Speech of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the international conference devoted to the problems of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Azerbaijan - Baku, session hall of the Government House, October 16, 1996

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

Dear guests!

I heartily welcome the participants of the international conference, devoted to the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Azerbaijan Republic, and I wish successes to the work of your conference.

This conference, which is held in Azerbaijan under the initiative of Asian Committee of Muslims and the international organization "Nijat", the Escape assumes very great value for our republic and people. The problem of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world is one of the problems interesting and worrying the World Community, international organizations and peace-loving people. The interest by Asian Committee of Muslims, the international Islamic organization "Nijat" in this important problem and, in particular, their care for this acute condition in Azerbaijan and conducting a special conference related to it, are worth of high esteem and very important.

I want to note especially that holding this conference, acquaintance with these problems complicating a life of the Azerbaijan Republic in a present difficult transition period and assistance directed to its solution were just initiatives of the Islamic organization and unions. The Asian Committee of Muslims and the international Islamic organization "Nijat" have also invited representatives of many Muslim countries to this conference. Thus, this conference, together with its social and economic character, has simultaneously moral character. It is a manifestation of realization and continuation of the traditions corresponding to Islamic religion, and Islamic principles.

Principles of humanism, peacefulness, care of those who live in heavy conditions, to rescue those who face difficulties in the life are considered the main principles of Islam. Islamic religion, morality, traditions have been established on these universal values, developed from generation to generation, and today it manifests its humanism and peacefulness to the whole world.

The Azerbaijan people comprehend all of them well. The Azerbaijan people, having been isolated from this spiritual value, historical traditions and religion for more than 70 years, have never forgotten their belonging to Islam, or separated itself from the moral values, but always wished to join them.

After achievement of the national freedom and establishment of the state independence by the Azerbaijani people, all opportunities have been created in our country for realization of these sacred feelings and wishes of people. These feelings were so strong and mighty to live, that despite privation, they have not lost its force for decades and immediately manifested itself making use of the created condition. All of them are today`s reality of the independent Azerbaijan Republic, manifestation of fidelity of the Azerbaijani people to their national, religious and cultural values. And it unites us even more, establishes, expands and develops contacts between the Azerbaijani people and other peoples confessing to Islamic religion.

These feelings have taken a worthy place both in our state policy and in the desires of our people. Azerbaijan as an independent state, establishes mutually advantageous relations with all countries and states of the world and strengthens its independence day by day. It is already a member of all international organizations, has taken a worthy place in the international community. At the same time, Azerbaijan is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Azerbaijan is disposed to create and develop closer contacts in these frameworks with all countries entering the Organization of Islamic Conference. We will continue our policy in the future as well.

Our Azerbaijanis, the Azerbaijani muslims with greater desire visit the sacred places of pilgrimage. In 1994, at the invitation of king of Saudi Arabia, the figure of two sacred cities, I also visited this country with official visit. I consider my pilgrimage to the holy places of Mecca, Medina and the Kaaba as one of the happiest pages in my life.

I think that these feelings have helped and will help henceforth to us to get out of all difficulties. From this point of view, the processes occurring in a life of the Azerbaijan Republic and around of it, should rouse interest and care in all the Islamic countries and states even more. It is known to the world and our dear guests know that eight years ago the neighbouring Armenia started military aggression against the Azerbaijan Republic. As a result of this aggression, 20 percent of Azerbaijan`s territory has been occupied and more than one million Azerbaijanis, moslems have been driven out of their homelands and become refugees. They live in very heavy conditions for some years and have resided in 58 regions, cities, settlements of Azerbaijan. Now it is too hard to live in tents.

In the past, thousand years ago, our ancestors lived in tents. And there had been a lot of tents in the Arabian deserts and in Azerbaijan as well. However, the world and our countries have developed, people have constructed houses for themselves corresponding modern requirements and they lived and live in their houses. But imagine, the Azerbaijanis, Muslims, who have lost homes, all the property they had, live in tents for four years. Imagine, people suffer from sultry summer, unbearable whether condition, various injurious insects in the area, where people live in tents, in summer and they suffer from snow, blizzard, cold, rain in winter. You can imagine now how much the Azerbaijanis are patient! Certainly, it is also characteristic feature of Muslims, their moral value. But neither we, nor the world community, the Islamic world and the Islamic organizations can ever assent with this situation. It is an unfair military aggression against our nation, and attempts to keep us in bondage.

In occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the property of our country and people has been devastated. Thousands, tens thousands of apartment houses, industrial enterprises, schools, hospitals, cultural centers, mosques, temples, historical monuments and holy monuments of Islam have been ruined. Undoubtedly, all these are contradiction with human qualities, these are acts of barbarism. But, unfortunately, at the end of XX century, in the time the world has reached a high cultural level, here in the Caucasus, in the territory of Azerbaijan, on the Muslim ground, we face with such atrocities.

Azerbaijan people are peaceful people. The independent Azerbaijan Republic carries out a peace-loving policy. We aspire to resolve this military conflict by peace way. Despite, the fact that most part of Azerbaijan Republic`s territory has been occupied, big moral and material damages have been inflicted upon our people, our country, numerous human losses blood shed and as remaining true to their memories, we wish to solve the problem peacefully.

In this connection, on the basis of this policy, we signed agreement on cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the termination of fights in May, 1994. It is already two years and a half that there are no fights between Armenia and Azerbaijan, blood is not shed and people live in safe conditions in the certain degree. But at the same time, there is no big peace too. We try and we will try to solve the problem by peace way henceforth. We are not supporters to start war and to shed blood again. But we cannot agree with remaining our lands under occupation for a long time. We cannot bear that more than one million Azerbaijani citizens live in heavy condition as refugees and IDPs any more. Therefore, we aspire to release our occupied lands, we demand returning of refugees to their houses. We demand restoration of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, we wish the constant peace in our region, in the Caucasus, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Certainly, the solution of these issues will demand great efforts henceforth as well; the solution of these questions based on fair principles will demand big efforts of all the international organizations. And in this sense, we need the assistance of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Islamic countries, which are close and friendly countries to us. Today, taking this opportunity, I want to express a hope that for implementation of our peace-loving policy, restoration of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, liberating of the occupied lands, and returning our compatriots to their homes, we will get effective assistance from all countries, including Islamic countries, and we will have constant support from the international Islamic countries, organizations.

In such a difficult condition, we need help to provide the most ordinary and a minimum level of a life of refugees and IDPs in our republic. This assistance is rendered to Azerbaijan by the international organizations department of humanitarian affairs of the United Nations Organization, and by the humanitarian organizations of different countries. We receive the humanitarian assistance from many countries. Today, I express my gratitude to all countries, the international organizations which assist Azerbaijan, refugees, IDPs and other people living in heavy material condition in our republic. The Asian Committee of Muslims, the international Islamic organization «Nijat» rendered and continues to render the humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan.

Today, holding this conference and participation of representatives of many Islamic countries here, to my opinion, opens a new stage in rendering even more effective assistance to Azerbaijan. I estimate this conference as the action representing such value. I want to hope that participants of the conference, esteemed guests, who after having familiarized with today`s realities of Azerbaijan, with the condition of refugees in the republic, having visited the tents, meeting directly with those people and getting information about their condition, will strengthen their positive attitude to our republic in the organizations and in their countries, in particular, in all Islamic countries. I hope, they will expand the contacts with Azerbaijan and increase the humanitarian assistance to our republic.

As the president of the country, speaking about the humanitarian assistance, I want you to know that all these are connected with hard condition of our country. However, the social-political processes going in our country, reforms, actions, conducted in social and economic spheres, will lead Azerbaijan`s economy to the way of the big development in the near future. And then, probably, we will not have any necessity for the humanitarian assistance. But now, as our country is under military aggression, the republic lives in conditions of blockade, there is a pressure to Azerbaijan from the outside, there are more than one million refugees in the country, we have such necessity. I consider that the international humanitarian organizations, including Asian Committee of Moslems, the international organization "Nijat" and the Islamic countries will increase the humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan to meet our needs.

Today, I consider the participation of representatives of many countries in the conference to be an important factor for the development of contacts between our republic and these countries. I hope that our esteemed guests will inform in detail their public about the situation in our republic and be organizers of work for rendering assistance to Azerbaijan and bring more closely their countries together with our republic.

I welcome you once again, I wish you health and happiness. I wish success to work of the conference.

Thank you.