From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, in the meeting with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE - May 18, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished guests!

Distinguished co-chairs!

You are welcome to Azerbaijan! It is pleasant to meet you again. In general, the activity of the Minsk Group recently after some drowsiness gladdens me. Much time has passed since the Key West negotiations. During this period you had meetings. I also met some of you. All these meetings prove once more that the co-chair countries of the Minsk Group are for the peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is nice. Because we have been waiting for it for several years. I think that the solution of this issue is of great importance for Azerbaijan, Armenia, also for the whole Southern Caucasus. I welcome you once more, and expect new steps to be made by you. 

Carey Cavanaugh: Thank you, Mr. President. It is also pleasant for us to come to Azerbaijan again. I am back here again after 12 days.

You mentioned drowsiness. Actually, we - the co-chairs of the Minsk Group cannot find any time to sleep.

Heydar Aliyev: Recently.

Carey Cavanaugh: Yes, we have been working more intensively recently. We share your opinion that the solution of the conflict is of great importance. But without the efforts of you and President Kocharyan for achieving peace, we wouldn`t be able to work so intensively. We observed that last year both presidents contacted intensively. That encouraged us to work more actively. We understand that it is one of the hardest problems and duties for every leader. Some issues are connected only with a group of people and their destiny. But this vitally important issue is connected with the destiny and problems of your nations.

The negotiations between you and President Kocharyan encouraged us to be more active recently.

We are satisfied with the remarkable progress in Paris and Florida. We understand that there is still a lot to do. I want to declare again that if the conflict is solved stage by stage, it requires time. There is a need for taking brave, courageous steps for making compromises and for conducting careful analyses in order to achieve peace.

I have talked to the co-chairs, also to Mr. Trubnikov. I can even say that the presidents of our countries have also talked to each other. The common opinion is that it is impossible to determine a definite date for the achievement of peace. Peace can be achieved, when it is possible.

Mr. President, we know that you are loyal to peace. So is President Kocharyan. We hope to find a peaceful solution for the conflict. It doesn`t allow us to sleep any more. But it is worth to work and not to sleep. Actually, when seeing a lot of people suffer because of the absence of peace, we don`t care for sleep.

During this visit we intend to meet not only you and President Kocharyan, also the people who suffer from this conflict, as in our previous ones. Tomorrow we`ll visit the refugee camps in the Aghdjabedi district. We are aware that the families there live the hardest period of their lives. Some of them live even in unimagined conditions. We want to convince them that we make all our efforts in order to achieve peace soon.

Mr. President, after the achievement of peace we want to assist the process of supporting it. Thus, during this visit we intend to see the needs of the people who resettled in the Aghdam district, the restoration of the railroads and the infrastructure, and to prepare them for future.

Mr. President, during our negotiations in Key West there was such an idea that we work not only on a peace treaty, but on the future as well. We work for a different future for your nation. Thus, I declare once more that we are glad to come to Azerbaijan again, to hold the peace torch and move forward. We are glad to have a chance to meet your nation.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. Who wants to add anything?

Nikolai Gribkov: Mr. Heydar Aliyevich, though it is late, on behalf of the co-chairs I`d like to congratulate you sincerely on your birthday and wish you long and useful life for the welfare of the Azerbaijani people, for the maintenance of peace and security in the Southern Caucasus, and naturally, for the speedy solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. I want to convince you that in this noble work you can always rely on the aid and support of the co-chair countries.

I know that you had a talk with Vladimir Putin several days ago. He also congratulated you on your birthday and wished you the best. He appreciated your role highly in the improvement and maintenance of friendly relations between our countries. Recently our relations are becoming more intensive. Just only during this week five Russian ministers visited Azerbaijan. But our Ambassador thinks that it is not enough yet and it is necessary to be more active.

I arrived in Baku yesterday, but I could find time to walk around the city. The city is getting more beautiful. The seashore park is a nice place to spend time. Every time when I come here, I think, if there was not the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and if we were not engaged in its solution, if we could realize humanitarian and economic duties, then the situation in Azerbaijan could be quite different. That`s why, the co-chairs of the Minsk group - Russia, the USA and France try to assist you and President Kocharyan to find a solution - acceptable for both of the nations. I mean “to assist”, because the two parties are responsible to find the solution. We are ready and we`ll propose different variants for the solution of the most disputed problems. Good relations among the heads of state of the three co-chair countries encourage me too.

You know, V.Putin, G.Bush and J.Chirac consult each other on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem frequently. They talk to each other, compare the ideas, think of the necessity of the further steps for the solution of the conflict. It is important and positive that you and President Kocharyan hold constructive positions for finding solutions for this problem.

Perhaps, what I said forms such anan imagination that the solution is not too far. Unfortunately, that is not so. There is a great problem between two nations. However, we should keep working. We should continue to find the solution, try to come to an agreement together. Mr. Heydar Aliyevich, in connection with it I convince you that you can trust in the support and assistance of the three co-chair countries of the Minsk Group.

Heydar Aliyev: By the way, I want to say something in connection with the speech of Mr. Gribkov. Then we can listen to Mr. de Suremaigne. I`ll speak in general.

Thank you for your congratulations on my birthday. However, the most pleasant birthday for me will be the day of the signature of a peace treaty and the liberation of our territories. Thus, in the recent years when I was engaged in this issue I could enjoy neither holidays, nor my birthdays. Actually, I forgot my birthday, because only this issue has occupied my mind. Please, Mr. Suremaigne. 

Philippe de Suremaigne (the French co-chair of the Minsk Group of OSCE): Mr. President, let me convey to you President Jacques Chirac`s congratulations and wishes on the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Mr. Chirac also expressed his appreciation on the mutual confidence between you and him, and his satisfaction with the meeting you in Paris twice recently.

The participation of the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group proves the attention of the international community on the peace process. This problem hasn`t been forgotten; it is reflected on the international information space. Undoubtedly, our biggest wish is to assist to end this conflict as soon as possible.

The three co-chairs work closely. The efforts of our presidents on the peace achievement also encourage us. We understand clearly that there are a lot of difficulties which should be removed. We also understand that this conflict has caused great difficulties for the both parties. We believe in your will and in that of the Armenian President. It can lead to peace which will encourage the economic and social development in both states.

Baku is a city of varieties. It is easily understood that the city is situated on the international crossroads. We can think how much Azerbaijan can profit from the achievement of peace. The assistance of the international community is not only a moral support. It will also cover an economic aid. We understand that if Azerbaijan and the Caucasus flourish, we all can benefit from it. It is our common interest and we maintain it. Thank you.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

I thank you for your opinions; I`m satisfied with them.

You remember, several times you expressed your dissatisfaction that I criticize the co-chairs of the Minsk Group often. Even in my statement in Key West I was critical. In general, criticism is not bad. I think that my criticism have had some effects.

I don`t criticize you today. On the contrary, I highly appreciate your hard work done recently. The more important is that there is a solidarity among the three presidents - Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin and Mr. Chirac. They make joint efforts for the peaceful solution of the problem. It cherishes great hopes.

I know that you worked hard after the Key West negotiations. I am aware that Mr. Cavanaugh visited Germany, Vienna, New York and Baku. You also worked a lot. I am aware of your hard work. I`m informed that Mr. Cavanaugh met also the representatives of the Azerbaijani community in New York. It is unusual. Actually, our diaspora there is not so big. But your attention on them and learning their opinions prove your great efforts for the solution of the conflict.

You know, since the direct negotiations between the president of Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1999, we followed a certain course. However, at the end of 1999 our approach to the solution of the issue broke suddenly. Confident in the positive result of the negotiations I declared then that we are expecting to reach a solution in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But as you know, there was no progress because of the serious changes in the position of Armenia.

Now some people in Azerbaijan criticize and accuse me that the problem wasn`t solved in 2000 despite the declaration of the president. Some can also think that we cheat the people. Naturally, I don`t accept this criticism. Because the people who say it don`t know the reality. Or they want to prevent the solution of the issue. Thus, I agree with you that no one knows when peace can be achieved. But as you say, working intensively we can approach the achievement of peace. I see that you work intensively.

You say that the solution of the issue depends on the mutual agreement of the two presidents. I don`t object. But if the two presidents could come to an agreement, this issue had already been solved.

The Minsk Group of OSCE was established for the peaceful solution of the conflict in 1992. Now the great powers such as the USA, Russia and France are co-chairs of the Minsk Group. However, the two countries cannot come to an agreement for the peaceful solution.

Naturally, you can say that everybody should perform his own duties, and why we must perform the duties of others. I think, however, you`ll never think so. Because, firstly, all of us area part of OSCE. There is a decision on it. Secondly, unless the greet powers ensure peace and prevent conflicts in different parts of the world, it can spread all over the world. Thus, I think that you are to be regularly engaged in the solution of the conflict. I hope that we can achieve peace with our joint efforts.

I`m satisfied with the plan of your visit to the region this time. You declared that you would also visit the refugees camp in the Aghdjabedi district besides the negotiations here or Yerevan. Then you`ll pass the frontline and get to Aghdam. It is very important for us.

Mr. Cavanaugh, I remember that once you brought me a little piece of stone from the mosque of Aghdam. Both of us were touched when you gave it to me. Because not only mosques, but everything created for centuries in the occupied territories have been destroyed. Perhaps, the journalists will also go there with you. You`ll see how the situation is there. As you say, you`ll assess how much work should be done after the peace treaty. But there are seven districts under occupation, not one. Because there is less destruction in Nagorno-Karabakh. You have observed that all the destructions are in the territory of Azerbaijan, not Armenia.

I share your opinion that both Azerbaijan and Armenia need peace. But they are not in the same state. Peace is very necessary for Azerbaijan. You`ll visit the refugees only in Aghdjabedi, but they live in all the parts of our country.

In short, I am satisfied with your visit and your plan. I wish the negotiations you conduct and will conduct here and in Armenia had a progress. Thank you.

Carry Cavanaugh: Mr. President, let me thank you for the high appreciation of our work. You are right; sometimes criticism encourages to work more. However, progress and primary achievements also encourage to work more intensively. I must say that our work is based on the progress we have achieved up to now.

You mentioned the high level cooperation among Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin and Mr. Chirac, and their efforts for the solution of the conflict. I think that there has been no precedent of such a contact among the 3 presidents and a cooperation among the co-chairs. The regular attention on this issue is also a useful means. Our presidents believe in an occasional opportunity for the solution of the conflict. Our president declared their readiness to make great efforts to assist the 2 presidents who are ready to take decisive steps for peace.

Mr. President, you are also right saying that peace depends not only you and Mr. Kocharyan. We understand that a foreign assistance is also possible. OSCE tries to assist the peace process as possible. Three great powers that are co-chairs of OSCE have assumed the leadership in this process.

Our activity looks like a sailing ship. We can only assist. We can assist the ship in supplying with energy, fuel, in the determination of direction. We`ll help more when you approach the port of peace. But the two presidents must run the ship. When the two presidents run the ship in the same direction, peace is approaching. If the presidents follow the different directions for the ship, we can never prevent the shipwreck, even though we provide it with fuel and maps, and determine the directions. Presidents Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin and Mr. Chirac have charged us with duties to work intensively and to help achieve peace when we feel the will of the two presidents. We work hard for it and prepare that port of peace for your anchoring.

We do additional work for delivering means and resources to both of the nations after the peace achievement. You are right saying that the solution of this issue depends not only on you and President Kocharyan. But it does at the same time. Because we all want to see which way you follow and to assist you in this process.

Developing this topic, I can say that there are also storms and subwater flows in the sea. Mr. President, as you noted, we have approached peace in the recent two years. I think that peace is not only a dream today. Peace can be seen in the horizon. Thus, the duty of the co-chairs is to assist the achievement of peace and to develop this process. The duty of yours - the two presidents is to maintain the general direction.

I remember that our visit last year before your birthday and our visit to Aghdam. We`ll increase our experience after we visit the occupied districts and meet the refugees. We understand that the refugees can play the most important role in the peace process. You and our efforts are directed to prepare the Azerbaijani and Armenian nations for the achievement of peace and assist them in this process. It is a very hard duty. However, our duty is not so hard as the troubles of the refugees.

I hope that our visit to the region will help develop the peace process and assist both of the countries to prepare and achieve lasting peace.

Mr. President, let me briefly touch another issue. In Key West we observed you run how skillfully the ship. You demonstrated how to manage the rudder even in windy weather. That voyage was successful. We returned to the port safe and sound. We hope that our present voyage will be successful, too.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

I don`t want to speak too much. But I have something to say about the voyage and how the presidents run the ship. If the two captains - I mean the two presidents - choose the same direction and rely on each other, the ship will reach the shore safe. Now it is difficult for us. Thus, Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin and Mr. Chirac should be on board of the ship. So should you. They should help us.

Indeed I ran the ship in Key West. But there was a very experienced captain nearby who helped me run the ship and determine the directions. I want the same thing now. I want three experienced captains on board of our ship. Then we can reach the shore soon.

Thank you.