Interview of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev to the Japanese newspaper «Asahi Shimbun», February 27, 1998

Question: Mr. President, is your visit to Japan successful?

Answer: Yes it is, it is very successful. This is the first visit of the President of the independent Azerbaijan to Japan, and it is successful. I intend to have numerous meetings, productive, warm and friendly talks with Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto and other members of the Japanese government. I had a meeting with His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and the business circles of your country. During the past three days of my visit here I had dozens of meetings. The key is that we signed very important inter-governmental and inter-state documents. Two of them were signed by Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto and me. Thus, I think that it is a very successful visit with its positive results.

Question: Are the signed documents greatest achievements of this visit?

Answer: Absolutely. Any visit, any negotiation should be reflected in definite documents.

Question: How do you appreciate the diplomatic course of Prime Minister Hashimoto called the «Silk Road Diplomacy»?

Answer: I highly appreciate it. His «Silk Road Diplomacy» is fully consistent with what we are doing to restore the road. Yesterday, during our meeting, I told him in detail that for several years we have done a lot for the restoration of the ancient «Silk Road”. Diplomacy proposed by Prime Minister Mr. Hashimoto on «Silk Road» is in line with what we want to do and the work that the European Union does. Thus, here we have a complete unanimity of views and opinions and we shall work together to implement into life this program.

Question: It is reported that you plan to hold a meeting of 33 countries on «Silk Road» at the end of May in Baku. For what is the purpose of this meeting?

Answer: You know, on the proposal of the European Union, we shall transfer this meeting into a huge one. The European Union is engaged in it and wants to intensify and make it more active. We agreed to hold such a meeting in the late days of May in Azerbaijan. Six draft agreements have been developed on this issue, being mainly a framework and a normative, they will reflect the main principles and directions of our efforts for the restoration of the «Silk Road». There are 33 countries on this road, invitations have been sent to the heads of these countries. I sent an invitation and a letter on the prepared projects of agreements to Prime Minister Hashimoto yesterday. I think that this will be an important step in the development of the «Silk Road».

Question: How do you appreciate the importance of the Caspian region in the next century?

Answer: I think that in XXI century, the Caspian basin will be of global significance since the energy reserves of the Caspian Basin and pre-Caspian countries in particular, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are very huge. The development of these resources, or more precisely, oil and gas is in the interest of the world community. This naturally gives a ground to say that this will be a big problem for the world. Especially because, as you know, 20 companies from 12 countries are involved in those contracts (nine contracts have been signed since 1994) which we have signed. These countries are the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Pay attention to the countries there.

Question: What role can Japan play in the region in the energy industry?

Answer: Japan is interested in participating in the development of oil fields. We welcome this. The Japanese company «Itochu» is a shareholder in our first contract, called the «Contract of the century». «Itochu» received 20 percent share in another project in contract signed in 1996. Yesterday we signed an agreement with «Mitsui», it has 15 percent of share in the contract which we have signed with the Italian company «Eni / Agip.» Thus, you see that Japan is present in the Caspian Basin.

Question: Is it possible that your region will be more important than the Persian Gulf in future?

Answer: The future will tell it.

Question: What do we need for the development of friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Japan?

Answer: It is necessary to desire. We have such a desire as well as Japan. We need to have an economic interest. Japan is very interested in the economy of Azerbaijan, its oil and gas resources and in other sectors of the economy. We are interested in the Japanese technology, engineering and in all the achievements of Japan in the field of scientific and technical progress, which now are of global significance. Japan is interested in Azerbaijan as a country which has a geo-strategic position in the Caucasus and located on the center of the «Silk Road». In a word, see how much interest is intertwined. If you add to them desire of Azerbaijan to cooperate with the economically developed country like Japan, it is clear that our cooperation will be successful and has a great future.

Question: Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also has oil. What is the difference between your and their oil?

Answer: Difference is in quality. The Azerbaijani oil is of high quality. But in the Kazakhstani oil there is much sulfur and it is very sticky. In the World War II, aircrafts were fueled with our oil, and they flew on this unprocessed oil. Thus, we have very high quality oil.

Question: What are your expectations from Japan mostly?

Answer: Yesterday, we agreed with Prime Minister Hashimoto that we shall create a special mechanism for active cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan. He instructed the members of his Cabinet, as I did, they will prepare proposals. We know that in 1994, among Japan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan a multi-lateral commission was created. Yesterday, when we were discussing this question, Mr. Hashimoto said that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan should be on a high level. Therefore we proposed to establish a cooperative mechanism and to benefit from the existing experience. That is what I expect from Japan. Of course, I expect the implementation of all the agreements. Yesterday I said that we are going to implement everything that we have set out in the signed documents. I expect the Japanese side to be true to its commitments.

Question: What can Japan do to resolve the Mountainous Garabagh conflict?

Answer: Yesterday, the joint statement which we signed with Mr. Hashimoto, states that Japan supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It is very important for us, because as a result of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan 20 percent of our territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces and the territorial integrity of our countries has been violated. The Mountainous Garabagh claims independence. We cannot agree with it, because it is impossible for us to give a part of our territory and allow it have the status of independence. The claims to the Mountainous Garabagh are contrary to the norms of international law. Therefore, the support of Japan for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the principles of international law on the inviolability of borders, impossibility of changing the borders by force, which have been reflected in the signed statement between me and Mr. Hashimoto, are very important for us. Despite the efforts Mountainous Garbagh and Armenia, countries such as Japan cannot possibly agree with granting the status of independence to the Mountainous Garabagh.

Secondly, in Lisbon, the heads of states and governments of OSCE countries adopted a statement on the principles for a peaceful settlement of the Mountainous Garabagh conflict in December, 1996. The principles for the solution of the conflict are: recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia, granting a self-administration status to the Mountainous Garabagh within the Republic of Azerbaijan and assurance of the safety of population of the whole Garabagh, both the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis. Yesterday in the statement it was stressed that Japan supported the Lisbon principles of peaceful settlement of the Mountainous Garabagh conflict, although it is not a member of OSCE. Thus, it is also important for us. This international support is very important for us.

Question: What is your course on foreign policy in relation to Russia?

Answer: Our policy towards Russia is the establishment of friendly and good-neighborly relations and cooperation in all fields. In early July last year, I paid an official visit to Russia, and we signed an agreement of friendship and mutual security between Russia and Azerbaijan. We want all the conditions reflected in the contract to be implemented into life. In a word, we are developing relations with Russia in this direction.

Question: Will the relations between Russia and Japan improve?

Answer: It goes without saying that it will. Russia wants to have good relations with Japan as Japan wants to have the same relations with Russia. We want to have good relations with Russia, as well, but on an equal basis.

Question: In the Soviet times you were a member of the Politburo. But now the Soviet Union does not exist anymore. What changes have taken place in your country since then?

Answer: You know my biography. You know, I was not only a member of the Communist Party, but also a member of the Politburo, the highest body in the Soviet Union, and I was one of the leaders of the Soviet Union. You probably know that in 1987 I resigned from my post, I was isolated, organized attacks against me and published defamatory articles. In January 1990, the then leaders of the Soviet Union headed by Gorbachev committed a crime against the Azerbaijani people. A large contingent of troops entered Baku to suppress the popular movement and in one night killed many people. Baku streets were covered with blood. Then I lived in Moscow and spoke at a meeting and at a press conference where condemned the crime of the Soviet government and Gorbachev, then protested and left the Communist Party. I finally realized that the Communist Party must leave the power and the Soviet Union should not exist anymore.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Azerbaijan gained independence. In 1993 I was elected President of the independent Azerbaijan and my course is a new course different from the communist ideology of the socialist system. In Azerbaijan, we build a democratic, secular state, carry out economic reforms, rebuild the economy based on the market principles and establish mutually beneficial cooperation with all the countries of the world. We are open to the world. Azerbaijan is not isolated as in the period of the Soviet Union. Great changes have taken place. We abandoned the communist ideology, socialist system and socialist economy. We build our lives proceeding from our national interests, national values ​​and traditions, in synthesis with universal human values ​​and achievements.

Question: You have held more than 30 meetings in Japan. How do you explain such an intensity of your work here?

Answer: Today I started to work at half past eight in the morning and shall finish at the end of the day. I work so intensively because I want to take more benefits from the stay in Japan. Of course, like any person I would love to see the nature, the sights of Japan, to walk in the street. They say that this hotel has a garden. I could not even see it, because I had no time for this. I want to waste my time for the benefit of my people, country and government, to lay a good basis for the long-term cooperation between our countries in this first visit to Japan.

Correspondent: We believe that your people are very happy to have such a President.

Heydar Aliyev: So do we.

Correspondent: Thank you. Do you fly home tomorrow?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes. Now we shall go by train to Kyoto, I want to see your old capital, although we shall have meetings there and shall fly home tomorrow.

Correspondent: We shall make you feel well in Japan until the last minute of yourstay. Thank you.

Heydar Aliyev: Come to Azerbaijan. Have you been in Azerbaijan?

Correspondent: Unfortunately, not.

Heydar Aliyev: So come.

Translated from the newspaper «Azerbaijan», February 29, 1998