The speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at press conference after the meeting with high-level delegation of the Council of Europe - Presidential Palace, July 13, 1996

Dear representatives of press!

We have already met with you because you took part at the beginning of our meeting with the delegation coming from the Council of Europe to Azerbaijan. Therefore, there is no need to make a special statement. Briefly, I can say that the visit of the high-level and wide delegation of the Council of Europe to our republic already shows the beginning of our cooperation after Azerbaijan got the status of special guest.

I want to express my great satisfaction with the meeting and negotiations we carried out today. I think there is a mutual understanding between us. We know the duties that stand in front of us for being the full member of the Council of Europe well. I assure the delegation of the Council of Europe once again that Azerbaijan Republic will strive to be full member of the Council of Europe by practical work. I am sure that we will achieve it.

I give the floor to the heads of the delegation, and I am ready to answer your questions.

Question: My question is to Mr. Secretary General. Mr. Secretary General, Armenia is one of the countries which addressed to become a member of the Council of Europe. Respect to human rights, protection of cultural values stand in the first place in the declarations and programs of the Council of Europe. Two thousand Azerbaijani citizens underwent tortures as captives in different prisons in the Armenian territory. Cultural monuments in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan have been razed to the ground by Armenian troops, about one million refugees live in very hard conditions, will these problems be taken into account while accepting the Armenian Republic to the Council of Europe?

Answer: I am sure that this conflict will be completely taken into account by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I want to state that organization playing the decisive part to accept the countries to the Council of Europe is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is against the violation of the human rights wherever it happens. Undoubtedly, we came across with a number of such tragic cases in Europe, some places were occupied and they remain under occupation. Europe itself has a great number of refugees. It is such a problem that Council of Europe always pays attention to it. The Council has special commissions, committees that they are seriously engaged in the problems of refugees and immigrants.

I do not doubt that when Azerbaijan and Armenia apply for full member slip of the Council of Europe, the issues we noted will be taken into consideration.

Question: Mr. President, how do you see the solution of Nagorno- Karabakh problem?

Heydar Aliyev: The solution of this problem is very exact and clear. We have said this repeatedly. The Armenian armed forces must abandon 20 percent of the occupied Azerbaijani territories, more than one million citizens of Azerbaijan driven out from those territories must return to their native places, territorial integrity of our country and inviolability of its borders must be maintained, safety of the Armenian population of Nagorno- Karabakh must be assured, and Nagorno- Karabakh must be given the highest status of autonomy within Azerbaijan Republic. These are clear and just conditions. We offer this. If Armenian side agreed, problem could be solved a long time ago. Unfortunately, Armenian side strives to exert pressure upon Azerbaijan using some privileges regarding the occupied Azerbaijani lands and tries Nagorno- Karabakh to be given the status of state independence. Of course, we can not agree with this. We can not let the part of the Azerbaijani territory be seized. Norms of international law do not let it either. These are the norms of international law accepted by all international organizations. We are faithful to these principles about our country and about other states. Solution of the problem depends on the Armenian side.

Question: My question is to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. President of Azerbaijan repeatedly noted that difficulties of the transitional period and aggression of Armenia created such a situation that our country cannot solve this problem without help of the international organizations. How can the Council of Europe help our country in the resolution of these problems?

Siym Kallas: As you know the Council of Europe is one of international organizations forming the political environment in this world. Each of these international organizations has a specific feature. Basic duty of the Council of Europe is the advancement of democracy, protection of human rights and establishment of democracy and dynamic states. From this point of view, to help create judicial base to develop democracy in countries and protect human rights is one of the most important areas of cooperation of the Council of Europe with these countries.

I want to inform you that experience we had during the cooperation of Estonia with the Council of Europe was very productive. Answering your question I state that the Council of Europe offers multisided cooperation both to member states and to the states that aspire to become a member of this Council, and eventually helps and tries to support them in the issues I mentioned above.

But as for the conflicts between the states, we prefer other organizations of the world to solve them. For instance, we appreciate the role of the OSCE in solving this conflict and we always support its Minsk process. In its turn Council of Europe can supply the countries with the information about the ways of solving the problems of autonomous groups formed in different regions of the world.

The question of providing such assistance by the Council of Europe was discussed at numerous meetings held today. If Azerbaijan expresses wish to benefit from this experience, then the Council of Europe will help your republic with pleasure.

Question: Mr. President, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan finished a year ago. How does it influence the economic life of your country?

Heydar Aliyev: The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan has not finished. It was ceased two years ago, in May of 1994, with the cease-fire agreement, but there is no complete peace yet. During the last two years first of all we strived toward the peaceful settlement of the problem using the help of the Minsk group of the OSCE. Of course, I must note that the cease-fire has influenced the life in Azerbaijan, and by the way, in Armenia positively.

Of course if there is no war, if operations are not carried out, if blood does not spill, people live more quietly. People, society, state get an opportunity for engaging in socio-economic problems more actively. We used and continue to use this opportunity very actively. Namely, during this period we adopted laws and we began to carry out great economic reforms, including program of privatization and reforms in the agricultural sphere. Notably in this condition we could prepare the first democratic constitution of Azerbaijan and adopted it, we could hold the first democratic elections to the Parliament of Azerbaijan. We could liquidate some negative cases which complicated internal, political life in our country. Unfortunately, unlike European countries and Estonia, along with the military conflict with Armenia, internal political situation used to be complicated in Azerbaijan during a few years. It was connected with confrontation of the different armed groups which fought for acquisition of power. Along with the war with Armenia, civil war began in Azerbaijan in summer 1993. We were able to survive. Considerably, it was possible due to the fact that we could assure cease-fire.

Foreign investors have begun to show more active interest to Azerbaijan, collaborate with us. We have signed great contracts on oil production in Azerbaijan with the biggest oil companies of Europe and the U.S. Cessation of hostilities, stability of socio-political life in Azerbaijan results in more active investments to our republic. Rich natural resources and great economic, intellectual potential of Azerbaijan involve attention of the companies of many countries of the world and we cooperate with them actively. All of these considerably connected with the condition after we achieved the cease-fire. But we strive for sustainable peace, establishment of peaceful and neighborly relations with Armenia, and for the establishment of peace in all Caucasian region.

Question: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, my question is to both of you. Mr. Secretary General, the idea of "a big family of European countries" sounded in the meeting, after Azerbaijan, you will go to Georgia and Armenia who also want to enter this family. It is evident that no one wants the members of his family fight, wage war. What concrete steps are you going to take in order to prevent them to fight during their nominations for the membership of the Council of Europe?

Heydar Aliyev: Azerbaijan will continue peaceful policy and will strive for the solution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and for the establishment of sustainable peace in the region.

Daniel Tashis: European Council takes measures for easing of the tension in Europe. We try to convince member states of the Council of Europe and all European countries that countries with strong political pluralism, democracy and human rights protection are more stable and prosperous than nondemocratic countries with dictator regimes. Development is guaranteed in those countries where the rule of law is ensured.

Besides all of these we work out a number of general values. All member of the Council of Europe must be faithful to these values and must fulfill these commitments. We do our best to liquidate tortures, hatred of foreigners and others to each other. For this purpose we use the youth movement which is widely extended in Europe at present. We incite European states to learn history of each other. We cooperate in the sphere of education in preparation of history textbooks without any ideology and chauvinistic spirit.

We have legal offers to protect the rights of the minorities. We offer different mechanisms to expand and show the ways of open and transparent cooperation among countries. We advocate the idea that there is no need to change boundaries in Europe again, it is necessary to open these boundaries and expand cooperation. Change of borders brought about conflicts from which millions of people suffered. Our purpose is to create such an environment in Europe that all people belong to this continent share the community spirit.

All I mentioned are points to prevent such phenomena during the conflicts. I also add that techniques and rules of solution of such conflicts are known to us. This work is especially implemented by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Coming back to what the chairman said, I want to emphasize that we prefer such conflicts to be solved by other organizations in Europe, especially by the OSCE.

Question: My question is to the President Heydar Aliyev. Last parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan were criticized. What do you plan to implement for holding just elections in future?

Heydar Aliyev: I do not agree with your opinion. I do not consider that parliamentary elections were unfair in Azerbaijan. Elections were completely free. These elections were held on the basis of multi-party system, transparence and political pluralism. All those who initiated candidates freely used the information agencies, including radio and television. Over 30 parties have been registered and are functioning in Azerbaijan. Over 500 newspapers are published. Numerous opposition newspapers are published and distributed in Azerbaijan. Each person in our republic has an opportunity to express his opinion as he likes. All of these were reflected in the parliamentary elections.

Eight parties are represented in the present Parliament of Azerbaijan. Opposition parties have representatives in the Parliament. All these demonstrate that the first parliamentary elections in the independent Azerbaijan were held in a democratic way. You should take into consideration that government has changed three times in our republic after Azerbaijan achieved independence. I mentioned, in summer 1993 the civil war broke out in Azerbaijan. Opposition parties had armed groups. In 1994 and 1996 there were some efforts to seize authority in Azerbaijan, a few terror acts were carried out, several attempts of terrorist attacks were made against the president and they were failed.

Recently, in 1995 and 1996, internal social and political stability was established in Azerbaijan. If you came to Azerbaijan two years ago, you could see different illegal armed groups in the streets of Baku. Unfortunately, most of them belonged to opposition parties and groups. Moping up Azerbaijan from these criminal groups during a short period, giving opportunity to people to live freely, and holding parliamentary elections prove that democracy has been established in Azerbaijan.

Therefore, I appreciate the first parliamentary elections as the first step made towards democracy in the independent Azerbaijan, and I am sure that these democratic processes will develop year by year and the next parliamentary elections will be held in higher level.

Thank you for your attention!

"Heydar Aliyev: Our independence is forever" (speeches, declarations, interviews, letters, appeals, decrees) Azerbaijan Publishing House, Baku, 1998. p.98-104.