Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception held by the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in honor of the President of Azerbaijan, April 24, 1996

Ms. Prime Minister Brundtland, President of the Parliament, ladies and gentlemen,

I cordially welcome you, all the Norwegian people on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan and the independent Republic of Azerbaijan.

First of all, I express my sincerest gratitude to Prime Minister Mrs. Brundtland for inviting me to visit Norway, attention and hospitality to the delegations arrived in Norway with me.

My visit to Norway, negotiations we held today with Prime Minister Brundtland and documents which we signed are a great event and a new stage in strengthening and development of the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan. We appreciate the documents we signed today and believe that they are very important in the development of the Azerbaijani-Norwegian cooperation and relations between our two countries.

Azerbaijan lives the fifth year of its independence and for the last five years great changes have taken place both in the world and also in the life of Azerbaijan. Independence of Azerbaijan and the changes ongoing in our country are connected with the processes and changes taking place in the world in recent years. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the end of the «cold war» and in this respect a new stage began in the world processes. As a result, the former Soviet republics gained their independences. Azerbaijan is also pleased to gain its independence. We believe that this is a historic achievement.

As a result of these processes Azerbaijan gained its independence and our present meeting is due to it, the Republic of Azerbaijan as an independent country entered into the international community and created mutually beneficial relations with the countries of the world. The relations established and developed between Norway and Azerbaijan are the logical result of these processes.

With great pleasure I would like to note that when Azerbaijan gained its independence one of the first countries to recognize its independence was Norway. I am grateful for the care that Norway rendered to Azerbaijan and its independence in connection with the historical event for us four years ago. I mention it once more that in this period the relations between Norway and Azerbaijan developed rapidly. Today we are witnessing the highest level of these relations. We pay special attention to our relations with Norway and they have a special meaning for us. As Norway is one of the most economically developed countries, it has achieved great successes in the field of democracy and economy. The human rights, freedom of speech and conscience are priorities in Norway. All this is valuable to us. In order to use this experience we appreciate the relations between Norway and Azerbaijan.

Cooperation between our countries has already produced positive results. The biggest oil company of Norway «Statoil» is one of the first oil companies came to Azerbaijan. «Statoil» has a big share and an important place in the oil contract called «the Contract of the Century» signed in the September of 1994 between the consortium of major oil companies and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. To do joint developments in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea we negotiate with «Statoil» and work together. I believe that it will also bring positive results. Interest of other Norwegian companies in Azerbaijan and the opening of their offices in Azerbaijan are good examples of the rapid development of our economic relations.

Azerbaijan is the biggest and the most ancient oil country. Today, I again want to emphasize that the commercial oil in the world was produced in the middle of the last century in Azerbaijan, Baku. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan now needs new technologies in oil production. Therefore, the achievements of Norway in the of-shore oil developments and the use of new technologies since the early 70s are very interesting for us. I hope that tomorrow in Stavanger, I shall get acquainted with the new technology closer and our professionals who work in the oil field will try to use this experience. In a word, the Norwegian-Azerbaijani economic relations have a bright future and I assure you that from our side we shall make every effort to expand these relations. At the same time in the Norwegian-Azerbaijani relations we try and shall try to use the achievements and experience of the Norwegian people and the Norwegian country in the field of democracy, economic reforms, all modern and progressive measures.

After gaining independence our country follows the way of building a democratic, legal and secular society and carries out serious reforms in economy on the basis of the market economy. We have adopted and conduct a program of privatization. Azerbaijan tries to develop the economy on market economy. Last November we adopted the first democratic constitution of Azerbaijan and for the first time held elections to the parliament based on democratic principles. In addition, we hold other democratic reforms.

Your country gained its independence at the beginning of this century and achieved great success at the end of the twentieth century. Azerbaijan has gained its independence in the last decade of the twentieth century and is willing to join XXI century as a democratic state. From this point of view, the national independence of Azerbaijan is a very valuable achievement for us and we shall always preserve our independence.

Ms. Prime Minister, you said kind words in your speech you spoke about the development of democratic processes in Azerbaijan, about the first steps of our young democracy and highly appreciated our first steps. It inspires us and you can be sure that we shall always follow this path and never turn from it. We signed an agreement on cooperation and partnership with the European Union two days ago in Luxembourg in order to join it in future. We appreciate it as a historic event for the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan and for the development of democracy in our country. Of course, there are very big problems, obstacles facing our young republic. The most difficult and painful problem for us is the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and its solution. As you know, the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan has been going on continued for eight years. As a result of this military aggression, 20 percent of the Azerbaijani lands have been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. More than a million Azerbaijani citizens have been driven from the occupied territories, lost their homes and became refugees. Now most of them live in tents in very difficult conditions.

Despite huge losses, enormous material and moral damage inflicted on Azerbaijan we try to solve the conflict peacefully and achieve a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. For this purpose, we use all the opportunities. We try to use the negotiations held within the Minsk Group of OSCE. In this regard, we take constructive steps and do everything in our power. In order to end this conflict the armed forces of Armenia must withdraw from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the occupied territories must be liberated, Azerbaijani citizens must return home and Azerbaijan will be ready to assign the Mountainous Garabagh the status of autonomy within the Republic of Azerbaijan. On the basis of these principles, principles of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan we can achieve a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We shall continue our efforts in all directions. I want to mention that it is already two years that there is a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We observe this agreement. After the negotiations with the President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan held on April 21in Luxembourg we declared that we shall continue to maintain the cease-fire till the achievement of peace. We want peace in our country and in our region. We want to have peace in the world. We are against separatism and terrorism and shall continue to keep this position. To achieve peace in the region, of course, we need the help of the peaceful countries of the world. In this regard, I appreciate the concern and interest of Norway in our region, particularly in Azerbaijan, and with a sense of pleasure I approve the position of Prime Minister Brundtland in her speech.

The Caucasus is an important region of the world. But now the fires of conflicts burn the Caucasus. One of these conflicts is the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I want to express my hope that the Norwegian government will continue its efforts in solving the conflicts in the Caucasus and in particular, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict peacefully. Dear friends, you are in the north of the Earth and we, Azerbaijan, in the south. There is a great distance between our countries. But at the end of the twentieth century this distance does not prevent us to maintain close relations. Our present relations indicate that we are able to develop them in future.

Ms. Prime Minister, I thank you once more for your hospitality, I can assure you and the Norwegian people that the Azerbaijanis are faithful to their friendship and the Norwegian-Azerbaijani relations and friendship have a bright future.

I raise my glass to the Norwegian people and its bright future. I wish the Norwegian government success in the implementation of the duties they face. I wish Prime Minister of Norway Ms. Brundtland and the Norwegian government happiness and well-being. Thank you.