Interview oF Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, with correspondents of \"The Wall Street Journal\" - July 28, 1997

Question: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time to meet with us. We are interested in issues related to oil and gas production in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. The first question is: What is your mission in the United States and what goals you are pursuing here?

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. First, I express my respect and appreciation to your newspaper. If I am not mistaken, recently there was an article in your newspaper about Azerbaijan. Some good relations have been built between your newspaper and Azerbaijan. As you may know, today I start my first meeting in New York with you.

This is my first official visit to the United States. As the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, I came to the United States on an official visit at the invitation of President Bill Clinton.

Question: What goals did you set to follow during your official visit to the United States of America?

Answer: You know, the relations between countries are being built differently. The meetings of the leaders of countries and their official visits are very important in this process. It should be noted that I arrived in the U.S. on the first official visit based on an invitation from Mr. Bill Clinton. That means I have global goals.

Of course, the relations that have been built so far between our countries are very important for us. So far, I have met with President Clinton in New York twice, I would say. I also met with Mr. Clinton in different cities at the conferences of international organizations. But as the President of Azerbaijan, it is my first official visit to the U.S.

All the achievements made so far in developing the relations established between our two countries are important for us. But this visit creates a new step in the further development of these relations between the two countries. We are planning to sign some intergovernmental documents. It is a very important step in establishment of the relations between Azerbaijan and America, based on legal norms. Discussion of the important issues - both from the viewpoint of the bilateral relations and international processes that are taking place and the situation in our region, that is, in the Caucasian region and the overall situation on the territory of the former Soviet Union - is also crucial for us. The peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict is a very important issue.

As you may know, the United States of America is one of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group that was formed to support the peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. Along with that is the liquidation of the unfair Section 907 to \"Freedom Support Act\" made against Azerbaijan in 1992 by the American Congress, which will be discussed seriously. I believe the American side will also come up with issues of interest to the U.S.

Question: Mr. President, do you hope that Section 907 will be eliminated?

Answer: You know, we do not only hope, but we also struggle. The only thing that encourages us is that the American government, Mr. Bill Clinton, State of Secretary Mrs. Albright, State Secretary First Deputy Mr. Talbott, and other officials made statements about eliminating Section 907. And finally, the Congressional member from New York, Mr. King, has presented the draft to eliminate Section 907 to Congress.

Question: Are there any positive steps toward a peaceful solution of this conflict from Armenian side?

Answer: First, the good news is that we signed a cease fire agreement more than three years ago. Now the agreement is being followed. We have a cease-fire that has lasted more than three years. But unfortunately we could not achieve peace during this time. The main reason is the anti-constructive position of the Armenian side.

As you may know, in December of last year the leaders of the member-countries of OSCE Minsk Group determined certain principles on the peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. Those principles were accepted. Though we were not quite happy with those principles, we accepted them to achieve peace. But the Armenian side does not accept these principles. Certainly, it makes no sense.

You know, these principles completely meet the requirements of international legal norms. It should be noted that they hurt the sovereignty of Azerbaijan to some extent. They put some limitations on the sovereignty of our country.

Most likely you have some information about these principles. These principles are concerned about recognition of the territorial integrity of the Armenian and Azerbaijan Republics, the guaranty of the rights on self-determination - that is superiority rights to Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) within the Azerbaijan Republic - and guaranty of the security for entire population of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh).

As you see, there is nothing unfair here for Armenia and Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). The only compromise for us is that we guaranty the status of self-determination to a small region on our territory or, it`s true to say, we agree to extend this status. But Armenia does not accept it. They want the status of an independent country for Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). Of course, it is absurd and we cannot accept it. It will both violate the sovereignty and independence of our country and contradict international legislation. I announce to you today that we want peace. In spite of all the damage caused by the Armenian side, we want to achieve peace and live in a peaceful condition, establishing good neighborhood relations. But unfortunately, Armenia still keeps on pursuing its unfair and illegal goals.

Question: Is the trade embargo towards Armenia still in force?

Answer: You know, there is no embargo on our side towards Armenia. Armenia has occupied 20 percent of our territory. The railway on the occupied territories that used to connect Armenia with Azerbaijan has been destroyed. As a result, our Nakhichevan autonomous republic is completely blockaded. (President Aliyev explains the situation using a map.) The train used to go that way and came to Nakhichevan this way, and then went to Armenia. As you may see, this area is under occupation by the Armenian army. That means we lost this railway connection. All the communication lines going to Nakhichevan are blocked, and a part of Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan is under entire blockade. But there is absolutely no blockade in Armenia.

Armenia is very active in trade with Iran. Look. From here through Georgia, Poty-Armenia has access to the Batoumi harbor. The Armenian information about being in blockade is wrong.

Question: Russia is a little bit jealous because of activities of the United States in Azerbaijan. Should there be established diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict?

Answer: Russia together with the United States and France are co-chairmen of the Minsk Group that was established to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. We want them to cooperate. But the United States of America and Russia are only a little active in this issue. There are another opportunities to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict.

As you may know, there are many big Russian military basements and divisions in Armenia. You also may know that Armenian borders with Turkey and Iran are under the control of Russian frontier troops. There are very special relations between Russia and Armenia, there is even a military union between them. Certainly, Russia can impact .Armenia and put it on the right track. It should also be noted that the United States has close relations with Armenia and supports it financially.

We cooperate with America, but based on the Section 907, America does not provide us with any help. Of course, if America and Russia told Armenia to quit its illegal action, then the situation would be solved in the near future.

Question: I think the Russians want to make the situation easy for you. What can you tell about it?

Answer: You would know that better than me.

Question: The idea of the pipeline route that would go from Azerbaijan to Georgia, then Turkey and Mediterranean Sea was approved by Mr. Clinton. It is known there are some difficulties due to the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia. How could the progress be achieved in this region during the construction of the pipe-line?

Answer: You know, I would like to make the whole picture clear. A decision was made to transport the oil produced in Azerbaijan through two pipelines. These oil pipelines have already been established. One of them goes through the territory of Russia to Novorossisk. The second goes through the territory of Georgia to the Black Sea -Supsa. But you are talking about the big pipeline. We are carrying out the practical work for starting the implementation of its construction. But its route has not been determined yet. Turkey wants it to go through its territory to Ceyhan port at the Mediterranean Sea. Georgia wants it to go through the territory of Georgia. Mr. Clinton also supported that route, and we support this route. But you should know that this issue has not been solved yet because there are more alternative routes.

The Operating Consortium is discussing these issues. That is why I would not say it has been decided yet. I would like you to have a clear idea on this. But had this route been approved, there might arise some problems in Georgia. It is true that the planned route will not go through the territory of Abkhazia. It will go through another area of Georgia. But this issue should be discussed again.

Question: As you may know, there are another options to the East - from Azerbaijan through the Caspian Sea to Kazakhistan, and then to Turkmenistan. There is also a suggestion about the southern option. Based on this idea, the pipeline should come to Indian Ocean. Can that be profitable for Azerbaijan?

Answer: You know, these options are suggestions only. They are not realistic. The following is the most realistic one. I went to Kazakhistan on an official visit in June of this year. We signed the contract between Kazakhistan and Azerbaijan about the construction of pipeline for transporting oil produced in Tengiz - Kazakhistan. The route is this: through the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, and then from Georgia to Turkey. I signed this agreement with President Nazarbayev. It is the most realistic alternative.

It should be noted that to build that route, we have started the real work. As you may know, the American company Chevron is currently producing oil in the Tengiz-Kazakhistan oil field. We guarantee the request of Chevron company. The oil produced in Tengiz is transported through the Caspian Sea to Baku. From Baku, it is sent to Batumi. Georgia, by train. For the last couple of months, we have transported more than 300.000 tons of oil for Chevron. Some technical problems are being taken care of, for example, the construction of a pipeline 45 kilometers long. So we are planning to provide the world market with three to four million tons of Chevron oil every year.

We are also working on establishing a solid foundation for future transportation of oil from Kazakhistan, located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea to Mediterranean Sea - Turkey. That is why I consider this route more realistic.

I do not consider the transportation of the oil from the Caspian Sea through Turkmenistan to Indian Ocean realistic. There are a lot of people talking about this hypothesis. But, first, it should be determined what is realistic and what is not realistic.

Question: How are you going to allocate the income received from oil?

Answer: First we have to get that income, then we can think about how to spend it. It is important to get an income. Then it is easy to allocate it.

Of course, the profit received from oil will primarily be used to develop the economy of our country. We are building a legitimate country in Azerbaijan, and we are implementing economic reforms. We are willing to develop the Azerbaijan economy as a market economy develops. We are implementing privatization on a big scale. We want to integrate the Azerbaijan economy with the world economy. We want to improve the way of life for our people. As I have told you, 20 percent of our territory has been occupied. All our wealth from that territory has been destroyed. We have more than one million refugees from the occupied territory. They are living in tents, in a very extreme financial situation. After the occupied territories will be released, we will have to reconstruct it, take the people back to their lands, and establish the conditions of normal life there. Everything is money-consuming.

I am telling you one more time, it is very important for us to improve the way of life for our people. We want to pull Azerbaijan to the level of economically well-developed countries of the world. All this is money-consuming. That is why we have many places to allocate it. But you should know that all this income will be allocated for peaceful purposes.

Question: As we know, corruption is one of the main factors that created an obstacle in developing the economy. American companies working in Azerbaijan have their commerce and investment plans. What are the plans of Azerbaijan to fight with corruption? Are you willing to build a strong, legitimate system, or are you going to fight with corruption?

Answer: You know, corruption is everywhere, including the United States of America. That is why none of the countries can say there is no corruption in their countries. Corruption is a factor that hurts both from financial and moral viewpoints. We are fighting against corruption, and we will do our best to continue to fight against it. We announced that corruption is the factor that first hurts our morale, and secondly hurts the principles of building a free economy and legitimate country. There are many ways to fight it. Of course, it needs to be done within the framework of legal norms and by means of setting necessary regulations and implementing them. To greet the free economy and initiatives, it should be interrelated with the guarantee of legal norms. We are using all these means and we will be using them in the future. In any case, fighting corruption we will not fall behind other countries.

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you, I am very pleased to meet you. I invite you to Azerbaijan. Your newspaper is a very prestigious and honorable one. We also read your newspaper, especially the articles related to Azerbaijan and our region. We want to have a close cooperation with you. From this viewpoint, if you want to visit Azerbaijan, our cooperation will be much stronger. Thank you. 

The document was taken from the edition of \"Together towards the New Century\"