Interview of Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, concerning the results of his official visit to the United Kingdom on his return to Baku from London by plane - July 24, 1998

My visit to the United Kingdom has ended. We are on our way home. In an hour we`ll arrive at the Baku airport. During the visit you were with me in most of the meetings. I think that you have your own observations. But I want to express my opinion on the visit generalizing it.

As you are aware, it was an official visit at the invitation of Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Having finished the visit I think that it was very significant, and our meetings and negotiations were productive. In my opinion, the visit is very useful for Azerbaijan.

The relations between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan were established after Azerbaijan gained its independence. The interstate and intergovernmental meetings took place and documents were signed during my first official visit to London in February 1994. I think that it was of great significance in the first years of our independence. We signed important contracts and documents. The Premier and I signed a political statement on friendship and cooperation between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan. I met and negotiated with the British Prime Minister later - either in London or in the assemblies of the international organizations. I met some of the British ministers, too. The British Foreign Minister visited Azerbaijan; other significant documents were signed between our governments, too.

The government changed in the United Kingdom last year. The Conservative Party which has been in power for 18 years lost in the parliamentary elections and the Labour Party came to power. Thus, a new government was formed. The purpose of this visit was to expand and develop the policy of the new government of the United Kingdom concerning Azerbaijan. Therefore, I paid such a visit at the official invitation.

We had many negotiations. Dilara Seid-zadeh told me the number of the negotiations. But it doesn`t matter. I started my meetings from 9 a.m. on July 20 which continued up to my arrival at the airport today. I think that the passed five days were very productive to reach our goal. Each of the meetings has its significance. They all reflect the current relations between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan, and establish a strong basis for their development in future.

Undoubtedly, my meetings with Her Majesty, the Queen is of special importance. As you know, the United Kingdom has its historical traditions which are still maintained. The Queen meets very few heads of states. I met and talked to the Queen while taking part at the big ceremony of semi centennial of the victory at the World War Second held in London in 1995. But that meeting took place within the frames of the ceremony. My last visit was the meeting of the head of state of Azerbaijan with the Queen of the United Kingdom. We exchanged our opinions on several issues; most of them were political. The Queen was interested in the history and culture of Azerbaijan.

I met most of the members of the government. As a result of the meeting with the Premier Tony Blair on July 21, significant documents were signed. At the semi centennial of the victory at the World War Second held in London in 1995 I met Tony Blair who was then the opposition leader. Then we met also in the assemblies of the international organizations in Madrid and Strasbourg. But they were not extensive. This meeting was, in my opinion, the major meeting of my visit to the UK. We discussed a lot of issues on the expansion of the cooperation between our countries. I felt there that the UK wants to expand the relations with Azerbaijan and make them multilaterals.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair repeated that the expansion of the economic cooperation is of great significance for them. These relations are at a high level now. But we should expand and develop also our political relations. That was the main idea in the meetings with the members of the government. The Premier expressed it comprehensively.

I felt that the British government pays a great attention to the region of the Caucasus and the Central Asia, and wants to play more active role in political and economical sphere of the region. The Foreign Minister declared after the Prime Minister that the UK would increase the staff of its embassy to Azerbaijan. They even asked me to help the embassy with a new building. That all proves what I said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair declared these ideas in our meeting on July 21. So did the Foreign Minister Dug Henderson. You know, the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom consists of two layers. Robin Cook heads one of them, Dug Henderson - the other. Mr. Henderson came to Edinburgh on July 23 connected with my visit. There was a big party in honor of us. In his speech there Dug Henderson declared that the relations between our countries are strategic. I shared that opinion.

Thus, I think that the meetings and the negotiations make Azerbaijan more recognizable, and proved the present role and significance of our country. In his speech in the ceremony of the signature of the documents, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that Azerbaijan must play a key role in the world politics.

I am satisfied with all it. The UK is one of the biggest countries to have effect on the world politics. It is a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations and plays an important role in the European Union and the European Council. Thus, the expansion of the relations with the UK is of great importance for us.

I discussed all the issues with the Prime Minister during our negotiations. We especially paid attention to the history, the reasons and the current situation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the position of our country. The British government supports our position. They all are reflected in the joint political statement signed by us.

You know that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and I signed a joint statement on friendly relations and partnership. The statement contains the points on the position of Azerbaijan in the international arena, including the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of three principles adopted at the Lisbon summit of OSCE. Undoubtedly, the text of the statement was ready before we started our negotiations. But I deepened this issue during our negotiations. I said that we`d never agree with the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. We want it to be solved peacefully. However, we can never let any part of our territory to be annexed by any country. It is our decisive and principal position. We shall never yield our position.

The Premier completely supported these ideas. We talked that there are the norms of international law and the principles of the UN and OSCE which can never be altered. Thus, Armenia must understand it soon, or late.

I am satisfied that this issue was discussed in detail not only in the meeting with the Premier, but in other meetings as well. Even in my speeches at the conferences I declared them.

The special issue in my negotiations with the Prime Minister was the issue of the East-West Transportation corridor and the work for restoration of the Great Silk Road. The Prime Minister was interested in it. I told him the history and significance of the issue on the map in detail. He was very satisfied. The UK has joined this project. The UK will take part at the conference to be held on September 7-8 in Azerbaijan.

As a result of my negotiations with the Prime Minister, the political statement and the contracts between Azerbaijan and the big companies of the UK were signed in his residence. The contract with BP on one of the richest oildeposits of Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea is a big one. There are three deposits which had different names in the past. But while preparing the new contract we named them \"Araz\", \"Alov\" and \"Sharg\". The three oildeposits form a big one. The contract on 30% share of BP/Statoil on the oildeposit was signed. I think that it is a big contract. The sea is very deep there; BP has great opportunities and experience in this sphere. I consider that it has perspectives.

The other oildeposit is \"Inam\" which is very rich, too. The foreign companies paid great interest in this field, as well as other deposit on which we signed contract with BP. As BP offered the highest economic proposals, we signed the contract with it.

You should know that these contracts were prepared through big tenders and signed. Many companies were interested in each oildeposit. Finally, we signed the contracts with the companies which offered the highest economic proposals. We signed the contract with the British \"Monument Oil\", the USA AMOCO and a new company from Moscow, Russia on the \"Inam\" oildeposit.

We have another oildeposit - \"Muradkhanli\", which was discovered in the 70s. We used to get a lot of oil then. Afterwards, the oildeposit was managed not well because of some reasons, less oil is produced there now too. But \"Ramco\" was interested in it and offered some proposals. We signed the contract on joint developmentof the oildeposit.

You know that the contract on building hotel and business centres in Baku was signed between the mayoralty of Baku and \"Morrison\" Company, a private company in the building sector.

I think that the political statement and the signed documents are of great significance. In general, there are enough number of legal-normative documents to regulate the relations between the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan, particularly the economic relations. Thus, there was no need to sign additional documents.

I met most members of the government. Each of these meetings was significant and necessary for us. The initiative of the meetings had come from them.

I had some other meetings. For example, I met the head of the British Council which is engaged in the sphere of education. I want to note the establishment of the British-Azerbaijani Society and my meeting with its members. It was a great event. I remember that when I came here in February 1994, Great Britain was just a mundane country for Azerbaijan. We had nothing else except the newly opened embassy here. But the relations have been expanded for four years and the interest in Azerbaijan has increased so much that the British-Azerbaijani Society was established. Well-known people of Britain, including the former ministers and the persons who play important roles in the public life of the country take part in it. The society pays a great interest in Azerbaijan. It is very important. I highly appreciate it.

I consider that my meetings with wide audience were also important. On the 22nd of July a big conference opened in London. The conference was organized by the British company IBC and was prepared for 6-7 months. It was an international conference and the participants took part there at their own will. The participation at the conference was not free of charge. However, there were over 300 people - it proves a great interest in Azerbaijan. They all were businessmen, British and people from abroad. A lot of people wanted to make speeches. Some Azerbaijani ministers were also invited to the conference.

I made an entry speech there. The speech is known to you as you took part at the conference. The significance of the conference was its proof to increase the interest in the economy of Azerbaijan and the number of businessmen who want to work in Azerbaijan. At the same time, it shows that there are normal conditions in Azerbaijan for foreign investors. Without such conditions, they would never come to Azerbaijan. The Prime Minister and other ministers noticed with pride that over 100 British companies work in Azerbaijan. You remember that using this opportunity I told that the most remarkable achievement of my visit is to create rivalry between the USA and the UK. They say that now the number of the British companies in Azerbaijan is more than the number of the American. I consider that it is a good indicator. Therefore, I highly appreciate that international economic conference. It will have great results.

At the same time, I consider that my meeting at the Royal Institute of International Relations was very important. I had a meeting there last time, too. There was a great interest in Azerbaijan there, too. But this time I witnessed greater interest. The meeting hall was full of people. The people who mainly work in the political sphere or political institutes, journalists, ambassadors and representatives of embassies of different countries took part there at their own will.

It was a political meeting. Thus, I spoke of political issues only and using the opportunity I told about the history and the current situation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Unfortunately, our propaganda used to work poorly in the past. But the propaganda of Armenia which initiated the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, committed aggression against Azerbaijan, occupied our lands and drove over one million Azerbaijanis out of their homes has always been strong. So has their diaspora. In general, they have always had an advantage in this sphere.

Some think that Azerbaijan is responsible in the outbreak of the conflict. I consider that the biggest achievement of our foreign policy not only in this country, but in the world as well was to demonstrate the realities of Azerbaijan to the world community and to change the political thought in the world. Undoubtedly, Armenia tries to use power. Their diasporas and lobbies work more effectively than the Armenian government.

We have neither such a diaspora, nor a lobby. That`s why, we use only power and opportunities of our foreign policy. The work done by us have some results. Thus, the meeting at the Royal Institute of International Relations and my speech there were very important. I highly appreciate them.

The visit to Edinburgh, Scotland was of importance as well. You know that Scotland has a significant position inside the UK. They have internal problems. In the past there were wars between Scotland and England, but subsequently united. Now they wish to gain some authority. These wishes are partly realized now.

Scotland is an industrially developed part of the UK; it is the centre of the oil industry of the country. That`s why, I accepted the invitation to visit Scotland. I got acquainted with the work of BP and the oil production there. The technologies they use in the oil industry were important for me. Furthermore, Edinburgh is well-known with an ancient history, and the royal palace which are sacred for the inhabitants.

I had negotiations in the city hall. I negotiated with BP and got to know its works. A big banquette for us was organized. Prior to it I met the representatives of the business circles of Scotland. It was an important meeting.

We also attended the castle built in the eleventh century. The castle was opened for us - it is opened very seldom. There was a dinner party, too. It was a political meeting at the same time. The Prime Minister maid a speech to summarize our visit - you will get acquainted with that speech. I made a speech, too.

In general, the visit was very significant and interesting; I`m very satisfied. I think that I could implement the authority empowered to me by the Azerbaijani people. Thank you that you could bear the difficulties together with me.