From the talk of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev with director of the OSCE Bureau for democratic institutions and human rights Gerard Studman and accompanying him persons - Presidential palace, 8 June, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Honorable Mr. Studman!

Honorable guests!

I greet you and I am very pleased to see you in Azerbaijan. Being a member of the OSCE, Azerbaijan cooperates with this international institution in several directions. As you know, the area of our most active cooperation is the matter of settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict via the OSCE Minsk group. We hold many meetings and negotiations along this line. The extremely important decisions have been adopted in this connection at the OSCE Budapest Summit in 1994, Lisbon Summit of 1996 and Istanbul Summit of 1999. However, we could not achieve settlement of this issue yet.

Another important sphere of our cooperation with the OSCE is covered by your terms of reference. The OSCE representation has already opened here. I have kept my word as regards this matter. The prime minister has informed me that a suitable place was allotted for the representation. However, this cooperation will be carried out in your vector of democracy, human rights, elections and others. It is by no means an easy field of activity. Nevertheless, I think that we have distinctly advanced in this issue, since there is no war here. The laws are valid here and these laws, as well as international legal standards are observed.

I am very pleased of the cooperation with and your bureau. I think you render very valuable assistance to our country in the process of development of democracy, human rights and freedoms and all the democratic values on the whole. We have used until now, we use today and we will use your recommendations and your experience. I appreciate you for your visiting Azerbaijan. Please.

Gerard Studman: Thank you very much, Mr. President! It is a great pleasure for me to come back to Azerbaijan again and meet You.

Azerbaijan is among the countries the OSCE has established fruitful cooperation with. It became possible owing to Your efforts. I am confident that opening of the OSCE representation in Azerbaijan will become the next step in successful cooperation mentioned by me. It will play an important role in speeding up the implementation of our joint projects and more steadfast observation over these projects.

Today, I am especially pleased of being in Azerbaijan, since it is known that your parliament is discussing the legislative act "On the Central Election Commission". If You remember, there were certain difficulties during the discussion of this law and before it. We gave our proposals and recommendations. We think the laws related to elections should be adopted in Azerbaijan. The structure of the Central Election Commission should be formed so as to allow the electoral legislation to divide accountability between the opposition and power, as well as have the existing realities reflected in the legislation. According to the data we have, I remember that the last edition of the legislative draft was submitted to the parliament. We consider this draft to be a very important step ahead. I personally consider that this draft meets the international and OSCE standards in full. Therefore, I hope this draft will be adopted. Despite the fact that this law is not perfect and suitable for everyone, we nevertheless hope that it will be adopted.

Today, in the morning, I have come across the critical comments both by the "Yeni Azerbaijan" party and a number of opposition parties. However, the mediatory experience allows me to say that if an intermediary undergoes critics by both sides equally, it means he has fulfilled his work properly. In any case, I think this new law will lay a new and more improved legal basis as regards the parliamentary elections.

We are henceforth ready to assist Azerbaijan and official circles of your country. Before long, we will start the joint work over another important law - the law on elections. We will help you and also observe closely how electoral commissions implement their practical activity. We will also observe their work.

Mr. President, You will agree with us that we are all interested in the formation and practical implementation of such a system when both sides realize their accountability and can implement it into life.

In any case, I state that it is a very courageous step undertaken by the government and we highly estimate the concessions and positions of the government representatives upon discussing the given issues. I want to stress that the opposition parties have also showed a functional and serious attitude during the discussions held with the assistance of our experts. Taking all this into account, we consider that your country has taken a very proper step towards the implementation of reforms of democratic systems.

Taking an opportunity, we also want to express You appreciation in respect of another issue, which we consider to be extremely important. It is related to the document signed by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Azerbaijan. We highly appreciate this document.

We will henceforward continue our cooperation in the line of carrying out the democratic reforms in Azerbaijan, construction of a civilized, trustworthy and democratic society and development of democracy.

Taking an opportunity, I also want to wish successful completion of the efforts made by You for the settlement of the conflict taken place in the region.

As it seems to me, everyone understands well that a problem of this kind, i.e., a problem entailed by the conflict is much difficult than the adoption of the law "On Central Election Commission" and achievement of concessions over this law. Thank You very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You, I appreciate You. I express You appreciation for very valuable and important words and thoughts about our work. Both at the previous meeting with You and today, I state that the state of Azerbaijan considers its primary objective the advance on the way of democracy based on the Constitution adopted in 1995. If we had not followed this idea, this intent and this desire, we would have not adopted the Constitution in 1995. You also know that I was the chair of the Constitutional Commission. It means that these are the ideas coming from the bottom of my heart, this is our political way chosen in the matter of state construction. We do it by no means to gain someone`s favour or to get someone`s "excellent" or "good" grade. We do it because we consider this way as the only way of Azerbaijan`s development as an independent state.

Unlike other young independent states, we do it at the time when Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict is ongoing, when 20 percent of Azerbaijani lands are occupied and one million Azerbaijanis, who turned into internally displaced people and refugees in their country, live in tents. It is our principal position. However, it is a broad concept and it does not mean only election of parliament or carrying out reforms. It is at the same time pluralism, human freedom, freedom of press and implementation of socio-economic and political reforms.

Within the past five years, we have done much in this area. The process of state construction in Azerbaijan is successfully going on. We have carried out large-scale economic, political and social reforms. Just this ensured the fact that Azerbaijan has disengaged from the hard situation and it is today a stable and economically developing state. If we did not carry it out as a complex and based on our Constitution and laws, we would not achieve such a progress.

Today, we are on the eve of affiliation to the Council of Europe and we have assumed obligations. We will fulfill these obligations too. If we did not want to follow this way, then why we would become a member of the Council of Europe - we would administer as we consider it necessary and would not face a number of problems. In other words, joining the Council of Europe is not a boon at all, it means to assume new obligations. We understand it well.

Therefore, on the one part, we fulfill practical work and on the other part, we move forward. In any case, Azerbaijan is the first among the CIS countries as regards its socio-economic development. However, no country has 20 percent of its lands occupied and none of these countries has a million refugees. Yesterday, I had a talk with the Prince of Jordan who is at the same time the consultant to the UNO Supreme Commissariat on refugees. He has detailed information: there are 2 million refugees in Caucasia. One million of them are Azerbaijanis.

As you know, besides the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, Azerbaijan has suffered many tense and complicated internal processes. In February, 1992, the power changed in Azerbaijan and in June, 1993, it happened again. Seven years has passed since the time when Azerbaijan was in the state of civil war. Today is June 8. On June 9, 1993, I came from Nakhichevan to Baku. The negotiations were held with me for several days. I was invited to Baku, but I did not want to come. I just thought that I had definite merits before my people as a citizen and I did not have to burden myself henceforward.

Many aksakals, scientists and representatives of intelligentsia came to Nakhichevan to invite me to Baku. The leadership of Azerbaijan of the time - ex-president, ex-speaker of the parliament, ex-prime minister, who are now in radical opposition, were among the people who phoned me time and again, sent people and aircrafts to urge me to come to Baku. And finally, having arrived in Baku on June 9, I became a witness of the civil war. Therefore, I had to assume the charge of speaker of the Azerbaijan parliament on June 15. The following period is also well-known to you. The putsch attempts and terror acts have repeatedly taken place.

I recall it to illustrate you that Azerbaijan radically differs from other CIS countries. They did not wage war with neighbors and did not suffer a civil war or so many coup attempts. However, even in such conditions, I declared since the very beginning, since 1993, when I was elected the President that Azerbaijan would follow the way of democracy and we did not have another way.

Today, the opposition considers that "the authority in Azerbaijan does not follow the democracy path". It is their opinion. We have freedom of expression, but the majority of Azerbaijan`s population regard it otherwise. Therefore, everyone is free to speak what he thinks, but the reality is striking. We highly appreciate the cooperation with you since we lead our country just along this path.

While constructing a democratic society and democratic state, we by no means think that we know everything. It cannot be achieved by reading books. Books and life are different. Life is based on experience. The world experience and European experience - you have all this accumulated. Therefore, we attach special importance to the cooperation with you. Nevertheless, I have always said it and repeat it again that we need this cooperation to be outspoken and our work should be evaluated impartially.

If we get a "good" grade, we do not aspire to an "excellent" grade. We want to get a deserved "good". But if we deserve a "good" grade and get an "average" or "poor" grade, then of course, it does not suit us.

I accept with satisfaction Your opinion regarding the bill "On Central Election Commission". On the one hand, we have tried to make this law democratic and on the other hand, we tried to have all the requirements and thoughts of the opposition reflected in this law so as to provide their participation at these elections, but, unfortunately, they have a great appetite. They want everything to meet their desires. In some cases it comes out that legal framework exists only for the authority, but not for the opposition. And it is unfair. However, you can witness that we overcome these difficulties and as you have mentioned, we make concessions. We will later speak with You about it. Our aim is to adopt such a law on the election commission that would provide holding of fair and rational elections.

We could not also adopt some of your recommendations, but the opposition wishes to adopt none of your recommendations. Therefore, they strive for getting a special status for themselves. But I think we will be able to come to a common denominator with your help.

I express You gratitude once again for the high estimate given to our work. I assure You that we will always cooperate with you. We will always use your experience and recommendations. We always rely on your objective attitude.

Gerard Studman: Thank You very much, Mr. President.

The "Azerbaijan newspaper, June 9, 2000