Speech of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the official reception in his honor hosted by the President of Uzbekistan - June 18, 1997

Mr. President Islam Karimov!

Dear friends! Ladies and gentlemen!

I deliver to you the best regards of the Azerbaijani people. I am very pleased of being surrounded by honesty, friendship, hospitality and great respect here in Uzbekistan during my official visit. Mr. Karimov, I thank you for your invitation. I hope that our joint work and the document we signed will expand our cooperation, strengthen the friendship between our countries.

Last May President Karimov paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. It was the first visit of the Uzbek President to Azerbaijan after Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan gained independence. It became a historic event in the relations between our countries. The significance of that visit was in the elimination of difficulties between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. They have emerged due to the fault of some officials in previous years, we established diplomatic relations, discussed a number of issues, and signed important documents.

The first document on friendship and cooperation between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan signed by presidents in Baku on May 27 was the starting point for our relations.

The intensive relations between our countries began to develop since. We have some successes, the most important of which is the establishment of the Transcaucasian corridor. It is connecting the Central Asia, the Caucasus and Europe via reliable highways, and plays an important role in our economic relations. It is an example of establishing and effective use of communications.

As a result of our negotiations we signed significant documents today. The most important one is the declaration on the expansion and development of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. This cooperation determines our strategic relations. Up to forty inter-governmental documents, signed here in Baku pave the way for the further development of our cooperation as a good legal basis.

I want to assure you that we shall do our best to implement into life all documents we signed in due time.

We consider that the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations are very important for our country. Our peoples have a rich and ancient history. The Uzbek and the Azerbaijani peoples have made remarkable contributions to the Oriental and world civilization throughout the centuries. Ancient and medieval scientific achievements of the East contributed to the development of mankind. The peoples of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have contributed a lot to the mankind.

We can be proud of the great thinkers, our peoples who are valuable for us. It proves that our peoples share the same roots. Common religious, spiritual, moral and cultural values have always united our peoples and created conditions for friendly, mutual assistance. We speak of the eposes of “Kitabi- Dede Korkut” Alpamish, Koroglu with great pride. They are equally valuable both for the Uzbeks and the Azerbaijanis. So are Nizami Ganjavi and Alisher Navoi. Our great ancestors created masterpieces, which have enriched the world culture and literature.

Mr. Karimov is quite right when he said that Fizuli is our common wealth. It is no surprise that the 500th anniversary of Fizuli was celebrated in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and other Turkic-speaking countries. The celebrations took place on an international level within the framework of UNESCO. We were very glad to see the Uzbek delegation led by the chairman of the parliament Mr. Khalilov in the celebrations in Baku.

Last October we attended the 660th anniversary of the great son of the Uzbek people, Amir Timur with a deep sense of respect and esteem to our ancestors. We visited Samarkant, got acquianted with the world-famous Registan, the Amiri Gur and the entire complex built by the Uzbek architects and passed to next generations.

As a student I studied history of architecture, and our textbooks contained information about the Samarkand architectural complex, including the Registan, the Emiri-Gur. Grand monuments were erected by the great architects of our peoples. This is the basis of new relations of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan as independent nations. We highly evaluate our past as our wealth and achievements. However, the independence the Uzbeks and Azerbaijanis achieved at the end of the 20th century is of great importance. Our people earned this independence after being part of various empires and unions for centuries. Gaining independence was a difficult, troublesome process both in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. But we have overcome all of them. We have already started our path of independence.

It is now necessary to remember how many obstacles were set for the nations, including Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, incorporated into the Soviet Union, when they rose for freedom and independence. Armenia`s aggression against Azerbaijan in 1988 was not only the action of various Armenian nationalists, who were eager to seize the Azerbaijani lands, but also a part of the great policy aimed at preventing the independence movement. Uzbekistan, too, faced such problems.

Today Mr. Karimov recalled the events in Fergana, Osh, Uzen. Those were tragic events. Thank God, you stopped them. They were launched in order to delay the processes, which have already started. I remember the Soviet time. We were discriminated in the mid-1980s. I mean Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian republics. The unfair psychological and ideological aggression which was started against the Uzbek people in 1983-1984 can prove my words.

Then, we were very worried about Uzbekistan. Some people tried to discredit Uzbekistan and show as if lawlessness, corruption reigned here, everything negative in the Soviet Union was concentrated in Uzbekistan.

Similar attempts were made against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan also faced such events, although their scope was not so large as in Uzbekistan. Those sad lessons of history recall under which circumstances we were going to achieve our freedom. Thank God, they are all behind now. Thank God, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are independent nations now. Thank God, we can meet in equal terms, solve our problems ourselves and establish our relations with other countries independently.

Unlike the Uzbek-Azerbaijani ties in the past, our current relations are based on our independence. Over these years, Uzbekistan has experienced a long way of development. Mr. Karimov spoke about the changes, economic reforms peculiar to Uzbekistan. I would like to express my deep respect to all the work carried out during the years of independence of Uzbekistan. We know, see and feel it. I saw and received a lot of information during my last visit in October and now. But it is not all. We all possess information, statistical data about each other. Sometimes mass media spreads false information about Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. However, it cannot deny the measures, which were and are implemented in our countries.

Over the years, Uzbekistan strengthened its independence. Major socio-economic transformations have taken place, positive results in the economy and social sphere have been obtained.  As one of the major countries in Asia, Uzbekistan has found its worthy position in the world community. At present Uzbekistan the attention of investors. Rich natural resources, huge economic potential, human resources of Azerbaijan attract the attention of many big investors. These factors ensure the current successes and pave the way for the future achievements. We are happy for and proud of your successes. I love Uzbekistan. I have long been tied to Uzbekistan, due to my activities and since my youth. Therefore, everything positive in Uzbekistan gladdens me. President Islam Karimov has a great share in these achievements.

Uzbekistan experienced difficulties. So did Azerbaijan. But being honest, Azerbaijan, unlike Uzbekistan faced more hardships. On the one hand, Armenia`s military aggression led to the occupation of 20% of our territories. One million people from the occupied lands have become refugees and are now living in tents in severe conditions. Azerbaijan has suffered from great moral and material damage, many casualties.

On the other hand, the internal political situation was dominated by instability, various armed gangs belonging to political parties and forces struggled for power. As a result, the government changed three times. Because of the civil war in 1992-1993, Azerbaijan came to the verge of disaster. But we stopped the political turmoil. There is a stable, normal socio-political situation in Azerbaijan today. We were able to overcome all those difficulties.

I mean that Azerbaijan had a very difficult and challenging way. Uzbekistan had its own difficulties as well. In my opinion, the Uzbek people were lucky to be led by Islam Karimov, a politician with great political experience, rich knowledge, strong will, before, during and after Uzbekistan gained independence. He did not allow any uncertainty, hesitations, instability in Uzbekistan. It is very important. You should appreciate it. Therefore, the internal socio-political situation has been stable here since the declaration of independence. This state is much better than that during the Soviet period, which we remember very well. You have this happiness and advantage thanks to the efforts of Mr. Karimov. With his loyalty, remarkable ability, he could unite the Uzbek people during the hard period of transition. He carried out necessary reforms and measures step-by-step in order to turn Uzbekistan into a modern country.

I am very happy for these achievements. I have known Islam Karimov for a long time. I have been observing his activities since he started to lead Uzbekistan. I want to underline his courage as he managed to maintain the honor and dignity of the Uzbek people unlike his predecessors. Islam Karimov put an end to the Soviet measures on discrediting the Uzbek people, sending emissaries to create an impression as if the Uzbeks lacked capable people in Uzbekistan. He could do it with his bold nature, courage and wisdom. It is very valuable. As I worked in Moscow from 1983, I know better than others what kind of unfair measures were carried out against Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov put an end to all these measures. I consider it his historic achievement.

At present, our relations are based on mutual respect and brotherhood, which we felt today. We also felt that Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov firmly support the international law, according to which, internal affairs of any state shall not be interfered with, territorial integrity of any country be maintained and protected, separatism, fundamentalism, terrorism be avoided. We share unanimous position and solidarity regarding these matters.

As our country faced aggression and violation of territorial integrity, as well as unfair public opinion in international arena, this kind of statements is very valuable and important for us. We are confident that the ceasefire we achieved with Armenia three years ago will lead us to peace. We are against of resumption of hostilities. We want peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, peace in our region and in the world. Yet we cannot give up our lands. We cannot allow a second Armenian state on the territory of Azerbaijan.

I am glad that the more international organizations and countries, including Uzbekistan, support our fair position. I reckon that our meetings and negotiations today will create more favorable conditions for the further development of our relations. We will do our best to develop and strengthen our cooperation in all the spheres, including economy, science, culture, human relations. We are very interested in this cooperation and will develop it. 

I would love to express my deep respect to your country, to your people. Today we visited the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and watched a ballet based on the music by the prominent Azerbaijani composer Arif Malikov. Mr. Islam Karimov recalled Maksud Sheikhzade. A great personality, Maksud Sheikhzade was an Azerbaijani, who found a homeland in Uzbekistan and left a rich legacy. There are a lot of examples of friendship of our cultural and scientific figures; the ballet we watched today can prove my words.

Our relations will grow more. Once again, I express my esteem to this ancient land, the Uzbek people, my dear friends.

I would like to finish my speech with a poem by the Azerbaijani poet Suleyman Rustam dedicated to his Uzbek brother:

I love your dear land, every stone of yours,

I love, as my baby, as my mother.

My head that never bows before enemy

I bow to you as a brother.

These lines reveal exactly the very deep feelings of the Azerbaijanis to the Uzbek people.

To Uzbekistan, to the Uzbek people! To prosperity in Uzbekistan! To President Islam Karimov, prominent son of the Uzbek people! To you, dear friends! Cheers!