From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II - May 28, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, dear guests, I cordially welcome you in Azerbaijan and express my gratitude for visiting Azerbaijan for the first time. I appreciate this event extremely important for our country and people, for the Orthodox Christians living in Azerbaijan and at the same time, very important for the Russian-Azerbaijani relations.

Therefore, I once more welcome you and thank you for visiting Azerbaijan. As I know, you are here for two or three days and have the opportunity to get acquainted with our country, our people and, of course, with the Orthodox Christians living in Azerbaijan.

We were together with Russia for a long time, in the past, both in the imperial Russia, and when we were part of the Soviet Union as a union republic. Therefore, our relations have a long history and very bright pages describing the friendship between Russia and Azerbaijan, between the Russian and Azerbaijani peoples.

In Azerbaijan, especially in XIX-XX centuries, the number of the Russians, and all the Orthodox Christians have increased and therefore, the Orthodox Church occupied an honorable place. Once, when Azerbaijan was part of the Russian Empire, many Azerbaijanis had close relations with the imperial court and the church. Many of our outstanding people received high education in various universities and high educational institutions of Russia in those days. Many Azerbaijanis, who came from wealthy families, served in the imperial army as officers and there were many Azerbaijani generals. They fought in the battles for Russia. For example, the famous General Aliagha Shikhlinski bravely fought in Port Arthur in the Russian-Japanese war at the beginning of the century and he was called «the God of the Russian artillery” throughout Russia. The same can be said about the general Samad Mehmandarov or several generals from Nakhchivan. All this, of course, are the pages of friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan.

Our nations belong to different religions and there is nothing strange about it. Because there is not one religion in the world, but there is one God. The peoples have different beliefs, but at the same time the difference in religion never causes hostility or something even more unpleasant.

Therefore, the Russians, and the Orthodox people in general have been enjoying equal rights in Azerbaijan. It was so in the past, even during the Soviet period, when the religions existed although they were banned. Otherwise, the temples you see now would have not been erected. These words can be said about the mosques, too. There was a ban on religions, which were oppressed throughout centuries. It can be attributed to the history of any religion. However, religions have always led the way out and managed to survive.

In the Soviet times, people lived here in full equality, but today it is assumed that in the Soviet period people did not have equal rights. I do not want to go into this debate, but equality in terms of religion in Azerbaijan was full, no matter whom it was, the Russian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani or Belorusian. Now we are separated from each other. Russia declared its sovereignty before all the Union republics of the Soviet Union and laid the foundation of a collapse of the Soviet Union. Though other republics were together, yet they lived with more thoughts of independence and freedom. Thus, Azerbaijan announced its national sovereignty and independence in 1991. At the end of this year we shall celebrate the 10th anniversary of our independence. In 1918, on May 28, for the first time Azerbaijan declared its independence and the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was formed on the principles of democracy. But it did not last long, only 23 months and then the wave of the socialist revolution and Bolshevism reached the Caucasus. Therefore, a sovereign state, of course, could not continue to exist, the Soviet power was established and the following story is well known to you.

By the way, it is very interesting and perhaps even symbolic that I meet you today, on the day of our national holiday, Independence Day of Azerbaijan that is, the Republican Day. We celebrate this day solemnly and held a great assembly on May 26. People celebrated this holiday yesterday and today.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan declared its independence and restored it, which was lost in 1920. Within the 10 years in Azerbaijan there were complicated processes, but the most aggravating situation in the country is the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which began in 1988, in connection with the territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan, that is, the desire to annex the ancient Azerbaijani land, Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Thus, when Azerbaijan gained its independence in 1991, it was, in fact, at the state of war with Armenia. Besides, in Azerbaijan there were many difficulties and the complexities of internal character. You know, of course, I find this a very sad, hard fact and contrary to all the principles of human morality and principles of spirituality, when in the January of 1990, the Soviet government sent a large contingent of troops to suppress the voice of the people here, who demanded a fair attitude towards Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia, and nothing more. There was no need to send so many troops because in Azerbaijan, the Soviet troops were enough. The cemetery, which you have visited, that is, the Alley of Martyrs, in fact was built then. This, of course, made a complication in the mood of the people, because in these years people often identified the Soviet administration with Russia or, for example, the Soviet troops, in which there were representatives of all the peoples of the Soviet Union, including Azerbaijanis, with Russian troops. I shall not lie, the anti-Russian sentiments were widespread here then. However, then I did not live here, but nevertheless, I know well all those years and days. Therefore, a certain part of the Russian population left. Then there were internal processes and the instability in the country and, of course, some people did not want to be in this volatile environment and looking for another place to live. Thus, compared to the years before 1990, the number of the Russian-speaking population has diminished.

But we have stabilized this question which you probably know. Since 1993, when we were able to prevent a civil war here and stabilize the situation in Azerbaijan, people of all ethnic groups, including the Russians, found an opportunity to live in peace.

The Russian people, of course, played a huge role in the life of the Azerbaijani people, I mean the development of science, education, culture and the construction of large industrial complexes.

The first university was established in 1919 by the decision of the government, which declared the independence of Azerbaijan. However, we did not have enough stuff, the teachers and professors were the local representatives of the Russian or Russian-speaking ethnic groups or were invited from Russia. Therefore, we appreciate the role of Russia and the Russian people in the development of science, education, culture and all sectors of the economy as a whole in XX century.

All this has left its traces which you had probably the opportunity to see. Now I was told that there are many churches. I knew that, but due to your arrival I asked to give me more accurate data. A few years ago you created here the Eparchy of Baku and Caspian. It existed before, then it was dissolved and then you have created it again. By the way, you have a very worthy representative here; it is always a pleasure to meet and to talk to him because he is a very smart man. In a word, religion exists, all religious traditions of Muslims, Orthodox and others have been restored. We hope that this will contribute to the development of each country and each people. Because we believe that religion should always play a positive role, especially in the spiritual development of a person, in the moral education of the people and in uniting them on the principles of morality and spirituality. I hope that you could get some experience these days. Taking advantage of this meeting, I decided to tell something. Now, I give you the floor.

Alexy II: I would like to make the first part of my speech on feet, because today it is a great day for the Republic of Azerbaijan, and on this auspicious day, on the Republican Day you received us. Thus, dear Heydar Aliyevich, let me congratulate you cordially on behalf of me and our entire delegation on the national holiday of Azerbaijan, in which we participate and wish the blessed successes and prosperity to the Republic of Azerbaijan under your wise administration. We hope that Azerbaijan will really develop. The guarantee of it is the fact that as a wise politician you stabilized the situation in Azerbaijan with your unquestioned authority. Of course, there are difficulties, but still, at the beginning of XXI century, we always look forward to a new century so that it will bring prosperity and success to each of the former republics of the Soviet Union, which began a new road of sovereignty and independence. I congratulate you on this holiday, the Republican Day and I think it is significant that on this day we meet you.

Ambassador of Russia in Azerbaijan Nikolai Ryabov: Heydar Aliyev, let me stand up. I want to read congratulations of the President of Russia to you on the occasion of the national holiday.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Nikolai Ryabov: I also want to join these congratulations and thank you sincerely for the great attention and care that you have shown to the visit of the beloved, respected and distinguished Patriarch of All Russia in our nation.

Alexy II: Your Excellency, let me now continue my speech. I sincerely thank you for receiving us today, and for touching the history of relations between our two nations. Our visit and communication were extremely useful for us. It is one thing to hear and another thing is to see.

Baku has made on us the most favorable impression with its beauty, tidiness and cleanliness and people celebrate and rejoice the national holiday today. Of course, the joint cooperation between the Russian and Azerbaijani peoples, which has been in the past and is developing today, is invaluable. There were tragic pages and in the first day of our stay we visited the Alley of Martyrs and commemorated those who died in those tragic days.

We saw there the last names of Azerbaijanis and Russians and we prayed for them.

We have had meetings with the public figures and officials of the town, had the opportunity to see Icheri Sheher (the Inner City) and remembered the story of the development of relations. Today we can confirm the fact that the Russian-speaking population really enjoyed here all the equal rights. They do not feel like second-class citizens, the Orthodox practice their religion and their faith without any prejudice, which, unfortunately, is not seen in some Orthodox countries.

With distinguished Sheikh-ul-Islam we have established very good relations for many years, which we started in 1988 with the familiarity and cooperation. In those years, sometimes in the most tragic moments when the blood was flowing in Nagorno-Karabakh and when it was necessary to stop the bloodshed we spent four tripartite meetings of spiritual leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church. Religious leaders saw a way out of the situation and offered their solutions.

Yesterday, summing up the results of our visit, we signed a declaration. In this declaration, we expressed the hope that the problem, which exists, would be solved and wished that the government leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan shall solve that problem by political means, which they now face. For our part, we shall also hold another trilateral meeting and express our vision of the solution to this problem.

I think for us it was very important to visit the refugees who have lost their homes and now live here creating definite economic difficulty for the state, because one million refugees out of eight creates a large economic problem. To hear people talking about their sufferings and to see this trouble was painful for the religious leaders and our brother Sheikh Pasha-zade with whom we met this people. The church and religion always turn their attention to those who are suffering, going through pain and who are deprived of shelter. I would like to note that in all the speeches that were there during the meeting with the refugees, many Russians who became refugees from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, the areas from which they were expelled, asked me and my brother Sheikh help to solve this problem. They see its solution only in peace, because they remember the bloodshed, sacrifices and losses suffered by the people when hostilities took place.

You have reminded us that even before the revolution the Russians and Azerbaijanis mutually contributed to the development of our countries. In the Soviet period, we lived as a family, without dividing by nationality. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, of course, those traditional relations and vital connection were suspended, but it seems that it is slowly being recovered. Many entrepreneurs, who have been educated here and have gained experience in the development of the oil industry are currently working in Russia and hold high positions.

I would especially like to note that there is a large number of schools in Russian, in which not only the Russians, but the Azerbaijanis study as well. We visited the Slavic University, where the culture of the Slavic peoples and languages of the Slavic peoples are studied. Everything is done in order not to allow the alienation to strengthen between the two nations.

In this respect, I think that our traditional religions in Azerbaijan play an invaluable role. We visited the mosques, three Orthodox churches and the chapel, which was built on the site of the embassy. We have seen many Orthodox believers who come to pray. We visited the mosque that was restored by your care. There is a burial site of the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter, a beautiful mosque, which has now become a place of pilgrimage for devout Muslims. We see that religious life has revived indeed. I think that this revival will play a positive role in the attitudes of peoples towards their work and responsibilities. They will honestly serve their duties.

Today, in an interview, I said that sometimes in our countries they say that the president and the government must solve these issues. I said that the future of the country depends on the contribution of each citizen and therefore everyone bears responsibility for it.

The Orthodox Christians are very grateful to our brother Sheikh Pasha- zade for being a perfect example for the representatives of different nationalities and different religions of how to live and cooperate together. I think that Azerbaijan is the only country where the spiritual head of the Muslims is the head of both the Sunnites and Shiites. In this regard, this example is worthy of appreciation in many countries, where sometimes a conflict between the two branches of Islam occurs. My brother told that he goes to Iran, because there is a need of that experience.

Today we finish our visit in the hospitable and blessed land of Azerbaijan, taking away the most gracious and bright impressions. It seems to me that XXI century and the third millennium start with intensive relations which begin to develop between our countries. The visit of Vladimir Putin and the visit of the largest parliamentary delegation headed by the speaker of Parliament to the Russian Federation are related to these ties. We shall be glad if our visit will also contribute to them. We were warmly greeted with traditional Caucasian warmth and hospitality all over the country. We have very good impressions. Today, we are received by His Excellency, we have a saying «the end of the deal is its decoration,» I think today that the decoration of our visit is the meeting with His Excellency. I would like to express my gratitude to you for all you have done for your people and for the people who live in Azerbaijan. You have stopped the bloodshed, you have done everything, have ensured that the people living in this country have equal rights, believers profess their religion, their faith and all work side by side, but not against each other.

On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to thank you for equally paying attention to the traditional religions and evaluate their activities. At the same time there was expressed a concern at the state level and this concern is expressed at the level of the heads of traditional religions that different sects and fidgety missioners are trying to implement different religious expansions in the territory of Azerbaijan, as well as in all former republics of the Soviet Union. My deepest conviction is that their work does not focus on enlightening people but dividing the people even on the basis of religion. The hazard is in this.

Completely foreign sects and missionaries come to our countries which do not have any roots, traditions and try to fill the spiritual vacuum that formed after 70 years of education in the spirit of atheism and the denial of spiritual principles. The reason of their arrival is that they call Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union a spiritual desert. We do not agree with them. We also mentioned the danger in the declaration, which we adopted yesterday. Because it separates the nations from each other.

 I think that in every country there should be the principle of unity of forces, because the future of each country only is in unity. In this regard, in the establishment of a unified society that work together, your contribution is enormous, dear Heydar Aliyevich.

You are doing a lot for religious leaders, and the fact that the venerable Sheikh and you praised Bishop Alexander is very important. We formed there a diocese a few years ago giving a special importance to its status, because it is in the territory of a sovereign state. We have not assigned any person to this post, but a person who has already served here, gained respect, whom you adopted as your own. We are very pleased to co-operation that exists between the traditional religions, Islam, Orthodoxy and Judaism, which is carried out under the leadership of Sheikh Pasha-zade. He perhaps is not the oldest, but he is elder of all other leaders of traditional religions for his great life and a spiritual experience.

The Orthodox people living in Azerbaijan have the opportunity to pray. Now, in three churches of Baku not only the Orthodox Christians, the Russians, but also Ukrainians and Belorusians will have the opportunity to pray and to strengthen themselves spiritually. In this issue, we see a lot of care from His Excellency.

As a visible sign of the enormous contribution that you have made to the cause of appeasement nations supporting the traditional religions that operate for the benefit of Azerbaijan and its people, I would like to present you the Order of the Russian Orthodox Church, and ask you to accept the First class of the Order of St. Daniel Prince of Moscow as a sign of our appreciation. Please, accept this award as our estimate of your enormous contribution not only to the development and strengthening of Azerbaijan, but also for the return of the spiritual and moral principles in the life of the Azerbaijani people.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

Alexy II: «President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev is awarded the Order of the Russian Orthodox Church, the First class of St. Daniel, Prince of Moscow for the attention, help and support for the Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church».

Baku and Caspian Eparchy in the person of Bishop Alexander coined a medal in connection with my visit. Let me present you this medal on the occasion of our meeting.

Heydar Aliyev: What a beautiful medal, of course, it is the first church order. It is more beautiful than those orders which I have received in the past. Thank you very much, I am very grateful to you.

Alexy II: Prince Daniel of Moscow is the person who who built up and united Moscow.

Therefore this award is given to you as the creator of Azerbaijan, the person who united the Azerbaijani people.

Please accept this award.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you very much, dear Patriarch, for all the things that you said, for the impressions you have shared for the assessment you have given to the work of the country and our people in strengthening the trust between the peoples and development of religion and in creating conditions for each person to have rights under our Constitution, so that they can enjoy the freedom of conscience. This is one of the most important provisions of our Constitution. I am very pleased that during your visit in Azerbaijan you got impressions and you rightly said, it is one thing to know, another thing is to see. The facts that you heard, I think were the basis for what you wanted to see.

We invited you for several times. Both I and His Holiness Sheikh also invited you. We certainly hoped that our invitation is accepted and you will visit Azerbaijan. Now all this has become a reality. You arrived in Azerbaijan, spent here several days, today your visit came to an end and you go back home, Moscow.

I agree with all of your thoughts and, of course, very much appreciate your efforts to appease the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I know that even before I was elected President of Azerbaijan, on your initiative there was a meeting between you, Sheikh-ul-Islam of all the Muslims of the Caucasus and the Armenian Catholicos, the previous and contemporaneous Catholic. Thank you for the efforts. This is commendable because I am standing in the position that the blood must not longer be shed. We need to resolve the conflict peacefully and for this purpose it is necessary that all the possibilities should be used. Spiritual and religious leaders have great authority among people and often have higher and much more influence on them than the heads of countries. Therefore, I thank you for what you have done, but we still want you to continue your mission.

We, in the May of 1994 stopped the war and signed a cease-fire agreement. It is seven years that military operations have stopped and it is characterized by the fact that the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides observe this ceasefire without the intervention of foreign peacekeepers. This indicates that both Azerbaijan and Armenia want a peaceful solution to the issue.

In the seven years we have held a lot of negotiations. You know that in 1992, CSCE created a special body called the Minsk Group. This group is now chaired by Russia, the United States and France to promote a peaceful settlement of the conflict. They have functioned for years and were engaged in this issue. However, sometimes they function actively and sometimes with interruptions. I am glad that recently the co-chairs of the Minsk Group in the person of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of the United States George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac more actively cooperate with each other in order to resolve the conflict. I have to say that in the past we did not observe this activity, this close cooperation, and perhaps this was one of the reasons that the conflict did not get a peaceful solution.

Now we are happy that there is understanding and cooperation between Russia and the United States of America. We cherish great hopes in it. You know that since 1999, we periodically hold meetings of the President of Armenia. Most of the leaders of great countries, Russia, the United States of America and France consider that, first of all, we have to find a way to the agreement ourselves. Perhaps it is right, but here we are not in the same position. First, Armenia for various reasons has occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and expelled all the Azerbaijanis from there. But they were not satisfied with it and took the advantage of the favorable opportunity, created for them due to internal instability in Azerbaijan, thus, it expanded the war zone and occupied seven other districts populated only by the Azerbaijanis. All the Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia and no any of them could stay there. Therefore, we have one million refugees.

I thank you for visiting a refugee settlement, the best of those we have. Because they are still close Baku, in the building, although it is not fully completed.

Alexy II: Does the building have a roof?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, it does. If you drive to the surrounding areas located for two or three hours far from the town - I visit all the camps - you will see, that people are living in tents for seven, eight, even nine years. Children are born in the tents. We have created conditions in the tents for them to study and to create new families. People die in tents. Where to bury them? Everyone wants to be buried in his native land. It is a tradition developed for each person. But he dies in the tent. It is necessary to create a new cemetery near the tents, and there is no opportunity to bury him in their native lands, because everything has been destroyed there. I mention the fact that on the occupied lands all the cemeteries and holy places have been destroyed.

I do not want to continue my thoughts on these tragic notes. In this regard, we have not equal positions with Armenia. They have superiority in this respect and insist that their conditions should be accepted. Their condition is to grant the status of independence to Nagorno-Karabakh. There cannot be another Armenian state in the territory of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be annexed to Armenia. The fundamental principles of international law, the United Nations and OSCE are for the territorial integrity of each state and the inviolability of existing borders. Armenia demands from us to give a part of our territory to them and in return, they will release the areas around Nagorno-Karabakh, which they have occupied. Probably after the liberation of these territories, people will have to rebuild their houses for another 50 years, because everything has been destroyed there.

Just recently there were representatives of the Minsk Group of OSCE, the United States, Russia and France. They visited Nagorno-Karabakh, crossing the frontline of fire and drove through Agdam. We have a large district, where the number of population was 160-170 thousand, one of the ancient centers of culture, with its beauty and its own characteristics. The most important thing is that many people lived there. The chairmen were there before and now they confirmed that everything has been destroyed there. Therefore, we want peace and to solve the issue peacefully. However, it is necessary that the Armenian side must be more constructive. Unfortunately, we do not see it yet. If their position remains as it is, it will lead to very grave consequences. Because our people and population cannot tolerate the occupation of our lands and that they will liberate their lands by all means, in the cost of their blood.

Russia has been actively promoting peaceful settlement recently. On June 1 there will be a meeting of the heads of states of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Minsk. There probably, we shall have a tripartite meeting with President Vladimir Putin and the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The official visit of the Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to Azerbaijan played a very important and crucial role in the beginning of the new century and the new millennium. On January 9 he arrived here. Our nation highly appreciated it. With a feeling of offence I have to say that many years we have been inviting the Russian President and the prime minister, but we did not get a positive response. But for a short time after my invitation Vladimir Vladimirovich accepted it and came here. He saw the situation, just as you did.

In the same Slavic University, where you were awarded an honorary doctorate title, he also became an honorary doctor of the University. By the way, in the history of the university only two persons have become honorary doctors of the university, the Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. All this, of course, was a surprise for him to some extent, as well as for you. That is, the mood, which created by different forces to complicate the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia exists today, too. But at the same time when the President observes everything by his own eyes, appreciating the situation without using any information, and when the Patriarch of All Russia, observes everything with his own eyes, has the opportunity to appreciate the situation, it is considered to be very important. We need it. I repeat it because they do not work, if they worked in their own lands or engaged with farming, they would yield its fruits. This land is very fertile and they would be engaged in production or in other works.

In such a difficult situation our country is developing. Being situated between the West and the East and the Caucasus it has an extremely geo-strategic importance. The Republic has significant natural resources and there is an opportunity for us all to use it more effectively and to provide our people better living conditions and, of course, to have more active and enhanced trade and other relations with our neighbors and Russia. We have some projects, such as the Russian company «Lukoil», which is active, and, of course, receive the benefits from this collaboration as well as Azerbaijan.

Alexy II: And still working places are opened.

Heydar Aliyev: Of course. We now have 32 foreign companies in the country. From the Russian side unfortunately, there is only one, although I invited many Russian companies. Perhaps, still there is a lot of oil in Russia, so they do not want to go further.

Considering all this, your peace mission is of great importance. Therefore, I ask you to continue your functions. Our Sheikh al-Islam is active in this respect. He often informs me about the meetings with you and the hope he cherishes in your help. I would like to get efficient results. Peace is needed everywhere. In Minsk, there will be a meeting named «Caucasus Four». Because everyone in the world today is concerned in particular for the post-Soviet space, international terrorism and extremism. You know what is happening in the Northern Caucasus, there are conflicts in Georgia and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This unique region of the world, as the Caucasus, is now a spot where there are conditions for all kinds of terrorists and extremists.

We have yet another question which worries us. It is the spread of religious extremism. Religion has always been considered and is considered as the noblest sphere of human activity in society. When some religious groups fulfill terrorist and extremist tasks or in the name of religion are engaged in completely opposite things, they damage nations, countries and individuals, it is, of course, very intolerable. By the way, we have to protect not only Azerbaijan, but also all the Caucasus from it. You know the situation in the Northern Caucasus and the Central Asia. We must protect ourselves from it as well.

Of course, first of all, I want you to be more active in the issue of promoting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in liberation of the occupied lands, ensuring the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the return of refugees home. But at the same time, I do not approach this issue selfishly, with the narrow position of Azerbaijan. While talking to you, I keep in mind that I am a politician concerned with the fate of humanity, at least in our region and this part of the earth. You might oppose the appropriate forces against all these dangers to ensure that they have not developed.

I understand that you have such opportunities that only within the limits you can help to solve the issues about which I ask you. I share my thoughts with you in order to remind you again the situation, about what can happen in future and what we need to do in order to ensure peace and peaceful relations among peoples, nations and states. By the way, the primary goal of religion always was peace.

I do not propagate anything, I just want to tell you these elementary truths that you know very well. I express my views and thoughts. Thus, I thank you once more. The order which you have awarded me - is an exceptional event for me, and this, of course, will find its rightful place in my biography. Thank you.

Alexy II: Thank you. Dear Heydar Aliyev, thank you for sharing your thoughts, because we are concerned in what is happening in the Caucasus. Because this is a special, full of grace and blessed land, where under the warm southern sun nature gives fruits of the earth, and when the lands are devastated and the people are opposed to each other and there is bloodshed, of course, it worries us. As to the issue of the relations between our three parties, my brother Sheikh said that from the side of the new Catholicos also expressed the idea of the need for such a meeting. I think the religious leaders here are united in the opinion that you need to meet, to find a way for the peaceful solutions.

During the period of the tragedy, which took place in Chechnya, we were also always involved in this tragedy. The acts of terrorism that took place are spread even far beyond the Caucasus. Bombings of apartments in Moscow and Buynaksk brought death to civilians. There took place hostage business that is opposite to the morality. We have lost three priests, too, who served in Grozny, were captured and killed in Chechen captivity. This is also a tragedy that we experienced. The issues of these refugees who have been deprived from possible opportunities and are now in various surrounding areas are of this kind.

But being here in the Azerbaijani land, the first thing that we should help - and here we share the same views with our brother, Sheikh-ul-Islam - is to do everything possible to resolve the conflict.

We cannot take a political decision, but from the point of view of morality and humanity we shall address the government leaders to solve this problem. Because behind of this problem there are fates of millions, who, like you said, very vividly, are born, create a family and die in tents, living without a roof over their head. It should once again lead us to take all possible measures depending on us to ensure the solution of this issue.

I would like to thank you for the repeated invitation to visit Azerbaijan. I think that everything happens for the good of time. Vladimir Vladimirovich also made his first visit abroad in XXI century, in the third millennium in Azerbaijan.

This is my first visit out of Moscow in XXI century, in the third millennium. This is a good start to the third millennium and it is a good start that will last. The hospitality that we have seen here was very sincere and we shall never forget it. We are grateful that these days we were all the time with our brother, Sheikh-ul-Islam Pasha-zade and with your counselor, who accompanied us on your instructions. We met with many government officials of Azerbaijan, have seen their commitment to peace and their desire to develop Azerbaijan under your wise leadership.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

Translated from newspaper «Azerbaijan», May 30, 2001