From the talk of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the delegation headed by Lord George Robertson, Secretary - General of NATO - January 16, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished Secretary General!

Distinguished guests!

I welcome you in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan joined the Partnership for Peace programme of NATO in 1994. I remember my meetings in the headquarters of NATO in Brussels and my signing the document on Partnership for Peace. Much work has been done for our cooperation in the past six years. We highly appreciate it. I think that we must intensify our cooperation.

I suppose that the main goal of your visit to the region is also connected with it. I am glad to meet you again. I remember our meetings in Moscow and London. Finally you visited Azerbaijan.

I am aware of your visit to Georgia a while ago. However, you hadn`t been to other countries of the Southern Caucasus. Finally you visited Armenia and Azerbaijan. I am very satisfied. Please.

George Robertson: Mr. President, I am very glad to visit your country and meet you. I regret that I couldn`t come here in September as it was planned in advance. An emergency situation took place in Yugoslavia then; therefore, I had to change my plan and go to Georgia only. But then I declared that without visiting all the countries of the Caucasus, my task will not be complete. I am very satisfied with my visit to your country and meet you for the third time.

You just mentioned that Azerbaijan joined Partnership for Peace program six years ago. We highly appreciate Azerbaijan`s important role in it. It is pleasant to see the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan here, because your diplomats have been taking an active part in meetings during my tenure. You have been serving as President longer than my tenure as Secretary General of NATO. But I think that we have a lot in common, including our interests on Partnership for Peace, peace, security and stability in this region. I am waiting to see Baku and the Caspian Sea soon.

By the way, I was born near the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, I am very happy to have an opportunity to see one of the important seas of the Earth.

Heydar Aliyev: Scotland and Azerbaijan have a lot in common.

George Robertson: I am sure there are many similarities, which we shall find out during our stay here.

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Secretary - General, thank you. I am satisfied with your visit. But you have very few time. Naturally, this time is enough for meetings here. But it would take more time to see Baku and the Caspian Sea. I suppose that our officials will help you see a lot during the short time. When joining Partnership for Peace in 1994, we accepted the establishment of peace in the world, as well as in the Caucasus as a priority. The title of the prorgamme proves it. But you are aware that there is no peace in the Caucasus now. The situation of no war, no peace prevails here now.

You have come to Azerbaijan from Armenia, where you had some meetings. Because of the unconstructive position of Armenia we haven`t solved the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict yet.

NATO is a military organization. You know who is guilty in the conflict. Having claimed to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan, Armenia launched the conflict in 1988, it was turned to a war later. As a result of the war, which lasted several years, the Armenian armed forces occupied 20 per cent of the territories of Azerbaijan. Over one million people forced to leave their homes who now live in hard conditions, mostly in tents for 7-8 years.

The world community, as well as, NATO, still tolerates this unjustice. I think that NATO`s main goal is to establish peace in Europe. Some call it a domination. But we think that your organization is responsible for peace. You intervened Yugoslavia and fought against injustice. However, there is still an injustice here in our region. I suppose that we shall talk about it.

The security in the Souther Caucasus depends on many issues. At first, the conflicts in the Southern Caucasus must be switched off. The Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict is important among them. Because, it is a conflict between two independent countries, members of the UN, OSCE and Partnership for Peace. Thus, we think that international organizations, as well as NATO must pay more attention to this issue. This situation can not last forever.

We can discuss many issues. But this conflict is our priority. That`s why I am disclosing my position on it.

George Robertson: Mr. President, thank you. I would like to comment on one issue. I would like to thank you and your nation for the participation in peacekeeping forces in the stabilization in Kosovo. It may be the biggest peacekeeping operation ever. The peacekeeping troops include military forces of the members of NATO, as well as of Russia and other non-NATO countries, such as Azerbaijan. We thank you for your help.

As for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, NATO is not engaged in this issue. Before my visit to Azerbaijan, I went to Armenia, where I met President Kocharian and told my opinion to him, too.

There is a big problem, which affects the entire region. We must solve it. If the belligerent parties can not solve this problem, economic, social and military problems around it will continue. However, the solution depends mainly on the belligerent parties; I hope that you will reach an agreement very soon.

I think that the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have an experience and a will to clarify the correct position and solve it. The solution of the problem would be a nice example for the Southern Caucasus and Europe.

Other organizations, such as OSCE, the Minsk Group can help find the solution. The visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to Azerbaijan last week gladdened me. I appreciate his purpose to help you as a mediator. Even though NATO is not engaged in this conflict, it will support the efforts on the solution of the conflict and lead a monitoring on observation of the treaty later. We`ll discuss this issue later; but I just want to note that I evaluate the significance of this issue for both Azerbaijan and Armenia, the entire region and Europe.

(Heydar Aliyev thanked George Robertson and presented him a book on the cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO, titled "For Peace and Security" published in English.) 

George Robertson: Mr. President, I shall look through it. I hope that the next book will tell about our further cooperation. The book contains also my photos as the new Secretary - General of NATO. Thank you very much. It is a nice present.

The newspaper "Azerbaycan", January 17, 2001