From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan while receiving the delegation from Italy, headed by Umberto Ranieri, deputy Foreign Minister of Italy – Presidential palace, June 14, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished guests!

I am happy to greet you in Azerbaijan. I am also happy to have an opportunity to discuss issues on the Italian-Azerbaijani relations with you. I am glad that you accepted our invitation and arrived here. True, I saw your program, your schedule is very short. But as I know, you have held some meetings since morning though. I hope that you are satisfied with your meetings and conversations.

Relations between Italy and Azerbaijan are very good and friendly. My official visit to Italy in 1997 and documents which we signed are an important period for bolstering ties between our countries. We have held many meetings at different levels before and after that, but I suppose that they boosted our relations to necessary level during my visit to Italy. Recently we celebrated your national holiday, the 54th anniversary of creation of democratic Italy. Italy is one of the ancient nations in the world and the Italian people have enriched the world civilization with great discoveries and values, but we celebrate only 54th anniversary. It is clear, because after adopting its constitution by way of referendum, Italy calculates its new history from that period.

We are very young as a state and have celebrated the 8th anniversary of our independence. During this period, we could do much to boost our international relations, including with Italy. Italy is also important for us for its membership to the OSCE Minsk group for peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. By the way, Italy has been the first chair of the OSCE Minsk group established in 1992. As a head of state my first meeting related to this conflict, has taken place with Mr. Rafaelli, the Italian co-chairman of the Minsk group. He was a deputy foreign minister then. Minsk group Co-chairmen changed frequently afterwards. Now not one, but three nations, Russia, the US and France lead the Minsk group. Undoubtedly, Italy is very important for us as a member of the Minsk group. I once again greet and listen to you.

Umberto Ranieri: Mr.President, thank You for Your words. It is great honor for me to meet You. I suppose, I express feelings of all our delegation with this.

The representatives of the Council of Europe are also a part of our delegation.

I share your view on positive character of the relations between Italy and Azerbaijan. In my view, we have opportunities not only to bolster our relations, but boost them in all spheres. There are spheres that we can develop our relations in future and they are economy, politics and culture. I am very thankful to You for remembering Your participation at the National Holiday of Italy on June 2. It was a great honor for us. I suppose Your visit to Italy was a milestone after that relations between our nations have started to strengthen and advance. Besides, I would like to remind that we would be very happy to see opening of an Azerbaijani embassy in Italy.

Azerbaijan is a state where democracy is still very young. That is why I think that Azerbaijan must be supported by states where democracy exists for a long time. Let`s say that Italy is also a relatively young democratic state. As a unitary state, it is 130 years old, but it is a republic since 1946. I want to say that it is not so much if to compare with other European nations with long history of democracy. First appeared the Italian nation, then state. Establishment of an Italian culture is a very long process. But as a republic, Italy is young. This is a cause of many problems for our country.

I thank You for discussion of some issues and I think that Italy will play a very substantial role in the peaceful settlement of the conflict in which the OSCE Minsk group is engaged. In my view, we can largely improve economic and cultural ties between our countries.

I have arrived here from an Italian city that resembles Baku. I am from Napoli. There are many streets in Napoli connected with Baku. Mr. President I thank You very much.

As You know, the main goal of our visit is to discuss the issues of admission of Azerbaijan tothe Council of Europe. In this term, Italy is a president of the Council of Europe and one of the commitments of Italy is to make efforts for creation of conditions for membership of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe.

We have held many meetings to study well the aspects of that perspective. We highly appreciate the works done by the government bodies of Azerbaijan to accommodate the legislation to the European standards. We are confident that Azerbaijan will move ahead in this direction successfully. I temporarily finish my speech.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank You. You touched economic, scientific and cultural ties between Italy and Azerbaijan.

Undoubtedly, like you, we think that we must make efforts for more successful development of relations between our countries in those spheres. You know that we have taken a very important step from that point of view. At the moment, your company, AGIP, works successfully in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. They were lucky in the second agreement in which AGIP is a party. We have found out there more gas deposits than we expected, so, we shall take benefits from our work soon. There is another promising deposit in our sector of the Caspian Sea, "Kurdashi". Many orders had been received from foreign companies to explore this deposit. I was very happy that "AGIP" won when bids were invited. We could expect positive results from there soon. In brief, your biggest company, AGIP has occupied a solid place in Azerbaijan for long years, decades.

Indeed, we have opportunities to promote our relations in other spheres too. But I think that, as you pointed out, the main subject of our meeting is that Italy chairs the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan must be a full member of the Council of Europe soon. I applaud your visit connected with this and believe that our personal contacts will create a vivid insight about the present-day Azerbaijan.

Italy has a great history of democracy, democratic traditions, and one can say that Italy is an extremely democratic state where governments change too often.

Umberto Ranieri: Not so often now.

Heydar Aliyev: Certainly, Azerbaijan is young as an independent state and our democracy is also young. But in our view, we have not done little work for establishment of democratic principles and values in Azerbaijan. Moreover, as an independent state, Azerbaijan determinedly has set a goal to move in the path of democracy and it has been set forth in our constitution. Along with this, of course, I am very glad that we have an opportunity to talk about this issue with you directly and we shall do it.

"Azerbaijan", June 15, 2000