Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev during the meeting with the representatives of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Ukraine - Kiev, March 25, 1997

It is my first official visit to Ukraine. During my visits to foreign countries I meet Azerbaijanis living abroad. With no doubt I am in need of such kind of visit here. I requested to meet some Azerbaijanis if not all living in Ukraine, too.

I want to know how many Azerbaijanis live in Ukraine, how they live, what they do, how their connection with Azerbaijan is, what problems they face. I was told that we don’t have much time to learn all this. But we can learn something within a short time. Today I return to Azerbaijan. It is our first meeting. I didn’t know that five hundred thousand Azerbaijanis live in Ukraine. It is a great number. Certainly. I consider it positive. Not all should live in a homeland. It is not up to me or you that you happened to live in Ukraine. It is the destiny of each of you. By living abroad they can represent their countries. It is beneficial.

I was told that some Azerbaijanis are not treated well here. Who does it and how? I need to learn details in order to raise this question when meeting the Ukrainian President today.

Somebody:Azerbaijanis here suffer mostly from the law-enforcement bodies. They put pressure on Azerbaijanis more than on other ethnic groups.

Heydar Aliyev: Alongside Ukrainians, there are Russians and other ethnic groups.

Somebody: There are nearly 17 thousand Armenians in Ukraine.

Heydar Aliyev: Ukraine and its President Leonid Kuchma has a very good attitude towards Azerbaijan. You should be aware of the fact that Ukraine and Azerbaijan develop high-level relations. The Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma paid an official visit to Azerbaijan in July 1995 by my invitation. It was a successful visit. Eventually a number of documents were signed in order to develop cooperation between our countries.

Leonid Kuchma invited me to pay an official visit to Ukraine. Unfortunately, I could not realize it in 1996 because of overload of our work and other reasons. But now, in 1997 I am on an official visit to Ukraine.

I have a lot to do. Tomorrow I am going to leave for France. On March 28, I must be in Moscow. Although I am busy, I did not change my visit scheduled for March 24-25.

We were welcomed in Ukraine with a great hospitality, kindness and friendliness. My negotiations with President Leonid Kuchma were very successful. Our delegation held talks with Prime Minister Lazarenko, Foreign Minister Mr. Udovenko, and first deputy of the Parliament Mr. Tkachenko. Yesterday we signed 17 documents. One of the key documents implies that strategic partnership has been established between Azerbaijan and Ukraine. We had signed such a document only with Georgia. It firmly indicates that Azerbaijan and Ukraine have both mutual interests.

Among former Soviet countries Ukraine is of special importance for Azerbaijan. Nowadays we are assured that Ukraine also attaches great importance to Azerbaijan. There are abundant opportunities to develop our economic relations. Ukraine notably wants to use the Azerbaijani oil and gas in future. Yesterday we signed a document on this issue. It is of paramount importance.

There are good relations between our countries, at state and personal levels. That`s why, I am surprised that there is bad attitude against Azerbaijanis here. If there is, it is not a policy of Ukraine. This attitude may originate from behavior of some officials. But it indicates pluralism. As you see, sometimes there is a disagreement and different points of view between parliament and executive powers. The parliament also consists of different parties. We also have a similar pluralism in Azerbaijan. Under this circumstance it is most likely that someone acts emotionally and poses negative attitude to Azerbaijanis. It is possible.

Second, frankly speaking, probably some Azerbaijanis commit a crime and break the law. As a result, there is a bad attitude against all Azerbaijanis. I think that this attitude can be removed. I shall speak to Mr. Kuchma about this. But I state again that this is not the state policy. This attitude originates from subjective impressions. I hope that it will change. But it also depends on you. Azerbaijanis must obey laws and follow rules. If they do, there won't be so much injustice against them. Now we have an embassy in Kiev, Ukraine to deal with these issues. I guess you know our ambassador. As he says he also lived in Ukraine as an ordinary citizen and had a business. It is one of the reasons of his appointment as an ambassador. He knows Ukraine well and thus he is able to implement this job.

Our embassy will pay attention to such problems. It is impossible to eliminate these problems immediately. They will be solved gradually. But please don’t misunderstand such problems as the attitude of the Ukrainian government against Azerbaijanis.

I reiterate that the relations between our countries and my personal relations with President Leonid Kuchma are close, sincere and friendly.

Yesterday Heydar Aliyev was awarded the supreme prize of Ukraine, the "Yaroslav Mudry" order. I was told that a few heads of states had been awarded with that order. The list of the awarders does not contain any head of state from the CIS countries. It indicates the attitude of Ukraine to Azerbaijan and it will help to develop the relations between our countries. I highly appreciate it.

I think that we should assess the attitude of Ukraine to Azerbaijan with such decisions, not with trivia.

As you know, we struggle against crime in Azerbaijan. Different criminal groups and armed gangs emerged in 1989-1990. They offended citizens, violated the laws, committed crimes against the state. We have eliminated them during the last three years.

We are informed that some of the Azerbaijani criminals hide in Ukraine. They have obtained fake documents here. They prepared terrorist acts against Azerbaijani government and statehood. Some of them were detained in Ukraine, Russia and Moldova, and extradited to Azerbaijan.

That is there are some criminals from Azerbaijan here in Ukraine. We can`t say that all Azerbaijanis in Ukraine follow the rules.

You have a community here. This community should deal with morality of Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine. Thus Azerbaijanis should demonstrate their high morality and culture and stick to the laws of Ukraine. In reality, Azerbaijanis are so nice people. Regretfully, there are some criminals and mean people.

There were terrorist acts and attempts to overthrow the government in Azerbaijan. For example, some people, who attempted to make coup in March 1995 escaped to different countries, including to Ukraine. Terrorists set up 170 kg explosives under the bridge on the road to the airport when Leonid Kuchma was on an official visit to Azerbaijan in July 1995. They wanted to explode the bridge and to kill me along with Mr. L. Kuchma. The terrorists were detained, judged and punished. But I do not want to go into the details due to lack of time.

My negotiations and meetings here were very successful. As I noted earlier, we signed 17 documents. They create a good ground for the development of the relations between Ukraine and Azerbaijan. These relations are very necessary for our countries. We shall develop them further. It is not only economic relations, but relations set up to help Azerbaijan deal with its problems in the European Union, in the world and in the international community.

As you know, our main problem is the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. As a result of the aggression, 20 percent of the territories of Azerbaijan has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. Over one million Azerbaijanis have become refugees and now live in tents. Over 20 thousand Azerbaijanis perished as a result of the aggression. A lot of people have been kept as captives. We could return some of them. The rest is still kept by the Armenians. Reportedly, most of the captives were killed by Armenians. I repeat that more than 20 thousand citizens sacrificed their lives in the fight against Armenian armed forces.

We signed an armistice agreement in May 1994. We observe the cease-fire regime. We want to solve the conflict peacefully. We don’t want to restart the military operations. It is not easy though. We negotiate within the frames of the UN, EU, OSCE and Minsk Group of OSCE. I shall inform you about it later.

I would like to say something: Azerbaijanis must not forget their homeland, ancestors, language, no matter where they live. We must all have patriotism, especially Azerbaijanis living abroad.

I hope that you will be more organized in Ukraine. You will have solidarity and render assistance to one another. You will always keep in touch with Azerbaijan.

Thank you. I wish you the best.

Translated from the newspaper "Azerbaijan", April 26, 1997