Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception on behalf of the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma in honor of the President of Azerbaijan - March 24, 1997

Dear Leonid Danilovich,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I render to you the warm greetings and sincere feelings of friendship and respect of the people of Azerbaijan and all the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The official visit to Ukraine is an important event for us and I am deeply pleased that this morning we were able to do some fruitful work, which resulted in the signature of important intergovernmental and interstate documents. It opens up great opportunities for the further development and expansion of cooperation between Ukraine and Azerbaijan and strengthening the friendship between our peoples. There are close relations of friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation between our peoples. It is evidenced by the atmosphere in which we found ourselves today with the arrival on the Ukrainian land Kiev.

I want to thank my friend Leonid Kuchma for the hospitality and warmth, for the excellent atmosphere in which our meeting, visit and all our work is held. I am grateful to you, Leonid Danilovich, for the invitation and I am glad that I was able to fulfill this desire and respond to your invitation. But, at the same time, all of us today remember with great warmth the official visit of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma in Azerbaijan in July 1995, meetings and negotiations we held, his communication with the people in Azerbaijan and the signed documents.

Enough time has passed since then and perhaps, it is the best proof that the friendship between our two countries and governments is irreversible. This friendship is based on the traditions bequeathed by our ancestors. The history of relations between the Ukrainian and Azerbaijani peoples is very large and rich in examples of cooperation, friendship and interaction of culture, science, art among various groups. This particularly applies to the period from the beginning of XX century, which is now coming to an end.

Being here, in Ukraine, Kiev, we remember with a feeling of immense gratitude the contribution made by the Ukrainian people in defeating the fascism. Today I visited the grave of the Unknown Soldier with a sense of immense gratitude to those who displayed heroism and courage and defended not only Ukraine, but also the Caucasus from the fascist invaders. Today, when I was at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I remembered that here in the Ukrainian land besides the Ukrainians, other peoples and the Azerbaijanis also fought courageously.

I remembered 20 Azerbaijanis of those who fought on the territory of Ukraine - there were a lot of them - were awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.  The roots of friendship go back to the past centuries, it developed during the World War Second and strengthened between our peoples after the World War Second.  It contributes to our current relations, and our cooperation already gives its fruits. But at the same time, today our relations are based on a new foundation. Independent and sovereign countries of Ukraine and Azerbaijan support these relations. State independence is of historical importance for Ukraine, and Azerbaijan.

I am very pleased that, in the main, fundamental question the views and positions of Ukraine and Azerbaijan, the Presidents of Ukraine Azerbaijan completely coincide. In connection with the transition from one system to another and in connection with our efforts in on the road to independence there are many difficulties facing our countries. But despite this, I am sure that we shall overcome them. We shall overcome them because we believe that our country, our peoples and countries are capable and able to live freely and independently and to be the masters of their own destiny.

Ukraine is a big country in Europe. It has great potentials to contribute to the international community and the European Union. Azerbaijan is located at the junction of Europe and Asia, it is a part of Europe, but at the same time, from a geographical point of views is in the distant wing. Both Ukraine and Azerbaijan are of great geopolitical importance. Therefore, for the benefit of our peoples and countries the cooperation between our two countries is of great importance. There have been formed broad opportunities for cooperation in the economic sphere. Therefore, constructing the Transcaucasian highway, involving Ukraine and other countries of the Central Asia, is very important for the development of economic relations, as well as for establishing close relations and short path between Ukraine and Azerbaijan, for economic cooperation and making our peoples to communicate more actively. There are many other possibilities. We can use them to make our cooperation more effective, mutually beneficial and successful. The work we have done and the documents we have signed today also create great opportunities and open wide road for this.

I am confident that we shall be able to implement the agreements determined in these documents. I am confident that we shall reach the wider road of cooperation. I am sure that Ukraine and Azerbaijan will overcome the difficulties and challenges facing our countries in the socio-economic sphere. They will be solved, because the main thing is that we value the sovereignty and independence we have achieved.

In Azerbaijan, there are also a number of other problems. Our countries, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, which are members of OSCE, take measures in order to ensure peace, stability and security in Europe. At the same time, you know that in the Caucasus there is no stability. Military conflicts taking place in the Caucasus affect the interests of not only Azerbaijan, but also of many other countries. Naturally, the instability of the situation in the Caucasus is a negative factor for peace, stability and security in Europe. However, being involved in the military conflict with Armenia we take the position of peace. We are for the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the military aggression of Armenia which began in 1988 has inflicted great damage on Azerbaijan. We lost a lot of people. We lost a lot in economy. 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. Over one million residents and citizens of Azerbaijan have been expelled from the occupied territories by the armed groups of Armenia and live in refugee camps in very difficult conditions. Leonid Danilovich went to a small district of ​​Baku, where the refugees have settled temporarily. He saw the difficult situation in which they were. It is four or five years that they live in tents. It is very difficult, I should also mention the fact that they have lost their families and relatives, their homes have been destroyed and all the property belonging to their ancestors or created by them have been plundered and destroyed. However, despite all this, we are for the peaceful solution of this conflict. That is why, in May of 1994 we signed a ceasefire agreement with Armenia. In the past two years and seven months there is no fight between Armenia and Azerbaijan and we live in conditions of cease-fire. However, a complete peace is not established either.

As I said, part of the territory of Azerbaijan is under occupation. But in spite of all these difficulties, all the losses, the huge damage suffered by the Republic of Azerbaijan, I repeat, we are for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. In this regard, we attach great importance to the results of the Lisbon Summit of OSCE, which adopted the principles providing for the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. These principles are the recognition of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, granting Nagorno-Karabakh a high self-administration status within Azerbaijan and ensuring the safety of the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We have adopted these principles as the basis for the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Taking this opportunity, I want to thank President Leonid Kuchma for supporting these principles at the Lisbon Summit and for the conversation that we had during the meeting in which we discussed many issues, including this one.

I tell it to you, to our friends, because it is not only our problem. The question of sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country is an issue of the world, the entire world community and the issue of peace and security in Europe. It is the main principle of international law, the UN and OSCE. Therefore, respect for the territorial integrity of each country is important for us, including Russia and Ukraine and our neighbors, Georgia and Armenia. But, at the same time, we want to ensure the territorial integrity and inviolability of  the borders of Azerbaijan, to live in peace with all the neighboring countries and we want peace in our region, the Caucasus, Europe and all over the world. Once again, I note that this indicates the importance of the cooperation of Azerbaijan with all countries on the basis of mutual benefits. From this point of view, we attach great importance to the relations and cooperation with Ukraine. In this regard, I am very glad that we have had fruitful meetings and discussions, were able to sign a very important document and are here together in such a sincere and friendly atmosphere.

Talking about our problems, we must at the same time understand that every country has its own problems. Ukraine also has its problems. We fully support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and cordially wish Ukraine to be able to use all the opportunities provided by the national independence of this country. We are confident that Ukraine, with its natural resources and high intellectual potentials will turn into a prosperous country, it is our sincere wish. Undoubtedly, the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Ukraine, which seeks mutual benefit, will make a contribution to the further development and prosperity of the friendly Ukraine.

I want to wish you all happiness and prosperity. I raise a glass to the health of the President of Ukraine, to Leonid Kuchma, to your health, dear friends, to Ukraine and to the Ukrainian-Azerbaijani friendship, to our cooperation.

Khay zhive samostiynaya Ukraina! (Long live the independent Ukraine!)