Speech of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev at the official reception held on behalf of lord-mayor of London Richard Nichols in honour of the President of Azerbaijan - London, Guildhall Palace, July 21, 1998

Honourable Mr. lord-mayor!

Honourable ladies and gentlemen!

I heartily greet you and wish you all health and happiness.

Honourable Mr. lord-mayor, I express my gratitude for today`s reception. I have listened to Your speech with great satisfaction and I was very pleased of Your valuable opinion regarding the contacts between Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom, as well as regarding future cooperation of our countries.

I feel very happy that today, this evening, I am together with You at this hall. I and the delegation of Azerbaijan, attending the Guildhall Palace understand well that we are in an historic building in the very center of the United Kingdom, in London.

In due time, we learned much from the books, read about your country, your people, their heroic history, culture, literature and science. The information about your country and your people obtained from books and then from films always amazed us and caused sympathy of Azerbaijan people to you and your country.

I participate at the state ceremony in the grand hall of this palace for the second time. In May 1995, the heads of the world states, first of all delegations, heads of states and governments of Europe assembled in this hall at the invitation of Queen of the United Kingdom and we celebrated together the 50th anniversary of the victory in World War II.

During World War II, the European nations suffered great victims. Azerbaijan people also suffered big losses. There is a merit, a share of all the people, including Azerbaijan people in the victory gained in World War II. Therefore, as the president of the independent Azerbaijan Republic, I participated at that ceremony as a full right guest.

The ceremony and the triumph taken place in this hall in 1995 with the participation of the Queen of the United Kingdom and heads of states of European countries remains in my memory even today.

However, today, I feel much excited because this reception is devoted only to the independent Azerbaijan Republic, its delegation and president.

In fact, everything witnesses the heroic history of Great Britain here. How skilful and self-sacrificing architects and constructors and simply citizens were those who had constructed and created this palace in the middle ages. They left a big heritage for today`s generation of Great Britain, the United Kingdom. You are justly proud of these historical achievements. And we, as people respecting and loving your country very much are glad together with you.

It is already two days I am in your country on an official visit. This visit, taken place at the invitation of Prime Minister of your country Mr. Tony Blair has very big significance for the development of relations between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan. Numerous meetings and negotiations have taken place within the past two days and today, we have signed very important documents, contracts and agreements for our countries and for our future cooperation.

Four years ago, in February 1994, I paid the first official visit to your country as the President of Azerbaijan. That time, the first contracts and documents were signed between our countries and governments. Several documents were concluded in succeeding years and thus, sufficient legal-normative basis for the establishment of cooperation and friendship relations between our countries and governments was created.

We are very happy that within the past years, the contacts between our countries have successively developed and widened and now, they are on a high level. Yesterday, we attended the meeting of members of the British-Azerbaijan society in the "Klarigis" hotel. Several hundreds of people assembled there. As far as I know, there were even more people wishing to participate there, but the leadership of the society did not simply have an opportunity for this.

But in 1994, this society did not exist and Azerbaijan was very little known in your country. In this short period of time, our big society managed by famous and very respectable people of Your country who used to work at public service for many years was created here.

The joint Chamber of Commerce of our countries has been founded, which already functions practically and brings good results. More than 100 companies of the United Kingdom operate in Azerbaijan. Only the BP Company of your country has invested in Azerbaijan 260 million dollars for the realization of contract. The companies of the United Kingdom working by requests of the Azerbaijan International Operational Company engaged in the realization of the first contract signed in 1994, have received orders to the sum of 350 million dollars and are implementing this work now.

I can illustrate many other figures demonstrating the present state of our economic links. I think all the above mentioned by me gives everyone a wide impression of our contacts.

On the grounds of our meetings and the documents concluded yesterday and today, we have taken vast steps in the development of future contacts between our countries. Our meetings here are held in the condition of friendship and sincerity and we are all rendered great hospitality.

Today, I have met and had a very interesting talk with the Queen of the United Kingdom. I consider it an historical event for myself and Azerbaijan people.

I have met with Prime Minister of your country Mr. Tony Blair and our negotiations were held in very constructive and warm atmosphere and were very intensional. We analyzed the contacts between our countries and adopted joint resolutions on our future work. The Prime Minister showed very big interest in Azerbaijan, Caucasus region and transport line Europe-Caucasus- Asia. As a result of these negotiations, frank relations were established between me and the Prime Minister, which I estimate highly and I think that it is very important for the future development of our countries.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair and I signed a political declaration devoted to the development of friendship and cooperation between our governments. This declaration covers all the aspects of cooperation. The necessary provisions on political, economic, scientific, cultural and humanitarian cooperation found reflection in it. During negotiations, we focused very big attention on economic cooperation, as well as emphasized the unity of our opinions in the field of widening and development of cooperation in political field.

Along with it, four big contracts between your country and Azerbaijan were signed in the residence of the Prime Minister. The contract signed by the BP Company with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan has very big future. I repeat that the contract signed by the BP and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan on joint exploitation of three big oilfields in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea has great future. I consider that the contracts signed between the British Petroleum and Azerbaijan up to date will provide our economic cooperation until the end of XXI century.

I am very glad that along with the BP Company, the newly established Monument Company has occupied a special place in Azerbaijan and signed very important contract with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. The "RAMKO" company is already working in Azerbaijan, but parallel with the offshore work, it appealed regarding joint exploitation of very perspective and ancient "Muradkhanly" oilfield overland of Azerbaijan and today, it has signed a contract with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan.

You know that the privatization program is being successively implemented in Azerbaijan. The process of creation of private sector is developing now very headily. From this point of view, the signing of an agreement between the Morrison Company of your country and the administration of Baku city on the construction of a big hotel and a business center in Azerbaijan, in Baku, is the visual evidence of it.

Speaking about oil, I would recall that Azerbaijan is a very ancient oil country. 90 percent of the world oil was produced in Azerbaijan at the beginning of the century. Yesterday, I met a representative of the Shell Company who informed me on the 100-year history of this Company and presented me a valuable book. In this book, he showed me a map, according to which, the Shell Company first delivered oil by tankers across the Black Sea to Europe in 1892.

Being within the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan made its contribution to the victory over fascism in the war of 1941-1945. Those years, 70 percent of oil produced in the Soviet Union was extracted in Azerbaijan. In 1949, the extraction of oil from the bed of the sea also started in Azerbaijan for the first time in the world.

But now, we feel the demand for current equipment and technology, as well as capital investment. We pass resolutions on joint exploitation of oil and gas fields belonging to Azerbaijan for the cooperation both with your country and other countries. I consider these resolutions to be mutually beneficial.

Recently, we have discussed all these issues and we will discuss them in forthcoming days and accept necessary measures for more rapid development of relations between our countries in the future.

Your country has very ancient and valuable traditions. It is true that sometimes you are not satisfied with some of these traditions and want to change them. You may, as you will. But we treat all your traditions with high respect and want to take over the useful one and apply it in Azerbaijan.

We are carrying out the process of construction of democratic, legal and secular state in Azerbaijan. We have established and develop market economy in Azerbaijan and carry out the process of privatization. We have fulfilled big work in this field and achieved good results. But much is still to be done. Therefore, we try to make use of your experience in socio-political and economic areas. Therefore, these negotiations and meetings have special importance for us.

Our countries are situated far from each other. But the work carried out within the recent years by the both sides, brought us much closer. We estimate it positively and want to establish closer contacts with you and we will make every effort for this.

Your country also faces many problems. The new government formed last year has accomplished big work in this sphere. Being interested in your country, we got acquainted with it and I congratulate you with your achievements. I have no doubt that you will be able to solve all the problems in the future.

The United Kingdom is one of the largest countries in the world and ranks with the most economically developed countries. You have great history and big achievements. I wish even bigger development to your country.

I wish each of you new success in life. I wish your country and your people peace and tranquility. I wish the relations between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan to develop more headily.

I ask you to raise glasses in honour of the United Kingdom and the people of this country. In honour of the Queen of the United Kingdom and its government! In honour of future development of contacts between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan! In honour of the lord-mayor of London and his spouse! For you, honourable friends! Good luck to you. I wish you health and happiness once again.

"Heydar Aliyev: Our Independence is Eternal" (speeches, statements, interviews, letters, appeals and decrees) - Azerneshr, Baku-2005, volume 16, p.375