Statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the joint press conference after signing Azerbaijani - Uzbek interstate and intergovernmental documents - June 18, 1997

Mr. President Islam Karimov!

Dear friends!

Ladies and gentlemen!

First of all, I thank President Islam Karimov for inviting me for an official visit to Uzbekistan. We have done a lot of work since this morning. This visit is the continuation of the official visit of President Islam Karimov to Azerbaijan last May. Our efforts are aimed at strengthening the Uzbek-Azerbaijani cooperation.

I thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome. We feel at home as we are surrounded by attention and friendly attitude.

President Islam Karimov spoke of our negotiations and the signed documents. I do not need to repeat them and waste your time. I fully agree with all he said. Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are loyal, reliable partners and have set the definite ways of developing and strengthening our relations in the signed documents.

The relations established between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan shortly after our independence were not what we wanted. It was the fault of the then authorities of Azerbaijan. I regret that. I have repeatedly said that the position of some people who accidentally came to power in Azerbaijan, were not supported by everybody. They caused great damage to Azerbaijan and complicated the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations. Despite the troubled years, we have secured rapid development of our bilateral relations and cooperation within a short period. 19 documents were signed in Baku last May; the first one is the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. Among them, the document signed by Islam Karimov and me on strengthening the friendship and partnership between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan is of great importance. All other documents are of exceptional importance and create a solid legal basis for the successful cooperation between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. We have no doubt that all these agreements will be implemented and we will witness rapid development of our cooperation in next few years. It will benefit both Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan to the same extent.

I want to emphasize that - Mr. Karimov also noted it - we share the same position in all the discussed issues, including the issues of political significance. Establishment of a reliable partnership is extremely important both for Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, if we take into account our common interests both in regional and international issues.

I highly appreciate President Islam Karimov`s support to the territorial integrity, as well as his opposition to separatism, terrorism, fundamentalism, intereference in the internal affairs of other countries, attempts against sovereignty and independence. We stand firm in our positions. In this respect, similarity of our positions has a fundamental importance for the future development of our partnership.

The independence of Azerbaijan faced lots of challenges and problems: Armenia`s military aggression against Azerbaijan, violation of our territorial integrity as a result of the occupation of 20 per cent of our lands by the armed forces of Armenia, forcible banishment of one million Azerbaijanis from their homes - they are now living in extremely difficult conditions, mostly in tents, as refugees, unstable internal situation, struggle for power between the armed gangs and political groups. Therefore, we appreciate highly our national independence and freedom. We gained independence at the expense of martyrs while defending our lands from the Armenian invaders, on January 20, 1990, when Soviet troops committed aggression against the Azerbaijani people, and during the internal political struggle. We have achieved the current sovereignity and stable situation through difficulties and victims. We are eager to strengthen and develop our independence further.

In this connection, the similarity of the positions of the two presidents is of great importance and a good basis for a reliable partnership.

We want to have a reliable partnership with Uzbekistan, and we shall do everything to advance and strengthen our relations.

Thank you for your attention.

Question: My question is addressed to Mr. President Islam Karimov. Did you discuss the issue of transporting the Uzbek oil to Europe through Azerbaijan? Does Uzbekistan intend to participate in the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project supported at the recent ECO summit?

Islam Karimov: In my opinion, the document on the Transcaucasian corridor encompasses Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. By signing the document on the transportation through the Central Asia, Black Sea, Europe and other regions, we sent a clear message that we support the development of communications in this direction.

The interesting figures Heydar Aliyev mentioned today make us think. This corridor has not been used for a long time. Not only the countries that have signed the document, but other nations are also interested in this corridor. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and many other countries have already joined it. Therefore, when asked only about gas or oil pipelines, we have to approach this issue more comprehensively. We imply all communications, including the transportation of the crude oil.

Question: Does Uzbekistan have any initiatives or intentions on implementing the Lisbon principles on settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? May the Central Asian peacekeeping forces be involved in OSCE peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Islam Karimov: In our negotiations and personal conversations, I expressed my clear and firm position regarding the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh problem. I have repeated my position several times and in various international meetings: we are confident that Azerbaijan`s position on the territorial integrity, liberation of the occupied territories, return of refugees, restoration of the territorial integrity is fair, which is supported by more and more countries of the world community.

Therefore, we are pleased that Azerbaijan`s position is recognized now. The increasing reputation of Azerbaijan is a natural process, in my opinion. Thus, we think that there cannot be two Armenian states in the Caucasus; It is a reasonable idea put forward by Azerbaijan. In this regard, we support the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. There is no alternative to a political solution of this problem. Therefore, we believe that strengthening the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, appointing the United States a third co-chair along with Russia and France are good incentives for the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh problem. We do not choose neighbors. Neither do the Armenians. Thus, there is no alternative to the peaceful solution of this problem.

I am also convinced that the Karabakh conflict that broke out in 1989 was initiated from outside. Neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia needs this conflict. The glowing center of tension and the inert process are suitable for some powers that carry out their strategic intentions through this process.

As for the Central Asian peace-keepers, we decided to keep this battalion as a reserve of the UN. This battalion can operate by a resolution of the UN Security Council. It is not our job to determine where it will operate. The decision on their operation will be made by the UN Security Council.

Question: My question is addressed to President Karimov. In your speech at the recent ECO Summit in Ashgabat, you clearly stated that there was no need to refer to one another with the words «brother» or «dear brothers» if they did not mean anything. Today, a reverse process is underway. The presidents signed a declaration. Although we did not announce the strategic partnership, the signed declaration actually confirms these principles. So that, I would like to learn your opinion: How do you evaluate the relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan? The second question: what is your position regarding illegal and free supply of weapons to Armenia by Russia? Thank you very much.

Islam Karimov: Your question is quite interesting, and I would like to recall my words stated in Ashgabat. The ECO is an organization that unites 10 states of completely different political background.

Therefore, the issues related to the domestic politics, or internal politics, or political ideology cannot be compared. However, we are very interested in communications opened by the agreements within the framework of ECO. Of course, the humanitarian issues are also of great importance. When misusing the word «brother» to refer to each other, you may realize that there is no fraternal relation because of diverse background, political and ideological views. As misuse of such expressions may adversely affect fraternal relations, leaders should understand the value of these expressions.

As far as our own relations, we do not publicly use «brother», «brotherhood» when referring to each other in order to not harm the words. But deep in my heart I am absolutely confident that Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan can maintain fraternal relations. The explanation is very simple. It is based on our common history, language, culture, roots. We can understand each other 70% when speaking. Most importantly, our peoples lived together for centuries or even millennia. There are necessary prerequisites to build brotherly relations between our nations. Building relations is the desire of our peoples. Therefore, we carry out the demands of our peoples.

As for the document we signed, it contains the concept on strategic cooperation. When signing the declaration on deepening cooperation, we declared about the strategic cooperation between our countries.

As for the second question, my attitude is, of course, negative. I have already mentioned, and I want to reconcile these two notions. I said that the Karabakh problem was initiated by outside forces. No one knows who supports this transfer of a large number of weapons without any intergovernmental agreement or legitimate document. The Russian press is mute about this transfer. Sometimes the Russian press spreads rumors and unbelievable news. But all of a sudden, it stopped to write about transfer of the arms, as if nobody is concerned about it. Why does this incident not concern the democratic Russia? Russia is more advanced in democratic changes than many nations in the post-Soviet area, and we respect Russia`s democratic traditions. Yet it is not understandable how the transfer of such a large number of weapons was made and the government of the democratic state became unaware of it. It would be a big scandal for any other democratic nation, where both prosecutors and public would get involved in it. Of course, this issue should be investigated and we have to learn who stands behind it.

Question: Mr. Karimov, I would like to present you the magazine «Populyar». It is an international magazine printed in three languages in Azerbaijan. This edition is dedicated to our president`s recent visit. In addition, a significant portion of the edition informs about Heydar Aliyev`s birthplace, the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan.

Moreover, I have two questions. You said that the specific joint projects on basic spheres had been discussed during the negotiations.

If it is possible, could you list the projects, which are most interesting and ready for signature or implementation? This is my first question. The second one is addressed to the both leaders. What is your attitude towards the newly created union of Russia and Belarus? Have you received any proposals from the leaders of the union, including the Russian authorities to take part in or join the union? Thank you.

Islam Karimov: Thank you for the magazine. As for joint projects on basic spheres, we are well aware of Azerbaijan`s potential in oil and gas sphere, development and supply of relevant equipment, and we respect this potential very much. I believe that we have great prospectives to supply our countries with oil and gas. By the way, we are already self-sufficient in terms of oil and gas supply. We have big projects for the attraction of foreign investment. Like Azerbaijan, we have also created very favorable conditions for attracting foreign investments in the development of these spheres. We can not only can we provide our countries with hydrocarbon resources, but also export them.

That`s why, I consider it very promising to develop these spheres, establish joint ventures, cooperate with the Azerbaijani companies producing oil and gas equipment. As a country that has developed its oil industry since the early 20th century, Azerbaijan has a good reputation in the world.

Chemical industry is the second sphere. This industry is well advanced in Azerbaijan, but not so developed in Uzbekistan. Chemistry implies fertilizers, first of all. We operate in producing phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers, and have started to produce potassium fertilizers as well. These fields are well developed in Azerbaijan. Therefore, we are eager to establish joint ventures in these fields.

The other field of importance is telecommunications. No progress can be made without them. When discussing the Trans-Caucasus corridor and communications in general, we should realize that our communication, our projects, as well as the development of important spheres are impossible without telecommunications.

Another field is metallurgy, in which Azerbaijan holds firm positions.

Next comes agriculture. This year we tested growing cotton under film in large scale. The results are amazing. The new method enables us to obtain 10-15 quintals per hectare, accelerates growth of cotton and vegetation for one month, reduces cost price and avoids some heavy operations. Those who are engaged in cotton cultivation know how much labor it requires. We can cooperate with Azerbaijan in this sphere and buy films from you - this sphere is developed in Azerbaijan. At present, we strive to develop chemical industry in our country to produce film. But we also consider it promising to purchase film from you and grow cotton under film.

I can continue this issue. For instance, winemaking. The Azerbaijani wine is certainly good. So is the Uzbek wine. Azerbaijani cognac is good. So is Uzbek cognac. Therefore, we ought to cooperate on improving the quality of our wines and deliver them to the world market. I can count our fields. But I stop it here as there will be other questions as well.

As for your second question, I will try to speak about the agreement or union between Russia and Belarus. First of all, I state that this is an internal affair of Russia and Belarus. In other words, they can create any union. By the way, the recent sitting of the parliament of the Union of Belarus and Russia attended by the Russian and Belarusian authorities, including Mr. Lukashenko, his fiery speech, the restoration of the Soviet anthem explain the direction of the union. The aims of the created union are obvious even without my comments. The union is allegedly set up only for Belarus and Russia. But all the CIS members will be demanded to join it. Mr. Lukashenko needs this union as he wants loans and other dividends from the Russian authorities. Russia needs the union in order to involve other CIS countries. A USSR-like entity longed for by the State Duma leadership will be established on the basis of the union.

I do not understand at all the statements made by some politicians supporting this union. Mr. Lukashenko openly expresses his regret on the dissolution of the USSR - I have heard him say it many times on television. His goal is to fix the errors committed by his predecessors and restore the Union. Thus, there is no comment. We are not going to join the union as we do not long for the former USSR. We believe that the USSR dealt only with its own imperial ambitions. Uzbekistan does not want to rejoin the Soviet empire. Therefore, our position is clear: it is an internal affair of Russia and Belarus. If they are satisfied with their entity, they may develop and strengthen it.

But it concerns me to hear they say every time that the union`s doors are open. Mr. President, yesterday I heard on TV that a contest to create lyrics for the Soviet anthem had been announced, but it had been made clear that the words «Russia» and «Belarus» should not been included in the lyrics. Why? So that any other nation that joins the union feels uncomfortable. In other words, by setting a new union, the politicians already know, think, hope, believe other countries will join. The lyrics containing only the words «Belarus» and «Russia» may make new members feel uncomfortable in the union. I am absolutely sure that Uzbekistan will not be in the above-mentioned union. As for Azerbaijan, Mr. Aliyev will reveal his own position.

Heydar Aliyev: Today both Mr. Karimov and I have determined we had similar views, positions regarding all the issues. The views of both presidents completely match. Not to waste your time, I state that I agree with everything which Mr. Karimov said. I can add that creation of a union is the desire of Russia and Belarus. An independent, sovereign state may join the alliance with any other state. Today we also signed a declaration on partnership and cooperation. This is our own affair while the union concerns Russia and Belarus only. We stated that we do not interfere in the affairs of other countries. I reckon we should not intervene in this case.

However, I would like to say that they are involved in useless work and waste their time. I don`t think any other state will join their union. I mean the union they are trying to set up, that «unbreakable union» as mentioned in the Soviet anthem they sang with enthusiasm in Belarus. Islam Karimov stated Uzbekistan would never join such a union. I openly declare that Azerbaijan would not join either. As Azerbaijan appreciates its sovereignty, joining this kind of unions may harm the independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. We shall never agree with it.

Serious people should discuss serious matters. This is not a serious matter at all. The Soviet Union collapsed after existing for 70 years. Almost all empires fell as a result of wars. The Soviet Union was dissolved from inside.

Since the Soviet Union was dissolved from inside, how can it be restored? Plus, lots of errors, crimes committed within the Soviet Union were discovered after its dissolution. Crimes were committed against the Azerbaijani people. You can recall the January tragedy that took place in 1990. A large contingent of the Soviet troops entered Baku, suppressed people, shed a lot of blood. The troops strove to hurt our national identity. They committed crimes. Thus, those who wish to restore the union, must first bear responsibility for these crimes, then start negotiations.

Shortly, I consider this matter as an unpromising job. In my opinion, this idea will benefit no other country but Belarus and Russia. Doors will remain open, but not so many countries will enter through that door.

Question: I have a question for both presidents. Did you discuss the problem of Afghanistan problem during your tete-a-tete meeting? Mr. Karimov, can you please comment the Uzbekistan-Russian agreement on stationing the Russian border troops in Uzbekistan for protecting the border with Afghanistan.

Islam Karimov: Nice question. Heydar Aliyev and I discussed stability and security of our countries, as well as, the armed conflict in Afghanistan which is going on for many years, this problem is a direct threat to the security and territorial integrity of the neighboring nations.

As for the agreement you mentioned, there is no such agreement at all. By the way, yesterday or the day before yesterday someone on Russian TV announced about the existence of an agreement between the border forces of Russia and Uzbekistan. There is such an agreement, which serves to creating necessary relationship on the border with Afghanistan. You are well aware that the Russian border troops are stationed in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. However, there will never be Russian border troops in Uzbekistan. Therefore, I want the reporters of Russian information centers, who are present here to disseminate this information, especially to those who spread these rumors. As the main source, I reply your question: there are not Russian troops here, and will never be. But Uzbekistan border troops will keep mutual relations with their Russian counterparts.

The agreement on mutual relations was signed by the commander of the Russian border troops Nikolayev and his Uzbek counterpart. However, no Russian troops will be stationed on our border. We are able to protect our border with Afghanistan, and we do it. If we are not capable to protect our borders, what sovereignty can we speak about? As an independent, sovereign state, we must defend our borders ourselves. This is one of the necessary conditions of free policy carried out by an independent, sovereign state.

Heydar Aliyev: It seems, nothing is left for me to answer. I agree with all Mr. Karimov said.

Question: Among the documents prepared for discussion was an inter-governmental and inter-bank agreement on regulating the debts and demands for 1992-1994. What is the current state? What debts are present now? I have a question to Mr. Aliyev: what is your opinion about the agreement on oil transportation through the territory of Russia? Must Chechnya partake in this agreement as one of the signatory parties? Thank you.

Islam Karimov: As for inter-bank debts and calculations within 1992-1993, I was just informed that these issues had been considered. There is a general agreement. It means that all the figures have been agreed at export and banks level, and there is no disagreement. I will discuss this issue with Heydar Aliyev. His political will can encourage the signing of a relevant contract.

Heydar Aliyev: To reply your question, I can say that Russia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement in Moscow in January 1996 on oil transportation from Azerbaijan to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and on the construction of an oil pipeline. This pipeline was constructed on the territory of Azerbaijan, while the Russian part of the pipeline needed reconstruction. The events in Chechnya delayed these works. Recently, Russia and Chechnya held negotiations. Maskhadov met Russian representatives, and several documents were signed between Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Chechnya. It is their affair. As for us, we shall work according to the documents signed between Azerbaijan and Russia.

Question: I have a question to Mr. Karimov. Five years ago you declared to the people, who desired freedom and democracy that you would grant them democracy in five years. Your remarks today also confirm it. How did you achieve it?

Islam Karimov: Journalists interpret some issues according to their understanding. I can understand you when you state that five years ago I promised to grant freedom. This issue depends on the model of political, democratic, economic reforms every nation chooses. We have chosen our own model based on democratic and market economy reforms in order to rebuild our society. This model is to be carried out in stages.

Our reforms are based on five principles. The most important one is the implementation of reforms. Reforms should be carried out in stages. We are against the shock therapy in economy and chaos in reforms. We wish to rebuild our state stage-by-stage. In 1990-1992, Uzbekistan was widely criticized. I was also called a post-communist nomenclature. Therefore, I was reported by mass media, especially the Russian press, to be an authoritarian leader. But the experience shows that the reconstruction stage-by-stage, as well as democratic and political reforms are reasonable in conditions of Uzbekistan. I don`t know how they are carried out in other countries. But I hope that the situation is similar in other countries. This path is self-justified. In other words, there is no mystery. We cannot become democrat by declaring us democrats.

Democracy is achieved in the minds of people, in the mentality of the society. One cannot be a democrat by declaring it. We have created legal basis, made institutional changes. We haven’t discovered anything new. First of all, we have benefited from the experience of the European countries. The Japanese model, the Korean model, as well as other models of other advanced Asian nations are also useful. Most importantly, we have taken into account our traditions, practices, mentality. Our achievements are synthesis of the experience of developed countries and our mentality, traditions. We cannot remain indifferent to millennial culture and great traditions of our ancestors. As Heydar Aliyev noted, each state creates its future by taking into account the interests and features of its people. This is the secret you're trying to understand. The legal basis we need has been established. Institutional changes are underway. We have set many democratic institutions, including a national human rights institution. We also have non-governmental agencies and rights protection structures. The Monitoring Institute was founded. At present, a public survey institute, as well as non-governmental organizations in the fields of media and publishing are being created. A lot has been done for the democratization of our press. It is still not enough to achieve our tasks though. All conditions necessary for democracy are being realized.

I want to stress once more that all claims on the possibility of creating a democratic society within a couple of years following the collapse of the totalitarian system are nothing but statements only. I repeat that democratic societies are created by lower classes. Had laws and documents signed by the president realized democratic principles, all countries would have turned democratic. Unfortunately, this process is very hard. We are proud that our society, our people support the changes in Uzbekistan.

If asked about our achievements over the past six years, I would answer that our greatest achievement is the changes in the mentality, democratic values in minds.

If asked what I appreciate most and what Uzbekistan has achieved, I would point out peace and stability, civic and ethnic solidarity. We also try to avoid social polarization and conflicts while implementing the market reforms.

The majority of our population now supports our reforms. This is one of our biggest successes in the implementation of the market reforms. Today I heard that Heydar Aliyev has informed that the salaries are paid on time, all issues related to social protection of the population are being carried out in Azerbaijan. In my opinion, reforms in some post-Soviet countries failed, led to social polarization and conflict. It is not known yet when stability will be achieved.

I am confident that our path is right. At present, the world community also acknowledges that Uzbekistan pursues the correct course. Democratic changes and market reforms conducted in our country are accepted at international level.

Thank you.