From the conversation between President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev and former adviser of ex-President of Armenia Jirair Libaridyan - March 13, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: Dear Mr. Libaridyan, we have heretofore cooperated with you on the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Unfortunately, we could not come to the solution of the issue. Certainly, our cooperation does not help us make even small progress.

I personally met you last in Germany and we had a detailed talk there. It is in the sense that soon after Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is settled, it will be beneficial for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is to be regretted that we could not obtain our object. However, we still adhere to our previous position giving preference to the peaceful solution of the conflict.

I think if we remove the assumed obstacles, we could obtain desired results in this sphere. More than 10 years have passed since the conflict started. In February, it was 11 years. It seems to be a rather long term from the historical point of view in order both Armenian and Azerbaijani sides could realize, that such a situation cannot last forever.

Today, we remain to be the followers of the quickest, but fair solution of the conflict. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored; its lands occupied by Armenian armed forces should be liberated; Azerbaijani citizens forcibly banished from native places should return and Nagorno-Karabakh should be provided with a high self-government status as a part of Azerbaijan. I hope, we will henceforth make more efforts to reach this goal.

I know you retired from your job in Armenia some time ago and now constantly live in the USA. After you got detached a little, You have an opportunity to more equitably analyze issues and perhaps give more useful advices. In this connection, I appreciate Your initiative to visit Azerbaijan. I was told you are here for the first time. It means, that it is even more important for you to see with Your own eyes the country you have not seen before, but cooperated with.

I approve of your this initiative. I consider that while being here, you can continue negotiations with your ex-colleague Vafa Guluzadeh and exchange views.

Jirair Libaridyan: Mr. President! Thank You. It is a great honor for me to be here and I am glad that you received me. You have very correctly mentioned that I left my previous position. I came to Armenia to work for six months. Then these six months turned to be seven years. My former chief Ter-Petrosyan told me that I was a good historian, but not a good mathematician and therefore he would tell me when six months were over. Then I had to convince him that seven years was a much longer term than six months and I had to return to my family. If I managed to work for seven years and my family supported me during this time, it means we were all loyal to peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Today, I am a free person and I am here as a representative of Eastern-Western University, as well as Areks Institute in Washington. Now, I am wiring a book. I am going to finish it this year. It is a book of this conflict. I want to write this book so that all the positions would be specified fairly. I want to show how this small conflict was turning into the conflict of two persons, two nations and then into a regional and a military conflict.

Besides, I would like to reflect various opinions in my book as well. I would also like to display separately different methodologies of the conflict solution. I will show how different states were joining to the mediation process on the present problem and what role they played in this process.

It seems perfect that I got a chance to think and write. I think that you as well as my friend Vafa Guluzadeh understand it well. Today, I have won the chance to work freely.

To be a free personality does not mean that I have lost interest in the region and I am no longer interested in the conflict. I read about this region and the conflict at the first opportunity and I am ready to meet with anyone including you, as soon as possible to have a clearer idea of the problem and to more deeply analyze the fundamental questions bound with this conflict.

Mr. President. You have very correctly emphasized that when one is not sitting at the table of negotiations, he has more opportunity to think over everything. It seems to me that what I have written will help those striving for better understanding of the conflict and solve it.

I have no doubt that the sides involved in the conflict want to solve it. I think all the involved citizens, as well as all those living in this region and all the world`s citizens have right to live in peace. We now need political will to achieve it. Unfortunately, this political will did not show up within seven years of my work. It seems to me that now, having found strength, we have to come to a common political solution.

It is obvious that this solution should be compromise based. I think the basic issues - the way the conflict is to be solved - should stay apart. It is also clear to me - and I think it is clear to many, but unfortunately not to everybody, that we should approach to the problem so that Armenian people would not constantly be in the state of hostility with their neighbors. Therefore, it seems to me that the problem cannot be solved by using force, it can be only solved through negotiations. And as a result, the neighboring nations will not be enemies any more. Independence gained by these states allows them to live in peace, regional cooperation and friendship. At the same time, the people of these countries will have chance not to repeat acts that previously led to tragedy.

I had a feeling of great respect regarding cooperation with my former colleague, but friend of my whole life Vafa Guluzadeh. I also very well remember our meeting with you in Bonn, in July, 1996. I can remember it was very late. your arguments and your reasoning helped continue our negotiations afterwards and I am very respectful to it.

Being today a free citizen, I tell all my former colleagues from many countries that my interest in the solution of this issue and my concern towards it, have not flagged at all. Of course, I would not like to say anything that can somehow damage or interfere in this process. However, I consider if I undertake something or say something, it will benefit everybody.

In November, last year, I and some Azerbaijani writers were asked to write about our views concerning the problem and direct it to the OSCE. I continue this work. I hope discussions will not be based on rhetoric and confrontation, but will be held in the spirit of goodwill. So, it is important to understand a position of others and their viewpoint for the solution of the problem and I, as a free personality, want to do it.

I do not believe that the sides and the nations involved in the conflict are interested in its extension and time is working to anybody`s good. All the involved in the conflict sides face definite difficulties. Conflicts and wars cause harm to realizing reality by people. I want any child living in this region, to have the same opportunities to learn and live well, as well as to get education as my daughter does. In general, children have always been the first and the last point for me as they are the future of life. We are often angry, but we are already grown-up people and difficult to change. But we can grant out children good life. We have to provide all the children with good opportunities. Let them not grow up with the feeling of hatred against each other and humanity.

I once more express to You my gratitude for this meeting. It seems to me that Your efforts, as well as efforts of others and common realistic view is the mechanism that will lead to the settlement of this conflict.

Heydar Aliyev: I am glad that we have the same approach towards this issue and it is based on the standpoint that continuation of the conflict will bring no use to anybody. We should try as far as possible to solve the conflict quickly and establish peace and order in the region.

I repeatedly stated that Azerbaijan does not want to live at enmity with Armenia. I hope that Armenia has the same opinion as we independently of ourselves, as fate has willed, live in the same region and are neighbors. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan will refuse this neighborhood.

It means that we will remain neighbors for centuries in the future as it used to be before. Therefore we need to restore relations.

It is undoubtedly connected with the conflict settlement. I am sure if we achieve this, the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan will in a short become fully normal and then two independent countries will be able to fruitfully cooperate with each other. Our position in the region will be also stable.

Let us strive on this way.

"Bakinski Rabochyi" newspaper, 15 March, 1999