Statement of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the meeting of Heydar Aliyev with leaders of the majors jewish organizations of the United States - July 28, 1997

I cordially greet all of you and would like to express my utter satisfaction that I am attending this meeting.

When I was making preparations for my official visit to the U.S., I considered this meeting very important. I have had meetings with the representatives of some American Jewish organizations in Azerbaijan. During those meetings, we displayed warm feelings of friendship to each other. For this reason, I think this meeting with you and your organizations and promoting and strengthening our relations will benefit both Azerbaijan and you.

I know that the most influential leaders of the American Jewish organizations take part in this meeting. Every participant in today\'s conference has many accomplishments, and much reverence and influence. It is clear to me that you demonstrate substantial interest in our region. That\'s why it is beneficial to both sides to know and establish good relations with each other.

I thank you for organizing this meeting. I am ready to answer your Questions, hold conversations, and discuss different issues with you.

Mr. David Hill who was participating in the meeting said:

\"Mr. President, I represent one of the Jewish organizations. According to tradition, the Jews usually express their gratitude to God for all their achievements. I would like to take this opportunity to note that the Azerbaijanis have done a number of deeds that have importance to the Jewish community.

\"Our compatriots - Jews who live in Baku - would like to establish solid relationships with other nationalities who reside in your country. We want more progress in the matter of giving properties that used to belong to Jews back to the Jewish community.

\"We are grateful to you for creating favorable conditions for teaching Hebrew openly in Azerbaijan since the beginning of the 1980s and today. We also thank you for establishing an immigration climate in Azerbaijan that guarantees unimpeded emigration from the country.\"

Question: Mr. President, I join in the thank you message of Mr. Hill regarding the normal conditions for the development of Jewish culture, language and life in Azerbaijan. Most of us, the American Jews, would also like the United States to provide assistance to Azerbaijan. However, there are certain hurdles that I would like to bring to your attention. For example, we come across conflicting reports in the media concerning the state of human rights and democratic processes in Azerbaijan. Could you, please, share your thoughts about this matter with us?

Mr. President, we know that Israel has an Ambassador in Azerbaijan. But your country has no embassy in Israel. I think that if Azerbaijan opens its embassy in Israel, then it will demonstrate strong, stable, and solid relations between Azerbaijan and the State of Israel, and give these relationships needed impetus.

Heydar Aliyev: I will respond to the first Question regarding the human rights in Azerbaijan. I conclude from the information you have that our country has human rights problems.

First, you have to take into account the fact that Azerbaijan is a young state that chose the path of independence and democracy. You live in America and have witnessed the progress of democracy in this country for many years. Democracy is not an apple or watermelon that you can purchase in whatever quantity you desire in a grocery store. Democracy is a process that should evolve through a number of processes in a society before it reaches a certain level.

To institute the democracy that exists in America and the West in Azerbaijan and other countries of the former Soviet Union, one needs a long period of time. After the revolution of 1917, the Communist ideology seized the power. Remember that many years were required for that Communist ideology to be established in the Soviet Union. It was necessary to make major transformation in the thoughts of the people. The totalitarian regime was established in the Soviet Union, and the Western-style democracy never reached that country.

Five years have passed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The republics that were part of the U.S.S.R. became independent during that period. It is extremely difficult to preserve independence. I will tell you that there are many factors that threaten the independence of Azerbaijan and other former Soviet countries. However, in order to defend our freedom, we have to work hard. It is the same story with the progress of democracy. We have to adopt laws and regulations for democracy to function. Azerbaijan has passed such laws.

In 1995, Azerbaijan adopted the new democratic constitution through a nationwide referendum. This constitution contains all the articles concerning the establishment of the law-based, secular and democratic state. One third of our constitution is dedicated to the protection of human rights in Azerbaijan. Not even two years have passed since the adoption of this constitution - it will be two years in November. We are implementing the articles of this constitution. Our country has appropriate laws and resolutions. We are building democracy. But it will take some time before most citizens choose the path of democracy and get used to it.

I want you to know that we are proceeding along this path and will continue doing so. We are protecting human rights and will do so in the future. More than thirty political parties are registered and functioning in Azerbaijan. The majority of these parties are in opposition to the authorities. In such a small country as Azerbaijan, we have more than 600 newspapers.

You have only two parties in America - Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats and Republicans alternate at the helm of power. Our small country, which has just embarked on the process of democracy-building, has more than thirty political parties.

Voice from the audience: Mr. President, there are people who believe it is much easier to preserve democracy with fewer parties.

Heydar Aliyev: We have both small and large parties.

Voice from the audience: Mr. President, we are certain that true democracy will be established in Azerbaijan.

Heydar Aliyev: Israel and Azerbaijan have very good relations. I have repeatedly met with Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. I met with the current Prime Minister in Lisbon last December. I wrote a long letter to him on the expansion of our bilateral relations. The Israeli Prime Minister sent me another letter and invited me to Israel again. The Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan is doing a good work, and we have been assisting them in every way possible. Azerbaijan will open its Embassy in Israel shortly.

Question: Mr. President, when will this Embassy be opened?

Heydar Aliyev: I have to find the right person who will represent Azerbaijan in Israel. Because of the frequent changes of power in Azerbaijan during the past, it is quite difficult for me to locate such individuals. Taking your desires into consideration, I will soon solve this problem. 
The document was taken from the edition of  \"Together towards The New Century\"