Speech of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the Norwegian businessmen - Stavanger, April 26, 1996

Ladies and gentlemen!

I welcome you of all my heart and in your person the dwellers of Stavanger, the Norwegians, I convey my best regards to them.

It is my third day in Norway. I have arrived here at the invitation of the prime minister of Norway, dear madam Brundtland. The purpose of my visit is to find new ways for the development of the Norwegian-Azerbaijani relations. The third day of my visit comes to an end, and I want to note that I am quite happy with this visit, and I admire your hospitality, care and attention rendered by the government of Norway to me and the Azerbaijani representatives, accompanying me in Norway - both in Oslo and in Stavanger.

Our countries are far from each other. But after its independence Azerbaijan began to establish relations independently with foreign countries, with Norway with a short period of time and these relations develop successfully today. The economic cooperation forms the basis in them, and in this sphere we have achieved great successes.

As you know, Azerbaijan is an ancient oil country and popular in the world in the sphere of oil development. Norway is a young oil country, however within 25-30 years it has achieved tremendous successes in the oil and gas industry. These spheres of economy bring us nearer, and then make a basis of our cooperation, in general, including economic cooperation.

As you know, Azerbaijan has been a part of the Soviet Union for many years, all its achievements, including successes in the oil industry, were the successes of the Soviet Union. Because Azerbaijan was unable to establish direct relations with other states for the development of the economy.

The broad economic cooperation established for a short time between Norway and Azerbaijan is the result of the independence gained by our republic, and because of it we can freely coordinate our opportunities with those of other countries. Using the opportunities of the independence Azerbaijan, has undertaken steps for developing the economy, for activating its potentials on the basis of bilateral, mutually beneficial relations with all the countries of the world.

As a democratic republic Azerbaijan builds the economy on the principles of market economy and conducts reforms for its development in this direction. A wide program on privatization has been adopted and conducted in Azerbaijan. All reforms in the field of economy have been aimed at the establishment of the market economy in Azerbaijan which domains in the world. Basing on these principles, Azerbaijan is able to work jointly with any country, private company in the sphere of economy and has already achieved great successes in this field.

Azerbaijan is rich in natural resources, our country has great economic, particularly industrial potentials. There is a big intellectual potential, enough human resources in Azerbaijan. Using all this for the development of the economy of Azerbaijan, we think that the arrival of foreign investments in our republic is one of the basic directions in our economy. Practical results of the work conducted in this sphere is the big oil contract signed in September, 1994, in Baku. Not only I, but many others in the world call it "the Contract of the century". This contract is aimed at the development of oil deposits in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea jointly with the big oil companies of the world. The consortium, which has signed this contract with Azerbaijan, consists of 11 well-known companies of the world. The term of the treaty is 30 years, but I think that when the term of the contract expires, there will be enough oil and gas, in the deposits of "Azeri", "Chirag", "Guneshli" for prolonging the term of the contract again. I think that it will be possible to extract more oil from these deposits than stipulated by the contract.

One of the big partners in the contract is the Norwegian company "Statoil". This oil company has made efforts in the development and signature of this contract and now plays an active role in its realization. It is possible to say, "Statoil" is one of the first big oil companies of the world which displayed interest in Azerbaijan, and our cooperation is based on completely normal, healthy principles. I believe that there are wider prospects for our cooperation with "Statoil". Shortly before it, "Statoil" and "British Petroleum" have displayed interest in the oil and gas deposit of "Shahdeniz" located in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea. We have done a lot jointly in this sphere. Work on the development of the contract is already coming to an end. I think that this contract will be signed and "Statoil" will take a notable place in it again. Achievements of "Statoil" and of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan in the oil sphere will contribute to our cooperation in this field.

I would like to inform you that Azerbaijan is an ancient oil country. Within 150 years many generations of oilmen scientists, geologists have grown and worked in the country, and today they are also engaged in the same activity. Therefore, Azerbaijan has great achievements and potentials in oil and gas industry, in the exploration oil deposits. All the present oil and gas deposits in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea have been explored by the oilmen, scientists and geologists of our republic. As a whole, oil deposits in other sectors of the Caspian Sea, including the deposits, used now by Turkmenistan, Russia, have also been explored by the Azerbaijani geologists. Therefore, we highly appreciate these achievements, we are proud of them, and we also consider them a good basis for our future joint work. I want to declare that the Azerbaijani oilmen are also pioneers in the world in the field of off-shore developments. In the 20s the Azerbaijani oilmen discovered oil deposits in the Caspian Sea. But commercial oil developments began in 1949. Fifty years have already passed since.

The successes gained by "Statoil" within a very short period of time off shore oil developments are worthy of high appreciation. In this short period of time "Statoil" and the organizations of Norway engaged in oil sphere have done really huge work and managed to produce a big volume of oil and gas. We knew about it, and today I again realized that it is result of an effective utilization of modern technology, undoubtedly, human brain. The great history of oil industry of Azerbaijan, its rich experience, on one hand and achievements of Norway in the application of update technology, on the other hand, are the basis of an effective cooperation between our countries, between "Statoil" and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. I think that our cooperation in this sphere has a great future. We have just started to cooperate, and we shall work and cooperate for years. I hope, that both Norway and Azerbaijan will benefit from this cooperation greatly.

The first results of cooperation between "Statoil" and Azerbaijan show that it is possible to cooperate with Azerbaijan very effectively and I declare that the doors of Azerbaijan are open to all countries, companies for joint activities, for making investments, economic cooperation. Certainly, any company, arriving in Azerbaijan can profit from this cooperation. Because the economy of Azerbaijan is being built on the principles of market economy. We follow this road and want integrate into the world economy more closely. All conditions have been created in Azerbaijan for joint work with foreign companies. Other spheres of the economy of Azerbaijan attract the foreign companies, too. I suppose that you may also display great interest in it.

I noted that Azerbaijan possesses great industrial potential. In our republic there are big industrial enterprises which meet the modern requirements: chemistry, engineering, processing of agricultural products and others. Azerbaijan has a rich nature and fertile soil. It has great potentials in the field of agriculture, too. We are ready to cooperate with the foreign companies for the development of this sphere and for the production of agricultural products.

You know that besides "Statoil" other Norwegian companies also display interest in Azerbaijan. Yesterday we visited the main office of "Kverner engineering" and conducted a broad exchange of views. They have already arrived in Azerbaijan, opened their office. Undoubtedly, we can work successfully with them in the realization of the oil contract and also in other spheres of economy.

I noted that we have adopted a large-scale privatization program and it being implemented into life in Azerbaijan. That is, we want to privatize all the state property in Azerbaijan, we have passed a respective law on it, we have developed a program and the process of privatization is already going on. Both the companies and separate citizens of foreign countries can take part in privatization. I wish to inform that we create necessary conditions for their participation in this sphere, too. We have decided to transfer some big industrial enterprises at the disposal of the foreign companies. Now negotiations are being held and an agreement is being developed on the transfer of a big metallurgical complex to the management of a foreign company.

We have adopted and we will adopt henceforth respective laws for providing the market economy, for the creation of necessary conditions for foreign companies in Azerbaijan. The foreign companies, interested in Azerbaijan, can be sure that all the opportunities will be created for their future comfortable, effective work in Azerbaijan.

I have given information on the present economic situation. At the same time, I want to say that one of the conditions for cooperation is the stability in the country. I want to note that the socio-political situation in Azerbaijan is absolutely stable and it is not temporary, but permanent. Therefore, the investors should not worry about it.

You know that Azerbaijan is in the state of war with the neighboring Armenia. This conflict started eight years ago in connection with the territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan. As a result of the conflict Azerbaijan has suffered great damages; a part of our territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. However, we make efforts for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. Two years ago we have signed a cease fire agreement, military operations have stopped. In these two years we have used different methods and conducted negotiations for the peaceful settlement of the problem. We are supporters of peace, we want peace in our region, in the world. Therefore, we shall not allow the renewal of the military operations. We shall try to settle the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan peacefully in the future, I hope we shall achieve it.

Finally, any country or the company eager to cooperate with us is interested in the socio-political system of that country. Azerbaijan is building a legal, democratic, secular state. Azerbaijan follows the way of democracy, we apply and develop democracy in all spheres of our life. In our country there are all factors reflecting democracy.

Last year the first democratic constitution of Azerbaijan was adopted by the general referendum of population. Then the first democratic parliamentary elections were held, and it already functions. Democracy in Azerbaijan is eternal, protection of human rights, freedom of speech, political pluralism, principles of freedom, democratic principles have been ensured here. And they will become stronger and develop in future as well. Azerbaijan became a member of the family of countries, which live on democratic principle. Undoubtedly, it is a very important factor for the interested persons to cooperate with Azerbaijan, to make investments into our country. Therefore, I gave you the information about it.

Today I have visited an oil deposit located in 240 km far from Stavanger, one of the greatest achievements of Norway. The present miracle created there amazed me. It is impossible to surprise me with platforms in the sea because we are engaged in it for a long time, I witnessed all these. I have been on off-shore platforms of other countries of the world, in the American continent - in the Gulf of Mexico and in other places. But your off-shore platforms use skillfully the achievements of technology, electronics of very high level. I have admired them.

I am very happy that the visit today was very interesting. One of the interesting moments was that before taking the helicopter the persons accompanied me and I were given special uniforms, some people were frightened a little as if something would happen with them. But nothing happened and we all returned safe and sound. For Azerbaijan it is not new to fly by a helicopter to different platforms, we have passed through all this. But when we went to the most remote sites of the sea, we did not put on such uniforms. For us it is something unusual. Some people considered that they already resembled cosmonauts. Therefore it seemed little bit strange.

I highly appreciate your care for the works in the off-shore deposits, have you done much for ensuring their safety, spent a plenty of means. It shows the high level of culture and humanity in your country.

I admired very much the kindness, frankness, simplicity, sincerity and hospitality of the Norwegians. Since our arrival till now we feel the friendliness and hospitality of the head of the country and simple citizens. Therefore, I thank you on behalf of all the members of our delegation and on behalf of my ownself.

The Norwegian-Azerbaijani economic cooperation has already produced positive results, and we are proud of them. At the same time there are very big prospects and opportunities. I invite the businessmen, the companies of Norway to Azerbaijan. Each company investing in Azerbaijan will benefit from it, you may be sure.

I express my gratitude to "Statoil", to its president and other high officials for hospitality. I thank the mayor of Stavanger, the governor of district. I express my respect and esteem to all the dwellers of Stavanger to all the Norwegian people.
Thank you.