From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev with the ‎delegation headed by the Chair-in-the Office of the OSCE, minister of Foreign Affairs of ‎Austria, Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner - Presidential Palace, 18 July, 2000‎

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished Mrs. Chairwoman!

Distinguished minister!

Distinguished guests!

I heartily welcome you in Azerbaijan and appreciate very highly Your visit as the Chair of the OSCE to our region, including Azerbaijan. It seems to me that there is not a problem as difficult as the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the frames of OSCE engaged in this problem since 1992. The conflict, as You know, started some years ago, but in 1992, OSCE established the Minsk Group to settle the conflict. Today, the co-chairs to the Minsk Group are Russia, the United States of America and France.

The question connected with the solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was discussed at OSCE Summits in Budapest in 1994, in Lisbon in 1996 and Istanbul in 1999. Important resolutions aimed at the settlement of the issue were adopted at the Budapest Summit in 1994 and Lisbon Summit in 1996. However, unfortunately, we could not implement them into life.

I want to remind that in 1997, the Minsk Group and its co-chairs - Russia, the United States of America and France - suggested two proposals to settle the issue. The first proposal was submitted in July of 1997 and it was named “a package of proposals”, i.e. it was the proposal aimed at the solution of the issue as a whole. We accepted that proposal, but Armenia didn’t.

In September 1997, the Minsk Group and its co-chairs suggested a new proposal. And from the Armenian part, the former president of Armenia and many others wanted to accept that proposal. You know that the change of power took place in Armenia then, and one could say that in 1998 we could not reach any progress in this matter.

In the April of 1999, a tete-a-tete meeting between the Armenian President, Kocharian and the Azerbaijani President of started in Washington.Then, there were several such meetings in 1999. At all those meetings the Presidents of Armenia and the Azerbaijan agreed that: both parties should make compromises to settle the problem. We coordinated these compromises.

Then, the terror act committed in the October of 1999 in Armenia, and the changes following it, one might say, broke the negotiations. Thus, time is passing, but the issue remains unresolved.

You know that in May 1994, a cease-fire agreement was signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We, Azerbaijan and Armenia, are observing this agreement up this very day. It is it a big achievement, as there are no separating or peacemaking forces between the opposing the parties. It testifies that neither Azerbaijan, nor Armenia wants to break the cease-fire regime. However the issue has not been solved yet.

You know that as a result of war, the Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory. Over a million Azerbaijanis were forcibly driven away from the occupied lands, most of them live in tents in critical conditions.

Distinguished Mrs. Minister, I am grateful to you that despite the extremely intensive program of your visit, you have visited today the refugees and witnessed conditions they live. Nevertheless, at our tete-a-tete talk with you today we agreed that during your next visit we shall also visit together the refugees living in tents. But I think that what you have seen today is for having quite a bright imagination that people cannot live in such circumstances for so long - for six, seven or eight years. But they live and tolerate, because we do not want to continue he. We endure all the difficulties and want to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully.

Distinguished Minister, during our tete-a-tete talk we held a detailed exchange of views on this issue. I am highly satisfied with these talks. And today, I want to stress once more that the Minsk Group and its co-chairs should intensify their activity for the solution of the issue.

I stick to the opinion that direct meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan should also continue. However, along with it, the Minsk Group and its co-chairs, the OSCE should continually deal with this issue.

Distinguished Mrs. Minister, I told You that we - the President of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan - came to a common opinion at our tete-a-tete negotiations that we have to make certain compromises to settle the issue. Today, I also told You that I adhere to this position. However, compromises should suit both parties of course. And, in particular, since Azerbaijan is sufferer side and its territory has been occupied, compromises should be adopted taking this into account.

There are international legal standards, principles of OSCE, principles of the Helsinki Act specifying that territorial integrity of any state and its, borders are inviolable. However, unfortunately, both the borders and its territorial integrity of Azerbaijan have been violated for more than ten years, 20 percent of the territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed troops. But OSCE cannot achieve the fulfillment of its principles until now.

Distinguished Mrs. Minister, we thoroughly talked with you about this matter in Vienna during my official visit to Austria. The fact that Austria and personally You preside at OSCE makes both You and the Austrian government much responsible. I would like very much the government of Austria and personally You, distinguished Mrs. Minister, as the Chairwoman-in-Office of OSCE to be able to achieve the solution of this issue during the period of Your chairmanship.

Taking the opportunity, I would like to share with You my most striking impressions after my official visit to Austria. My meetings with President, Mr. Klestil, Federal Chancellor, Mr. Schussel and personally You, as well as other state and government representatives and the documents signed by us open a new stage in the Austrian-Azerbaijani relations. All gives hope that Austria has to know Azerbaijan better now. I think that during Your this visit - both during Your stay in Armenia and short stay in Azerbaijan - You have learned our region better than before and can see the situation we endure. Therefore we have spoken much with You about it. Appealing to You once again in presence of the delegation I ask You to approach these issues more actively in future. Thank You, please.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Mr. President!

Mr. Minister of foreign affairs, members of Azerbaijani delegation!

Allow me to say that I really think my visit to this region as a very important event, and I also think it is right that I visited Armenia first. I am highly satisfied that my visit to the region has coincided with the time straight after your official visit to Austria, and taking the opportunity, I want to appreciate You for sharing with us the impressions of your visit to Vienna.

You have absolutely correctly mentioned that the chairmanship to the OSCE is very great responsibility for Austria and for me personally. Along with it, I want to stress that we are at the same time satisfied with this chairmanship. Because we have gained a new opportunity to contribute to the solution of big forthcoming objectives. We want to make use of this chance and assist in the solution of these problems.

Allow me to say that I always tried to go thorough information about this conflict which we want to solve, to bring it to peace. I also got acquainted with the previous stages of peace negotiation connected with the conflict. Prior to my visit to the region, I was informed in detail, by Ambassador, Kasprzyk, as my special adviser, and simultaneously by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. I consider very important to continue direct contacts between the presidents of both countries. Besides, I have drawn a conclusion from the talks with You that you want to hold direct negotiations, and the Minsk Group to intensify its efforts in this regard.

I want to tell you that we shall try to cope with this big task facing us. We shall try to adjust additional contacts, to make efforts to have this extremely complicated process finish peacefully, and, Mr. President, as you mentioned, to reach the solution to the issue on mutual concessions. I want to say that I have seen great political will from both sides for the peaceful settlement of this conflict. I hope we shall be able to make use of it. I think we have to use this opportunity.

I think we have also witnessed political will of President Kocharian concerning the peaceful settlement of the conflict and, as an illustration of it, we witnessed that what he promised yesterday has already been realized today. I mean the release of four captives held in Nagorno-Karabakh and two captives held in Armenia, Yerevan. They are in Azerbaijan now.

I even want to say that I had an opportunity to meet with three Azerbaijani prisoners of war in Yerevan. They were kept in pre-trial jails of the Ministry of National Security of Armenia. I met them. We hoped they would be delivered to Azerbaijan today. And I want to inform that these persons are already in Azerbaijan. One of the three I met was kept in Khankendi. However, he was delivered to Yerevan to pass treatment in the hospital.

As You have mentioned, I also had an opportunity to meet today with some refugees stationed in Baku and get acquainted with hard circumstances of their life. I want to especially emphasize that the situation of refugees made an extremely deep impression on me as a woman, left a big trace. I saw there the hard conditions the women-refugees, the children live there, I know the situation of unemployed men. All of them want to return home and begin active life.

Mr. President, as a confirmation of what you have said I declare me more and promise during my next visit I shall visit together with You the refugee camps and meet the refugees living in tents.

Mr. President, I want to say that I highly estimate your statement and your promise about the necessary instructions to be given to intensify the activity of the joint commission engaged in the search of missing and captured persons. I think that such a special instruction by the Azerbaijani party aimed at enlivening of already existing commission is the sign of Azerbaijan’s adherence to peaceful process.

Mr. President, I want to assure You once more that making use of the available potential we shall make additional efforts to have the peaceful process advanced and peace come closer. But if there is no chance to reach complete peace in present circumstances, I would like both parties to provide the realization of measures lending credence at least. There is a big distrust between the two peoples. The realization of measures lending credence can give a chance to eliminate the mutual distrust. Therefore, I invite you to try to realize such measures using all possible means.

Mr. President, allow me to say in addition that we held the opening ceremony of the new office of OSCE in Baku together with your minister of foreign affairs. I want to inform you with satisfaction that the head of our new office in Azerbaijan and his deputy have been already appointed. And today they are the members of our delegation. Mr. Cornelissen will be the head of the OSCE representation in Baku. He is from Holland, but his deputy is from Poland. We hope that the OSCE office in Azerbaijan will become another step and play an important role in the rapprochement of Azerbaijan and this region to Europe.

Taking the opportunity I want to congratulate you on the decision of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on th affiliation of Azerbaijan with the Council of Europe. Usually, the Cabinet of Ministers deals with such issues more thoroughly. I am confident that they will soon approve this decision and affiliation of Azerbaijan with the Council of Europe will be complete. I also touched upon many issues during the meeting with the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan held yesterday. We discussed a number of questions of different character. I want to dwell on one of them again.

The OSCE welcomes the additions inserted into the Law “On Central Election Commission” and adoption of this Law with amendments. We expressed our opinion in this connection at the meetings both with You and the public. On the other hand, we regret that there are certain imperfections in the new Law concerning the next parliamentary elections, too. We think that the most serious imperfection is that it is a step backward in this Law, for instance, a party registered before4 the adaptation of this law was not allowed to take part at the parliamentary elections, it was deprived of such an opportunity.

Let me express the hope that there is still a chance to remove the shortcoming in the law and improve it. The Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of OSCE is at your disposal. You can use its recommendations.

Mr. President, I also want to touch on the question of regional cooperation. Today, regional cooperation gradually gains a wide scope in many parts of the world. We can witness it in the example of regional cooperation expanding both within the frames of the European Union and in many other places of the world. Such cooperation among separate regions of the world contributes to the improvement of living standards of population of the given regions and to better maintenance of life.

I have discussed this issue in Georgia with President Eduard Shevardnadze and in Armenia with President Robert Kocharian. Therefore, Mr. President, I would like to know your position, your opinion on regional cooperation and get acquainted with your point of view.

I thank you once more, Mr. President.

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished Minister, thank you for very valuable thoughts and recommendations.

I have already told you at our tete-a-tete meeting that the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, liberation of the occupied lands, restoration of the territorial integrity of our country and return of over a million refugees home are the major problems for us.

I think that not any country of the world has faced such an awful situation: one million people live in their own country as refugees. Therefore, I appreciate Your efforts in this sphere. I ask OSCE, You, as the chairwoman of OSCE and the minister of foreign affairs of friendly Austria to make all efforts for the solution of this issue. I have already told You, - You are presiding at OSCE until the end of the year, - try to have a serious advance in this area within the given time.

We want peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the Caucasian region, in the Southern Caucasus. Therefore, we tolerate such a hard situation. However, any tolerance has certain limits. You and OSCE, as well as the Minsk Group and the Organization of the United Nations should know that such unjustice towards Azerbaijan should be put an end. I ask once more to regard this in your activity as a top-priority issue.

I am very grateful for your efforts in connection with the release of the Azerbaijani captives held in Armenia and for their delivery to our country.

I have already told You and emphasize once more that there is no any Armenian prisoner in Azerbaijan. However, during the war - at any case, according to the lists submitted by our authorized bodies and files drawn up regarding each person, - over 800 Azerbaijanis remain there as prisoners of war. I do not know if they are alive now, or what has happened to them. Nevertheless, some years ago, we had precise information about it. I think this question is also worthy of attention.

Your stay here is also connected with a remarkable event - opening of the OSCE office in Baku. I congratulate You and us on this occasion. Because it is the result of our joint efforts.

We started the work on the opening of this office long ago. However it is pleasant that this office was opened with Your attendance, i.e. attendance of the OSCE chairwoman. I think they will work successfully here and render You significant assistance in our cooperation with OSCE. This will naturally help the development of our contacts with OSCE in many respects. Meanwhile, they do not deal with the issues of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but they deal with other issues.

I appreciate You for the efforts to get Azerbaijan affiliated with the Council of Europe. I express my gratitude to the government of Austria, and You as chairwoman-in-Office of OSCE. Today you declarted that the sitting of the Cabinet of Ministers will adopt a resolution on this issue. It gladdens us very much.

I have said not once that affiliation with the Council of Europe is a very remarkable event, on one hand, and on the other hand, it is connected with assuming new and great responsibilities.

Azerbaijan is a country situated in the European continent. But its distinctive feature is that it is located in the intersection of Europe and Asia, West and East. We play a special role in the integration of the Eastern culture and values into the western ones. Therefore, I think we are an important country for the Council of Europe. If we become a full member of the Council of Europe, it will be useful not only for us, but also for the Council of Europe. We are ready it.

The parliamentary elections will be held in Azerbaijan in November. I think we have gone through a big way in the field of democracy within the past five years since the last parliamentary elections - we have abolished death penalty, ensured freedom of press, all the freedoms exist in Azerbaijan - freedom of thought, speech and conscience. However, we do not think we have achieved too much. The road of democracy is very long. I think You have not reached the finish either. Have You?

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Yes, we have.

Heydar Aliyev: We are at the beginning of the road. You can believe that we are following and shall be follow this road.

I understand Your thoughts about the Law on elections. I think You know that while discussing this question at the parliament, I addressed to the parliament in connection with some articles of this Law. These are the articles You spoke about. However, the parliament did not agree with it. I think there is a great deal of such cases in your parliament, too.

Nevertheless, we shall continue our efforts in this line. You can be confident that the November parliamentary election in Azerbaijan will pass in a democratic atmosphere. We shall cooperate with the Baku office of OSCE in this field.

I want to inform that a representative of the Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights is already here, in our Election Commission. He is at the Election Commission and will be there until the end of elections. We ourselves wished him to control everything, assist us in the solution of arising problems and correct the committed errors. As I have already said, we shall continue our efforts in this area.

I thank You once more. I want to express my confidence that based on our detailed discussion You will continue Your efforts for the solution of the key question.

Thank You.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Thank You very much, Mr. President. I want to declare again that we shall do our utmost to contribute to the peaceful process. The negotiations held by the presidents, on one hand, and intensification of the activity of OSCE on the other, allow hope that we shall be able to achieve the settlement of this conflict soon. Upon my return, I shall commission the OSCE co-chairs to intensify their efforts. I thank You once more.

Heydar Aliyev: As You see, all our press representatives are here. They have heard the whole discussion. Is it necessary to speak before them once more?

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: I think it is not necessary.

Heydar Aliyev: I also think so. I thank them for hearing our thoughts.

Thank you.

Translated from the newspaper '' Azerbaijan'' , 19 July, 2000