From the conversation of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with ambassadors of the USA to the countries of the Caucasian and Caspian regions, high-ranking officials of the different ministries of America - January 20, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Dear ambassadors!

Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen!

I welcome you with my heart in Azerbaijan. I express my deep satisfaction with your gathering in Azerbaijan and choosing Baku, Azerbaijan a place of meeting for your.

As I know, you have carried out great work here and continue your business. You have achieved successes. I congratulate you on this occasion. I especially congratulate the ambassador of the United States of America to Azerbaijan mister Escudero and all personnel of embassy. Because so many ambassadors of America have gathered in Azerbaijan, they have chosen the embassy of the United States of America to Baku a place of meeting.

Holding such an important meeting in embassy of the United States of America to Azerbaijan is a trust, care and attention shown by the government of the United States of America and embassies of many countries to US embassy in Azerbaijan. At the same time we, of course, appreciate holding this meeting in Azerbaijan, in its capital Baku, as display of attention and care in relation to Azerbaijan. I want to express my profound satisfaction in this regard. I think that many of you are in Azerbaijan, Baku for the first time and got an opportunity to get acquainted with a life and with present of our country. It is very important for us. We are interested in this question because we want everybody to see the present day of independent Azerbaijan personally and get acquainted with it closely.

Azerbaijan is young as an independent state. We are living the 9th year of our independence. We have problems and the transition period is accompanied by many difficulties.

But at the same time, we have both achievements and success. In particular, we have achieved great a success as an independent state in the last years. Therefore, acquaintance with it, undoubtedly, will create deep, true and objective impression for you about Azerbaijan. I welcome you once again and am ready to listen to you.

Stanley Escudero: Thank you very much, mister President. We express our gratitude to You for receiving a big delegation of America here, at your office - in the White house. I consider it honor for myself that on the initiative of our embassy to Azerbaijan, the big meeting is being held and very authoritative ambassadors are participating at this meeting.

Dear President, today ambassadors of the United States of America to the countries of the Caucasian and Caspian regions, representatives of embassies to Turkey, Russia, and the high-ranking government officials representing different ministries of the government of the United States of America are on an official visit to your country.

Mister President, today the meeting of all these persons with You means that all officials of the government of the United States of America who are dealing with the countries of the Caucasian, including Caspian have gathered in Baku.

Our meeting here in this structure and the discussion of the problems on mutual interest, proves that the government of the United States of America attaches great importance to Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, all countries of the Caspian region and Central Asia. We are regularly engaged in issues of these states.

Mister President, within a day and a half, we have also conducted an exchange of opinions on ways of a peaceful settlement of the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict in this wide structure. At the same time, we have conducted a detailed exchange of opinions on what should be done for attraction of the donor countries to rehabilitation works to be carried out after the settlement of the conflict, liberation of the lands which are under the occupation.

Alongside with conducting an exchange of opinions concerning the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict peacefully, we have delivered significant time for discussion of issues on profit of regional economic cooperation for these states if peace is achieved. We have also discussed all questions connected with the Baku - Ceyhan main export pipeline which comes to the end and problems connected with the Transcaspian gas pipeline.

Mister President, today after the meeting with You we shall gather in embassy of the USA to Baku and make an exchange of opinions again concerning the regional security and planning of our further works. I consider that our negotiations will cover today and be continued tomorrow in the first half of day.

Mister President, I would like to attract Your attention to another authoritative event which will take place in the near future in Baku. Business circles of the United States of America will gather in the event which will be arranged by the American Chamber of Commerce in Baku. As it is known, the American business and the American-Azerbaijan economic relations also play an important role in development of economic and commercial communications between our countries.

Mister President, as You know, the American Chamber of Commerce will hold the opening ceremony of its very big office in Baku on January 21. The joint meeting of the American chambers of commerce in this region will also be held in Baku.

Mister President, before the beginning of the meeting, showing courtesy, you personally welcomed each member of this delegation. Therefore, I will not take your time to introduce to you all members of this delegation. I will confine myself to introduce to you only three members of delegation with whom you have already got acquainted. And they are going to make a short speech before you.

Ambassador William Taylor is sitting on my left side. As you know, Ambassador Taylor is the coordinator of the United States of America on rendering assistance to all states which have newly gained independence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Mister ambassador John Wolf is on the left of Mister Taylor. As you know, Ambassador Wolf is the special adviser to the President Clinton and State Secretary madam Albright for Caspian basin energy. He is the main person representing America in carrying on negotiations connected with pipelines.

This is Mister Kenny Housie sitting after mister Huseynov. He is a president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan.

William Taylor: Mister President, I wish to develop ambassador Escudero`s ideas on the discussions which we held in the US embassy that within my visit we will achieve a big promotion in two more areas with the government of Azerbaijan.

First, a little after our meeting, together with the minister of finance of Azerbaijan, we will sign a memorandum on the economic cooperation between the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Azerbaijan. This document will give a new special impulse to the further development of economic relations between our countries.

Second, the most important part of my visit to Baku will be my meetings with senior officials of the government of Azerbaijan. One of the subjects at these meetings will become conducting an exchange of opinions on the coordination of opportunities available for realization of rehabilitation works after achievement of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and preliminary planning of this work.

Before our trip here, we have carried out extensive talks with the organizations of the World Bank entering the European Union to achieve the support of international community by all means, if such an agreement be attained.

Mister President, both spheres of my work here have become very successful and fruitful. I hope that we shall finish this work successfully.

John Wolf: Mister President, in his speech on December 6, the President of the United States of America mister Bill Clinton appreciated the agreement on the Baku - Ceyhan main export pipeline as one of the greatest achievements of foreign policy of his government in 1999.

We consider that pipelines are only auxiliary means for a line, strategy of establishment of the future cooperation and economic, political institutes which have been wisely created by You and leaders of other countries of this region. We consider that all this policy serves to strengthening of independence of Your states as a whole.

The signing ceremony taken place on November 18 in Istanbul is the beginning. However, there are even great works before us to be carried out and implemented for a short time. For this reason the White House has deputed me here to carry on negotiations in the region and render assistance in successful promotion of this work. President Mister Demirel and President Mister Shevardnadze have expressed hope that as a result of forthcoming Ankara negotiations on January 21, all questions connected with the Baku - Ceyhan main export pipeline would be solved.

The United States of America supports and welcomes it. We consider that along with the fact that this agreement will be fair for the countries and peoples, it should promote the maintenance of their commercial interests. As a result of this agreement, everybody should become winners in this work.

There are good opportunities to develop the construction of Transcaspian gas pipeline too. These opportunities will lead to the construction of such pipeline, development of gas deposits of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and meet the needs of Turkey in gas. At the same time, it will promote expansion of economic cooperation in the region and help establishing of relations and communications between states of the region in a condition of peace.

Actually to achieve all these is not easy. However, these projects and agreements will serve to the future generations and cover a period which will be probably longer than lives of people who are engaged in these issues.

I started my speech with words of President Bill Clinton. I am often asked: you convey personal opinions, views of the President Clinton concerning the Caspian region, we would like to know will the same policy of the American government related to this region be continued after the end of presidential term of mister Bill Clinton?

I have repeatedly declared it and today I reiterate: we consider that this policy deserves supports of wide political circles of America as it serves to the effective exploitation of rich energy resources of the region and development of regional economic cooperation. This work will be continued in the future as well as. I consider that the construction of the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan main export pipeline and Transcaspian gas pipeline will be successful. As friends of this region, we shall also continue the further construction of the multy-form pipelines in these countries to promote economic development and prosperity of the region, bring here stability and security.

Mister President, I wish to express my gratitude to You for your personal support to promotion of all these works. Thank you.

Kenny Housie: Mister President, we are very pleased of the condition You have created for arrangement of the American Chamber of Commerce to be held today and tomorrow.

Ambassador Escudero has absolutely fairly noted that it is the first Baku meeting of chambers of commerce of the United States of America in the region. Representatives of our chambers of commerce in the Caucasus, in Central Asia, will take part in our meeting. The basic object of our Baku meeting consists in sharing the experience of some American chambers of commerce, conduct an exchange of opinions and carry out additional work for striking deep roots of commercial, economic interests of America in this region.

The American Chamber of Commerce is the organization consisting of representatives of business circles, covering separate sectors. The companies functioning within the limits of our organization make investments into various sectors of Azerbaijan. We aspire to assist the development of economic relations between America and Azerbaijan and attraction of additional investments to Azerbaijan. American chambers of commerce functioning in other regions carry out the same mission.

Our activity in Azerbaijan is accompanied with great success. The main reason of this success is an establishment of strong business contacts with the governmental circles of Azerbaijan, personally with You, mister President. Therefore, we have Your support in realization of our activity.

We have recently set up successful working groups together with the State Chief Taxation Inspection and the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan. The Chairmen of both organizations have a good attitude to us. They have rendered us every support for teamwork with us in Azerbaijan, and also for the elimination of difficulties that we face in your republic.

We hope for the further expansion of our relations and contacts with the state structures of Azerbaijan. Once again I stress that our basic purpose is to render assistance to additional inflow of American investments to Azerbaijan.

Mister President, I have just told to business circles of the United States of America working in Azerbaijan about the support of the Azerbaijan government and Your personal support. Let me present you our small gift - a picture as an evidence of high estimation of your support and help.

Mister President, first of all, I wish to give You a letter of thanks sent by Head Staff of Chambers of Commerce of the United States of America for Your support to the Chamber of Commerce and business circles of America.

Secondly, I want to present You this picture. It symbolizes the gratitude for Your personal support to the activity of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan.

Mister President, once again we express our gratitude to You for your support and we highly appreciate it. We hope that you will always render your support to us. Thank you.

Heydar Aliyev: Dear ambassadors!

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

I have listened to you with great attention and interest. I am very satisfied with the information you gave.

Ambassador mister Escudero`s brief information on the discussed questions here, naturally, pleases us. Because it shows increasing of attention of the United States of America to the Caucasus, the Caspian region, Central Asia, to the countries around us. We welcome it. We consider that this attitude should be consecutive and find its reflection in practical work.

We attach special significance to our relations with the United States of America in all areas in the broad sense. The importance of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States of America and increase of its level have found its reflection in the joint statement signed by the President mister Bill Clinton and me on August 1, 1997 in the White house on the eve of my official visit to the United States of America. We consistently fulfill the obligations that we undertook in this joint statement and we aspire to its further development.

We approve the growth of interest of the United States of America in Azerbaijan, all Caucasus, in particular, in the Southern Caucasus, the Caspian basin, the Central Asia and all the countries around us and carrying out a consistent policy on economic cooperation, cooperation in the field of security. I consider that it is quite sound.

It, first of all, can render great help to economic development, development of democracy, market economy and security of our countries. Such policy, practical activities of the United States of America may be elsewhere surprising somewhere. But, I consider there is no ground to get surprised. The United States of America is a big and developed economically country of the world. It displays the interest of the United States of America in protection of human rights, development of democracy, and development of market economy in each corner of the world, including in the newly and young independent states, and, thus, it renders a practical help to our countries.

Realization of these principles and plans in our countries depends on an establishment of stability and security too. Therefore, it is natural that this policy of the United States of America causes a feeling of satisfaction.

There are specific features and problems in each country of our region. But it is clear to all of us that - we understand it so in Azerbaijan - there are much common in our problems. And these similar problems are connected with a transition period in these countries. And in a transition period it is necessary to build a democratic, legal, secular state in each country, develop market economy and carry out other measures in this respect.

I declare that Azerbaijan has been following this way since gaining its independence up to now. Democratic, legal and secular state has been built in Azerbaijan, and it is developing. Azerbaijan is carrying out numerous economic, social reforms for the realization of market economy. Azerbaijan is implementing numerous political reforms. Naturally, all these in a complex form manifest that we are following a way of democracy.

I know that all our neighboring countries also follow this way, considering their certain specific features. But, naturally, our countries have also different problems from each other. I consider that in comparison with other countries, Azerbaijan has the most difficult and hard problem. This is the Armenia-Azerbaijan Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict which is known to you. As a result of this conflict, territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has been violated, the Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan`s territory, about one million Azerbaijanis have been expelled from the occupied lands and the occupied lands had completely been plundered. Today I have a good basis to tell that none a country - I mean the countries represented by ambassadors today here - has faced similar heavy problems and hardships experienced by Azerbaijan.

It is known that despite the heavy losses, and great damages, Azerbaijan signed the agreement on cease-fire regime with Armenia in May, 1994 and observes it more than five years. However, the cease-fire is not the purpose but method for achievement of peace, clearing the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, restoration of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and returning more than one million Azerbaijani citizens to native homes. Unfortunately, the negotiations conducted in the last years, the activity of the OSCE Minsk group and in particular, the negotiations held at intermediary of heads of the Minsk group - Russia, the United States of America, France and other organizations, have not given expected results.

You know that my personal meetings and talks with the President of Armenia mister Kocharyan have recently taken place for peace settlement. During these negotiations we came to such opinion - it is personally my opinion and I think president Kocharyan also thinks so - that the question can be solved peacefully. Co-chairmen of the Minsk group - the governments of Russia, the United States of America and France - have also information about it.

The problem is very complex, its settlement is difficult. This conflict lasts for 12 years. Therefore, we think that both parties should make the compromises for the settlement of the question. This is my opinion. This is opinion of president Kocharyan. Now it is necessary to define these compromises and to come to the final conclusion.

Today I once again declare that the government of Azerbaijan is the supporter of the peace solution of the problem and will make all efforts for this purpose further on. We wish the prompt establishment of peace. We wish liberating the occupied lands and returning there refugees.

I am very glad that, as mister Escudero declared here, in these discussions you have delivered much time to the peace settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict, conducted an exchange of opinions, and I think that your discussions will help the settlement of this issue.

We want an establishment of peace in the Caucasus, in particular in the Southern Caucasus, and we consider that peace should be established despite all the conflicts, losses of the last years, bloody wars, economic and moral damages inflicted upon Azerbaijan. If peace is provided between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it will be possible to make cooperation in all areas in the Caucasus and to get really prompt development in the countries of the Southern Caucasus.

You noted that during the discussions you had made exchange of opinions on restoration of the occupied lands after an establishment of peace and you take necessary measures for mobilization of opportunities of the World Bank and other financial centers. It proves that you believe in the establishment of peace and look at this problem optimistically. I am thankful to you for it.

I completely agree with ambassador mister Taylor`s opinion. If peace is gained, the occupied lands are liberated, restoration works begin, then it will be possible to carry out very effective program of cooperation in the Southern Caucasus. Naturally, this program can be carried out only and only by means of help and support of the United States of America, under its protection. We realize that the establishment of peace in itself cannot provide security in the Caucasus, Southern Caucasus. It is necessary to provide a political stability within each country, to strengthen it and take necessary measures for a good security in the Southern Caucasus for this purpose. From this point of view, the initiative of the United States of America is very valuable.

As the independent state, Azerbaijan is establishing relations of peace, cooperation and friendship with all countries of the world. Therefore, we take principles of peace, wide cooperation, mutual understanding with our neighbors as a basis and we establish contacts with all neighboring countries on the basis of principles of friendship, good neighborhood and cooperation.

One of the topics discussed by you is the beginning of construction of Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline and taking necessary measures on Transcaspian gas- pipeline. The information of the ambassador mister Wolf on the statement of the President Mister Clinton on December 6 has very much pleased me personally. If the US President Bill Clinton considers the signing the treaty on construction of Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline as the most successful event in their foreign policy in 1999, it naturally causes a feeling of great pride.

Now it is known that the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline project was founded by the independent Azerbaijan state. Five years ago - in September of 1994, in a condition of instability, heavy crisis in our country, by signing "the Contract of the century" we established the cooperation between Azerbaijan and the western countries, the United States of America, which has wide perspectives.

You know that Azerbaijan being the architect which founded the Baku - Ceyhan oil pipeline, is interested in the realization of this project more than others.

Signing a big statement in Ankara in October, 1998 and then signing contracts on the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline on November 18, 1999 in Istanbul, participation of the USA President mister Bill Clinton in signing this contract and at the same time, in signing the statement on realization of the contract, his signature on the document have summed up to the hard work carried out for five years. We, Azerbaijan, wish to start a quick construction of the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline. There are no problems from the Azerbaijan side for this purpose.

Delegations of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan will meet on 21-22 of this month in Ankara. If to take into account ambassador Wolf`s statement, Turkish President respected Suleiman Demirel and Georgian President respected Edward Shevardnadze had said there were no problems for the solution of the question from their sides, then it is possible to consider that everything starts from now on. In particular, especially president Shevardnadze`s statement which ambassador Wolf has declared here, is very important for us.

As I have already said, delegations will meet in Ankara on 21-22. I wish there were no new meetings. But I wish to start a practical work.

You know that yesterday the meeting of delegations of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and Turkmenistan connected with Transcaspian gas pipeline was taken place in Ashgabat. The delegation of Azerbaijan headed by the deputy Prime Minister Sharifov has participated there. I hope the work will go on successfully as well as in this field.

I completely agree with your opinion that either the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan oil pipeline, or Transcaspian gas pipeline have big commercial character, they open great opportunities for development of economy of our countries. At the same time, this is very important provision for establishing security in our region, in our countries. Trying to achieve the agreement on construction of the Baku - Ceyhan oil pipeline for five years, we have always considered this side of the question, and sometimes preferred to it.

After signing agreements on the Baku - Ceyhan oil pipeline in Istanbul, different opinions are expressed, different articles are published in different countries and the majority of them is directed against our work. Authors of these articles are trying to prove that there is no such quantity of oil stocks in the Caspian Sea, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is unreal and will not be realized. Answering to all of them I am telling: you are very much mistaken. You know what purpose you pursue. But your disinformation can never stop our work, because oil stocks in the Caspian Sea are much more than our calculations. Kazakhstan has joined the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Their oil resources are so great. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline will be necessarily constructed, put in operation and bring great advantages to our countries.

I was very much pleased with the information on the activity of the American-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce. I have supported the activity of this chamber till now. Thank you for a high estimation of my activity, for this letter and for gift.

I consider opening office of the chamber in Azerbaijan tomorrow is a significant event. The prime minister of Azerbaijan will take part in the opening ceremony. I am very much pleased with the information on the work carried out by the chamber of commerce till now, and its future plans. At the same time, it is the neat answer to ill-wishers of Azerbaijan, those who in various circles express opinions as if investments are not involved in other sectors except oil in Azerbaijan.

The foreign investments involved in non-oil sector of Azerbaijan`s economy, that is, interest of foreign countries, including the United States of America, in this sector grows day by day. And today I can tell that in 1999, 60 percent of the investment flowed into Azerbaijan, was made in non-oil sector. 40 percent was invested in oil sector. Naturally, here the business share of the United States of America is big as well. I hope that establishment of the office of the chamber here, on one hand, proves the existence of great opportunities in Azerbaijan; and on the other hand, encourages us to carry out even much work in the future.

I do not doubt that the private sector, business of the United States of America will show even more interest in Azerbaijan, carry out even great works to provide development of economic relations between the United States of America and Azerbaijan.

Thus, I told you my opinion and offers concerning your information on the issues you discussed. I guess it can help your work to a certain extent. Thank you.

"Azerbaijan" newspaper, January 22, 2000.