontation began, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh was 170.000, with 70% of them being Armenians and 30% Azerbaijanis. The Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) region within Azerbaijan had an autonomous status and took advantage of this right in developing its economic, social and political life. That's why there was no basis for any conflict. Nevertheless, the confrontation began. I think this was possible thanks to the protectionism of then Soviet leaders, and it seems that they did that to please the extremist and aggressive groups in Armenia.

Unfortunately, even during the Soviet era of 1988 to the end of 1991, efforts to stop the conflict failed, and it developed into a full-scale military confrontation. Due to various reasons and the support of different countries given to Armenia, the Armenian side gained an upper hand in the conflict and managed to occupy 20% of the Azeri lands.

First, the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) residents of Azeri nationality were expelled from their homes, and the region was completely occupied. Then the occupants expanded their operations to capture 7 administrative districts that bordered Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). In total 16,000 square kilometers of the total 86,000 nd square kilometers of Azerbaijan's territory. That is, 20% of our total lands were occupied. Only Azeris populated the districts around Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). This occupation resulted in forcible expulsion of the Azeri population from their homeland. Now, most of them live in tent cities scattered all over Azerbaijan, naturally under harsh conditions.

The war inflicted huge economic losses on Azerbaijan; tens of thousands of people were killed, and the degree of damage to the people's morale is immeasurable. All the residential houses, administrative buildings, schools, hospitals, cultural centers, entire infrastructure of the region, sacred sites, national architecture, the masterpieces of art were either destroyed or looted. The atrocities and barbarism perpetrated on our lands are beyond the human imagination.

We attempted to stop this conflict and preserve our territorial integrity and sovereignty. Thus, in 1994 we agreed to a cease-fire. In May 1994, we signed an accord for a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The cease-fire regime is still in force, and I consider this event the most significant accomplishment of two sides since 1988 when the bloody war began. It is noteworthy that the cease-fire is maintained without the involvement of multinational peacekeeping force. The cease-fire remains in effect solely due to the agreement of the warring parties. This is a positive factor worthy of the attention.

The Minsk Group of OSCE, which was set up in 1992, is responsible for settling the conflict peacefully. The UN and Security Council of the UN were also engaged in resolving this issue. When the Armenians occupied the Azeri districts outside Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh), the Security Council of the United Nations discussed the matter several times. From late 1992, the Security Council passed four resolutions - 822, 853, 874 and 884. Besides these documents, the Chairman of the Security Council issued several statements regarding the conflict. All of these resolutions and statements unanimously and clearly demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied Azeri lands. However, the Armenians who occupied those territories have not implemented the Security Council's resolutions and the statements of its chairman.

Still, the United Nations and Security Council authorized the OSCE to handle this conflict and, in 1992, OSCE set up the Minsk Group to settle the Armenian-Azeri, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) conflict peacefully. During all this time, the Minsk Group has consistently been dealing with this issue. Regrettably, there have been no positive results. At the Budapest Summit of OSCE in 1994, delegates discussed the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) conflict. The OSCE adopted a resolution, which called for a rapid and peaceful settlement of the conflict based on the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied Azeri lands. At this meeting, the OSCE decided to form multinational peacekeeping troops to implement the resolution of the conflict. The Armenian-Azerbaijani, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) problem became the topic of discussion at the Lisbon Summit of the OSCE in December 1996. They adopted the principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict at that summit. These principles consisted of three parts. First, it was the recognition of the territorial integrity of the Azerbaijani and Armenian Republics. Second, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) was to be granted a broad autonomy within Azerbaijan. Third, there would be security guarantees for the entire population of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). Unfortunately, the document that was supported by all the members of the OSCE - 53 countries voted for it - was rejected by Armenia. Armenia opposed this agreement. Thus, 53 countries out of 54 approved of these principles, and one, Armenia, opposed it. Unfortunately, Armenia is still in favor of granting independence to Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh).

We, of course, think that active measures are needed for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) conflict. Azerbaijan has always taken a conciliatory stance in this respect. The acceptance of the principles of peaceful settlement by Azerbaijan at the Lisbon Summit is also a clear sign of compromise on our part. The broad autonomy for Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) is also a significant compromise from the Azeri side since this arrangement is detrimental to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan as a unitary state. However, the Armenian side refuses to compromise and I repeat they still demandindependence for Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh).

Even today, we are ready to make concessions, but we cannot allow the independence of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). We cannot permit the creation of the second Armenian state on the territory of Azerbaijan. That's why we demand the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be restored.

After the Lisbon Summit, there were changes in the leadership of the Minsk Group. Today, Russia, U.S. and France are the co-chairs of this group. We welcome this change. We are glad because if three world powers take on the responsibility of settling this conflict, then they ought to help resolve the problem, and they are capable of doing so. That's why we welcome this change and have great hopes for it.

On June 20 during the meeting of Big Eight in Denver, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac issued a joint statement on the necessity to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) conflict peacefully. This is a positive step, and we are looking forward to the next measures.

In early June, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group proposed a new solution package. We considered their proposals and met with them in the region again. These recommendations consist of two components. The first part calls for the withdrawal of the Armenian forces from six occupied Azeri administrative districts and returning thousands of Azerbaijani refugees to their homeland. The second part provides the framework for the final determination of the political status of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) and other two Azerbaijani districts of Shusha and Lachin. That is their liberation and it will bring the Azerbaijani residents of these districts back to their homeland.

These proposals undoubtedly contain some positive aspects compared to the previous ones, however there are still some points that need further elaboration. There are some things that we can not agree with. Despite that, we still responded positively to this offer since we thought it would be the basis for accelerating the negotiation process. Now we are expecting concrete steps in this direction.

I would like to demonstrate what the question is about. This is the map of Azerbaijan. (He brings out a map) Here, you see Armenia, here is the Nakhichevan autonomous republic that belongs to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani regions in different colors are the territories occupied by the Armenian armed forces. The territory of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) is in red; the regions surrounding Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) that never were part of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) and entirely populated by the ethnic Azerbaijanis are in green. The territories of Lachyn and Shusha are depicted in yellow. Lachyn is located between Armenia and Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). The Armenian side considers the district of Lachyn crucial to its communication and transportation links with Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). The road that links Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) with Armenia and crosses Lachyn is in black. This is the Shusha region that was inside Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) but was always populated by the Azeris. Shusha is a historical and cultural center of Azerbaijan. Shusha houses rare pieces of Azerbaijani national architecture and artwork. We colored these regions in yellow for the purpose of clarity. The latest proposals of the Minsk Group specified these green-colored territories. That is, according to the plan, the occupying forces will be pulled out of these regions, then the peacekeeping units of the OSCE will be deployed on the borders of the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) and the Armenian-Azeri borders -1 mean the occupied lands. Then the plan's second phase stipulates the determination of the status of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh)and the withdrawal of the occupying units from Lachyn and Shusha.

The question constantly raised by Armenia concerns the corridor that links Armenia to Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). We have always agreed to this corridor, and even today we are suggesting this corridor. It may be provided through the Lachyn district under the control of the international peacekeeping forces. We have a concrete idea on the parameters of the corridor. So, the corridor under the supervision of the peacekeeping forces will ensure the dependable communications between Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) and Armenia after the establishment of peace and stability.

As to the status of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh), we have repeatedly stated we are ready to provide the autonomy status to the region on the basis of the existing principles and laws elsewhere in the world. There are such entities inside Russia. For instance, the Tartar Republic has broad self-governing rights within the boundaries of Russia. Such administrative units exist in Europe and other parts of the world. In other words, this has been practiced and shaped in world history. We may use any type of these structures and apply it to the status of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). However, I would like to reiterate that we will never agree with the independent status of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). I believe that the international community should not permit such actions either, since they violate the UN Charter, international laws and principles of OSCE.

Right now, various conflicts are taking place all over the world and some of them are caused by the ethnic groups that strive for independence. This demand has never been met in any of these conflicts. The demand for independence cannot and should not be satisfied in this case either because the Armenian people have long ago determined its destiny by creating the independent Armenian republic. The creation of the second, then possibly third and fourth Armenian republics completely contradicts the modern notion of international legal norms.

This is the main question that worries us most. Naturally, there are other problems that pose difficulties for Azerbaijan. For example, in 1992 the U.S. Congress passed a very unfair law against Azerbaijan that prohibited any U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan. This was based on the allegation that Azerbaijan had blockaded Armenia. But today the American society, Congress and government are realizing how unjust and unfair this law is. We are exerting effort to lift this ban. This question is also closely linked with the issue of the conflict. I should note that Azerbaijan did not blockade Armenia then and is not blockading it today. Armenia has sufficient communication capacity to access the Black Sea ports via Georgia and other countries through Iran. That's why the artificially concocted idea that Azerbaijan is guilty for Armenia's communication blockade is false. It was not true then, and it is not true now.

If we need to discuss the issue of blockade, let me tell you about the following. Azerbaijan used to have railroad communications with Armenia. The railroad begins in Baku and proceeds along Azerbaijani-Iranian border, then it crosses 40 kilometers of Armenian territory and reaches the Nakhichevan autonomous republic. After that, the railroad goes to Armenia again. The Armenian armed units occupied the Azerbaijani districts of Fuzuli, Jebrail and Zengilan that were situated along the border on the railroad line. Then the Armenians dismantled the railroad, thus depriving themselves of any communication links. It is the Nakhichevan autonomous republic that is in blockade. Today Nakhichevan has neither automobile nor railroads with the rest of Azerbaijan. Nakhichevan maintains its links with Azerbaijan only via air. You can see who is blockaded. It is, of course, the Nakhichevan autonomous republic of Azerbaijan. This blockade is the result of the Armenian aggression against our country. I am providing this information about the realities in the region so you have the correct picture.

Having said all of this, I would like you to know that Azerbaijan is firmly supporting the idea of a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azeri conflict. We are committed to preserving the cease-fire accord until the resolution is achieved. We are resolutely declaring that we will never allow the resumption of the military operations. We do not want this. We want peace. We want to solve the conflict in a peaceful manner and establish long-lasting and stable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The peace will benefit Armenia, the Armenian people, Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani people.

Our destiny has been so that we have been living next to each other for centuries, millenniums and will still do so in the future. No one - be they Armenians or Azeris - plans to move to another part of the planet. We have to take this reality into account as a basis for any actions. No matter how traumatic this conflict may be, it has to be stopped. Peace needs to be established. This will be beneficial to Armenia since it will be able to conduct active trade with Azerbaijan. It is to the advantage of Azerbaijan as well. Nonetheless, all this will be possible with under the following condition: the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored; Azerbaijan's occupied lands must be evacuated by the Armenian armed units; one million Azeri refugees including those from Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) must return to their homeland; Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) must have a broad autonomy within Azerbaijan.

Our position is firm. However, we still consider it possible to compromise in the future in order to achieve peace. We have made concessions, and we are waiting for the Armenian side to take similar steps.

This is what I wanted to tell you. I could have spoken about many more issues, but I want to leave some room for your questions if you have any. Thank you for your attention.

Engin Ansay: Esteemed Ambassadors, as you know, this is the extended meeting of the Islamic group at the Ambassadorial level with the participation of officials from several other countries. Esteemed President Heydar Aliyev has made a statement and asked you if you have any questions. If you have any questions, I will give you a word.

Nabil El-Arabi (Egyptian Ambassador): I would like to join those who welcome the Azerbaijani President. I feel glad that I had an opportunity to listen to him today and yesterday at the UN Security Council meeting. At the meeting at the Security Council, he explained his government's position, the peace program, and the situation in his country. I would like to thank him again for allowing us to listen to his speech again. Thank you!

Engin Ansay: Allow me to express my deep gratitude to the members of the Islamic group and President Aliyev for his speech. I would like to assure him that the Group will continue considering the issues that he raised during his speech.

Heydar Aliyev: I would like to thank you all for coming to this meeting and listening to me with great attention. In this I see the attention and consideration to the Azerbaijani Republic, its problems and most importantly, the ways to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that concerns all of us. I hope that my explanations, my sincere and open words, my description of our peace-loving stance will help you at the United Nations and in your respective countries to assist us in settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. We are utilizing the potential of OSCE and its Minsk Group. However, the United Nations as the principal organization of the world community, has much greater capabilities. You monitor our activities, and I would like you to always support the need for rapid, peaceful, just and objective resolution of the conflict.

I would like to thank the Egyptian Ambassador for his warm words about Azerbaijan. Mr. Chairman, thank you for your warm speech about Azerbaijan and your invitation to this meeting. 

The document was taken from the edition of "Together towards the new century"