From the conversation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with Jaime José Matos da Gama, the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs - July 12, 2001

Heydar Aliyev: Dear Minister!

Dear guests!

Welcome to Azerbaijan! I greet you in Azerbaijan. If I am not mistaken, it is the high level delegation which has come to Azerbaijan from Portugal.

Feature of your visit as I understand, consists of that on the one hand you, as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, came here in order to develop the relationships between our countries, and on the other hand, from the next year you will carry out the duties of the OSCE chairman, therefore already you get acquainted with this work. If I am right, both the first and the second purpose are extremely important for us.

Unfortunately, the relations between Portugal and Azerbaijan, in particular, economic relations, are not at a desirable level, however Portugal, in particular, Lisbon is very famous in Azerbaijan. OSCE has held summits in various countries. When the summit of the OSCE was held in Lisbon in 1996, - in fact, the basic document corresponding to our requirements was not accepted, - the special statement of the OSCE chairman was declared there. In this statement, principles of peace settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict were reflected. We appreciate this statement. Despite, there were extremely necessary regulations in the project of the basic document of the summit. Therefore, since then the Lisbon summit has got even greater popularity in Azerbaijan.

Five years have passed since the Lisbon summit, but the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was not settled by peace way till now, and the statement adopted in the Lisbon summit was not absolutely accepted by the Armenian side. A big part of our public in Azerbaijan has not accepted it too. However the state, power and personally I have accepted it and I always declared our readiness to realize it. There have passed years, and now Portugal, which will become chairman of the OSCE, is compelled to deal with this issue. Therefore, I consider your visit especially important from this point of view.

We, naturally, attach extremely great significance as well as to development of relations between Portugal and Azerbaijan. Your visit is very important from this point of view as well. Please.

Jaime José Matos da Gama: Mr. President, I am grateful to you for hospitality shown to me, and for finding time to receive me during my visit. Taking an opportunity from this meeting, I convey to you the most sincere greetings of the president and the prime minister whom you met in Portugal, Lisbon.

During the meeting held with my Azerbaijani colleague, we have conducted detailed discussions about prospects of development of mutual relations between our countries.

We have held an exchange of opinions and come to the decisive arrangement concerning a mutual exchange of ambassadors and their appointment between Azerbaijan and Portugal and development of other mutual relations.

I would like to notify that Portugal has rendered Azerbaijan direct support during acceptance of your country into the membership of the Council of Europe. At the same time, it constantly supports your country and helps to it in realization of the Program of partnership and cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union, maintenance of its active participation in the program of NATO "Partnership for Peace".

My current visit is also connected with that from next year we will preside in the OSCE. As you know, Portugal is now one of the members of a tripartite, and I have made a visit to your region for closer acquaintance with this activity of the Minsk Group. Once again I wish to repeat that from next year we will directly carry out presidency in the OSCE and be engaged in this work.

Today together with me the ambassador of the OSCE in Azerbaijan and special representative of the OSCE on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are participating at this meeting. I should note that today we will take part in the opening new office of the OSCE representation in Azerbaijan too.

As you know, my visit to this region has coincided with the visit of co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group. We have coordinated these visits with each other.

Although we do not intervene directly in the conflict but if we can bring this or that contribution in the solution of the problem by expansion of our close relationship and an exchange of opinions with authority of Azerbaijan we intend to help in this matter. At the same time, I wish to note that we support continuation of direct dialogue between presidents. We declare that we approve the understanding reached by both presidents, and the steps undertaken by them, and also necessity of continuation of such contacts.

I have come here basically listen to you. My purpose is to familiarize with your position by listening to you.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. First of all I congratulate you on opening office of the OSCE here.

Members of our government will take part in opening new office of the OSCE. I consider that functioning here permanent mission of the OSCE will promote development of cooperation between the OSCE and Azerbaijan in all spheres, in particular, will assist in the settlement of the main question for us - peace settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh .

You said that you have arrived here to listen to us, however before to pass to detailed conversation, I wish to remind that main principles of the OSCE is a territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of each state, observance of norms of international law by each state. But Armenia after started this conflict with Azerbaijan has completely broken the above mentioned principles of the OSCE. And the OSCE remains indifferent to it.

If the OSCE created special Minsk group in 1992 for settlement of this conflict, assumes the responsibility for its realization, first of all observance of norms of international law, observance of territorial integrity of each country, as one of main principles of the OSCE, observance of inviolability of borders are necessary to realize this duty. Azerbaijan has not broken these principles. We have not broken territorial integrity of Armenia, its borders and we observe norms of the international law. However the opposite side - Armenia, having broken norms of international law, principles of the OSCE, occupied and still holds under occupation of 20 percent of territory of Azerbaijan. More than 1 million Azerbaijanis have been expelled from the occupied lands. In that case, the OSCE either should renounce its principles, or provide their realization. Unfortunately, during this time, the OSCE, its Minsk group does not seriously deal with this question on maintenance of above mentioned principles here, in our region.

I recollected the Lisbon summit of the OSCE of 1996. It was written down in the final document prepared in advance there according to principles of the OSCE on settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that Armenia recognizes territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is granted the high status of self-management within Azerbaijan and security of population in Nagorno-Karabakh is provided. All members of the OSCE agreed with it, but Armenia disagreed with it. If you remember, we have carried out there extremely hard work, however the explanation presented to us consist of that decisions of the OSCE were accepted by a consensus, and Armenia disagrees with acceptance of this article. How much we tried to provide there justice, it was not possible. There was not another way for us and I, as the President of Azerbaijan, declared that I would not give a consensus to the document of the OSCE entirely. After that, acceptance of the final document of the OSCE appeared under threat. Heads of some big states, everybody present there tried to convince me not to do it as the Lisbon summit could appear ineffectual. Including, the prime minister of your country spoke with me about it in detail. There was a strange picture: Armenia does not give a consensus to fair article, and it was counted normal. Being in a desperate situation, we, to my mind, made a courageous step. After that all participants asked to us to give a consensus. I disagreed with it, and, at last, then chairman of the OSCE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Kotti talked to me for some times. He proposed to make that statement. In fact, this statement did not satisfy us absolutely, however we accepted it as we did not want the document of the summit of the OSCE was broken.

Now the OSCE Minsk Group declares that you supposedly should speak among yourselves. Co-chairmen of the Minsk group put forward two offers till 1996, after 1996, in 1997, in 1998. We have accepted both of them. Armenia has not accepted. At last, in the end of 1998 as the former Armenian President agreed to accept one of the proposals, it was started to carry out every possible actions against him and then he was compelled to submit to resignation.

Since 1999, between presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia there are direct negotiations. At the same time co-chairmen of the Minsk group work as well. I wish to tell that this year they intensified their activity in comparison with the last years. I am talking about the certain compromises which should be achieved between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Naturally, compromises from our party break norms of international law and cause detriment to Azerbaijan. But, despite it, we declare readiness to go on the certain compromises. Though, they are beyond principles of the OSCE, norms of international law. Armenia ostensibly agrees to make any compromises which, however, have extremely minimal character. In such a condition we cannot solve the problem. Instead of trying to carry out the principles, each time the OSCE advises us supposedly to agree, to make concessions. It means, it is necessary to be beyond principles of the OSCE, norms of international law. The main question just consists of it.

I wish to know: Is the OSCE loyal to principles or not? If the OSCE admits or even supports infringement of its principles, will not it create large precedent for the OSCE? Then it means that in the solution of some questions principles of the OSCE will stand aside. We consider that principles of the OSCE should remain constant, should not be broken. Decisions are made in its defiance. If we really make any compromises, they will be so unacceptable for Azerbaijan which will be impossible. I repeat, it means that the OSCE remains indifferent to it. Armenia which, breaks principles of the OSCE, remains unpunished. The attitude to both countries is the same. And despite it, one country is an aggressor, and another has subjected to the aggression. If the aggressor does not get the worthy repulse, or is not punished, then aggressors will act in the same way in other places.

I know that you did not start presidency in the OSCE yet, however you are an active member of the OSCE. Probably it will be difficult to answer these questions. However, the reality consists of it. I am speaking to you about a real state of matters.

At the same time, despite all this, we wish to go on the certain compromises and to solve the problem by peace way, however for the sake of justice it is necessary to make equal compromises of Armenia and Azerbaijan. But it does not exist.

Armenia, using results of the aggressive actions, having occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijan lands, dictates its conditions. And the OSCE, representing itself as the arbitrator, as it is said, is indifferent to it in the certain degree.

As you know, I am engaged in this work for 8 years. I have conducted many meetings, including at Budapest, Lisbon, Istanbul summits of the OSCE. And not only at the summits, we meet co-chairmen of the Minsk Group, it is possible to tell, for 5-6, 7-8 times per year. But nothing turns out. I think that the OSCE should think of its authority. The situation is so.

Jaime José Matos da Gama: Mr. President, thank you for the message on history of this conflict, for the global approach to its settlement and the open statement of your position. I also apprehended your opinion addressed to the OSCE with satisfaction. I think that we do not consider all this as the open criticism, on the contrary, we perceive your ideas as stimulus for the further strengthening our activity.

Mr. President Aliev, I attach especial significance to one moment in your opinions. Mr. President, when we talk about this moment, your position completely coincide positions of the OSCE. It is a question on all-round respect of principles of the OSCE and respect of the compromises necessary for settlement of the conflict.

Mr. President, we completely share your opinion on necessity of observance and maintenance of principles of the OSCE, as international organization. Principles of the OSCE have global character. They embrace a lot of measurements. For this reason OSCE sees a necessity of the definition of its new duties, facing it at a stage after the period of cold war. In this connection, I wish to note that the last Paris charter of the OSCE became the important document from the point of view of inclusion of some obligations following from international law, and various measurements in global relationships in a framework. In this charter not only, it is paid attention to principles valid for one occasion, but also to dynamically developing principles. Here openly it is underlined that compromises are means for settlement of conflicts, problems in new international relations. Therefore, Mr. President Aliyev, I faithfully perceive your words about necessity, reciprocity of compromises. Efforts of the international community, the OSCE, its Minsk group, co-chairmen of this group and as well as the states of your region are directed on it. The purpose consists of leading your region out of the condition of the conflict and achieving its transformation into prospering region where your traditional communications have been established.

I am absolutely sure that the international community will accept active participation in the big forthcoming rehabilitation and creative work after settlement of the conflict, achievements of peace. It was very important to me to learn how President Aliyev approaches to this question.

I want to inform you that when I was in Armenia, - beyond the conflict, - I was convinced that there is great respect to the leadership of President Aliev, to his being statesman, and to Azerbaijan people there.

I consider that it is the positive moments can help the persons, authorized to solve the problem.

I wish to express once again confidence that nobody believes in the settlement of this problem without President Aliyev. We also wish it.

We are not a determinative factor, active player in this process. We can only support this process. I am sure that if we can achieve settlement of this conflict the persons who have realized this opportunity, will be considered winners in opinion of the world community. The settlement of the question will become the biggest result.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I always considered and today I believe that the OSCE should not be limited exclusively to rendering support to this question. If the OSCE really is one of the most authoritative organizations of the world it should become the fair judge. I think so. Therefore, I am telling you these words. If I considered that you simply support to both sides, and your principles are broken, and you are indifferent to it, I would not speak to you about it at all. I understand well that the peace settlement of this conflict will change the situation in our region completely. In this question, both Armenia and Azerbaijan should have one general desire.

We concern that our lands are under occupation, our territorial integrity were broken, more than one million citizens live in tents, in position of refugees. All these do not exist in Armenia, however at the same time they have other problems as well. They experience extremely big economic difficulties. If this question is solved, their communications completely will open, and they will reach serious successes in economy. Two neighboring countries will live in condition of peace. It will render its influence on all the Caucasian region. Therefore, both Armenia and Azerbaijan should be interested in it. We are very interested, however Armenia should be interested even more. Till what time will they hold our grounds under occupation? How many? All life? Let not today, but time will come and tomorrow everything will be changed, But it is necessary to solve this question today.

I have always said, I also say it today that we aspired and we will aspire henceforth to the peace settlement of the question. I agree with you that if peace, if the conflict is settled, naturally, the international public will highly estimate it. And organizers, certainly, will appreciate much more.

However, I don`t need any glory if it will cause damage to my people, my country, and my nation. It is possible only those decisions made by us will be equitable to interests of our people, our country, our state. After that, whether it will be assessed or not, it does not rouse interest for me at all.

It is possible to speak about it so much. In summary, I wish to tell that we are supporters of peace, we wish to solve the problem by peace way. We want only the fair settlement of the question. We will not admit any injustice concerning our country. It is necessary, both the OSCE and its Minsk group to understand it well. Not only it should understand, but also make even more serious efforts for realization of its principles. It is everything what I wanted to say.