Statement of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at Georgetown University in Washington - July 30, 1997

Distinguished Dr. Bzhezinski!

Esteemed Vice-President of Georgetown University!

Distinguished Ambassador Armitage!

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

I cordially welcome all of you, and I am extremely proud to be at this meeting at one of the most famous and oldest universities of the United States, Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

I have read a great deal about Georgetown University, and although I have never been here before, I personally have had great respect to this institution. We are well aware of the fact that this university has prepared world-class professionals in many fields including international relations. We were told today that many outstanding political and state figures have had Georgetown experience. It was noted that the current U.S. president, esteemed Mr. Bill Clinton, graduated from Georgetown University. Mrs. Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, has taught at this university as a professor. We can continue mentioning these distinguished personalities. Therefore, it is my honor to speak before the faculty, students and other people associated with Georgetown. I thank the organizers of this meeting.

I believe that you have gathered here in order to hear my thoughts about Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. That\'s why I would like to say a few words about the country I represent - Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is one of the most ancient countries in the world. The Azerbaijani people have a very rich, ancient history and culture. The Azeri people have made a great number of significant contributions to the world civilization with their works of literature, culture, architecture, and science.

Azerbaijan has lived through many tests of times recently, surviving difficulties and disasters and finally, gained its independence in 1918. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became the first democratic republic in the Muslim Orient. However, this republic was short-lived as in 1920 the socialist Soviet system was established in Azerbaijan. This situation continued for 70 years until 1991 when Azerbaijan restored its independence after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. Since then, Azerbaijan has been functioning as an independent state.

Azerbaijan has taken its place in the world community having become a member to the UN, many other international organizations and having established bi-lateral and diplomatic relations with numerous countries. Our country is determined to develop those links.

Azerbaijan attaches a special importance to its relations with the United States. The United States became one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan in 1991. Since then our relations have been growing. My current visit to Washington has the purpose of elevating these relationships even further and turning them into truly friendly cooperation between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.

As you know, I am on an official visit to the United States at the invitation of President Clinton. This is the first official visit of the Azeri President to the United States.

After the independent state Azerbaijan became established, we resolved to build a democratic, law-based and secular state. We have been taking consistent steps to that end. Unfortunately, we have come across many barriers and hardships on our path. Sometimes these obstacles have impeded our movement towards the democratic state, but they have failed to force us to affect our determination. I am stating it once again that Azerbaijan\'s strategic goal is to establish a democratic, law-based and secular state. We have been following our strategic plan, and we will continue on this path. We are capable of tackling all our challenges, and we are and will be doing everything to attain this objective.

Azerbaijan has chosen the market economy and has carried out substantial work in this regard. The market system is the basis of our economy. The principal achievements in our nation-building and economic reform efforts were displayed in the adoption of the first Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan in November 1995 and the creation of the multi-party political system which still function. We have passed a number of laws directed at speeding up the democratic processes and stimulating the transition to the market economy. These laws have already had a positive effect on the economy, and we plan to create even more favorable legislative atmosphere in the future. In other words, we have already established the legislative and legal basis for productive business operations. These processes have been developing consistently in Azerbaijan. For certain reasons, the economic reforms in Azerbaijan started somewhat late in 1994, however, the projects have been implemented at a good pace.

One of such reasons, as you may know, was the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan that began in 1988 when both Azerbaijan and Armenia were part of the Soviet Union. Armenia intended to annex the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Consequently, the war erupted, and there were huge losses of human lives. The war expanded and the Armenian armed forces managed to occupy 20% of the Azeri territory including Nagorno-Karabakh and six Azeri districts around it. One million Azeri citizens were expelled from their homes in the occupied lands. Most of them have been living in tents under horrible conditions. Imagine, one million citizens out of seven million people in Azerbaijan, that is one out of every seven citizens, are refugees and live in tents. Undoubtedly, this circumstance complicates and aggravates our socio-political and economic conditions.

On the other hand, one of the reasons the democratization processes and economic reforms started late in Azerbaijan was the political instability in the country. During the struggle for independence, some illegally armed groups emerged that strove to seize power. The government changed twice during that time. All these events destabilized the political situation in Azerbaijan. This was one of the factors that hindered the implementation of many reforms.

We have overcome all these hurdles and have restored full social and political stability in the country. And as I noted earlier, Azerbaijan has made considerable strides in its transition to a market economy. We are carrying out a privatization program. We have passed the Law on Land thus ensuring the total privatization of land. We have created broad opportunities in Azerbaijan for entrepreneurship and private ownership.

During this process, the doors of Azerbaijan were opened to other countries and direct foreign investments. I want to express my satisfaction that such policies produced a strong influx of foreign capital into the Azeri economy. One example of this success is the involvement of major American oil companies in Azerbaijan since 1994, and the process is still on. Other U.S. non-oil companies are entering the Azerbaijani markets and making substantial investments.

Azerbaijan is a democratic country that will pursue this avenue in the future as well. The protection of human rights is one of the main objectives of the Azeri state. There is freedom of press, religion, conscience and political pluralism in our country. Azerbaijan is a multi-national state. Every citizen of Azerbaijan regardless of his or her ethnicity, faith or language has equal rights.

However, as I already stated, Azerbaijan faces arduous challenges. The principal problem is the military confrontation with Armenia. I have already related the history of this conflict. Unfortunately, this conflict has not been settled to this day. It is true that we signed a cease-fire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan three years ago in 1994. It has been three years of no fighting and blood between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, our occupied territories have not been liberated yet, nor have our million refugees been returned to their homes.

Azerbaijan suffered great destruction and losses during this war. Tens of thousands of Azeris fell in this war, while our historic monuments, our national cultural legacy, our sacred sites and much material wealth has been looted or destroyed.

Despite all these horrible acts, we want to settle the conflict peacefully. That\'s why we signed the cease-fire accord three years ago. We have been trying to negotiate a solution to the problem for three years. We are still doing it and will be doing so in the future.

The Minsk Group of OSCE was set up in 1992 to help find the resolution to the conflict. Several important powers are members of the Minsk Group, and due to the work of this group, the Budapest Summit of the OSCE in 1994 adopted crucial documents. Finally, at the OSCE summit meeting in December of 1996, three basic principles for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were approved.

Those principles were:

1) the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia;

2) high autonomy status for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan;

3) the security guarantees for all the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azeris and Armenians alike. I would like to note that the population of Nagorno-Karabakh before the conflict erupted was 170,000 in 1988. At that time, 70% of the population were Armenians and 30% were Azeris. During the conflict, the Azeris were forcibly deported from the region. Now there are approximately 80,000 people in Nagorno-Karabakh, all of which are Armenians.

Armenia refused to accept these principles, while 53 members of OSCE out of 54 including Azerbaijan voted for this proposal. We do not completely endorse those principles either. We have our own reservations about them. However, in order to find a compromise, we accepted these principles.

The leadership of the Minsk Group saw some changes in the beginning of 1997. Three countries currently co-chair the Minsk Group - Russia, the U.S. and France. This is a remarkable change, which we welcome. If these three powers took on the resolution of such a problem, then they took a great responsibility for this matter. We hope that they will fulfill their duties to settle the conflict.

What gives us reason to be optimistic is the joint statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by three presidents of these countries - Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac - on June 20th, in Denver. The representatives of these countries including Strobe Talbott from the United States have been to the region and presented us with their suggestions. The proposals consist of two parts. We accept the positive aspects although we deem that further deliberation on other points is harmful. Therefore, we do accept these proposals as a sound basis for negotiations.

These recommendations and the Lisbon principles amount to the following. I would like to demonstrate them on the map. This is the map of the Azerbaijani Republic. Russia is on our northern border. This is Georgia, and here is Armenia. You can see Azerbaijan here. Nakhichevan, the part of Azerbaijan, is illustrated separately. You can see Iran and the Caspian Sea.

The colored lands are the occupied territories of Azerbaijan that comprises 20% of our total land area. The red part is the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The six Azeri districts that surround Nagorno-Karabakh are shown in green. The yellow shows the district of Lachin, the Azeri district is also under occupation. You can also notice Shusha district. It is a part of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the entire population of the district consists of Azeris. Shusha is a cultural and historic center of Azerbaijan.

The first stage of the proposals calls for the complete withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the Azeri territories shown in green. The OSCE peacekeeping forces are to monitor the process and should be deployed on the border of Nagorno-Karabakh. The second stage envisages the negotiations on the political status of Nagorno-Karabakh and ensures the liberation of the Lachin and Shusha districts of Azerbaijan. We support this approach since we realize it is impossible to solve this problem immediately. Thus, if the negotiating parties agree to this arrangement and the OSCE co chairs back this idea, then our occupied territories can be soon liberated. Furthermore, President Clinton, and the presidents of Russia and France made statements that this conflict could be solved peacefully in 1997.

The first phase can consist of the following: the lands are freed, and the OSCE peacekeeping forces are deployed to ensure the withdrawal. The status of Nagorno-Karabakh can be determined at the second stage together with the issues of Lachin and Shusha.

Nagorno-Karabakh\'s main concern is its links with Armenia. The road you see here on the map leads from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. We have repeatedly declared we are not against the communication corridor traversing Lachin from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. This artery should be under the control of the OSCE peacekeeping forces.

As far as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is concerned, I am reiterating that we are ready to grant the highest autonomy status to Nagorno-Karabakh that is known. Regrettably, Armenia opposes this idea and stated this position at the OSCE Lisbon Summit. Armenia wants full independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. We will never consent to this. Neither the world community, nor we can allow the creation of a second Armenian state on the territory. Nevertheless, we are willing to grant the broadest possible autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh without full independence.

Another issue of concern to us is Section 907, imposed on Azerbaijan by the Congress. This decision was made at the time when it was alleged that Azerbaijan imposed a blockade on Armenia, and the United States banned aid to Azerbaijan. This law is very unjust, and I am glad to hear that the President and the Secretary of State have been urging Congress to eliminate this law. U.S. public opinion against this law is gaining momentum. I will hold talks at Congress today and hope it will finally remove this unfair ban. Congressman King has recently submitted a draft that is designed to lift Section 907.1 think it will be very good if this law passes.

I would like to inform you that when the Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia is mentioned, they mean this railroad going from Baku to Armenia. But you have to realize that this section of the railroad is controlled by the Armenian armed forces. About 130 kilometers of this railroad are not under our supervision. The armed forces of Armenia took control of the railroad when they occupied those lands. This is Iran, and the occupying troops have taken over the Iranian-Azeri border as well. If one dares talk about the blockade, then it is Armenia that is blockading Azerbaijan by depriving it of its railroad. The Azeri region of Nakhichevan, which had only railroad and automobile communications with the rest of Azerbaijan through Armenia, is blockaded.

I believe that all these facts should stay in the past. We have to think about today. The realities of today are that if we achieve peace, which we genuinely want, then all these issues will undoubtedly be solved. Section 907, which is against Azerbaijan, must also be lifted.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that Azerbaijan is a peace-loving nation and state. We want peace with Armenia and peace in the region. We think that Azerbaijan and Armenia should live in peace with each other as they have done for centuries. As an independent state, we want to establish a peaceful relationship with Armenia. However, all this is contingent on the liberation of the Azeri lands, and the restoration and guarantee of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We are ready to conclude such peace based on these principles, and we think that peace will benefit both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

I would like to dwell on the involvement of U.S. companies in Azerbaijan. We are already implementing the \"Contract of Century\" signed in September 1994. Two pipelines are being constructed to export Azeri oil to world markets. One will go via Russia to the Black Sea, and the other will extend through Georgia to the Black Sea. A major pipeline designed to carry the bulk of the Azeri oil to foreign markets in the future is planned to cross Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea.

I would like to note that the Caspian Sea has vast oil resources. Fifty years ago, Azeri scientists discovered the offshore oil deposits in the Caspian and began production. Fifty years later in the late 20th century, Azerbaijan is opening the Caspian Sea to the world again by inviting foreign firms to participate in these projects. Today, companies from 11 countries are working on joint projects in Azerbaijan. It is possible that soon we will sign new contracts with more U.S. oil corporations. These developments tie Azerbaijan and America together for decades well into the 21st century. This creates incredible opportunities for economic integration. We want and support this progress and will spare no effort in this direction in the future.

I could tell you much more, however I would like to reserve the rest of the time for your questions. Thank you! 
The document was taken from the edition of \"Together Towards The New Century\"