From the talk of President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the special representative of the President of Russia on the settlement of the Yugoslavian crisis Victor Chernomyrdin - Presidential Palace, April 20, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: Esteemed Victor Stepanovich, respectable guests, I am pleased to greet you in Azerbaijan, in Baku, you are welcome . It is natural that I am glad to discuss the questions representing mutual interest both for Russia and Azerbaijan.

Victor Chernomyrdin: Thank You, Heydar Aliyevich, I appreciate You from the bottom of my heart for You have found a possibility to meet, since this meeting is beyond all plans, but it is held only based on the agreement. Therefore, first of all, I want to thank You and convey You the best regards of President Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, as well as his small message, where he has stated the basic purpose of our arrival.

Heydar Aliyevich, I am very pleased once again to meet You here, in Baku. I can say once more that my heart ached, because I spent here many years. As a matter of fact, in those bygone times, I did a little work connected with oil business in Azerbaijan. And I am very glad that it was not wasted. The oil industry lives and will live. I am pleased and always follow what is ongoing in the oil industry of Azerbaijan. I hope that, as a matter of fact, we continued the foundations that had been laid before us. We have recalled our former times with Artur Rasi-zade. I am very pleased that Azerbaijan is in the foreground today in all the oil affairs.

Heydar Aliyevich, our arrival is not a usual one, unplanned or connected most of all with the Balkan crisis and only with it. The President entrusted me to be engaged in this problem, and now I am the special representative just on this problem. It is very significant not only and not so much for Russia, but for all of us, for the world. All what happens today in the Balkans, in the middle of Europe - is a rather dangerous precedent. As a matter of fact, we stand today at a dangerous boundary. And I think that our common goal is to find a solution to this problem.

I have been working for several days. We work under the leadership of the President, work out a position of the government and Russia in respect of this problem. Therefore, before traveling to some place, hold meetings in the Balkans or with others, I advised President to meet our close people first. That is why yesterday, I talked to Karimov Islam Abduganiyevich very long and extensively. I talked to Eduard Shevardnadze. We met him today and now we are meeting You. I want to fly to Ukraine from here, and then proceed to the scheduled trips to other places.

I think that the position of Russia, is very important. It is very important to find a mechanism of settlement to such conflicts. There are over 100 and maybe a little more of such conflicts in the world today. The nature of their origin, in essence, is similar - separatism, which is so popular today. It should be either stopped, or irreversible processes will start, which can not to be permitted.

The problems that we had in Russia with Chechnya, the problem here - Nagorno-Karabakh, the problem of Abkhazia, the problems in other places, the problem in Turkey, in Greece, on Cyprus - all this can be continued. But as a matter of fact, all these issues are linked exactly with this problem and the solutions should be found. Therefore, we think that the position of Russia is to take part in the settlement of the problem as a mediator and only as a mediator. Not more. But if we all unite our efforts for the purpose of solution of this problem, it would be desirable to have a result. Therefore, I strongly hope that we will suggest some common principles, approaches for the solution of the problem. We will deliver these principles to all the parties, including Yugoslavia and the NATO countries. We consider that it is a dead-end situation. The fact that destructive processes are going on today, missile- bombing raids are struck, will not result in the development of the conflict , but will only aggravate the situation. We think that it should be stopped, the people should return to their places and conditions should be created for this. In other words, in essence, the destructive process causing sufferings and grief for thousands and thousands of people should be stopped.

That is why, Heydar Aliyevich, I do not have any other issues. I want to know out Your position, your advice , and what You think. Within a week, I talked over to many leaders of states, including the NATO members. I have such an impression that everyone understands today that the solution to this crisis should be found. But perhaps, measures and actions are also needed except for the desire. This is the basic objective, the basic purpose that has brought us here.

Heydar Aliyev: Above all, I feel great satisfaction that You have arrived in Azerbaijan, in Baku. As You remember, not once did we invite You to Azerbaijan in the period of Your activity as the chairman of the government of the Russian Federation, but in no way could we fulfill our desire, - You were busy, - but we needed it very much. Especially since Azerbaijan and Baku is for You a native place to a certain extent, because formerly, You, working as a minister of the Soviet Union, were very actively involved in the problems of oil and gas, including in Azerbaijan. We are much aware of Your contacts in the past with our scientists in the period of Your work on Your scientific issues. Therefore Your presence in Azerbaijan was very necessary both for You and us in all respects.

That You have arrived today connected with Your this mission is also a chance for You to be here for short time though, and for us to see You in Azerbaijan, in Baku. So, I greet You exactly in this connection.

As for the question You are touching, what can I say? We are the county that is suffering from the conflict and separatism most of all, from injustice. When 11 years ago, the conflict in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh, which was unleashed by Armenia, claiming to a part of Azerbaijan`s territory started in Azerbaijan, the people and statesmen, especially including the leadership of the Soviet Union, appeared to be very short-sighted then. Very short-sighted.

They could not see that this conflict, which was then the first not only in the area of the Soviet Union, but also in the world, can lead to very grave consequences. Separatism is a very infectious phenomenon. If separatists can achieve something in one place, then the people with the same intentions, the same ideas and so on will raise their head in another place too.

There fore, there must be a common approach towards separatism in the world communitry... Dealing with this problem for many years, I made certain that when, for example, this issue does not touch the interests of one or another great power, they avoid it, something like "it is not our business, let others solve it". And the mistake which was made then by the administration of the Soviet Union, particularly, personally by Gorbachev cost dear both to Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as to the whole Caucasus, and not only Caucasus. Because it spread further as a chain reaction: then, the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict, the Ossetian conflict, the Chechen conflict, the conflict in Moldova - in the territory of the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and many others emerged. Therefore ,our attitude towards it is quite certain - there should be no place for separatism. But all should have a unanimous position. The position when one kind of separatism should be resisted and another can be connived or even encouraged and supported is inadmissible.

Therefore, we suffer very much from this. You see, the Kosovo and the Yugoslavia events have excited the whole world now. Look, how many countries are involved in this problem, how many forces. Of course, as President of Azerbaijan, I want this problem to be settled fairly, peacefully, on all the principles of international law. Along with it, I have such a feeling: why have we been crying about our conflict, i.e. the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for so many years, when 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory is occupied by the Armenian armed troops, when one million of the Azerbaijani citizens out of 7-8 million were banished from their native places, for more than one year already and live in tents in the hardest circumstances, the world community and great powers have not shown due attention to our conflict? They haven`t and, by the way, they reap the fruits of their mistakes, their inattentive attitude to such conflicts, especially to the conflict taking place here, in Caucasus, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

I repeat, I want the conflict in Yugoslavia to be solved fairly, peacefully, and within the interests of all the parties involved in it. At the same time, to be candid, I always think with disappointment and resentment: why is not there such interest to our region? Why have all - the world community, those great powers, including Russia and other European states, the United States of America become engaged in it, how many resources do they spend on it? Why did not they take measures to eliminate this conflict, to achieve justice here?

This is my first reaction to this matter, the reaction, perhaps painful, because my people and I have more pain than somewhere in Kosovo, somewhere in another place.

In May, it will be five years since we concluded a cease-fire agreement. We signed it to stop the fire, to stop the war, to stop the bloodshed, to settle the conflict peacefully. But in no way it is settled. You just imagine - five years have passed since the time of the cease-fire agreement, but the people have been removed from there, they had to leave their places even much earlier. They have been living in tents for six, seven years. But the problem is not solved.

By the way, the Minsk Group, the Minsk Conference, which is to deal with this issue according to the decision of the OSCE, is not dealing with it duly. In 1996, You, Victor Stepanovich, participated actively at the OSCE Lisbon Summit. Do You remember how intensively we cooperated with You? I am grateful to You personally and to the whole Russian delegation, You took then a very correct and principal position on behalf of Russia, as the head of Russian delegation. The destructive position of Armenia did not allow the adopt of a decision. However, then You and other participants of the Lisbon Summit - 53 states out of 54, except Armenia, voted for the principles that were adopted there on the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Taking this opportunity, I want to thank You once again for the active cooperation with us then, for the correct and very exact and fair position taken by You in the name of the Russian Federation, which, strictly speaking, helped, very significantly helped to adopt the document which defined the principles of the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

But more than two years has passed since then, however, these principles are not implemented, Armenia occupies a destructive position, but the co-chairs of the Minsk Conference - Russia, the United States of America and France can do nothing. Armenia does not want - and no one can do anything. And now we are said each time - go and come to an agreement with Armenia. If it was possible to strike a bargain with Armenia, then why would the Minsk Conference be needed, why would the three great powers of the world need to become the co-chairs of the Minsk Conference on settlement of this issue? They did become the co-chairs, great powers have great possibilities, great influence on everything, but the question is not solved.

That is why, as I said, my heart aches, I speak about all this with a heavy heart when I see that all are engaged in some other conflict, the whole world is occupied with that matter, but our conflict here is already forgotten, no one wants to deal with it and when is said - go and strike a bargain with the Armenians. The Armenians say: we, if you please, have occupied 20 percent of your territory, so you must agree with our conditions. But we cannot agree with them. Furthermore, Russia, which played a very important role in the adoption of the principles of the Lisbon Summit in December 1996, unfortunately, proposes in November 1998 quite a strange and unacceptable thing:a "common state", in order to solve this question. That is what they invented! There is no such a term as a "common state" in the world practice, in the international law. It turns out that we must have a common state in the territory of Azerbaijan - Azerbaijan together with Nagorno-Karabakh. It is equal to granting independence to the Nagorno-Karabakh. Then why to veil it like this? And this is also the proposal of the Russian Federation supported by the United States of America and France as well. We turned it down in November, but there is nothing new until now - "you have turned it down, now go and think".

Victor Stepanovich, undoubtedly, not all is addressed to You, but at the same time, it is addressed to Russia on the whole. Therefore it worries us and makes us uneasy.

And as regards the problem of Kosovo, Yugoslavia, in this case, - the military confrontation connected with this conflict has been going on for already a month - frankly speaking, we are so much preoccupied with our own problems, with our question, that we do not even have a possibility to think: what should Kosovo do, or what should Yugoslavia do?

And second, I am sometimes asked, I think we do not even have a moral right to participate in this matter or to state our position on this matter, because in no way can we solve our conflict, I mean the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

What can I say as regards this question? We, proceeding from the OSCE principles, the principles of international law, are of course, against it, - and today we state once more, - we are against any form of separatism. Against! Besides, the international law, not political double-dealing should prevail here. After all, how many times we face, including in the CIS, cases when some documents are passed, denunciation of separatism should be included there. But Armenia objects and a document is impossible to adopt. Therefore, I state today that we are against any form of separatism. Separatism destroys international law, separatism destroys international community, and we are against it. Along with it, we are against ethnic cleaning, too. We cannot agree with the ethnic cleaning that Miloshevich commits in Kosovo. We are against it. We, Victor Stepanovich and all our dear guests, suffer both from this and from that. We suffer from separatism, we suffer from the consequences of separatism too, i.e. from the ethnic cleaning that the armenian armed troops committed in the Nagorno-Karabakh, in Khojaly, they committed genocide against the Azerbaijani people, from ethnic cleanings that the Armenian armed troops committed supported by some others in the Azerbaijani regions, having banished our people from there.

Today, of course, the world community is very concerned - Miloshevich drives away the Albanians from Kosovo, and everyone thinks about them. But when the Armenian armed troops banished people from the native lands of Azerbaijan, from the Nagorno-Karabakh itself - it is the motherland of Azerbaijan, from Shusha, Lachin, Kalbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jebrail, Zangilan, Gubadly, - look, how many administrative districts, - these people abandoned everything and left, how many lives were lost there, how much of property, - no one raised voice that it was an ethnic cleaning. Therefore, we are the country, the people that have felt the tragedy of these ethnic cleanings on our own back. In no way can we justify the actions of Miloshevich and his government on the ethnic cleaning in Kosovo. We can`t.

The situation here is extremely hard and contradictory. On one hand, inadmissible separatism, on the other - genocide, ethnic cleaning. Neither is admissible. This should be solved fairly.

For example, we also present the document of the OSCE which was also adopted with Your participation, Victor Stepanovich. The highest autonomy for the Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan is stipulated there. We agree with this, and at the same time, it is the highest status existing in the world practice. But it does not take place. But Miloshevich liquidated the autonomy of Kosovo there. Why did he liquidate it? Why no one stopped him when he liquidated the autonomy of Kosovo? He was not stopped. And now he continues ethnic cleaning striving to achieve the complete consolidation of his "rule".

We grant to the Nagorno-Karabakh a high status of self-government. I do not even apply the "autonomy" term, because they do not want us even mention it. A high status of self-government for the Nagorno-Karabakh. Let the world community, great powers - Russia, the United States of America, France and others help us to realize this matter. But no one helps.

Therefore, I repeat, our position is that I do not know whether the Albanians of Kosovo have the right to self-government as autonomy or not, - it is the matter of the people occupied with this question. I state my principal opinion, the opinion of our state.

At the same time, separatism is inadmissible in such a form as it is. To get rid of separatism it is necessary to give people autonomy, the right which they need. But they do not do it. They cannot suppress it and follow the way of annihilation of people, the way of ethnic cleaning.

This is our attitude, Victor Stepanovich. I am speaking about it a little emotionally, You understand me.

Victor Chernomyrdin: I cannot disagree with You. I am a member of many sittings and meetings, including over this issue. I recollect with what difficulty and interruptions we convinced to adopt such a powerful decision. I can only regret that all this is not fulfilled today.

I am not going to justify anyone here, and You are absolutely right when You speak with such an anxiety and pain about what is happening here today. This, as a matter of fact, was really the first call which was not paid due attention and was not attached due significance then. And this is the result. It was really the first... I cannot say in the world, but it was the first in the European continent at least. We did not know anything of the kind, but perhaps, the Kurdish problem, - it has been smouldering for a long time.

Therefore I agree with You in this point, and maybe it is the reason why I have come here. After all, the world community should understand - either we will find a key to the solution of this problem, find a mechanism of the solution of such problems or the world community will understand that decisions should be passed through force too in order not to admit separatism and cleanings. I agree with You - both separatism and cleanings - all is a deflection from the norm. Neither separatizm, nor ethnic cleaning should be admitted, both of them should be rectified.

Therefore, perhaps, it once more confirms that we should, and as a matter of fact, I want us to appeal today to the world community once again that either, as is said, to pull down everything and establish a dance pavilion on the base of a sovereign state, to sweep away - both the live and the lifeless - and then I do not know what will happen, or finally, we will be seeking for ways of settlement of these conflicts. We ourselves have gone through the Chechen problems, it cost one dearly. You are speaking with anxiety and I understand You. Therefore, I make certain once more that we need exactly this.

You are the leader of an authoritative state, You are well-known not only in the closest surroundings, in the "near abroad", as it is fashionable to name it today, but also in the world. We have to speak up today - if we adopt decisions, they should be carried to a logical conclusion. It means that we must find keys and mechanisms to put everything to the right place, not to allow genocide, barbarian raids or missile attacks. It brings nothing but disaster. I understand that the people for more than five years... but it started not five years ago, but earlier. It was thought then that everything was just about to finish, but look, the years have passed and people are suffering.

Therefore, of course, solutions should be found here. And Your position, Heydar Aliyevich, is very significant today. It is very important and should be voiced.

I have told You about the Russian position. First of all, as mediators, we must call on to participate in the settlement of this conflict, to take part. We are ready to participate within the structure of peacemaking forces in order to provide the return of the people and their security. There are many components. It is such a delicate process which You know not worse, but better than me. Perhaps, unity of all the world coalition forces is needed here as never before in order to solve these conflicts. Therefore I understand You here. Perhaps, it is really more offensive for You. You have been occupied with this problem for many years and cannot break through. I can only say with regret that the Minsk Group does not bring everything to some logical conclusion. Especially since real steps are necessary today in this line. I hope much, Heydar Aliyevich that Your voice, a very important voice, will be brought to the attention of Miloshevich, to other leaders of states. I will undoubtedly speak about it with those whom I will meet, and call them on that it is necessary to solve the problem in the right way after all. It will overflow even more, and we will lose more than gain.

Heydar Aliyev: Victor Stepanovich, I have stated, but I can specify concretely once more. Our position, the position of Azerbaijan is that the territorial integrity of every state is unshakable. We are for the territorial integrity. At the same time, we are against genocide, against ethnic cleaning for the sake of providing the territorial integrity. Second, we consider that in any state, if there is an ethnic group, which claims to some rights, but again, based on the international law and the principles of OSCE, it has the right to self-government. In other words, we are against granting independence to Kosovo, we are for the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, but we are for self-government of the Albanians who live in Kosovo, which will meet both the principles of territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and their national, ethnical hopes and principles.

This is our principal position. Strictly speaking, it is exactly similar to the principles of the OSCE Helsinki Act of 1975. I repeat, for example, when the question of the territorial integrity arises in our CIS and other documents, Armenia does not sign them, and therefore a document either is not adopted or there is some special opinion. Recently, on April 2, we assembled in Moscow and the document - Declaration on the principles of further cooperation was introduced there. There were many of questions, including the territorial integrity. But Armenia objected to the territorial integrity. It is good that the document was passed. But sometimes it happens that Armenia objects - "let`s not adopt". It is good that this time the document was adopted, but with the special opinion of Armenia. But why is Armenia against territorial integrity? Because it violated the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and thinks that it is right, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be violated. But if Armenia`s territorial integrity is violated, - I do not know what it will do. We, for instance, are fully for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and therefore we do not support any separatism in Russia or the desire of someone to gain state independence in the Russian Federation. We are against it.

Therefore, our position here is absolutely clear and distinct. And I consider that the problem should be solved based on these principles and no one should be given preference - neither this nor other.

Of course, at the same time, I must say that Miloshevich is guilty. He is guilty that he has liquidated the autonomy of Kosovo, which existed for many decades. He is guilty of that. And he must understand his guilt and realize what his mistake has led to or, I do not know, his wrong actions have led to such bloodshed. Therefore I think the problem should be solved on these principles.

But I recur again to our problem. The war is going on, the war is being carried in Kosovo, the Kosovo Albanians are waging war, Miloshevich has a big army at his disposal and he is waging the war. Why does he need a war? What is this bloodshed for? Along with it, we had felt the horrors of such a war too before we achieved the cease-fire in 1994. However, today we are not secured either that this war will not start again. Even in our region. Why? Because Armenia is being armed very intensively. You know, Victor Stepanovich that at the beginning of 1997, you also had the data published that the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation supplied Armenia with weapons, armament and military equipment to one billion dollars within three preceding years. Not once did we raise this question before the Russian Federation, before the President. The Office of Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation was charged with investigate this matter, but then, it was hushed up. This time, I raised this question again at the CIS Summit in the narrow membership and stated very openly: well, why was billion dollars worth armament delivered to Armenia? No explanation followed. I had to make a written statement, it was spread at the sitting of the heads of states.

Or, for example, we state openly, and today I declare taking the opportunity: for instance, we do not understand why does Russia need military bases in Armenia? A military base exists and it is being built up now, S-300 rockets and MIG -29 planes are supplied there. I appealed with a letter to Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin on this question. I received the reply, Mr. Drachevski also tells me that, if you please, it is not targeted against Azerbaijan. It is the first. And second, then against whom? For example, during the CIS Summit I directly asked Boris Nikolayevich: against whom is it targeted? I do not get a reply. Someone tells me sometimes that it is against NATO. But, frankly speaking, I have to say that it is not serious. Because NATO is in the West, Armenia is here.

Victor Chernomyrdin: But Turkey is near. It is a member of NATO.

Heydar Aliyev: So what? Is Armenia or Russia waiting for any attack from Turkey?

Victor Chernomyrdin: In principle these are the south boundaries of Russia.

Heydar Aliyev: I do not agree. If there is an attack on Russia from the territory of Turkey, you have vast common borders. The NATO has huge opportunities to attack Russia across the Black Sea and other borders if this is the case.

Victor Chernomyrdin: I think it will not run to this.

Heydar Aliyev: And if it will not run to, then why do you need it?

Victor Chernomyrdin: Well…it is Russia, Russia is not Armenia and it is a Russian base. There is a Russian base in Georgia too.

Heydar Aliyev: Firstly, 50 percent of the Armenians serve in these Russian troops. We are aware of that. And second, I consider in principle that if Russia wants to settle the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it should not deploy its forces in the territory of Armenia at this moment, before the solution of this conflict. It shouldn`t. It seems to me that no one can object to it. But Russia does not take it into consideration. We have the military conflict with Armenia. Russia is mediating and wants to solve this conflict, but at the same time, Russia endlessly increases its armed forces in the territory of Armenia. No, I do not agree with it and I hold it necessary to express today my opinion about it once again.

On the whole, perhaps, it is not directly related to the Yugoslavian crisis. But everyone speaks about his own pain.

Well, Victor Stepanovich...

Victor Chernomyrdin: Thank You, Heydar Aliyevich. It is a main question. I understand that we are absolutely united in the approaches to all such problems. It touches not only Yugoslavia and Albania, it touches everyone. I say once again, it cannot leave us indifferent. We understand what a responsibility is it for Russia not merely to participate, since this conflict can rise in any place. It is what cannot be admitted today. And You state absolutely correctly that none of it can be supported, but measures should be taken as a matter of fact. The measures taken today can be regarded as a dead-end. Powerful blows are struck, the whole cities, enterprises are razed to the ground, blood is shedand there are thousands of refugees. All this is mixed and as a result, any incorrect step can bring today to terrible consequences. And in this connection, I say once again that yes, measures are necessary. I think we are to gether with You in this respect.

Heydar Aliyev: Good.

Victor Chernomyrdin: Thank You very much, Heydar Aliyevich. 

The Azerbaijan daily, 21 April, 1999

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