From the talk of President of the Azerbaijan Republic, Heydar Aliyev, with minister of the ‎Russian Federation for CIS Affairs, Leonid Drachevsky and accompanying him persons - ‎Presidential Palace, 15 May, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Honourable Leonid Vladimirovich! Esteemed guests, I am pleased with your visit. The prime minister has informed me that you already had a meeting, discussion. It is felt that the CIS is livening up, reviving.

Leonid Drachevsky: We are trying hard, Heydar Aliyevich. I want to say that in this case, Azerbaijan has been chosen not because it follows first in the alphabet, but because we have found definite points with Abbas Aydinovich Abbasov where we have decided to make a breakthrough. I think it will be a yardstick in a sense and we will move ahead starting from it.

Heydar Aliyev: It is good. We always stick firmly to the positions of active economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia. Formerly, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, You were more engaged in political affairs. And now You encompass everything, but I think economic issues more. We firmly stand on the positions, because the lack of due cooperation and appropriate economic links is certainly neither to the benefit of Azerbaijan nor of Russia.

Our countries, which were tightly interlaced for many decades by economic integration, economic links and single economic system, of course need each other today as well. First, many things from the past still cannot, as is said, recover after the economic links were broken. Second, in new conditions, when the economic reforms are carried out both in Russia and Azerbaijan and private sector is developing, it is very important to provide interaction and close economic cooperation.

For us, for example, Russia was always a very large market. True, then we did not say "market" as there was a single economic system. We used to produce enormous quantity of cotton and sent it to various regions of the Soviet Union. Of course, its major part was used in Russia and some part was sent to the countries of Eastern Europe.

Or, for example, we produced almost 2 million tons of grapes. Only 5 percent of it was consumed by Azerbaijan, but the rest was sent to Moscow, to Russia, because for example Moldova and Ukraine have their own grapes. To sell our produce, we built 5 wineries in different parts of Russia.

We have much fruit and vegetables. Once, Azerbaijan was called the all-Union kitchen garden, as the earliest vegetables were grown here, which were sent first of all to the northern provinces of Russia. It was impossible to grow them earlier than in Azerbaijan. Now we are deprived of such an opportunity. To say the truth, I have been told we sent persimmon this year.

Abbas Abbasov (first vice-prime minister of Azerbaijan): 30 thousand tons.

Heydar Aliyev: In due time, in late 70s, nearly 50 thousand tons of pomegranate was stored up here. We have enough of it to eat in Azerbaijan. But in Russia it is a delicacy. Physicians said and say today that the pomegranate has healing power. Today we have the pomegranate as well, and even more, since the private sector forms the major part of agriculture.

If to adjust all this business, to organize it, Russia will get what it does not have - in this case I am speaking about agricultural produce, and Azerbaijan will sell its goods. The same is about Russian supplies - it is meat, grain, butter, canned food and confectioneries. So, trade can revive and people can earn on it. Both sides will benefit. All this will certainly create better climate in the relationships between the two sovereign states.

Leonid Drachevsky: Heydar Aliyevich, we have therefore come here in such a membership to create the first, as it was already said, precedent within the frames of the CIS, within the frames of establishing a common zone of free trade, to sign an agreement about a new order of levying of indirect taxes which is accepted in the world and which we apply in respect of foreign countries, in order to examine and minimize the list of goods subject to taxes and then to waive it in full. We think that thereby, we will create prospects for the expansion of our commercial cooperation. Because, whatever happens, the relationships between our two countries are determined not only by words and some bans may be, including commercial, which sometimes suddenly emerge, but by people themselves.

There is a very curious figure in this regard, which I have found out only recently to my shame - 31 flights are made between Baku and Moscow weekly. We have only 14 flights with Ukraine, only 12 with Georgia and 14 with Belarus. That is, our links are really so strong and so surpassing that we lag behind and feel responsibility to provide these links for people. And those 2,5 million Azerbaijanis, who live in Russia, they are the people. Whatever is said, whatever is sneered about who is at the market-places and who is not…Markets also need people, the people who supply these markets…

Heydar Aliyev: And there is no life without the market.

Leonid Drachevsky: Indeed. Save for them, there are prominent people of culture, science and engineering, teachers, dozens of people working in different spheres. Therefore, we should be dissatisfied that our trade turnover is only US $212 mln. Of course, it is a mall turnover. And in this connection, we think that the work we have done today and which we will finish today will be the basis from which we will start the expansion of all our future accomplishments in the commercial-economic cooperation.

We have agreed today with the prime minister and Abbas Aydinovich that we have tremendous reserves in energy field. And not only in fuel and energy complex, but also in electrical power engineering. There are huge reserves in other fields of industry too. In the fields You have told about, where the links have remained, but they are half broken, and all is like smouldering. These are the directions which we, the people, who are directly responsible for these matters, should bring back to life and put on proper rails.

In a word, whatever is said, but economic and humanitarian cooperation, the links of ordinary people - it is a deposit of our strong relationships for many centuries ahead. And we proceed from it today.

Heydar Aliyev: Right. We are unanimous in this regard.

As for our decision about a free trade zone. This issue was raised again at the last sitting of Council of the CIS heads of states in January. But it has remained unresolved. Now, the meeting of the CIS heads of states will be held on June 21. Perhaps, we should get prepared by that date. We have ratified this treaty. And we consider it necessary.

I remember that President of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev, was promoting this issue very vigorously. He raises this issue each time and even complains since it is not solved. But here, Russia should finally clarify its position.

Leonid Drachevsky: Right, we just want to establish bilateral relations with all the countries, bringing them together, in order to submit to ratification. We will rapidly ratify them and hope that we will come with these documents to June 21.

Heydar Aliyev: Good, I repeat once again that Azerbaijan firmly sticks to the positions of expanding all-round links with Russia, especially economic. Economic links is the ground for everything. If economic links are on a proper level, the rest will also come true.

It is clear that our people of culture, science and education communicate closely. All it is very good, it creates friendship environment between our countries. But nevertheless economic cooperation, economic links and the commodity turnover you have mentioned are real both for Russia and Azerbaijan. Therefore we firmly stick to this. I have always given such instructions, and have entrusted the prime minister on the eve of your visit to speak with you. So, we are ready to this work.

Leonid Drachevsky: I want to say about humanitarian links. Here we also feel Your hand and Your directions. I have to say that the reaction of Irina Konstantinovna Arkhipova was absolutely amazing when minister of culture, Polad Bulbul oglu, came with Your congratulation to her and read it out. The fact that he came himself, that the congratulation was Yours, and that Polad did it very beautifully, very elegantly - he knelt and kissed Irina Konstantinovna's hand - touched her to tears. And it is to be said that Irina Konstantinovna is not a sentimental woman, she is a rather severe person.

The retrospective show of films by Rustam Inbrahimbeyov last year, the celebration of the 55th jubilee of Polad Bulbul oglu in the "Rossiya" concert hall, the expositions of Tair Salahov - all this is accumulated in the basket of Big cooperation. And if we add an economic base, I think, we have good future ahead.

I have not been in Baku for a year and now I am simply astonished. What beautiful, new buildings, what a wonderful city! It makes an impression!

Abbas Abbasov: We walked the boulevard yesterday.

Leonid Drachevsky: Staggering!

Heydar Aliyev: It is pleasant to hear it. By the way, we have set up big and very beautiful parks in all the micro-districts.

The boulevard was established at the beginning of the century and the whole city consisted then of the central part. There were no houses higher than this building, and the place, where now the parliament, the Martyrs Alley is situated, was considered outskirts. People went there to have a rest. The same concerns other parts of the city too.

Therefore, the boulevard was of course the only place of leisure. I remember, when I was a boy and first came to Baku, I loved so much walking the boulevard. Then, by the way, it was possible to swim there in the bathing-pool. I used to swim there.

On Friday, I received the Dutch ambassador to our country. He showed me the photo of the boulevard of 1926. I was very pleased to see it. They propose a project of cleaning the Baku bay, as he said, so that people could bathe here, swim. I told him: You talk about 1926, but I bathed here in 1939-40 in the bathing-pool. It cost 20 kopeks then.

I remember once, I was 13 then, I came from Nakhichevan and lived at my brother's, I forgot about time and was too late. My folks were already uneasy about where I was. It is good that my brother knew that I was in the bathing-pool. It was getting dark. He came there, pulled me out of there and even more, punished for I stayed there for too long. So, the water at the boulevard was very clean then.

The boulevard is really a loved place for Baku people. Now we have given it the status of a National park and landscape it. We have plenty of beautiful parks set within several recent years in each micro-district. Some micro-districts have even two parks, people have rest there. So, I can boast about it.

I say with pride that I am a founder of mass planting of Baku city. Formerly, Baku was without green plantations, after all. Trees were only in the boulevard and in the central part. Even Maksim Gorki has an expression - he was here at the beginning of the century and wrote that there was only one tree in Baku, since it was a city of oil and wind, there was no water, no rivers, and a tree does not grow without watering. It is in Russia - the forests are everywhere, and there is no need to water or look after…

In 1970 I started to implement here a big program on landscaping Baku city and advanced the slogan: Each Baku citizen should plant and grow two trees. For example, You come from the airport to the city. You see the trees on both roadsides. They were not there 25 years ago. Everywhere was naked. I divided then the highway into sections entrusting them to each District Party Committee and arranged a competition among them.

In summer time, I usually lived outside the city and always came along this highway. I am going to work in the morning and see - this tree has faded, another one - dried. I come to work and make the first phone-call: - "Go and check up why it happened with that tree!" It lasted 15 years like that, as long as I was here, I closely followed that matter. True, the movement weakened after me. Each has his own inclination. And that was mine. And when I came back, I first of all restored what was cut down during my absence, and second, expanded even greater work. Thus, now we have many such places as the boulevard. To say the truth, it is a sea cost, but we have other beautiful places too.

Thank you for noticing these changes.

But as for what you have said, i.e. humanitarian and human links, you know, they are still almost unbroken to our joy. How many days of culture of Russia, Moscow, have passed here, our days have passed there. We have had many events which you attended.

Leonid Drachevsky: It was the jubilee of Rustam Ibrahimbeyov.

Heydar Aliyev: Look, what a jubilee of Rustam we arranged.

Leonid Drachevsky: Astonishing.

Heydar Aliyev: I remember you were then at the "Gulistan" palace. You speak about my congratulation of Arkhipova. I send congratulations not only to her, but to many other outstanding people of art whom I have known long since, as early as the work in Baku, and then in Moscow. Because I, being the first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, supervised culture among other fields.

Leonid Drachevsky: I remember. I worked in sport at that time.

Heydar Aliyev: I supervised sport too. I supervised railway, sea fleet, light industry, culture, health care, education and so on. Therefore, I had to have many contacts with them. I do not forget them and they do not forget us. By the way, they often came here, performed big concerts, and we arranged many events for them. Our fellow countryman, Rastropovich, comes here every year and gives here masterclasses, so, we have preserved this part very well. It has remained very well. But it is necessary that economic part be at the same level too.

Leonid Drachevsky: Absolutely right.

Heydar Aliyev: In any case, you may be sure that we will firmly support all the measures to be directed to the development of efficient cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan.

But what you have decided on bilateral links is very correct. Since when we, the heads of CIS states come together, it is not possible to solve all the issues within a day. But when there are bilateral agreements, the issues are solved. It will allow us to solve the matters at meetings of heads of states.

Vladimir Pokrovsky (deputy minister of the RF for CIS Affairs): I remember, Heydar Aliyevich, You supervised not only dozens of fields, but You were a leading person from the Council of Ministers when the first All-union law on enterprises was being worked out.

Heydar Aliyev: Were you a participant?

Vladimir Pokrovski: I helped You in that matter. You are remembered until now, I mean it was the first real breakthrough.

Heydar Aliyev: And as who did you participate?

Vladimir Pokrovski: I was a deputy of Prostyakov.

Heydar Aliyev: Ah, Prostyakov, What is he now?

Leonid Drachevsky: He is a deputy minister.

Heydar Aliyev: I saw Prostyakov in January at the meeting of the CIS heads of states. He came up to me and I asked him: Where are you now? He answered: I have decided to come back to public service.

It was 1983. It was the first breakthrough when we were preparing the law on labour collective, and later, the law on a state enterprise. We made the first one in 1983 when the country was ruled by Andropov. And the second was made in 1985. In the first case, I was the chairman of the commission as a member of the Politburo, and in the second, the chairman was Rizhkov and I was his deputy. But the great bulk of work was carried out by me.

It is pleasant. So many people I worked with. True, the time has passed. But when I meet them, I am pleased.

Vladimir Pokrovsky: Heydar Aliyevich, I want to remind that not only your people planted trees. When there was a congress of propagandists in Baku, we also planted trees.

Heydar Aliyev: You fulfilled my program. It is very pleasant.