Statement of Heydar Aliyev President of the Republicof Azerbaijanat the meeting with representatives of the Baku-Houston Associaton - August 03, 1997

Esteemed Mr. Wart!

Esteemed Mr. Peres!

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen!

I am very happy to meet with the members of Houston-Baku Association. I thank you for your attention and being here today. This meeting with you during my official visit to the United States has utmost importance for me. You laid the foundation of the relationships between America and Azerbaijan some 25 years ago when you established Houston-Baku, Houston-Azerbaijan Friendship Association.

I would like to express my gratitude to our American friends who came up with the initiative of making Baku and Houston sister-cities and established these relations. I also want to thank those people who have developed and strengthened these friendly relations for the last 25 years.

I feel proud along with you that I was among the initiators of the idea of Houston-Baku Friendship Association, making Houston and Baku sister-cities: from the Azerbaijan side I was the one who made a decision to set up such an association 25 years ago.

As I think about it, I get astounded. The last quarter of the 20th century, the last 25 years, has been the history of our friendship and brotherhood. I am happy that 25 years ago, Azerbaijan took a step to create friendly relations with the United States, and I was responsible for implementing that idea. I feel happy that 25 years later, I have lived to see this day as the president of independent Azerbaijani Republic and celebrate the 25th anniversary of this event here in Houston with you.

I have several reasons to rejoice today. I am on my first official visit in the United States as the President of independent Azerbaijan. The visit has been very successful and produced positive outcomes. We have launched a new era in the friendly relations between Azerbaijan and the United States. My meetings with U.S. President Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. officials were very productive, and we signed a number of important documents.

Finally, I have arrived in the city of Houston, our old and faithful friend, and while I was under such wonderful impressions, another piece of happy news caught up with me. I had a grandson. I am a person who dedicates his life to his nation and country. I have always devoted my life to these endeavors. On the other hand, I am human as well. I have a family. I love my children and family. My family and children have always inspired and supported me. They made my life happy. I am happy to say that my family and children have never given me a hard time. On the contrary, they have always given me a gift of happiness and joy.

I believe every one of you can agree with me in these sentiments. Therefore, you can imagine how happy I am today to have a grandchild. He is my sixth grandchild. He is my son\'s son. Today I feel very happy.

I thank you that today you shared my happiness with me and congratulated me. I have been in excellent mood during my visit to the United States. Yesterday when I received the news I became even more jubilant.

Mr. Wart and Mr. Peres spoke about the work the Houston-Baku Association had done providing us with valuable information. This information was very exciting. It was thrilling because this association and our friendly relations have existed for 25 years. Many changes took place during this period. When we set up these relationships, Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union. Later, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and Azerbaijan gained its state independence. Complex social and political processes rocked Azerbaijan for several years. Our neighbor, Armenia, launched aggression against Azerbaijan and occupied Azerbaijani territories. Over one million Azeri citizens were driven out of their lands. Azerbaijan lived through an enormous social and economic crisis.

Despite all these turbulence, the Houston-Baku, Houston-Azerbaijan relations lived on and developed. I hope that these relations will grow even faster from now on. As the President of Azerbaijan I promise that I will do all on my part and on the part of the state to ensure the favorable conditions for this development.

The opportunities for such development are more abundant today. Most of the U.S. oil companies are headquartered in Houston. The U.S. oil firms have signed long-term cooperation contracts with Azerbaijan. I can confidently contend that these business relations will continue well into the last decade of the 21st century. I believe that these companies should contribute to the development of Houston-Baku, Texas-Azerbaijan relations.

I would like to greet one of the founders of the Association, Mr. Verde and his wife. Mr. Verde and Mrs. Verde visited Azerbaijan 20 years ago. They paid a visit to the oil field in the Caspian Sea. They told me today that they lived seven days on the Oily Rocks.

The Oily Rocks are located approximately 100 kilometers from the coast. At that time, we considered those who lived and worked on the Oily Rocks to be heroes. So, if American citizens from Houston Mr. Verde and his wife went to Baku, Azerbaijan and lived in the Oily Rocks, in the middle of the Caspian - I should note that the Caspian is an unusual sea. It is both beautiful and perilous. Along with its beauty, the Caspian possesses dangerous storms, strong winds and high waves. Then the very act of living there at that time is heroism by itself.

The establishment of Houston-Azerbaijan relations 25 years ago and its progress to this day were possible thanks to such adventure-loving individuals. I want to thank all the people who have kept the Houston-Baku relations alive for 25 years. I declare them permanent citizens of Azerbaijan.

We are currently working on new oil fields in the Caspian Sea, and we will install new platforms. There will more small islands similar to the Oily Rocks in the Caspian Sea. I will create all the necessary conditions for those who want to come and live in those places, and I invite all of you to visit Azerbaijan.

I endorse and support all the programs of your association. We can further broaden their scope. I back all your plans and will assist you in every possible way.

Azerbaijan is an independent state now. Azerbaijan and the United States have diplomatic relations. In order to develop these relations further we signed historically critical documents yesterday on August 1st in Washington DC. Those agreements have shaped new opportunities and environment for the further expansion in Houston-Baku, Texas-Azerbaijan relations. Let us all take advantage of these opportunities in a more productive way.

I wish you good health and happiness. I wish you, citizens of Houston and Texas, the very best of success. Thank you very much. 
The document was taken from the edition \"Together towards the New Century\"