Speech by Heydar Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the meeting held with Mr. William Cohen, the US Secretary of Defense. Washington, Pentagon, July 31, 1997

Dear Mr. Cohen!

I express you my gratitude for your considering the first ever visit of the President of Azerbaijan to the USA as a historical event in the development of cooperation between our countries, and your kind words. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to stress that I am very satisfied with the status of US-Azerbaijani relationships, I am very pleased with the good relationships established between Azerbaijan and US Ministry of Defense and I note that these relationships are of great importance for Azerbaijan.

I state that Azerbaijan that has joined the NATO \"Partnership for Peace\" program, pays a special attention to the strengthening of its relationships with different bodies of this international organization. In this sphere our personal relationships with Mr. Javier Solana, the Secretary General of NATO plays an important role and I would like to speak about the visit of Mr. Solana to Baku.

I highly appreciate the results of the Summit of Heads of the NATO and Council of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation member - countries held in Madrid and I think that the negotiations I conducted there were successful.

In order to underline the importance of paying more attention to the most painful problem of Azerbaijan - Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, - I would like to stress that some 20 percents of our territories were occupied in the result of Armenian military aggression, a big amount of material and moral values were plundered, more than million inhabitants were forced to flee their homeland and are experiencing hard times now. Nonetheless, Azerbaijan is still committed to the peaceful solution of the conflict and maintains the terms of the Agreement of cease-fire signed on May 12, 1994. Azerbaijan pays a special attention to the activity of OSCE Minsk Group and we think that the statement signed in Denver by the Presidents of the 3 co-chairing countries of OSCE Minsk Group - Mr. Bill Clinton, Mr. Boris Yeltsin and Mr. Jacques Chiraque, - strengthens our belief in peaceful solution of the problem very soon.

I would like to draw to your attention that Azerbaijan is the only country amongst the newly independent countries that does not have the military bases of any country at its territory. We are capable to maintain our independence on our own, we are doing our best and we will do it further for this purpose. Nobody should doubt that the independence of Azerbaijan is eternal, irreversible and steadfast.

I thank you for warm meeting and sincere conversation.