Speech of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the meeting in the Royal Institute for the International Relations in Great Britain - London, February 23, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen!

I am extremely grateful for being inviting to the Royal Institute for International Relations and to get an opportunity to address such authoritative audience. I consider it as an opportunity to give broad information about Azerbaijan and how the young the Azerbaijani state exists, lives and develops. I want to note that as the Azerbaijani President, I was invited to Great Britain by Mr. Prime Minister John Major. We have already held meetings with the presidents of some companies. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak to the businessmen, today we had official talks with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Mr. John Major.

The talks passed in warm atmosphere and to my mind, they ended successfully. Signature of important documents on interstate relations between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Republic of Azerbaijan is an evidence to that. Eight documents were signed, six of them were signed by Mr. John Major and me. Among these documents there is the Declaration on friendship and cooperation between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Republic of Azerbaijan which is of great importance.

I am not going to begin to call all documents. I want to emphasize only that we also signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of energy, in particular, in the field of petroleum industry with Mr. John Major. Our negotiations and the agreement create extremely favorable opportunity for the rapid development of economic relations between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

It is the first visit of the President of independent Azerbaijan to Great Britain. It is of great importance for us, for the Republic of Azerbaijan, as we consider Great Britain a country possessing great political weight in the world politics, the country taking one of the leading places in world economic system, having rich history and good traditions. In many respects it is possible to learn many things in Great Britain, and we are glad for the establishment of versatile communications.

I wish also to note that since yesterday, we are in the warm and friendly atmosphere because of the spirit of hospitality and respect by all the statesmen of Great Britain with which we had meetings. In short, we are satisfied with the beginning of our visit and we hope that it will come end at such a good level.

The President of the Institute noted that earlier you knew very little about the republics of Transcaucasia and the Central Asia. It is really so, but I cannot approve that today you know more. Those conversations, which I had since yesterday here, in London, convinced me that there is not enough information in Great Britain about Azerbaijan. It is certainly, our fault, we should give full information on our country, on its people, its life and attitude to you. I hope that our visit and the present meeting will fill the gap in some extent.

Azerbaijan was one of the republics of the Soviet Union - as you know, its structure included 15 republics, - and after the collapse of the Union it founded its state independence. Collapse of the Soviet Union was the natural result of the socio-historical processes, going on for decades both in the Soviet Union, and all over the world. Sooner or later it should have been collapsed, it has already collapsed, and all republics, which formed the Soviet Union, gained independence. We are very glad that Azerbaijan became an independent state. Our people were waiting for this independence impatiently within decades, centuries.

Azerbaijan has been a part of the Russian empire approximately for 200 years, 70 years out of it – a part of the Soviet Union. However, Azerbaijan founded an independent democratic state in a short period of its history. It was in 1918-1920. But, after two years, this state ceased to exist when the Soviet rule was established in Azerbaijan and in all the Transcaucasia.

People of Azerbaijan, as well as other peoples, who formed  the Soviet Union,  have traversed a long way of economic and social development within 70 years of its existence. During this time, the level of education grew sufficiently powerful economic potentials were created in the republic. At the same time, Azerbaijan was not independent as a state. Therefore, the Azerbaijani people have got an opportunity to enjoy independence. Now Azerbaijan is an independent state and henceforth will always exist. The purpose of the Azerbaijani people is to strengthen the independence and to prevent those, who try to deprive it of independence. As an independent state, when Azerbaijan conducts its internal and foreign policy, it takes its national and universal interests into account.  This policy takes into account the national features, historical past and national traditions of the Azerbaijani people and together with it, the world and international experience as well. It is especially important to know which road Azerbaijan follows. Azerbaijan has refused o pursue the communist ideology, socialist system of economy and state construction.

Rumors on the restoration of the socialist system, communist regime in Azerbaijan as well as in other republics, to my mind, have no any grounds. Anyway, I can say it in connection with Azerbaijan. The independent Azerbaijan is only two years old and these two years passed in very complicated conditions. Deep social and economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union and transition from one social and economic system to another in Azerbaijan and in all the republics of the former Soviet Union, undoubtedly, complicated the life in the republic. There is another reason aggravating the situation in Azerbaijan. This is the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, aggression of the Armenian armed forces against Azerbaijan. As a result of this aggression 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces, over one million Azerbaijani inhabitants, inhabitants of those districts of the republic occupied by the Armenian armed formations have been compelled to leave the places of their residence, become refugees and live now in heavy social and economic conditions.

All this is complicating factors of life in Azerbaijan in the years of  independence. But despite all is difficulties, we pursue the road of construction of a democratic legal state and we are actively dealing with state-building work in Azerbaijan. Buliding  the statehood on the principles of democracy, Azerbaijan aspires to benefit from the experience of the advanced, developed countries, which have already followed the road of democracy for a long time.

Our purpose is the  establishment of a democratic legal society, which would grant to the citizens of republic all freedoms - freedom of speech, conscience, business - which would provide reliable protection of human rights, equal rights for citizens, irrespective of their national identity and political convictions, provide political pluralism, a multi-party system, freedom of press - these are the basic attributes of a democratic legal society which is being formed in Azerbaijan.

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a multinational state and the citizens of Azerbaijan enjoy equal rights, irrespective of their national identity. We consider the multinational structure of Azerbaijan as a positive element of  life in the republic.

As I already said, a multi-party system has been proclaimed in our country, over 40 political parties and public organizations have already undergone registered in Azerbaijan. All these parties have their press organs. As a whole, in Azerbaijan, a small country with seven million populations, there are over 600 newspapers and magazines.

There are rumors that the existence of 40 parties, 600 newspapers in Azerbaijan is not true. Perhaps it is true, because in such a country with democratic traditions as England, there are some basic parties and newspapers, not as many as in Azerbaijan. But, probably, such position at the initial stage is comprehensible to some extent for the young independent state which follows the way of independence and democratic development.

Azerbaijan is on the intersection of Europe and Asia, it establishes friendly relations with the countries of Europe, Asia and West, with all the countries of the world. Certainly, here we assume as a basis that these relations should be established on the  principles of non-interference into the internal affairs of Azerbaijan by any other country and should not damage the independence of Azerbaijan, its territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. Thus, Azerbaijan attaches great attention to the establishment of close relations with the neighboring countries. We have normal relations with our northern neighbor Russia, and also with Turkey and Iran bordering with us. We have normal relations with Georgia, but we are at war with Armenia with which we have borders of many kilometers.

Our relations with the European countries develop slowly, but consistently. In December, I was on a visit in France. We hold meetings and negotiations with the President of France Mr. Francois Mitterrand, statesmen of a country, signed a document on friendship and cooperation which is caused by the necessity of development of our economic, scientific-technical and cultural relations. In this context, we attach great importance to the establishment of much closer relations with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Relations between Great Britain and Azerbaijan have an old and very rich history. English businessmen, merchants, travelers came to Azerbaijan in XV-XVI centuries. In the end of XIX - the beginning of XX centuries, the English capital actively streamed Azerbaijan and strongly affirmed in its economy, especially in the oil industry. So that we have experience and sufficient solid history of economic cooperation between our countries. Today, we are ready to cooperate with England in many spheres. And, as I already said, the documents, signed by us today, pave the way the for such a cooperation.

Internationally important problem for us is to end the war with Armenia, termination of military actions and restoration of territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, maintenance of inviolability of its borders. This problem has aggravated too much.

In Azerbaijan, we are for the peaceful settlement of this problem. We attach priority to the participation of  international organizations in the resolution of this problem. I mean the United Nations Organization, its Security Council, CSCE, its Minsk Group. Certainly, we attach great significance to the mediation of such leading countries of the world as the United States of America, United Kingdom of Great Britain, Russia, Turkey and others. We want the world community have a clear and precise to imagination about the situation. Azerbaijan does not want war, continuation of military actions, we are for ceasing the military actions, but on condition that the Armenian armed forces should leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. We are for holding peace talks on this basis. As it is known, all the military operations are going in the territory of Azerbaijan. The map of Azerbaijan is on the wall and you see clearly here: it is Azerbaijan, here the border of Azerbaijan, it is the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. Since 1923, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province is a part of Azerbaijan. Artificial, so-called Garabagh conflict broke at the end of 1987 and the beginning of 1988.

The population of Nagorno-Karabakh consisted of 70 percent of Armenians and 30 percent of Azerbaijanis. But as a result of the aggressive military actions, all the Azerbaijanis, who lived in territory of Nagorno-Karabakh - there are 50 thousand persons - have been expelled from this territory. Moreover, the Armenian armed forces expanded the military operations and occupied a significant part of the Azerbaijani territory outside the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province. From all this territory, as I already I noted, over one million people have been compelled to leave their residences, become refugees and are now suffer great difficulties. Here is Iran, Azerbaijan borders with Iran, but as a result of the capture of these areas of Azerbaijan, the significant part of the Azerbaijani border with Iran is under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces up to now.

As a result of the military actions, the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, where the population are 350 thousand, is in the condition of full blockade. Communications, which connect Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan - railway, highway, telecommunication, energy lines and others pass through the territory of Armenia, and all of them have been broken off. The Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has only a small opportunity by air to communicate with other regions of Azerbaijan.

This all is the result of the aggressive military actions carried out by Armenia. And our demand, our desire are to stop the aggression of the Armenian armed formations and allow the inhabitants of these territories of Azerbaijan return to places of their permanent residence though much has already been destroyed, plundered. People have lost their dwellings, property created and accumulated by many generations there. As a matter of fact, this is barbarism in relation to the population of Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, today we do not occupy the a position of an aggression or irreconcilability. We consider that Azerbaijan and Armenia are neighbor states and should live in peace condition. We think that it is impossible to be at enmity eternally, to be at war eternally with each other. It is necessary to restore the previous relations, existing until these times, but on condition that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is resored.

What concerns the destiny or problem of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian population, they are the citizens of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan will ensure the safety of all the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh. We are ready to consider the problem of granting self-administration to the Nagorno-Karabakh, after the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed formations from the occupied territories. Once more, I emphasize that in the solution of these questions we rely, first of all, on the opportunities of international organizations. We cherish hopes in the help and support of such a great country as Great Britain, with its heavy political weight in world politics, to its objective position in the solution of the conflict.

As you know, Azerbaijan became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States last September. Being a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, we cherish hopes in the active participation of CIS countries in the resolution of this problem. On December 24, a summit of CIS was held in Ashgabat. I made there the official statements connected with the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and noted that Azerbaijan and Armenia as members of CIS cannot be at war, it is inadmissible and abnormal. In a word, we look for the ways of the peaceful settlement of this problem and rely on the active support of the world community.

Despite all difficulties, which now the independent Azerbaijan experience, internal political situation in Azerbaijan is stable and normal now. And Azerbaijan, having huge economic and industrial potentials, natural and human resources, can be a good partner for economic cooperation for all countries, including England.

Yesterday, speaking to the English businessmen, I invited them to Azerbaijan. And today, I address to you with the same request, with the same invitation. I would like to draw your attention that cooperation with Azerbaijan is not limited only oil industry, though Azerbaijan in general, is known as an oil country in the world. We, certainly, will continue cooperation with «BP» and other western oil companies, such as «Amoco», «Pennzoil», «Statoil», and with the Turkish oil company. I think that the commercial contract can be signed in the nearest future.

At the same time, as I already noted, Azerbaijan has many other opportunities for economic cooperation. Here, let us take the example of «Kaiser engineering». Yesterday I met its president and today a protocol was signed on joint production of aluminum. We have very powerful petrochemical complex and great opportunities. Yesterday I met the president and other representatives of «John Brown» company. Today we signed a protocol. I think that we have an opportunity for active cooperation.

Good cooperation between the Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and «GPT» company has already been established. Azerbaijan possesses a big machine-building complex. This complex consists of oil engineering, power engineering and electronics, tool-making and other branches of engineering. Available capacities, which are not used now with full capacity for various reasons, creates favorable conditions and I can assure you that you can come to Azerbaijan and establish good economic relations. Reliability of such cooperation will be guaranteed by the state, including by the President.