From the talk of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves - 2 March, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Honorable Mr. Minister! Honorable guests! I heartily greet You and the delegation of friendly Estonia. You are welcome to Azerbaijan.

After Estonia and Azerbaijan gained state independence, the contacts between our countries are intensively developing. The meetings have been held at the level of ministers of foreign affairs both in Estonia and Azerbaijan and a number of interstate documents have been signed. It testifies the attitude of Estonian and Azerbaijan states to each other and the efforts made by the both sides towards the development of relations between our countries.

I have repeatedly met Estonian President Mr. Meri in international organizations and held negotiations. Our contacts have extremely warm and friendly character. Mr. Minister, Your present official visit to Azerbaijan and the negotiations held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the work that I suppose, You are to carry out together today and tomorrow, will promote further contacts between our countries. We wish it, because due to my observations, the positions of Estonia and Azerbaijan in the global arena and international organizations always agree. I greet You once again. Please.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Thank You very much, Mr. President. I personally greet You and want to start the talk with personal regards sent by President of Estonia Mr. Meri to You. He also remembers well the meetings held with You, he always recollects them and requested me to convey You his hearty greetings.

Mr. President, You have mentioned quite correctly that the positions of Estonia and Azerbaijan coincide in many respects at international forums and in the work of international organizations. It proceeds from the fact that we regard each other well and as a whole, we want to cooperate with each other.

Heydar Aliyev: At the same time, we have equal politics respectively.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Yes and we have the same neighbor. At the same time, Estonia strives for the cooperation with Azerbaijan over definite and specific aspects. You know that Estonia strongly supports Azerbaijan in its aspiration to become a member of Council of Europe. Therefore, I want to assure You that as previously, Estonia will henceforth do its best so that Azerbaijan would become a member of Council of Europe.

Today, in the morning, while holding talks with Your minister of foreign affairs, we discussed the specific issues, over which Estonia could render Azerbaijan more efficient assistance.

Regarding another, economic area, we would like to cooperate with Azerbaijan more closely and bring economic links with Azerbaijan to a higher level. In this regard, Mr. President, I have brought with me the representative delegation. Many persons, representing private sector have arrived with me in Azerbaijan and they want to work with Azerbaijan in trade and commercial spheres.

Mr. President, along with it, I am very pleased that we are to conclude two agreements between our countries today. I think these agreements are the legal documents in addition to our intents and we will establish our business contacts based on them. I want to mention here that Azerbaijan can be sure to have good friend in the person of Estonia and Estonia also strives for raising the contacts with Azerbaijan on a higher level.

Heydar Aliyev: Very good. We affirm once again that our relations have friendly character. These relations lay a good foundation for the development of cooperation between our countries and of course, both sides have to take necessary measures.

Our economic links can certainly expand and it is a pleasant fact that You have also brought with you a group of businessmen. I think they will meet certain economic structures and representatives of private sector in Azerbaijan and will be able to establish requisite contacts.

I appreciate You for the support You have provided up to date connected with affiliation of our country to the Council of Europe. I suppose You know that this issue is to be solved within the next few months, and I have no doubt that You, as before, will make Your efforts in the future too.

The documents presented will be certainly signed. However, I guess that we can prepare and sign even more interstate and intergovernmental documents for the development of our contacts in the future.

It is also interesting for us that there is a definite number of Azerbaijanis living in Estonia. I do not know whether they are the citizens of Your country or not. They are! Wonderful, because I know that there are serious laws concerning naturalizing in Estonia. If our nationals are the citizens of Estonia, it is a truly good fact. I suppose You can be satisfied with Azerbaijanis in the light of processes taking place in Your society. Our people are extremely business-like, affable and they like friendship contacts. While living in other countries, our fellow citizens deeply esteem the laws and national traditions of those countries.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Mr. President, there is a representative of ethnic Azerbaijanis within our group, who is a citizen of Estonia.

Heydar Aliyev: Is he here?

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Vilayat Guliyev: Mr. President, he is among businessmen.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Last night, he acted as an interpreter at our talks. As a whole, we are proud of the Azerbaijanis living in Estonia. They made certain efforts and contributed much to the development of Estonia. This morning, when talking with the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, I also emphasized the fact that there are Azerbaijan restaurants in Tallinn, which are richer and more beautiful than many Estonian restaurants.

Heydar Aliyev: Perfect. It means that to visit an Azerbaijan restaurant in Tallinn will be possible.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Quite right. Mr. President, I also want to bring to Your notice that, as You have mentioned, it is rather difficult to be admitted to citizenship in Estonia. As a matter of fact, it is not that difficult to get a citizenship in our country. Simply, it is necessary to learn the language and I have noticed that Azerbaijanis do not have difficulty to learn Estonian language. It is true that others have, but I do not know why. Is it because the structures of our languages are a little identical?

Heydar Aliyev: Speaking of it, I did not mean that Azerbaijanis have difficulty to get citizenship there. You know what I mean. I do not want to disclose it. And it is natural. I think You act correctly.

Perfect. I have seen Your country. You have a very beautiful country. I have been to Tallinn, Tartu and in due time, during the Soviet Union, many from Caucasus and Azerbaijan used to go to Baltic countries, including Estonia to have a rest and buy scarce in Baku and other places goods. Because at that time, Estonia, as well as Latvia and Lithuania differed from other republics of the former Soviet Union by the existing conditions, the quality of consumer goods and services rendered in hotels and other places. Therefore, at that time, the people visiting Baltic countries often felt like in foreign countries. And I think that today You have advanced even greater in these matters.

If we can learn fast the languages of each other, probably, it also has roots. At any case, your language is very close to the Finnish language. Norwegian traveller and outstanding scientist-researcher Thor Heyerdahl has repeatedly been to Azerbaijan and proved that in due time, Norwegians had resettled there, to their country from Azerbaijan. I think it is not difficult to learn any language. However, if Azerbaijanis can learn your language fast, it means that they try hard and love this language.

Vilayat Guliyev: Mr. President, besides, the grammatical structure of our languages is almost identical. Both languages - Turkish and Estonian belong to Finno-Ugrian linguistic family.

Heydar Aliyev: And it brings us together.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Mr. President, probably, I would have to put this question later. But in Estonia, we regard You as the leader of this region and would like to hear Your opinion over the events taking place in the region. On the whole, we are interested to know Your opinion about the dynamics of events going on in Chechnya.

Heydar Aliyev: It will take much time, as our region is very complicated. I think You know about it. The Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict is the hardest and the most complicated problem. The aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh - the land of Azerbaijan, the war and as a result, the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan territory by Armenian troops and expatriation of a million Azerbaijanis from the occupied lands are the realities of recent years.

I think You have been already informed that the cease-fire regime has been valid for more than five years and we carry out peace negotiations. We want to settle this matter peacefully and of course, the solution can be achieved providing that Armenian troops are withdrawn from the occupied Azerbaijan territories, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is restored and the Azerbaijanis banished from native hearths return to their homes. In this case, Nagorno-Karabakh can be rendered a high status of self-government within Azerbaijan.

These principles were adopted in 1996, at the OSCE Lisbon Summit. I have to say that Estonia also voted for it. I remember that in this connection, I had a meeting there with President Lennart Meri. But the Armenian side does not agree to solve this matter based on these principles. They show ambitious attitude to this matter and we cannot agree with it.

As You know, several personal meetings between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in 1999 for further acceleration of the peaceful process. I consider these meetings to be fruitful, as we understand that the situation is extremely complicated. Therefore, it is necessary to take advantage of all the means. The urgent issues can be analyzed deeper and possible peaceful ways can be found during personal and direct meetings of presidents. Unfortunately, terrorist acts happened in Armenia in October suspended these negotiations for some time. However, I suppose they will be continued. At the same time, the activity of OSCE Minsk group will be stirred up henceforth as well. In this connection, while in Moscow, I held thorough negotiations with acting President of Russia Mr. Putin. Several days ago, visiting the USA, I held detailed talks in Washington, in White house with President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Mrs. Olbrite, President`s advisor on security issues Sandy Berger and other persons. In November, at the OSCE Istanbul Summit, we also held many meetings and negotiations over this matter. I believe all this will enable to speed up the peaceful negotiations.

As You know, the Abkhazian conflict is taking place in neighboring Georgia. It certainly differs from ours since it has an internal character and it is going on between Abkhazia and the Georgian government. But the distinctive feature of our conflict lies in the fact that it is the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. If Armenia did not interfere in this matter and did not prevent the realization of urgent decisions based on its opportunities in international organizations, of course, it would be possible to settle the conflict between the government of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh much earlier.

This conflict was not an internal one from the very beginning. It was initiated by Armenia. We want the conflict in Georgia to be put an end. We have very close and friendship relations with Georgia. The establishment of peace, security and cooperation in South Caucasus is naturally the desire of everyone.

Within recent years, the interest of many countries in Caucasus and especially in South Caucasus has grown not only because of the conflicts, but also with the purpose of cooperation with these countries. However, to achieve it, peace should be established in South Caucasus. But of course, peace should be achieved first of all by putting an end to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

North Caucasus is also a very complicated region and various processes are also going on there. Certainly, it is the territory of Russia, but many nations, each of which has its own republic, live there. Chechnya is one of them. The Chechen conflict has a big history and it lasts for nearly 7-8 years.

Of course, we do not want a war to go on somewhere. And just therefore, we signed in 1994 the cease-fire agreement and have been obeying it since that time, although Azerbaijan had suffered great losses and heavy blows.

The war that did not bring any results had started in Chechnya as well and then the relative peace was established. The agreement on the establishment of peace until 2000 was signed between Russia and Chechnya. But in 1999, the war broke again.

We have never supported a war. But at that, we support the territorial integrity of every country, we clamor against extremism, separatism and terrorism as our country has been facing similar problems since 1988.

Today, Russia could obviously establish its power in Chechnya. But of course, much work still lies ahead and it requires time. We shall see what will happen. At any case, as I understand, Russia`s aim is to normalize the situation there so that people could live quietly. It will be good if it is achieved.

There are no conflicts and wars in other republics of North Caucasus, but separate processes are going on there too. For instance, between North Ossetia and Ingushetia. You know that a big war was waged between Dagestan and Chechnya. Therefore, the establishment of peace and order in North Caucasus as a whole is very important for us. It could promote the establishment of peace and security in South Caucasus.

You are happy people to be far from such events. But we, the people living in this region are unfortunately experiencing such a situation, which concerns and hurts us.

I think all this will be over and peace will be finally established. It can be also observed by the example of Europe. The countries and nations had carried wars with each other over tens and hundreds of years, meanwhile today, excellent friendship relations have been established. Evidently, we also have to pass through this stage. To tell the truth, it would be better if it did not happen, but it does not depend on us. Nevertheless, I am optimistic and think that the situation will gradually improve.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Mr. President! You play a role of leader within the framework of another regional cooperation, within the GUUAM. Do You think the GUUAM will develop and grow stronger?

Heydar Aliyev: You know, the establishment of the GUUAM is a great event in itself. While instituting this structure, we realized that some people would not like it, but we showed our will and did it. Four countries initiated it. Uzbekistan joined later. It is natural that for small countries it is not so easy to institute such organizations. At the same time, its strengthening and development need time. This organization does not pursue any aggressive objectives. Simply countries, carrying out equal policy intend to set up stronger contacts with each other and cooperate closely. Its primary basis consists of the fact that we firmly stand on the ground of our state independence. I think no one should oppose to it or be jealous. Thus, the Russian-Byelorussian union has been established, but we do not protest against it. Armenia also wants to join it now. We do not oppose to it either. But the precedent is being formed. Everyone should think of how useful it will be for the future.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: We are of course the supporters of development of cooperation within the GUUAM organization. We want such organizations to develop. We consider that it is extremely important both for an organization itself and for its member-states. I am confident that the GUUAM and similar organizations open auspicious opportunities for countries.

We are very interested in doing our utmost to back up the state independence of the GUUAM member-states - Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldavia.

In the morning, while talking to Your minister of foreign affairs, I touched upon the issue on existing the definite forms of cooperation and we show interest in the development of contacts in these spheres. For instance, western countries recommend that Georgia should apply the practice of Estonian bodyguards or study the privatization implemented in Estonia for its integration into Europe.

Of course, I do not want to say that we are the professors in this matter and have achieved everything. We do not have ready models like those that the US professors have, but we have achieved certain progress. If You are interested in our experience, we will share it with You with great pleasure.

We have been trying to bring our laws and regulations in compliance with laws and regulations existing in the European Union for already 7 years. Western countries suggested that Ukraine should work over this model together with Estonia. On the whole, the cooperation with neighbors and friends in this area is a part of Estonian foreign policy.

Heydar Aliyev: Your experience can undoubtedly be very useful for us since you, as well as other Baltic countries had rejected the former system and carried out great work over implementation of reforms, in particular, privatization and bringing laws in conformance with European standards earlier than us. As it is informed, you haven`t made many mistakes. Therefore, we are very interested in using your experience. If an opportunity occurs, inform about it the prime minister during a meeting with him. On my part, I will charge him to adjust with You the issue on how we can use this experience in practice.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: Thank You very much. We will do it with great pleasure.

Heydar Aliyev: Excellent. Now, we should sign the documents.

I ask You to convey my heartfelt regards to Mr. Meri. Tell him that my invitation still remains in force. I invited him to pay an official visit to Azerbaijan in any convenient for him time. I think that after the visit of minister of foreign affairs, it will become more real.

The "Azerbaijan" newspaper, 3 March, 2000

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