Speech by Heydar Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the official reception held ‎in honor of Russian President Vladimir Putin - January 09, 2001‎

Mr. President of Russian Federation, esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!

Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen!

Vladimir Vladimirovich, I greet cordially you and persons accompanying you in Azerbaijan. We are indeed very pleased that you accepted my invitation and paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. This visit is of very big importance in the life of independent Azerbaijan Republic and of distinguished importance in Russian-Azerbaijani relationships. After gaining independence by Azerbaijan and Russian Federation and collapse of Soviet Union and emergence of independent states there was not any visit of President of Russian Federation to Azerbaijan. We wanted it, but it didn't succeed. I have invited you to Azerbaijan and you accepted my invitation. However, some rumors on failure of this visit were diffused. Everybody expresses his own viewpoint, there were many people who didn't want the success of this visit and they were saying beforehand that this visit will not succeed. But the visit succeeded and you, esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich, are in Azerbaijan today.

I express you my profound gratitude for accepting my invitation and visiting Azerbaijan. It is, undoubtedly, an event of historical importance. The first day of the visit is about to come to end today. One can say surely that the majority of what we wanted to do is left behind. One can say definitely that the visit is of success, it justified hopes and the results are more impressionable than we were expecting. The most important thing is that we demonstrate the relationships of friendly relationships established between Russian Federation and Azerbaijan to all over the world.

After gaining independence by Azerbaijan there were different stages of deterioration of our relationships. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for what we were not able to succeed in realization of such a visit. However the present day showed that the majority of issues creating barriers for realization of our meeting, of your visit was created artificially, they were concocted and were not reality. The reality is that we managed to do a very useful work today. Therefore, one can say with surety that visit is very successful, the visit succeeded, it is an important stage and opens a new page in mutual relationships between Russian Federation and Azerbaijan.

The history of relationships between Russia and Azerbaijan, between Russian and Azerbaijani peoples are featured by several distinguished events. We highly appreciate it, during our almost 200 years long being part of this state the nice relationships between Azerbaijani and Russian peoples were established and these relationships turned into close friendships. We highly appreciate here in Azerbaijan the achievements acquired by Azerbaijani people while living together when we were a part of tsarist Russia and after - that of the Soviet Union. The most important thing for us is that under influence of Russian culture the secular features of life mode appeared in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijanis were studying in Russia, they became enlighteners of their people and did a lot for national revival, development of science, education, culture and arts. Very important changes happened in Azerbaijan in the course of the last century. The sphere of education got increased, institutions of higher education and those of scientific research were established, and some other works were done. We managed to do all these thanks to the support and help of representatives of Russian people, Russian intelligentsia and figures of culture and arts. All mentioned played an extremely important role in enjoying of Azerbaijani people of universal values, European values and establishment of secular society in Azerbaijan. Development of economy, industry and agriculture, as well as revival in Azerbaijan in the course of the last century was closely related with Russia, the help rendered to us by Russian specialists. In its turn, I hope that the fact that oil of Azerbaijan played its own role in development of economy, industry and industrialization of Russia and Soviet Union is appreciated in Russia. The say with pride oilmen of Azerbaijan took an active part in strike of many oil and gas fields in Russian Federation and different regions of former Soviet Union.

All these are separate facts of the history. Today the most important thing for us is that after collapse of Soviet Union the independent states appeared and having declared its sovereignty the Russian Federation commenced the realization of principles of democracy and market economy, it carries out economic and social reforms. We highly appreciate the fact that Russia has chosen the way of democratization of state and social life, development of market economy and establishment of freedom - principles of freedom of speech and freedom of press. The same is underway in Azerbaijan. The realization of this processes was harder. We managed now to arrive to the smooth way for the development of democracy, carrying out of economic reforms and establishment of principles of market economy.

Azerbaijan that is an independent state now maintains close friendly relationships in all spheres based on equal rights and cooperates with Russia. This is a new stage in the great history of relationships between Russia and Azerbaijan. It is not an easy but a difficult way. All of us have experienced the difficulties of this period. However, at the same time these difficulties create necessity for close cooperation, strengthening of relationships as well as deepening and expansion of cooperation.

The negotiations hold and documents signed today prove that we have chosen the right way and we follow the path of development of our cooperation and strengthening of friendship between Russian Federation and Azerbaijan. Baku Declaration signed by Azerbaijani and Russian President is of great importance. The main principles of mutual relationships are indicated in the declaration, moreover, it stipulates the improvement of principles of strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Russian Federation. We highly appreciate this document and we think that it creates the ground for expansion and intensification of our cooperation. The joint declaration on cooperation at the Caspian Sea that is amongst signed documents is of great importance too. It opens the way for cooperation of Caspian countries on the basis of unconditional respect of national interests of each of these countries. The economic documents are very important for us too. The most important is tete-a-tete conversation on almost all issues of mutual relationships of our countries, including regional and international problems, that we held with esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am pleased to say that we revealed the coincidence of our positions and views, existence of mutual comprehension and aspiration for intensification and development of our cooperation, strengthening of friendship.

We have many problems in Caucasus. This issue occupied a special place in our negotiations. Of course, all problems of Caucasus have relation to us since we are in need of stable Caucasus. The stability of political and public situation in all Caucasian countries is required for effective cooperation among Caucasian countries. However, settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani Daghlig Garabagh is of crucial importance for us. This conflict makes suffer all Caucasus, makes suffer Azerbaijan, makes suffer Armenia. It delays using of our many possibilities for development of economy of our region.

Russia has been dealing with this problem since its beginning. It was dealing with this problem even before establishment of OSCE Minsk group in 1992. Russia participated in this process over all this period. Moreover, it is one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs together with the United States and France.

We hold discussions on peaceful settlement of this problem today. We definitely adhere the position of peace, establishment of peace in Caucasus, establishment of peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Of course, with the precondition of respect of all norms of international law, especially those related with territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. Hence, the document signed today is of great importance since all these principles are mentioned in it.

Here, in Azerbaijan, we pin great hopes to the role of Russia in settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. I am pleased to say the following: today, in the press-conference, Vladimir Vladimirovich declared that Russia finds it necessary to strengthen its efforts. Russia firmly adheres to the peaceful settlement of this conflict. Speaking frankly, it encourages us to think that it is possible to settle this problem, moreover, it can settled shortly.

We understand that this is a difficult conflict. Mutual compromises are needed. We think that they must be done both on behalf of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Russia plays a significant role in international arena has influence in Caucasus and on relationships between our countries, therefore, it can play a key role in settlement of this problem. We are living and will live with this hope. We are hopeful that this conflict will be settled peacefully. The territories occupied by armed units of Armenia will be released, one million refugees will return to their homelands and peace will be established between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

We know that there are a lot of problems in Russia. Long after collapse of the Soviet Union the life in Russia was not stable. There were difficulties and problems. We, independent state - I mean Azerbaijan and other independent states - have always been emulating Russia and we continue to do so nowadays. We have been always considering and we consider today that high level of economic and social development in Russia, stability and successful implementation of reforms in Russian Federation as well as successful foreign policy of Russia are important not only for Russia, but for adjacent countries of Russia too, including Azerbaijan.

We are observing processes, the positive processes underway actually in Russia with sense of pride. I am speaking about strengthening of statehood of Russian Federation, including struggle against terrorism, extremism and aggressive separatism. I am speaking about improvement of Russia's role at the international arena. Russia is a great country. It has big capacities. Therefore, Russia is rightful to play crucial role in settlement of international problems in present.

I must say that we are pleased to see positive changes underway in conduct of internal and foreign policy of Russia, as well as strengthening of statehood. Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin plays a distinguished role in all of these changes. All of us see, and this is a real fact already that very important and prompt changes are underway in this country. Russia's image at the international arena changes too, it is very important as well.

Therefore we welcome President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's endeavors to unite the society, to consolidate the statehood, to conduct a dynamic foreign policy and undertake concrete measure related with foreign policy in Russian Federation.

I respect very much Vladimir Vladimirovich as President and man. Of course, every man has own position and own opinion. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin acquired a big influence in a short period owing to his activity, realistic approach to all problems, his simplicity and efforts that he undertake to establish relationships with CIS and other countries of a fair basis. He acquired a big influence in Russia and CIS countries as well. He has acquired a big influence all of the world already.

I would like to reiterate that stability of situation in Russia, development of economic and social spheres, strengthening of Russia's positions in international arena is of great importance for all surrounding countries - first of all I speak on my own behalf, on behalf of Azerbaijan.

From this viewpoint, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has demonstrated all necessary abilities and acquired therefore big influence in Azerbaijan. Don't be offended, but the influence of former Russian leadership was not very high. Perhaps, it was one of the reasons for appearance of some processes. Vladimir Vladimirovich managed to demonstrate in a short period that how it is possible to unite the nation and society, how it is possible to strengthen the statehood and conduct successful internal and foreign policy.

We have been claiming that Russian president never visited Azerbaijan, but this time came and Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin visited Azerbaijan. He represents a new type of leader having modern views and opinion, and the most important - he respects every people and every country. Therefore you, Vladimir Vladimirovich have a big influence in Azerbaijan and you are popular in all over the world. This represents a favorable ground for more intensive development of Russian Federation and is of great importance for further development and strengthening of relationships between Russia and Azerbaijan.

Vladimir Vladimirovich, you invited me to visit Russia. Thank you very much. I will necessarily use this invitation. In general, after election of Vladimir Vladimirovich to the post of Russian President we held a lot of conversations and negotiations that I hadn't had with other Russian leader for a long time.

Hence, this visit is very important for us, it is of big importance. One again, I express you my gratitude for visiting our country. We could to discuss a lot of issues and sign a lot of documents.

I propose to raise our glasses in honor of Russian Federation and Russian people, friendship between Azerbaijan and Russian Federation, friendship between Russian and Azerbaijani peoples, esteemed president of Russia, Head of Russian State dear Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Thank you!