Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the official reception organized in honor of the national holiday in Italy - June 4, 2000

Distinguished Mr.ambassador!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I would like to congratulate you sincerely on the occasion of the national holiday of the Republic of Italy - the 54th anniversary of the Day of Republic. I wish the people of Italy peace, security and prosperity.

Italy is a well-known state in the world for its rich, ancient history and customs and its contributions to the world culture. Therefore, all nations display a great interest and love to Italy. The Azerbaijani people watched Italy with great interest and delight as well.

We are very much pleased that Azerbaijan established direct relations with Italy as an independent state and our cooperation develops day-by-day. The nations both of Azerbaijan and Italy benefit from these relations.

Mr. Ambassador, I remember with delight my official visit to your country in 1997. I appreciate the first agreements signed between Italy and Azerbaijan during that visit which are of great significance.

Italy is a country of wonders. It is impossible to find a second country in the world for its architecture and historic monuments, beautiful music, nature, valuable drawings and statues. As other people I am fond of Italy and recall with joy the days I have spent with you in Italy - in Rome, Naples, Pompeii and especially in Capri. I still remember the evening ceremony that we held in Capri. The famous Azerbaijani singer Azer Zeynalov was singing the Italian songs so nicely that the people of Capri living around the place we were sitting, was dancing and singing to this music. It was an unforgettable night.

Certainly, these are the humane and personal feelings. But the more important thing is the relations of friendship and cooperation established between our countries. We value these relations very much and try to strengthen and develop them.

The economy and the big companies of Italy have done a lot in Azerbaijan, ant they have already seen the results of the joint work done in our country. "Acip" is one of the Italian companies fortunate to open the flood-gates to this. It has a share in the contract on "Shahdeniz" deposit. Much gas is discovered in this deposit. We are both glad for it.

Many companies of the world are interested in the deposit of "Kurdashi". But "Acip" got the greatest share-the 25 per cent, in it. Of course, the tender held here was of great importance as well. You know that the drilling works are ongoing in "Kurdashi" and we are waiting for great results.

But as you mentioned, it is very important for us to develop the Azerbaijani-Italian relations in the non-oil sector more rapidly. It is true that our partnership in the field of trade is very good. There are many consumer goods in the stores of Baku, Azerbaijan. Many of these goods are being brought from Italy. If you pay attention to the clothes of the local people you will find that the 70 per cent of these clothes are of Italian origin. So are my clothes. The Italian goods are of better quality than others produced all over the world.

I entered a store in Italy, Naples to buy a tie. I was said that all the presidents including Clinton buy their ties there. I mean that the Italian goods are widely spread in Azerbaijan as in the rest of the world.

But we mustn't be satisfied with it. We have great chances to develop our economic relations. Both Azerbaijan and Italy must try to use these relations more efficiently.

Italy was the country which presided the OSCE Minsk Group established for the solution of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict in 1992. eight years have passed since. The chairmen changed, but the problem remained unsolved. But I hope it will be solved. As Italy occupies an active position in international organizations as a member of the Minsk Group, it must help us more in this case.

Azerbaijan is a European country belonging to the European continent. Therefore, Azerbaijan tries to be represented in all the European institutions, including the CE.

We are informed that Italy occupies a constructive and positive position in this case. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs presides the Ministers' Committee of the CE as well. Therefore, I believe that Italy will display its positive attitude to Azerbaijan at this stage as well. Azerbaijan will try to do its best to enter the CE.

You were right when you said that the deputy foreign minister of Italy will visit Azerbaijan in the middle of this month. I think that it will help to develop the Italian-Azerbaijani relations as well.

We appreciate the aid "Acip" of Italy to refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan. But there is a need to grow the volume of this aid.

In a word, there are relations of friendship and cooperation between Italy and Azerbaijan. Today we celebrate together the establishment of the democratic republic 54 years ago in your country.

After achieving the independence Azerbaijan declared that it will follow the road of democracy and does it. Therefore we try to benefit from the world experience, that of the European countries, including Italy.

Italians are hot-tempered people; they sing well and love music. It is not accidental. The most beautiful classic music has been composed in Italy. Italians love spaghetti as well as I do. But there is no spaghetti in Azerbaijan. We should come to Italy in order to taste it.

You were right when you said that there is a similarity between our customs. The characters and features of our people are alike. Our appearances are similar as well. All of this is very important for strengthening of our relations. We must benefit from these relations.

Mr. Ambassador, I appreciate the cultural activities that you and your wife do here. I wish you luck in them.

I congratulate the Italian people, wish peace, security and prosperity once more.