Speech and interview of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the meeting with the delegation of the Ukrainian mass media - Presidential Palace, July 29, 1998

Heydar Aliyev: I welcome you in Baku. It is your third day in Baku. I am glad that a prominent delegation of the Ukrainian mass media is on visit in Azerbaijan.

Ukraine and Azerbaijan have always had friendly relations. The relations of the two countries started to develop after their independence. I am glad that our countries cooperate closely. As you know, the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. Later I was on an official visit in Ukraine. Ukraine and Azerbaijan signed a lot of documents, including an agreement on friendship and cooperation. There is a legal basis for the mutual cooperation in the spheres. We have an embassy in Kiev, and Ukraine has its embassy in Azerbaijan. We highly appreciate the relations between our countries. I meet President Kuchma at international conferences very often. The meeting of the heads of the member-states of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation was held in Yalta, Ukraine recently. I took part at the meeting. I met President Kuchma in Yalta. Later we met in Astana, Kazakhstan, too. We keep in touch very often. We have friendly relations. The positions of Ukraine and Azerbaijan are similar with regard to most of the international affairs. I appreciate that Ukraine defends its independence. We also pursue the same policy. Both Ukraine and Azerbaijan gained their independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some forces regret the collapse of the Soviet Union and believe in its restoration. I know President Kuchma`s position. He is aware of my position. We appreciate the independence of our countries. We strengthen our independence. Of course, we have a lot of problems, which are similar to those of other countries of CIS. We observe the ongoing processes in Ukraine. I really want the Ukrainian people to remove the problems, conduct the reforms, achieve the economic growth and raise the welfare of the people. We also do all these in Azerbaijan. However, we have a big disadvantage. We are involved in the war with Armenia. You are informed about the history of the conflict and have learnt more while being here. But let me briefly tell you about it. The military conflict broke out in 1988, when both Azerbaijan and Armenia were part of the Soviet Union. The conflict was initiated by the Armenian separatist and extremist forces. They decided to use the situation emerged in 1988 and incorporate the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan to Armenia. As you know, the Nagorno-Karabakh is an autonomous region within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Both the Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived there. Till the outbreak of the conflict the region had a population of 180 thousand people, which were made up of 30% Azerbaijanis and 70% Armenians. The region belonged to Azerbaijan. Despite its small size, Azerbaijan is a multinational country. It is a home for many ethnic groups, including Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians and Georgians. The Armenians used to live in the Nagorno-Karabakh and Baku.

Since no efforts were made for preventing the conflict, its scale increased and turned into a war. Many perished from the both parties. We achieved a cease-fire in May 1994. There have been no military operations since then. However, the Armenian armed forces still keep 20% of our territories under occupation. Some districts with the Azerbaijani population around the Nagorno-Karabakh have also been occupied. Over one million Azerbaijanis have been expelled from the occupied territories. Now they live in hard conditions in different parts of our country. It creates additional problems for our republic. However, the cease-fire regime is better than military operations. We conduct negotiations in order to solve the problem peacefully. The Minsk Group of the OSCE participates in the negotiations. Its co - chairs are Russia, the USA and France. The Russian delegation headed by the First Deputy of Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov visited Azerbaijan today. Before meeting you, I met him and we discussed the status of the Caspian Sea and the peaceful resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I hope that we can solve the conflict via negotiations and with the help of the Minsk Group. We always declare that Azerbaijan is a peaceful country, which wants to co-exist with its neighbors. The sustainable peace is the best solution for both Azerbaijani and Armenian nations.

Our internal situation has not been stable since the independence of Azerbaijan. It was very complicated because of the conflict with Armenia and the existence of different illegal armed groups within the country. They had various purposes, even to seize the power. So the internal situation of Azerbaijan was very complicated after the outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Many people were unsatisfied with the unfair attitude of the central government in Moscow to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Others were armed in order to achieve their personal purposes. The government was changed in Azerbaijan in 1992. The President, who had been elected earlier, resigned. The People, Front which was the leading force, came to power then. However, it could not handle with the situation either. Because the military units and illegal armed groups still struggled for the power. The most complicated situation in Azerbaijan emerged in July 1993. The state of emergency, was announced in the country. The uprising of different armed groups led to a civil war in Azerbaijan. As a result, the government, including the chairman of the parliament and Prime Minister resigned in June 1993. I was invited to Baku and was asked to help normalize the situation. I was elected the chairman of the parliament. Two days later President Abulfaz Elchibey left his office. I started to preside the government. I was elected the President of Azerbaijan in October 1993.

1993 was the hardest time in the life of Azerbaijan. We removed a lot of difficulties, prevented the separation of Azerbaijan. In May 1994 we achieved a cease-fire. However, there was a coup d`etat attempt in October 1994. The attempt was led by the then Prime Minister. However, we prevented it. Another attempt led by the Special Police Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was made in March 1995. That armed group tried to seize the power in Azerbaijan. We prevented that action, too.

Other attempts to complicate the situation here were made later. For example, the day before President Leonid Kuchma`s departure from Azerbaijan, they discovered big explosives under the bridge, which was over the road leading to the airport. That was a terrorist action of some members of the Special Police Unit. Thanks to professionalism of our law enforcement bodies, the explosives were discovered in time and the criminals were arrested. Later there were other terrorist attempts, too. Thus, our situation has been different from the situation in other countries of CIS, including Ukraine. As you see, we have stabilized the internal situation since the end of 1995. Now we have a stable country. Azerbaijan goes through the transition period like Ukraine. We conduct reforms, which yield good results. Since 1989-1990 the domestic economy, including industry and agriculture declined in Azerbaijan. In 1996 we stopped the decline and achieved a growth. In 1997 we achieved the growth of 5.8% in the gross domestic product, 0.3% in the industry - 0.3%. During the first half of 1998 the gross domestic product grew 9%, the industry - 0.7%. It means that the growth of the economy continues. Our financial system had a troubled time because of the big inflation. The inflation was 1600% in 1994. We brought the inflation down to 80% in 1995, stopped it completely in 1996 - it was only 0.4% that year. We could maintain the level of inflation in 1997. Now our currency is stable. Recently it has even strengthened against the US dollar. Our economic reforms cover all the spheres of economy. We conduct privatization. We were late in conducting the economic reforms, perhaps it was our advantage. We could not conduct economic reforms in 1993-1994. We started them in 1995. It was advantageous for us, because we had learnt the experience of other countries of the CIS. We tried not to repeat the mistakes of other countries. So we may have an advantage. Despite being late, our speed of conducting the reforms is the same with the speed in other countries. We have completed the privatization of small enterprises and part of the middle ones. Now the stage of the privatization of the rest of the middle enterprises and big ones is under way.

We conducted reforms in our agriculture. We adopted important laws on reforms in this sector. One of the important aspects of the reforms is the privatization of land. Animal husbandry has been totally privatized. It yields very good results. The animal products have been increased. During the Soviet time Azerbaijan received the subsidy on animal products. There was the labor division in the Soviet Union. The lands of Azerbaijan were used for providing cotton, grapes and vegetables. Since we could not supply our population with animal products, Azerbaijan imported them from Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia. At the same time, our republic supplied other republics of the Soviet Union with cotton and other products. Now we self-provide our population with wheat and animal products. The privatization of the land and animal husbandry has played an important role in the growth of the agricultural products. This process is still under way. The privatization of large enterprises is a complicated issue. We also have large enterprises of metallurgy, machine building and defense industry. We try to find better ways to use them properly.

Azerbaijan has a large chemical industry based on the oil and gas resources. Our industry was integrated with the common industry of the Soviet Union. The relations have been broken since the collapse of the USSR. At the same, some products produced then, are not demanded now. For instance, the products of the military industry are not demanded. We provided 70% of oil industry equipments of the Soviet Union. Now some of our plants, which used to produce oil industry equipments, do not function. Because the plants in Russia can produce those equipments themselves. We have many problems. However, we solve them gradually.

Our reforms also cover the foreign trade, liberalize the economy and free enterprise. This policy yields results. We have created suitable conditions for attracting foreign investments. As you know, Azerbaijan has historically been an oil country. Azerbaijan supplied the entire Soviet Union with its oil products. We used to export our oil to the Western countries, too. The off-shore oil production was first launched in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has a very big experience in this field. Our country still owns big on-shore and off-shore resources of oil and gas. During the last four years we have signed many contracts with big oil companies of foreign countries, such as the USA, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. During my recent visit to the United Kingdom, we signed three contracts with the British, American and Russian companies. Fifteen contracts have been signed in total.

The preliminary contracts are being implemented, yielding remarkable results. Last year we extracted the first oil within the frames of the implementation of the first contract. Now we export that oil. The realization of these contracts ensure the capital flow to Azerbaijan. Only BP has made an investment of USD 260 million on the economy of Azerbaijan during the recent three years. The total investment is estimated USD 1.5 billion.

Many foreign companies operate in Azerbaijan now. More than 100 British companies are among them. There are companies from other countries as well. Their presence here is useful for the Azerbaijani economy.

We lead democratization, ensure political pluralism and protect human rights in Azerbaijan. All our citizens regardless of their ethnicity and religious views enjoy their freedom. As I mentioned, Azerbaijan is a multinational country. The Russians, Ukrainians, Jews also live here. We are proud of it.

The political life is active and the press is free in Azerbaijan. A lot of newspaper are published. Only few newspapers are controlled by the government.

We have a lot of political parties here. Most of them are small. Some of the parties support the government, while others are in opposition. The biggest political party by the number of its members is the New Azerbaijani Party. We think that it is normal to have opposition parties. Because democracy includes different views and positions. It can not exist without opposition. You have got acquianted with the life here in Azerbaijan.

The presidential election will be held on October 11. The pre-election campaign has started.

I think that the economic reforms, the joint projects with foreign companies will increase the welfare of the population. I am sure that we shall solve all the problems of the transitional period and Azerbaijan will successfully develop as a democratic, legal and secular state. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still remains a very big problem for Azerbaijan. I hope that we shall solve the problem with the help of the Minsk Group of OSCE and other international organizations. This hostility can not last forever. Historical experiences show that sustainable peace can be achieved after conflicts continue for tens of years. It is possible for Azerbaijan and Armenia to achieve peace and co-exist. I thank you for visiting our country and paying attention to our problems. I highly appreciate it. So does our public. It will help you to learn reliable information about Azerbaijan and the political and socio-economic processes here. Our way is a democratic and progressive way. Ukraine is a reliable partner for Azerbaijan. Our relations are a strategic partnership. We shall do our best to strengthen and develop our relations. Our people sympathize the Ukrainian people, its language and culture. According to the information of our embassy, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis live in Ukraine. Most of them are Ukranian citizens. We appreciate it. Humans are free to choose where to live. We support the Azerbaijanis who live in Ukraine. They can also help to develop the relations between our countries.

I thank you for your visit. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

Viktor Voronin (Advisor of the Ukrainian President): I am delivering you the best regards of the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Thanks to the personal relations, the relations between our countries are developing. We are sure that they will develop more in future. Mr. Aliyev, you are one of the greatest politicians of the 20th century. There is a big attention to your personality all over the world, including Ukraine. The visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Azerbaijan demosntrates it. Its members will inform the Ukrainian public about the development and achievements of Azerbaijan since you came to power in 1993. We witness that Azerbaijan has a lot of difficulties. We are impressed by the refugee camp. We witinessed the tragedy of the refugees. We hope that they will return to their homes and to their normal lifestyle.

Mr. President, you have contributed much to the strategic partnership between our countries. Therefore, you were awarded with the "Yaroslav Mudry" order, which is the supreme order of Ukraine. Very few presidents have been awarded with that order. We are sure that you will do your best for strengthening the strategic partnership between our countries. We are aware of the productive activity of the Azerbaijani embassy headed by Mr. Ibrahimov in Ukraine and the Ukrainian embassy headed by Mr. Alexenko in Azerbaijan. The diplomats have contributed much to the expansion of the cooperation in all the spheres. This process will continue. We thank you for your comprehensive information about different spheres in Azerbaijan. We would be grateful to you, if you answer the questions of our journalists.

Vadim Dolganov (First Vice President of the Ukrainian National Television): Mr. President, thank you for accepting us. I also thank Mr. Ibrahimov, who did a lot to realize this visit. My question is about the economic sphere, which is the most important part of our relations. Our political relations have been at high level since the independence of Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The high-level mutual visits prove it. I would like you to comment the current situation and future perspectives of the economic relations between Ukraine and Azerbaijan with the support of USA. This support was announced regarding the desire of Ukraine to participate in the transportation of the Caspian oil. My second question: the negotiations with Russia on delimitation of the Caspian Sea are under way. I would like to learn your opinion about these negotiations. Thank you.

Heydar Aliyev: Your questions cover a lot of issues. Answering them will take some time. The economic cooperation between Ukraine and Azerbaijan is developing. I can`t say that we have achieved everything. But the circulation of goods is growing. We want to develop our economic cooperation with Ukraine further. Ukraine is very interested in the Caspian oil. Now it includes only the oil produced by Azerbaijan together with the foreign companies. We have constructed an oil pipeline, which transports the Azerbaijani oil to the port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. The second oil pipeline is being constructed from Baku to the port of Supsa, Georgia. Ukraine is very interested in this pipeline and the transport corridor, which connects the Central Asia with Europe. By the way, Ukraine has also joined the agreement. Mr. Kuchma told me that they created a ferry passage between Poti and the port Ilichevsk in Odessa. This passage carries trucks for now. But it is planned to construct a railway ferry, too. The railway ferry connects Baku and Krasnovodsk, then that railway reaches Poti. The European Union implements the TRACECA programme, which implies the restoration of the Great Silk Road. Azerbaijan is one of the organizers of this programme. On September 7-8 an international conference will be held in Baku. The heads of the states and governments of over 30 countries situated on the Great Silk Road have been invited to the conference. So has the President of Ukraine. The Great Silk Road starts from Japan, goes through China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. One of its routes may reach to Ukraine and the Northern Europe, the other route will go to Bulgaria and Turkey through the Danube. The network has been constructed and now it is functioning. Ukraine has joined it. On September 7-8 we shall adopt some documents on the restoration of the Great Silk Road. Ukraine will have an opportunity to use the shortest connection with the Central Asia. Because the distance from the Central Asia to Europe is 2000 kilometers shorter than the northern route. The shorter road reduces costs. These conditions allow Ukraine to cooperate with Azerbaijan, Georgia and the countries of the Central Asia because there are promising perspectives. I spoke about the pipeline. Ukraine is very interested in the Baku-Supsa route. The pipeline will be ready for the trasportation of oil next year. Ukraine can use the Caspian energy resources in future.

Let me speak about the negotiations on the status of the Caspian Sea. In September 1994 we signed the so-called "Contract of the Century" with the international consortium consisting of 11 big oil copmanies. Then there were different attitudes towards the contract. The companies that signed the document thought about the perspectives, while some countries had negative attitude. Then the status of the Caspian Sea became an actual issue. Because it was surrounded by the Soviet Union in the past. Though Iran had an access to the sea from the south, it was dominated by the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan became the littoral Caspian countries. The Russian company LUKoil participated in the "Contract of the Century". Prior to the contract, Russia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the joint development in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. Then there were some claims that the Caspian Sea has no sectors, it is common and the littoral countries can exploit it. Our agreement was based on the state established during the Soviet time. In 1970 the Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry of the Soviet Union decided to divide the Caspian Sea into sectors to define which constituent republic oil deposits belong to. But mainly Azerbaijan was in charge for oil and gas production. All the organizations engaged in the oil and gas production in the Caspian Sea were headquartered in Azerbaijan. There was no problem with the on-shore oil deposits. However, it was hard to determine the status of the off-shore deposits. By the way, Azerbaijan produced oil in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea, because Turkmenistan did not possess its own technique and technology. But Azerbaijan did. "The Contract of the Century" was based on the decision of 1970. It implies that we produce oil in our sector. However, the other riparian Caspian countries did not want to accept the sectoral division of the Caspian Sea for a long time. We signed new contracts later. In March Russia decided to accept the sectoral division of the seabed of the Caspian Sea. During the visit of the Russian delegation headed by Boris Pastukhov to Azerbaijan in March we signed an agreement on the sectoral division of the seabed of the Caspian Sea. In the beginning of this month the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan signed a treaty, according to which, they divide the northern part of the Caspian Sea between them into two sectors along the meridian line. We appreciate that treaty. Recently a Russian delegation visited Iran. Iran does not agree with this principle. The Russian delegation is leading the negotiations there. Turkmenistan has not determined its position clearly. However, it is obvious that the use of the mineral resources and seabed of the Caspian Sea will be implemented according to the sectoral division. This principle was re-confirmed today. We agreed that the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan may even sign a treaty on the division of the Caspian Sea between Russia and Azerbaijan along their common borders. The Russian party thinks that the seabed can be divided into sectors, however, the surface must be used as a condominium, there must be 12-km and 45-km coastal zones, the rest of the sea must be open for common use of fishing, shipping, environment, etc. The Azerbaijani government considers that everything should be divided into sectors. I assume that the position of the Iranian party is almost the same. We haven’t agreed on this issue. There was no result in our meeting today. However, we advance. Four years ago there was no agreement, but most of the issues have been solved by now. The seabed of the Caspian Sea is being divided. It is not an easy issue. First, its status has never been fully determined. It was dominated by the tsarist Russia in the past. Later it was surrounded by the Soviet Union. At present, there are five riparian countries, which have to reach an agreement on the use and status of the Caspian Sea. I think that we shall. Thank you.

Marina Ostapenko (Interfax Agency, Ukraine): My question is about the transportation of the Caspian oil. Can economic or political factors influence the decision of Azerbaijan on the transportation of the Caspian oil? The second question: Will you attend the 60th anniversary of the Ukrainian President in the Crimea on August 9?

Heydar Aliyev: I shall with a great pleasure. Do you know that the transportation of the Caspian oil is discussed in many countries worldwide? A lot of countries in the West and in our region are interested in this. Some American and European oil companies operate in Azerbaijan. Large international companies also start to operate in the Kazakh and Turkmen sectors of the Caspian Sea. It has promising perspectives in the 21st century. Our position is to have various routes for the transportation of the Caspian oil. For example, in Azerbaijan we have defined three routes: Baku - Novorossiysk, Baku - Supsa and Baku - Ceyhan, which is going to be the main oil pipeline. Ceyhan is a Turkish port in the Mediterranean Sea. We plan to construct an oil pipeline from Baku to the Mediterranean coast through Georgia and Turkey. In fact, this problem has not been solved yet. But our position in this problem is set.

There may be other variants, too. But first, it must be commercially profitable. We have to take into consideration the security and political aspects of the issue, too. When talking about the transportation of the Caspian oil, we don’t mean only the Azerbaijani oil, but the resources of other littoral countries, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well. They also possess huge oil and gas deposits. For example, the Kazakh deposit "Tengiz" which annually produces 8 million tones of oil. That oil is transported via Russia. After the negotiations between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, last year 2 million tones of Kazakh oil was delivered from Aktau to Baku by tankers and exported from Baku to Batumi by railway. Perhaps another two million tones will be transported via Azerbaijan this year. But they want to increase the figure to 10 million tones. Thus, there is an agreement on the construction of the oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan in order to export the Kazakh oil westward. The European countries and the USA also propose the transportation of the Turkmen gas westward via the Azerbaijani territory. The US delegation, which is in Turkmenistan now, conducts negotiation on this issue. That delegation visited Turkey and will come to Azerbaijan tomorrow. Therefore, I think that there will be several routes. We support this diversity. As for the 60th anniversary of President Leonia Kuchma, I shall take part in there and congratulate him.

Konstantin Gusarov (Press Service of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine): Mr. President, there are very few great politicians like you. It is obvious that the personal relations between presidents influence the inter-state relations. What could you tell about your personal relations with President Kuchma? How do they influence the relations between our countries?

Heydar Aliyev: There must be favorable conditions for personal relations. Our personal relations include the similar positions on a number of international affairs. It is an important factor, which creates a favorable ground for our personal relations. Moreover, there must be mutual sympathy. Fortunately, we have mutual sympathy. I respect him. I believe that he also has a respect towards me. President Kuchma is a wise person. He defends the independence of Ukraine and wants to do more for his country. I think that the Ukrainian people should appreciate his efforts and support him. Ukraine has an enormous potential, large territory and big population. It can become one of the developed and leading countries of Europe. It possesses huge natural, economic and intellectual resources. I think that President Kuchma`s policy on reforms and democratization is correct and can develop Ukraine. It attracts my attention and it is likely to be the leading factor in our personal relations. They positively influence the relations between our countries. Because we have mutual understanding, similar views and will of active cooperation. Our delegations visit each other frequently. For example, the Ukrainian Prime Minister visited Azerbaijan twice in order to discuss the economic cooperation. Our personal relations are growing. I also recommend you to support President Leonid Kuchma.

Oleg Kolesnikov (Newspaper "Region"): Mr. President, unfortunately ethnic conflicts in the post-Soviet countries still continue. Some claim that they broke out because of Gorbachev`s national policy. What do you think on this issue?

Heydar Aliyev: I agree that the outbreak of the ethnic conflicts in the post-Soviet countries was related to Gorbachev`s mistakes. I worked with him for a few years. We had close cooperation while he worked in Stavropol and I worked in Azerbaijan. Later when he worked as the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow, I was the First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Central Committee of the Communist Party. In 1982 I was invited to Moscow to start my job as a member of the Politburo and First Deputy of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Gorbachev was also a member of the Politburo and the Secretary of the Central Committee then. So we worked together. In 1985 we elected him the General Secretary. But he made a lot of mistakes. I think that his mistakes on the national policy were worse. Perhaps he did something deliberately. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out because of his mistakes. It was the first conflict in the Soviet Union. As the leader of the Soviet Union he did not prevent the conflict in 1998, on the contrary, he let it grow. He also committed crime when he ordered the Soviet troops to enter Baku and murder innocent people in January 1990. Probably, you have visited the Avenue of Martyrs, where the victims of those days were buried. He is supposed to be punished for his crimes. He made so many mistakes on his national policy that he ended up attacking the Soviet citizens. Should he have done it?

I have worked here in Azerbaijan, so I know the republic very well. There were always were Soviet troops in Azerbaijan. They included the Fourth Army, the Baku Air Defense Circle, the Caspian Fleet, descant troops. However, the Soviet troops headed by the Defense Minister Marshall Yazov and the Minister of Internal Affairs Bakatin. Those troops murdered many people here. Thus, it is not only a mistake, but a crime. You also suffer from separatism in the Crimea. All the conflicts in the post-Soviet countries, including the Abkhaz and Ossetian conflicts in Georgia, the conflicts in Chechnya and Pridnestrovye broke out after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

I argued with Gorbachev because of this. When the leaders of the constituent republics were being changed by Gorbachev, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of Kazakhstan Kunayev was supposed to resign in 1986. Kazakhstan is a large country. Kunayev, who is an ethnic Kazakh, headed the country for 22 years. But Gorbachev decided to appoint his friend Kolybin, who was Russian, and had never lived or worked in Kazakhstan. How could the Kazakhs agree with that appointment? When the Kazakh students protested it, they were attacked by the troops and militsia. Later a decision on "the Kazakh nationalism" was adopted. There was no Kazakh nationalism. The people merely expressed its will in 1986. As a member of the Politburo, I did not agree with his position on that issue. But we had disagreements on other affairs, too. Therefore, I was dismissed from Politburo in 1987. Of course, I resigned. However, they declared that I had to quit my job due to my health. After my resignation, the first news about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was announced and some Armenian politicians claimed the incorporation of the Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Just one month later Aganbegyan stated in his interview to the newspaper "Humanite" that the Nagorno-Karabakh should be incorporated to Armenia and that this issue was approved by Gorbachev. Therefore Gorbachev is guilty in all the problems. Thank you.

Irina Balalina (Newspaper "Komsomolskaya pravda na Ukraine"): Mr. President, how can the opposition supported from outside threaten Azerbaijan and its international relations?

Heydar Aliyev: I can’t say that they threaten somehow. As I noted earlier, the existence of an opposition is normal in democracy. As for the radical opposition in Azerbaijan, it emerged with its illegal armed gangs. The People Front had its armed units. Even after the People Front came to power, it still kept its armed units along with the army and police. Therefore, the radical opposition still wants to overthrow the government. Every opposition must act within the legal frames.

The opposition has foreign relations. I already told you about the attempt of coup in October 1994. The plotters fled to Russia afterwards. Most of them were arrested and extradited. If they lived abroad, it means that they were supported from abroad. In 1995 the Special Police Unit attempted to overthrow the government. There were the representatives of the Turkish special bodies among the plotters. However, we have very friendly relations with Turkey. I have had personal relations with President Suleyman Demirel for 30 years. It means that the radical opposition is supported from abroad. How does it threaten Azerbaijan? It is hard to predict it. Unfortunately, some extremists in the opposition did not give up their terrorist and armed methods against the government. It may be the most serious threat. At the same time, the experience of the recent years shows that such attempts fail.

Lyubov Gorbatyuk (Newspaper "Novosti News"): During the hardest period of Azerbaijan, you, as the national leader, could hold the country united. Please tell us the secret of your political successes.

Heydar Aliyev: It is hard for me to say it. You have met a lot of people here during your stay. Perhaps you have felt the secret yourself. My biography is known. I was involved in the state service since my early ages. I was elected the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party in July 1969. I worked as the First Secretary for 14 years. After Brezhnev`s death I was invited to Moscow, where I was elected a member of Politburo and was appointed the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union. I worked there for five years. I resigned from my office at the end of 1987. I was persecuted after my resignation. Since 1988 the newspapers started to publish slander and libel about me and my activity. I was totally isolated. However, while living in Moscow, I could learn about the difficult situation in Baku in January 1990. I attempted to convey my opinions and recommendations to Gorbachev and other members of Politburo. But they refused to listen to me. After the attack of the troops to Baku, I could not keep silent any more. In a crowded meeting in Moscow I condemned the action of the Soviet administration. The newspapers attacked me more then. This led to my resignation from the Communist Party. I made an official declaration on the reasons of my leave. I left Moscow for Baku, as it was too hard for me to live in Moscow. I was persecuted there. Unfortunately, they didn’t let me live in Baku either. Some of them had been promoted by me in the government. Thus, I had to leave for Nakhichevan, which is an autonomous republic out of the main territory of Azerbaijan. I lived there for three years before I was invited to Baku in 1993. The people, who didn’t allow me to stay in Baku, had to invite me to the government, when the situation in Azerbaijan was extremely dangerous in 1993. Of course, the public also supported me. There was no person, who could take the responsibility then. But I could. Even when I was persecuted, I always felt the trust of the people in Azerbaijan. A lot of people sympathized me even in Russia, too. Why? Perhaps because my experienced career both in Baku and Moscow convinced people to trust me. Undoubtedly, their trust makes me stronger and helps me to remove obstacles. Even when I was isolated and persecuted, I always felt this trust.

What do I do? I simply try to realize this trust in my activity. I work a lot and do my best in order to develop our republic during such a hard time. I always feel bad because a number of Azerbaijanis live in hard conditions, some of them - even in tents. But I do my best to return them to their homes. I don’t think that someone else could work as hard as I do. But if there is someone, I can yield my position to him. But I do everything possible. It gives me more power. Perhaps this is the secret of my successes.

Viktor Kozlovsky ("Inter" TV company): Mr. President, can you please define the role of Russia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Caucasus overall? What is the position of the current administration of Russia?

Heydar Aliyev: We cheer big hopes in Russia, which is one of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE. Moreover, Russia has a big influence in Armenia. As you know, the Russian military units station in Armenia. Russia and Armenia closely cooperate in military sphere. Recently the Russian Defense Minister visited Armenia and signed new documents on military cooperation. Russia aided Armenia in every way. Therefore, we think that Russia can do more for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. But why can we not solve it? Because the position of the Armenian party is destructive. It strives to obtain independence for the Nagorno-Karabakh. We can never agree with it, neither can the world community and international organizations. Because it contrasts the basic principles of the international law. Now Russia suffers from the conflict in Chechnya. Chechnya wants to be independent, while Russia objects it. That’s why the conflict is not solved. Therefore, the claims of the Armenians on the Nagorno-Karabakh are unacceptable. Armenia may accept the principles adopted by all the members of OSCE, except Armenia in December 1996. The three principles include the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia: Armenia has violated and does not recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, self-autonomous status of the Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, security of the whole population of the Nagorno-Karabakh. We accept these principles, even though they don’t fully satisfy us. However, Armenia does not accept them and try to achieve independence for the Nagorno-Karabakh. But it is impossible. Having an influence on Armenia, Russia should try to achieve mutual concessions. We are ready to grant the Nagorno-Karabakh a high self-autonomy within Azerbaijan. Our territorial integrity must be restored. I hope that Russia will use its means for the settlement of the problem.

Olga Len (Newspaper "Zakon i biznes"): Mr. President, you have a big influence in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. You ensured the internal stability and dynamic economic development in Azerbaijan. It raised the international reputation of Azerbaijan. Can you answer this question: What is the position of GUAM among the organizations our countries have joined? What is the development perspective of GUAM? Was it really established in order to ensure the transportation of the Caspian oil and gas?

Heydar Aliyev: GUAM was founded by the presidents of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan in Strasbourg. It is a well-established organization. Because our countries hold almost the same position on many international affairs. There is a geographical closeness, too: Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova on the Black Sea. I think that this organization is of political and economic importance. The organization doesn`t include only the use of the energy resources of the Caspian Sea. I think that it has good perspectives. GUAM is a young organization. In Azerbaijan we think that we should strengthen and develop our cooperation within GUAM.

Arzu Serdarli (Newspaper "Azerbaycanin sesi"): Mr. President, our newspaper is one of the sources of information for the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine. We also receive information from them. What would you like to wish our subscribers in Ukraine?

Heydar Aliyev: Is your newspaper published in Ukraine? Regularly? Weekly? How broadly is it spread?

Arzu Serdarli: It is spread broadly in Ukraine. We plan to deliver our newspapers to Azerbaijan, too. Our ambassador and embassy provides us with information.

Heydar Aliyev: I appreciate your initiative. I wish you good luck. I wish your newspaper to earn more fame, expand its area and influence the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine. Your newspaper should inform not only the Azerbaijanis, but also the Ukrainians about Azerbaijan as well. I wish you success. I hope that our embassy will help you expand your means. As for my wishes to the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine, I would like them to observe the laws and rules of Ukraine, contribute to the relations between our countries, represent our people, country and culture with dignity, keep their mother ongue, national culture, traditions and customs. It is very important to know the language, traditions and laws of the country where you live. At the same, it is necessary to keep national identity and culture. These are my wishes.

Yuriy Reichel (Newspaper "Nash dom"): Mr. President, I want to give you some copies of our newspaper that include your biography and the material about you.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Yuriy Reichel: I have two questions. You called Ukraine a strategic partner. What other countries can you call strategic partners of Azerbaijan? My second question: You have headed Azerbaijan since 1969. What features of that period would you like to use now?

Heydar Aliyev: We have strategic partners. It may be included in interstate documents or stated somewhere. I just returned from the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and other members of the British government stated several times that they are interested in strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. I agree with this position. There are a lot of countries we can call our strategic partners. As for the experience of the past, it was a different system, economy and ideology when I headed Azerbaijan in the Soviet time. Our country is no longer communist. However, we served to Communism. I never feel ashamed of my leadership in the Azerbaijani Communist Party. Conversdy I am proud of it and of my deeds in Azerbaijan. I am proud to be one of the leaders of the Soviet Union. We grew up in the Soviet Union. We served our country and the Soviet Union honestly. Now Azerbaijan is an independent country. It is a different time now. We solve our problems ourselves. Independence is a very big achievement for every nation, including Azerbaijan. Now we have different principles in the establishment of state, public life and economy. As for the previous experience, it is very important to work honestly and serve the nation faithfully. The older generation I belong to gained a great experience during the Soviet time. A lot of present Ukrainian officials worked in the Soviet administration. For example, Mr. Leonid Kuchma headed important fields in the Soviet time. He has a very big experience of administration and organization. It is hard, even impossible to head a field without relevant experience. The previous experience in our country and other countries proved it. Of course, any person without enough experience may head the administration in future, after the transition period is over, all democratic institutions are established, effective economic mechanism is set, the people are used to observe the rules, our country reaches the level of the developed countries. My experience helps me solve a lot of problems now.

Dana Romanets (Newspaper "Ukraina Molodaya"): Mr. President, after you became the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, you started to struggle against corruption and bribery. Could you eliminate corruption and bribery in the present period?

Heydar Aliyev: When elected the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party in 1969, I was informed about corruption and bribery in the country, as I had worked in state security bodies. I was concerned about its develoment. I tried to struggle against it within my competence. However, I didn`t have enough authority then. After I became the First Secretary and I had the whole authority over Azerbaijan, I first started to struggle against corruption and bribery. It was a responsible work. My course was supported in other parts of the Soviet Union, because bribery and corruption were common problems of the country. But there were resistance and protests at the same time. Some people in other republics and even in Moscow did not appreciate it. Some claimed that socialism might lose its reputation because of my course. Because according to the official ideology, corruption and bribery were remains of capitalism. When I spoke or wrote about its existence openly or punished someone, most people appreciated and supported me. At the same time, some officials in Moscow and other constituent republics protested it, claiming that our system loses its reputation because of me, we should not speak about it openly, and the Western propoganda may use it against us. Some officials told me not to exceed the limit. However, I said that it is better to struggle against it by speaking about it openly. We achieved a lot of successes in Azerbaijan. I raised these problems when I worked in the Politburo in Moscow. But I can`t say that we could solve the problems. Furthermore, some people who had been arrested due to corruption were released right after my resignation. They were presented as victims of Aliyev`s illegal actions. This problem still exists and is spreading more during the transition period. Everybody speaks about corruption in Azerbaijan. The opposition accuses the government of corruption. I never deny the existence of corruption in our country. By the way, during my tenure I have dismissed and punished a lot of officials due to their corruption. I struggle against this problem. Now a lot of people, who may be guilty of corruption, accuses the government. I have always struggled against corruption and bribery. I still keep my position. We could do a lot during the Soviet time. That`s why, the people back me and trust in me. We haven`t eliminated corruption yet. Now this problem is much bigger than it was in the Soviet Azerbaijan. But we shall struggle.

Natalya Smolyarova ("TET-A-TET" TV company): Our company cooperates with embassies. We have produced two films titled "The Azerbaijani embassy presents". We have good relations with TV channels. What would you like to say about our visit? What would you wish the spectators of our new film?

Heydar Aliyev: I wish good luck. I thank you for your visit to Azerbaijan. You will see our lifestyle, successes, problems, and realities. I would like your spectators to be more informed about Azerbaijan, its achievements and problems. This is what I wish. Thank you.

Oksana Vaschenko (Ukrainian Radio, "Novosti" channel): What do you think about the religious education of children and youth? Do you think that it is important?

Heydar Aliyev: I think that education is important for children. But they have to be educated by reliable sources and books, not from mouth. They have to know what religion is. Everyone has a religious freedom. We used to live in the system that struggled against religion. The Soviet education included atheist, anti-religious propaganda. Now there is a big interest in religion. Because now it is open and free. People want to learn more about religion. Everyone must be granted religious freedom. Therefore, children must be educated about religion, its history and importance.

Mariana Angelova (National News Agency): Mr. President, let me thank you for this meeting. But it is not our first meeting. I took part at your 75th anniversary organized by the Azerbaijani embassy. You have a long life and career, which was full of difficulties. Your wish was the independence of Azerbaijan. When did you understand the importance of the independence? How do you imagine the role of Azerbaijan as an independent and economically powerful country on the threshold of the 21st century?

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you for your attention to Azerbaijan and my personality. As for your questions, when being a member of the Politburo in 1986-1987, I felt that the system and state would collapse. I understood the importance of the independence of Azerbaijan in 1988-1989. I returned to Azerbaijan in 1990, when the Communist Party still kept the Soviet Union alive. But after my resignation from the Communist Party, I explained that the Soviet Union would have no future and we would have to struggle for our independence. I stated it openly in media. At the beginning of 1991 when the the Soviet Union started to collapse, Gorbachev strived to keep it as a new union. He proposed a new treaty on union, which would distinguish from the treaty signed in 1922. In 1990 they appointed a referendum on retention of the Soviet Union for March 17, 1991. I remember that day. In 1991 I stated in meetings in Nakhichevan that Azerbaijan must be independent, it should not hold any referendum. Despite being persecuted and isolated, I was elected a member of the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet and Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet in1990. At the session of the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet I stated that no one in that parliament served the Soviet Union as ol did I served the Soviet Union, being one of its leaders. I was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR for 20 years and a member of the Politburo. I did my best to strengthen the Soviet Union. But now the Communist Party should leave the power, since the state is collapsing. Azerbaijan must be independent. This is what I spoke at the session of the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet in 1990. I breathed freely after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, there is still a chance of the restoration of the USSR. Thus, we have to strengthen our country. There are some forces that want to restore the Soviet Union. But they are weak in Azerbaijan. I had a desire of an independent Azerbaijan long time ago. Azerbaijan has been independent for over 6 years.

Viktor Voronin: Mr. President, on behalf of our delegation I thank you for the meeting today. The Ukrainian people always sympathize the Azerbaijani people. The information of the Ukrainian mass media on Azerbaijan and its wise president will contribute to the relations between our countries. We witnessed a lot of things in Azerbaijan. I have no doubt that our reporters will write about the Azerbaijani refugees objectively. As you know, the Ukrainian President attaches a great attention to the development of the Ukrainian-Azerbaijani relations. Fair and objective coverage of our cooperation in media will also please him. Mr. President, can you please give a floor to the Ukrainian ambassador to Azerbaijan Boris Alexenko?

Heydar Aliyev: Please, Boris Grigorievich.

Boris Alexenko (Ukrainian ambassador to Azerbaijan): Mr. President, thank you for receiving the delegation of the Ukrainian media representatives. I thank you for your detailed analysis for our reporters today. You analyzed our bilateral relations and your foreign policy very well. Thank you for your kind words about Mr. Kuchma, the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian independence. I thank you for your contribution to the development of the Ukrainian-Azerbaijani relations. Both you and Mr. Kuchma have created favorable political and legal conditions for the development of our relations in all the spheres. We appreciate the achievements of Azerbaijan led by you. You were asked about the secret of your successes. I listened to your modest answer. Let me add that the secret of your succresses is your loyal service to the Azerbaijani people. It depends on your service, your responsibility and your principal position. You have contributed to the political, economic and cultural relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine. You sponsor art and pay attention to all the fields of the society. I would like to emphasize your contribution to the end of the war. Thanks to your brave policy, the legal order has been set and crime has been stopped in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan holds one of the first places on this index among the post-Soviet countries. You initiated the struggle against different misuse cases.

Heydar Aliyev: Boris Grigorievich, thank you. You don`t need to speak about it.

Boris Alexenko: I want our reporters to be informed about it. Because it is too hard to learn everything within three days. My information on Azerbaijan does not originate from libel and slander in media.

Heydar Aliyev: They happened in the past.

Boris Alexenko: I have witnessed them myself. They were libel and slander. Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality towards our delegation. I thank the President, office and Secretarial too. I thank the Azerbaijanian ambassador to Ukraine Nazim Huseynov for his contribution to this visit. I thank for the attitude towards the Ukrainians, who live in Azerbaijan and are the Azerbaijani citizens. Our delegation met the Ukrainian diaspora today. The representatives of the diaspora asked me to deliver you their gratitude. Mr. President, I wish you good luck. I hope that afterwards you will let me deliver you the tasks I am assigned. Thank you very much. I wish you good luck. I wish the Azerbaijani people peace and progress. Thank you for your attention.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I am satisfied with this meeting. I tried to answer all your questions. I am glad that you are here. I hope that there will be more meetings in future. I wish you successes. I wish the Ukrainian people happiness. I wish Mr. Kuchma good luck. Thank you. Good bye.