From the talk of Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, with the delegation of the European Parliament - Presidential Palace, February 29, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Dear guests, I welcome you. It is the first delegation of the European Parliament to come to Azerbaijan. We have been cooperating with the EU for a long time. Our cooperation is realized mainly through the economic commission; we are satisfied with this cooperation. We have done a lot within the cooperation with the economic commission of the European Union and have received aid. We have good plans for the future.

This meeting also proves the expansion of our cooperation with all the structures of the European Union. I`m satisfied with your visit to Azerbaijan. You can learn about our country, our nation. Our cooperation is starting. Please, I am listening to you.

Peer Gahrton: In my opinion, this meeting is of great importance for the further cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan. I prepare the report for the European Parliament on the Southern Caucasians countries. Afterwards this report will be discussed and probably, adopted in the European Parliament. After its adoption, the main strategic line of the European Parliament on the Southern Caucasian countries will be determined. Therefore, we have named our mission "a fact finding mission". As you see, our delegation consists of persons from different parliaments. Thus, more people will observe Azerbaijan and there will be more opinions on your country. Subsequently, the results of our observations will be prepared as a report and submitted to the European Parliament.

Mr. President, I have two questions to you. The first one is on the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. There is a cooperation and definite relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. We know that you want to develop these relations. We support you in this issue.

Azerbaijan will soon become a member of the European Council. The European Union is another entity on the continent. The distance from here to Strasbourg is a bit shorter than the distance to Brussels. We`d like to hear your opinion on the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. How big are your plans? What do you think of these relations in general?

My second question is on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. During our visit we have gained a lot of information on it. We had got enough information about it before we came here. We also know that you try for the peaceful solution of the issue. We`d like to learn how real the solution of the conflict is and how do you vision it?

Heydar Aliyev: At first, I want to disclose that Azerbaijan is a European country. After gaining independence Azerbaijan determined its statehood as democratic, legal and secular.

Azerbaijan will follow the market economy by realizing political and economic reforms, and refuse the former economic and political forms.

Azerbaijan is a democratic and secular state. Naturally, Azerbaijan wants to benefit from the European values and to achieve European standards in different fields, including in the statebuilding process and in the formation of society by using those values.

The speed of the process depends on the desire of Azerbaijan to be recognized and be admitted by the European structures by cooperating with them. We understand that we must follow this way. For it, we must fulfill our obligations concerning our constitution and the European values connected with the progressive international values. We want it, we try for it. As you noted, we have been cooperating with the European Council for over 3 years.

The period of examination is already behind. I think that this year we`ll be admitted to the European Council.

Our cooperation with the European Union is realized via the economic commission. We have done a lot in this field. We have signed some documents with the economic commission of the European Union. We cooperate on the basis of these documents. Azerbaijan plays a special role in the realization of the programmes of the economic commission of the European Union, such as TRASEKA, INOGATE.

An international conference on the realization of the TRASEKA programme and the restoration of the ancient Silk Road took place in September 1998 in Azerbaijan. It was Azerbaijan`s initiative, but we organized the conference together with the economic commission of the European Union. The delegations of 32 countries and 13 international organizations took part at the conference. The delegations of 9 countries were headed by their presidents.

We had comprehensive discussions and appreciated the realization of the TRASEKA programme and the restoration of the Silk Road as a necessary programme between the East and the West. We signed the necessary documents and established an organizational committee. Its secretariat is located in Azerbaijan. It is the result of our cooperation with the economic commission of the European Union.

I think that it is time for our cooperation with the parliament of the European Union. Thus, you have come to Azerbaijan. I am satisfied with it. Taking into consideration the old practice, I think that our cooperation can be productive. We understand that your parliament has also strict conditions. Almost all the European countries are members of the European Council. But the number of the members of the European Union is limited. I am aware that some of the post-socialist countries of the Eastern Europe now strive to join the European Union. But their conditions must be fulfilled. They need some time for it. The cooperation is necessary for it. We are ready to cooperate with you in this field.

As for your second question, I guess that you are informed of the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is probably the oldest and the hardest conflict in the post-Soviet area. It began in 1988 at the initiative of Armenia. Armenia began this conflict with the purpose to annex Nagorno-Karabakh which is an integral part of Azerbaijan. The conflict turned into the war later. There was much blood and many victims.

Because of some reasons and by using the direct aid of some countries the Armenian armed forces have occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and several big districts around it. Thus, 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory is now under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces. Over one milion Azerabijani citizens were compelled to leave their homes and now live in tents. Almost everything in the occupied lands have been destroyed.

Despite everything, we signed a ceasfire agreement with Armenia in May 1994 and we still observe it. During the recent years we tried to find a peaceful solution for the issue. For the peaceful solution the Minsk Group of OSCE was established in 1992. Russia, the USA and France are co-chairs of the Minsk Group. In the recent years we have had a lot of meetings, discussions and proposals. However, we could not come to an agreement yet.

At the Lisbon summit of OSCE in December 1996, a decision appropriate for both Armenia and Azerbaijan was adopted. If we could realize it, the conflict had already been solved. Azerbaijan accepted it, but Armenia refused.

The co-chairs of the Minsk Group are still working on the problem. Along with it, the direct meetings and negotiations between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia took place in 1999. I think that these meetings and negotiations are of significance and help the peaceful solution of the issue. Unless the terror act happened in Armenia on October 27, we could possibly solve it. I guess that you are informed of the terror act in the parliament.

In my opinion, the negotiations between the two presidents must go on. The activity of co-chairs of the Minsk Group must become more intensive, and we must achieve the peaceful solution of the issue. It is my opinion. I think that it is also relevant to the requirements of the European Union.

Peer Gahrton: The direct negotiations are of great importance indeed. I consider that there is great hope.

Marie-Anne-Isler Bequin: Mr. President, at first I wish you good health. I am the representative of the European Parliament on Azerbaijan, also the other countries of the Southern Caucasus. I hope that during the five years of my mandate, good relations between Azerbaijan and our organization will be established. As I am engaged in the environmental field, I`d like to ask you a special question. Great attention is always paid to the environmental issues in our parliament. We want to establish a regional center for the three countries in Tbilisi. We understand that Azerbaijan won`t join this initiative because of the conflict with Armenia. But the establishment of the regional center will be politically, economically and ecologically beneficial for Azerbaijan. We want to learn your opinion on it.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you for wishing me good helath. My health is fine.

The issue raised by you is significant. Naturally, the ecology and the prevention of the polution of the environment are main problems of the new century.

It is especially necessary for us - Azerbaijan and the Southern Caucasus. Concerning this issues, the situation of Azerbaijan is more unsuitable. The protection of the environment and ecological issues depend on the attitude to these issues and the desire of the country to prevent the pollution. We have not many opportunities in this field. Azerbaijan is a big industrial country, and Baku is a big industrial city. In the past the oil industry and the related fields were well-developed in our country. Naturally, it had a big impact on the pollution of the environment.

Now some of these industrial entities don`t work. Though this factor affects the production, but neverthelesss it is useful in the protection of the environment.

However, ecology is not limited within one country. It is a global problem. It has no borders. For example, the biggest rivers which cross Azerbaijan are the Kura and the Araz. Their sources are in Turkey; they cross the territories of Armenia and Georgia. Being the main water sources of Azerbaijan, they are used for different purposes. The fresh water for us comes from them. 70% of the water for Baku is supplied by the Kura. The Kura and the Araz merge and become one river. In the past -during the Soviet time we were aware how much toxic waste was thorwn into the Araz in Armenia or the Kura in Georgia, and we tried to prevent it. But now we don`t have such an opportunity. Now we don`t know how much toxic waste is thrown into the Araz in Armenia. Here the analysis of the water shows the toxic in it.

That`s why, cooperation in ecology within the Southern Caucasus is important for us. Yours is a good initiative. However, there are no relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We are in the state of war. It makes our cooperation impossible. But we learn this proposal attentively. Because some people here support the proposal, some reject. That`s why I can`t make the final decision yet. I think that your initiative is

valuable. We`ll inform you when we come to the final decision.

Joot Lagendoek: Mr. President, perhaps you are informed that before we came here we visited Georgia. While being here we understand that two countries have similar problems. Some problems can be applied to both countries. It is corruption. The approach of the European Union to corruption is also sensible. If you want to achieve economic development in your country, develop the democratic institutions in politics and society, it will be the priority for the European Union. It is one of the priorities in the European Union. In Georgia we discussed it with Mr. Shevardnadze. We`d like to learn your opinion which conditions you will use in fighting against corruption.

Heydar Aliyev: Do you think that this problem exists only in Georgia and Azerbaijan?

Joot Lagendoek: No, I don`t. But I know there is such a problem in your countries.

Heydar Aliyev: There is such a problem in our countries, but in yours as well.

Joot Lagendoek: I am from the Netherlands, he is from Italy. Please apply it to him.

Heydar Aliyev: Don`t you have this problem in Italy or Holland?

Joot Lagendoek: We have as well. We try to fight against it.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, you have it in Holland. The corruption emerged in the economic commission of the European Union. Are you informed of it? They all resigned. Jacques Santer, van den Broek and others.

Joot Lagendoek: Mr. President, it was the initiative of our group to make them resign. We asked them and we ask you the same question.

Heydar Aliyev: Then I praise you. But you should correct your question. Corruption exists in Georgia, in Azerbaijan, everywhere. If the members of the economic commission of the European Union were corruptionists and left the office, it means not only Azerbaijan or Georgia, but other countries suffer from it as well.

Why do I say it? Because some people in other countries don`t see the situation and the shortcomings in their own countries, but accuse the new countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia because of them. So I wish you to take it into consideration and see also your shortcomings.

Now I can answer your question. Corruption exists in Azerbaijan; it existed also 30 or 40 years ago. I have learned this issue in detail. Corruption has been existing since the human society and state were established. Corruption was combated too. This combat reduced but can`t eliminate it completely.

30 years ago I began to lead Azerbaijan. Three years later my friend Shevardnadze became the head of Georgia. Of the 15 member states of the USSR in 2 countries - in Azerbaijan, later in Georgia the struggle against corruption started at the initiative of Heydar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze. Mr. Shevardnadze and I are friends; we have the same devotion. I gained a lot of enemies in Azerbaijan because of the struggle against corruption. But it doesn`t worry me.

Now the formation of the new economic system is under way. We need tens of years to reach the level of Belgium, Italy or France. Now we are going on this way.

In the period of transition, more suitable conditions appear for corruption.

You should know that the problem of corruption really worries me. All my life I have been struggling against it. I`ll keep struggling. It has various forms. Some think as if there will be no corruption after the establishment of the market economy. Japan has the market economy; it has corruption as well. Several ministers in Japan and Italy resigned because of corruption.

Joot Lagendoek: You are quite right.

Heydar Aliyev: I am right indeed. Thinking as if we`ll have no corruption after the transformation into the market economy and privatization is just a dream, not reality.

Each issue has theoretical and practical sides. Some approach this issue only theoretically. Probably, they are not deep into life. But people who know the life and realities perceive how hard this problem is for a nation, a society and a state. It is necessary to struggle against it. But it is also wrong to think as if there is no corruption any more.

Sometimes non-governmental organizations in different countries make lists of countries and place them due to corruption. But on which principle? They all are based on subjective judgment. Some think that there is corruption in their country, some don`t. Thus, those data are non-objective and subjective.

I can say that we are aware of the existence of corruption in Azerbaijan; there is nothing new when somebody tells us about it. We know it. We struggle against it, but there is no remarkable result yet. But we`ll not yield. We`ll keep struggling.

Perhaps after the realization of reforms, corruption will decrease. But it is wrong to hope that it will be completely eliminated. Perhaps it is so in your country. I wish I could see it in my country.

Joot Lagendoek: Mr. President, I invite you to our country.

Heydar Aliyev: Then I`ll come and show the facts of corruption in your country. Understand me well. I am speaking to you sincerely. Answering your question seriously, I say that we have corruption in Azerbaijan indeed and we struggle against it. We`d eliminate it at all in a year or two if it is possible. Then both our people and I could be happy.

Patsu Sorensen: Mr. President, I understand you very well. Every country, every head of the state must combat against corruption, "money laundry", organizaed crime, all the types of crime and violation of human rights. We know you as an experienced diplomat. You are a good president and you have achived a balance in your country.

During our stay here we observed that your people is a strong nation. This strong nation can bear all the difficulties. At the same time, I observed that your country has an ancient culture, prominent persons and tasty meals. During our stay we felt a friendly attitude. We also witnessed the hard lifestyle of the refugees.

Mr. President, as a diplomat I appeal to you to work with other heads of states more closely, to negotiate with them and tell this problem. Because it is hard to see such hard life of the refugees; it is our duty to ensure a better future for them. Maybe we should think of it together with you.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you for your words about Azerbaijan, our nation and me.

What worries us? For over 8 years, people driven out from their homes have been living in tents. Perhaps there is no other country where of one million population out of 8 live in tents. I don`t know if you have seen the tent camps. You have visited the refugees living in them; if you visit the camps, you`ll leave them with tears.

Sometimes our guests visit those tents. After they return, I feel how impressed they are.

I have a friend who is a great musician. It is Mstislav Rostropovich; he is well-known also in Europe. He is a friend of President Jacques Chirac, too. Both Mr. Chirac and I call him just Slava. While being here he wanted to see the refugees. He went to the refugee camps by a helicopter. I met him in the evening when he returned. You should have seen his tears. He said if a human could live in such conditions.

Another example. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former advisor of the USA president on security issues, a prominent politician, and he has visited the refugees camp in Africa, Afghanistan, India, he came here, too. On his own will he visited the refugees camp. When we met that evening he expressed his impressions saying that he had visited many refugees camps, but had never seen such terrible conditions.

You are right. I should negotiate to other heads of states about it; they can help us. Actually, I have done it several times.

A few days ago - on the 15th I met President Bill Clinton in the White House. It was probably our tenth meting within the recent 5-6 years. I told him these problems in every meeting.

I meet Mr. Chirac often. I`ve invited him to come here. He is planning to visit us. We submit them books, photos, cassettes to show the real situation. I have met some of the Swiss presidents and told about it.

I paid an official visit to Italy at the invitation of President Scalfaro. Prodi was the Premier then. I told also him about it.

I have negotiated with many heads of states, including the ex-President of Germany, Chancellor Kohl, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Ministers of Great Britain. France, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, the US and other countries have embassies here. Their ambassadors visit the refugee camps. I mean that we inform the heads of states, the politicians and officials of the international organizations. They understand the issue, but don`t take effective measures for its solution. It is the problem.

Peer Gahrton: Mr. President, I thank you for this meeting. Thank you for your answers. I see that you are well informed of the European Union, its commissars and why and because of which mistakes they left their offices. We wish to be informed of Azerbaijan.

Meeting you we end our visit to Azerbaijan. The facts you gave us will be added to our facts. We`ll further cooperate with you effectively.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I am satisfied of meeting with you. I appreciate your visit to Azerbaijan, your attention to our country and our nation. I thank the lady for her nice words about the Azerbaijani people, our culture, even our meals. I hope that we`ll cooperate with the European Union more intensively in the future. We are ready for the cooperation.We know that it is a hard task. So are your terms. But I always think that one must work in the hardest conditions in order to achieve successes. Good luck to you.

Thank you.