Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception hosted by the President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze in honor of Heydar Aliyev - 22 March, 2000

Dear Eduard Amrosiyevich,

Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Once more I want to thank you all for your hospitality and warm feelings of friendship, for this wonderful welcome and for that wonderful holiday that you have given us on the Georgian land.

When in my youth, I arrived in Georgia it made me happy to be in Tbilisi. You know that I was born and grew up in Nakhchivan. Then, till the years of 1941 and 1942 there was no direct railway to Nakhchivan. In order to get to Baku we had to travel three days by train on the railway, which was laid by Tsar Nicholay in the beginning of this century from Baku through Tbilisi and Yerevan to Nakhchivan and then to Julfa which borders with Iran.

I was travelling by train, of course, first with my father and then alone. I had to get off the Nakhchivan-Tbilisi train in Tbilisi and then get on the Tbilisi-Baku train. There was a difference of 12 hours between the trains. When the train arrived in Tbilisi, I immediately get out of it, walked around Tbilisi and admired it. Because then I did not live in Baku, but in Nakhchivan, and the difference was great. I was delighted and glad.

Sometimes, when I could not get a ticket I had to spend the night at the Tbilisi railway station. This happened several times. I was sleeping on the station benches. Perhaps, others did it somewhere, but I had to do it only in Tbilisi.

But I enjoyed it. Then the Georgian language was not very familiar to me and I listened intently to the talks in this language. I liked it so much that I also wanted to speak the Georgian. That is, there has always been a great sense of warmth and even love of the Azerbaijanis for Georgia in the past centuries. This apparently is in the genes of our people.

You know that many outstanding Azerbaijanis lived in Tbilisi. Moreover, Tbilisi, Georgia were their homeland. It is true, some of them were born and grew up here and some came and carried out their activities here. Because then the capital of the Southern Caucasus was Tbilisi. The tsarist empire divided our country into provinces and districts, but the viceroy of the Tsar sat in Tbilisi. Therefore, not only because of it, Tbilisi attracts all and not only in the Caucasus but also in Russia. My fellow countryman Jalil Mammadguluzade by the way, an outstanding man, a writer, essayist and philosopher, born in a village of Nakhchivan, after graduating seminary in Gori spent most of his life in Tbilisi. The magazine \"Molla Nasreddin\" popular at the beginning of the century all over the Muslim world, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia was published here.

Now, when you look at the magazine \"Molla Nasreddin\" you think, Oh my God, we are talking about democracy, freedom of speech and all that was there. What cartoons were there! By the way, a very famous Azerbaijani artist Azim Azim-zade drew them. He drew caricatures of such specific types of the Azerbaijani people that now you look and admire.

That is, I want to say that Georgia has always been our favorite city and Georgia our beloved country. Each of my visits to this country is a great joy for me and for those who accompany me. The atmosphere that surrounds us from the moment of arrival greatly increases this joy and admiration.

It is true that it is late. Usually doctors say that at this time one should drink kefir and sleep. However, we are now in such a wonderful event. That is, I was glad that when I arrived in Tbilisi 50 years ago and today as President of Azerbaijan I am still happy here in this beautiful land surrounded by friends and most importantly by friend and brother Eduard Shevardnadze.

We have done a great work here. I think we had a good meeting in the Opera Theatre named after Paliashvili. It is an evening of friendship of the Azerbaijani and Georgian peoples and Shevardnadze and Aliyev. This evening once more confirms that we are eternal friends and as independent peoples and countries we shall continue to go on this path with confidence, supporting each other.

The content of our conversations today is based on mutual understanding, support and a deep respect for each other. I felt a deep respect for Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people here. Mr. Shevardnadze said many kind words about our country, our friendship and me. I am very grateful to you, for all the words you said. You probably exaggerated in some extent by disclosing your inner feelings to me personally. However, all this is of great importance for our peoples. Our people must see and understand the friendship of the two men that are not young, that are friends for years, for decades and we shall be friends for many more years.

In a word, we have passed a long life with Eduard Shevardnadze and we have a long road ahead, as history has given us the historical responsibility for the fate of the Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples. We, the people, who have a great experience understand and know what the responsibility is. We shall do everything in order to deserve this trust.

Mr. Shevardnadze, as I already said, has done a lot for Georgia, he is able to do much more for it than before. I believe in it.

You know your President and your leader. I also know him. Maybe I know him better than most of you, because we are very close to each other in nature, we both dedicated our lives to our peoples. Therefore, I know him. I know that he is an open-hearted and responsible person, I know how he works. I know that from his earliest years, his whole life was devoted to his people.

Thank you again for the warm welcome and friendship, I wish the Georgian people happy a future.

Mr. Shevardnadze said that, both the Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples have lost a lot in the past. These losses have gone down into history. We must look forward to the future. Despite all the difficulties which we are experiencing today the future of the Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples are bright and beautiful. The basis for this is our freedom, independence and the fact that we are the owners of our destiny. The Georgian people are the complete owner of their fate of course, are able to turn their country into a wonderful place. It will be so.

This will happen due to the efforts of my friend Eduard Shevardnadze. I am sure that having worked for many years he will raise Georgia to the highest level and will bring it to the road on which the country can move forward.

Mr. Shevardnadze, today I repeat it again. The elections are on April 9. Indeed, it is a great trial. But I am absolutely sure that the people are wise, they know and can appreciate. At the time of disorder, when Georgia was split, the people turned to you. But here, there were many politicians and the people turned to you as there was no one equal to you in Georgia, at least for the last 50 years. Therefore, the people turned to you, knowing that you will bring them out of chaos. You did it.

I know that your experience, your international reputation, your knowledge and most importantly your dedication to your country, your land and people let you implement this historic mission. You have done it. People should be grateful to you for this. I believe that this gratitude will be expressed in April 9 in the presidential elections in Georgia and Eduard Shevardnadze will be reelected. We shall all congratulate him and, of course, I shall come to the inauguration.

To your health, Mr. Eduard Shevardnadze!

Cheers, friends,

To the people of Georgia!

To the fraternal friendship of Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples!

Thank you!