Statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the news conference, on the results of his official visit to Britain - February 24, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen!

My visit is coming to an end, we are returning home tomorrow. The mission has been accomplished and therefore, I agreed to meet the representatives of mass media today and brief you on the outcomes of the visit and answer your questions. As you know, I am paying an official visit to the UK at the invitation of Prime Minister John Major. It is always ready three days that we are in London today. We have almost accomplished the programme of the visit. Therefore, I can tell you that I am pleased with the outcome of my visit. First, the meeting and the talks with Mr Prime Minister John Major are of great significance. Prior to the meeting, we had meetings with ministers and presidents of a number of major oil companies. 

At the meeting with the prime minister, we had an opportunity to exchange views on a lot of issues – both on the relations between Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom, and on our region – the situation in the Caucasian region, and on the current international situation. Our talks were held in conditions of mutual understanding, sincerity and in an extremely beneficial atmosphere. This condition was created by the British administration. The most important is that we have agreed on the measures to bolster and intensify the relations between Azerbaijan and the UK further. The issue in question is about the inter-state relations, economic cooperation as well as scientific, technical, cultural and other issues. 

In our talks, we focused on economic cooperation, in particular, on the issues of cooperation between the major UK companies and the Azerbaijani Republic. In this connection, we paid a special attention to BP’s involvement in the exploration of the Azerbaijani oil deposits and a contract is to be signed with the consortium of the western oil companies. The contract with the oil companies has got much coverage and attention here. I believe we have cast full light on these issues at our meetings and negotiations. Upon the completion of our talks, very important documents have been signed between our countries for the development of the relations. These, first of all, are on a joint statement on friendship and cooperation in the energy sector, including a memorandum on cooperation in the sphere of oil production between our countries – the issue in question is about BP and a number of other documents.

I believe that for the beginning of cooperation this visit has laid the foundation of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the UK, and during the visit eight other documents were signed. Both these documents and agreements enable us to say that the relations between Azerbaijan and the UK have good prospects for cooperation. 

I should say that my meetings with the Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Michael Heseltine, ministers of energy and agriculture, minister for Overseas Development Baroness Chalker, state secretary Douglas Haig, as well as with presidents of a number of major companies were very interesting. I had an opportunity to address a meeting of representatives of business circles of your country. At the meeting I spoke of intensive economic cooperation opportunities. I attach great importance to the fact that I was given an opportunity to speak at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Today I visited the European Bank and addressed its boards of directors. And today I was invited to the UK parliament and was present at the session there while Prime Minister John Major was on a question and answer hour. Then we had interesting discussions with the parliamentarians from both the Conservatives and the Labour parties, including Lords and Baroness Cox, who does not sympathize much with the Azerbaijanis. 

We had an interesting discussion with the parliamentarians, I was given an opportunity to address them. I want to stress with great satisfaction that a friendship faction, or an inter-parliamentary group, has been set up between the British parliament and Azerbaijan. This group is establishing relations with the Azerbaijani parliament and with Azerbaijan in general. That is to say, the issue in question is about establishing active inter-parliamentary relations between our countries. I am attaching great importance to it. In all meetings and discussions, I had a chance to comment exactly and clearly on the position of the administration of Azerbaijan in domestic and foreign policy issues.

Our domestic policy is to establish a legal democratic state, democratic society, ensure all conditions for the development of democracy in Azerbaijan, to restore democratic principles, political pluralism and a multi-party system, to protect human rights and ensure individual liberties, freedom of speech, press and conscience for all the Azerbaijani citizens irrespective of their ethnicities, religion and political beliefs. 

In the sphere of socio-economic development, Azerbaijan is strictly pursuing the policy of developing the market economy and free entrepreneurship, liberalization of the economic life, encouraging foreign capital and investments in Azerbaijan and creating beneficial conditions for foreign investors. In a one word, the issue in question is about the free market economy.

In this connection I invited everyone keen in economic cooperation with Azerbaijan, I mean that Azerbaijan is wide open for the world, in particular, for investments, for economic relations, Azerbaijan is open for the UK businesses. I said and repeat it in front of you that Azerbaijan has auspicious opportunities for economic cooperation and investments, the administration of the republic, our state guarantees the protection of interests of foreign companies which start cooperation with Azerbaijan. In the sphere of foreign policy, Azerbaijan is pursuing normal and mutually-beneficial policy with all the world states – both with the neighboring countries, the western and eastern countries, in particular with the European states. Our relations with the world countries are free from all kinds of previous ideological dogmas.

As an independent state, guided by its own national interests Azerbaijan will pursue its foreign policy to strengthen its international position and independence. During our stay here I once more became sure as before that in the issues of international cooperation Azerbaijan can be a reliable partner for the UK, as well as, the UK for Azerbaijan. The ongoing war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is extremely painful and a serious problem for Azerbaijan. The war broke out artificially, it started from the fabricated Mountainous - Garabagh problem and expanded and turned into a large-scale war which resulted in the loss of thousands of lives from both sides. The heaviest toll of the on-going war is that about 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territories have been occupied by the Armenian armed forces and about one million residents from the occupied districts have become IDPs in their own country and were obliged to abandon their homes and they have lost all their possessions. It is natural that all these weaken Azerbaijan both economically and socially, and above everything, it greatly damages the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic. We – the Azerbaijani side, is making all efforts to end the military operations, the war, the bloodshed and resolve this issue through talks and peacefully. However, the Armenian side continues the military operations and wants to achieve its own aims by force, that is to say, by waging a war. Therefore, we are naturally obliged to respond to it. The objective of the Armenian side is to annex the Mountainous - Garabagh and split Azerbaijan and deprive Azerbaijan of a part of its territory. We certainly cannot agree with it, and by making efforts to resolve the problem through negotiations, we are taking measures for defending our lands and territories. Naturally, all these lead to military operations, and regrettably those operations are also underway now. However, I repeat it again that we do not want the military operations to continue, we are for a peaceful resolution of the issue. 

Along with our proposal to resolve the conflict peacefully, we are implementing measures to strengthen our armed forces. No one should think that our desire to resolve the issue peacefully is a sign of our military defeat. No, we simply do not want war. At the same time, I am stating that if the Armenian side does not agree to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, naturally, then Azerbaijan will make use of its power and opportunities to liberate the occupied lands and to restore its territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, full sovereignty and independence.

While proposing a peaceful resolution of the conflict, we cherish great hopes in international organizations, the UN Security Council, the OSCE and its Minsk Group and other international organizations. They can do a lot and actually can resolve this issue. In this connection, we also hope for the active involvement of the UK government  in the peace process initiated by the international organizations. One of the important outcomes of my visit to the UK is to form grounds for the development of relations between our countries, we managed, although not as much as we wanted, to give full information about Azerbaijan and the real situation in the republic, in particular, on the situation connected with the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. 

I invited Prime Minister John Major to pay an official visit to Azerbaijan. The invitation was accepted and we shall coordinate the date and term of the visit. I also invited several other statesmen as well as the British parliamentarians to our republic. We want as many representatives of your country as possible to visit Azerbaijan since this would enable to analyze the situation in our country unbiasedly, first, the problems related to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and its objective assessment. I am extremely satisfied with the results of my visit and I am grateful for the hospitality we enjoyed here in the United Kingdom. I am going back home in good mood. Thank you for your attention. If you have questions, I am ready to answer them”. 

Question: (SOTA news agenc) “Mr.Heydar Aliyev, can you comment on Russia’s position about the Mountainous Garabagh? How do you estimate its position?” 

Answer: “Russia is making efforts to solve the problem peacefully. Russia is offering its mediatory efforts and several attempts were made to realize them. I guess this was on 20 November. Then, we received a Russian-proposed draft proposal on the suspension of military operations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories. But, this initiative was not realized. 

On his way to Armenia from Azerbaijan, the Russian President’s envoy on Garabagh Vladimir Kazimirov came under fire by the Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani territory. In the person of the foreign minister and even the leadership of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Russian leadership issued a tough statement protesting against the unethical position of Armenia and demanded apology. However, the Armenian side did not do that. Thus, the negotiation process remained unfinished. Nevertheless, Russia is now also making efforts for a peaceful resolution of this problem.”

Question: (Newspaper \"Economist\"). “Mr. Heydar Aliyev, if you don’t mind, I would request you to say a few words about the economic cooperation in the sector of oil industry. You said a memorandum was signed, but has an agreement been endorsed or not? Besides, is there any decision on the route of the future pipeline?” 

Answer: “I believe that if the leaders of the two countries, Mr. John Major and I signed a memorandum on cooperation in the energy sector, including a memorandum on cooperation with BP, these are important facts. A commercial agreement should follow this and this should be signed between Azerbaijan and the consortium. The consortium is made up of BP, AMOCO, STATOIL, PENNZOIL, Turkish Oil Company and several other firms. I believe that this will soon be realized. As for the route of pipleline, obviously, this issue will be resolved simultaneously with the signature of a commercial agreement, perhaps, in autumn.” 

Question: (Balkan news agency): “Mr. Heydar ALiyev, I have two questions. First, are we speaking of developing a new agreement if the initial project of the agreement is refused? Second, how do you appreciate the perspectives of the Black Sea countries’ economic cooperation?” 

Answer: “First, we have not refused the first agreement, it was not simply there. Negotiations were under way and positions were shed light on to a certain extent and an agreement was to be signed on the basis of it. We thought it was necessary to analyze all these issues thoroughly. We should know that oil is the major natural resource of the Azerbaijani people and of Azerbaijan, and everything should be weighed up repeatedly prior to signing the agreement for about 30 years. We had not done this before. As it seems, nothing has changed. Simply, we are studying the issue thoroughly. As for the cooperation among the Black Sea countries, we are involved in this cooperation and estimate the process positively.” 

Question: (European newspaper): “If I am not distorting your opinion, in your speech yesterday you said that Azerbaijan is ready to guarantee the security of the Mountainous Garabagh Armenians. What credible arguments can you give about these guarantees?” 

Answer: “Which arguments? If I, President of Azerbaijan, say that we undertake to guarantee the security of the ethnic Armenian residents before the world community, you can believe that these guarantees will be honoured. There is no need for additional proofs. Incidentally, the Garabagh Armenians were living very well until 1988, that is to say, before the conflict, they were living very well in this region of Azerbaijan.” 

Question: (Muslim news agency): “Is Britain mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan to end the conflict?”

Answer: We would like Britain to more actively be involved in the efforts of the international organizations for the resolution of the problems and we are ready to accept a mediation effort of the UK government. 

Question: (Pravda newspaper): “Mr. President, there are news, to tell the truth, such assumptions in the British mass media outlets that the Azerbaijani leadership is allegedly linking the full drafting and signing of the oil contract to the closer involvement of the West, including Britain, in the resolution of the Garabagh problem. Could you please say if there is a direct link between the two issues? Simultaneously, can you assess the potential opportunities of Russia as a Caspian Sea littoral state in exploring the Caspian resources?” 

Answer: “There is no such a direct mutual inter-dependence. However, while agreeing to sign such a big contract - you see, this is a long-term contract - undoubtedly, we want to use it to get political support for Azerbaijan from the countries that will cooperate with us for decades in the exploration of oil deposits of Azerbaijan. And the reason is not that we want these countries do something special for our republic, simply for the reason that these countries may contribute to the fair solution of the problem which is worrying the people of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani Republic.

Thank you for coming to the press conference, come to Azerbaijan!”