From the talk of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with Lord Russell Johnston, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - September 17, 1999

Distinguished Mr. Chairman! I am greeting you in Azerbaijan. Welcome to our country. I have sent a letter of congratulation to you on the occasion of your election as a chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Now, personally meeting you, I congratulate you cordially, and I wish you successes in this great work.

Azerbaijan as an independent state cooperates with the Council of Europe. We appreciate this cooperation. I consider that for the last period we have done a lot in this area. As being a European country and, in particular, at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, undoubtedly, Azerbaijan wishes to take part in all the European structures. We are glad that a guest status was given to Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe. We hope our cooperation will lead to a full membership of Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe. That is, I want to say that we shall cooperate with the Council of Europe more actively in future as well.

I am glad that you have already got acquainted with some spheres of the life in our country. I express you my special gratitude that you have found an opportunity and visited the tent camps where the refugees live, you have personally seen this heavy part of our life, the reality of today, therefore, and you probably have a certain impression about Azerbaijan. I think that our further cooperation will expand these impressions. Please.


Thank you. There are many problems in our country, in our young independent state. If we speak shortly, the officials, talked to you up to me, informed you that there was a process of building a democratic, legal, secular state in Azerbaijan. The principles of market economy have been adopted, we have done significant work in this sphere and we shall continue it in future.

On the basis of the principles of market economy the program of privatization and land reform are being carried out in Azerbaijan. The land under the control of the state during the Soviet system, now is given back to peasants, citizens on the basis of these reforms.

I have already said that Azerbaijan is on the east of Europe, at the crossroad of Europe and Asia. For this and some other reasons Azerbaijan has accepted both the European values and the values of the eastern world. It is an inherent feature of the historical past of our country. But the country, the people with such a historical past, is now building a democratic and secular state. I wish to notably emphasize the building of a secular state in Azerbaijan. Particularly now, looking at the complex processes taking place around Azerbaijan - in the Northern Caucasus, in Central Asia, in the neighboring states in the south and north, I declare once more that Azerbaijan will always follow this way. All the bases have been established for the development of principles of the secular state in Azerbaijan, and our people have assimilated these traditions a long time ago.

The Azerbaijani people, using the European values since XIX century, have passed a long road of development, therefore, possess a progressive science, culture and education. However, there are forces, factors, which undoubtedly influence the processes occurring in our country, both inside and outside Azerbaijan. Despite all these, we go on the way we have that chosen. We have carried out and shall carry out henceforth the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, political pluralism and freedom of press.

Of great value for our country is the political stability in Azerbaijan. I emphasize it especially because 5-6 years ago Azerbaijan experienced hardships. On the one hand, there was a war with Armenia, and on the other hand there was no stability in the country.

You arrived in Azerbaijan at the end of 1999. If you arrived here in 1993, and even in 1994, you could not walk quietly in the streets of Baku. We have passed a very difficult, complicated road to ensure political stability, and we achieved it.

Several years ago, we put an end to the economic recession in Azerbaijan, which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1995, we have already provided development in the national economy. We have prevented inflation, strengthened the value of the national currency, and to a certain degree, improved the life of people. Our big achievement in this sphere is that we have opened the doors of our country to the entire world, achieved successes in involving foreign investments to Azerbaijan.

In two days, we shall mark the historical event in Azerbaijan, the fifth anniversary of the first contract - "the Contract of the Century", signed by Azerbaijan with the big oil companies of the world. Five years ago, we demonstrated a strong will and signed such a contract by taking a big risk. I can tell with satisfaction that in these five years we have gained great successes.

The company “British Petroleum”, pride of your country that is of Great Britain, occupies a very notable place both in the first contract, and in the subsequent contracts. But it is not alone - besides BP, there are "Ramco", "Monument oil" and other companies. Two large oil companies of Strasbourg, that is France, where you live now, - the companies "Elf Aquataine" and "Total" widely cooperate with us. We have signed 19 contracts recently with 32 oil companies representing 14 countries.

I especially emphasize this point because we are on the eve of the fifth anniversary. And still because it simply shows that our country is open and we are able to involve foreign investments. By involving foreign investments, we shall manage to ensure economic development of our country as well as in future.

What I said is both our problem and our work. But the biggest problem, trouble of our country is the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Mountainous Garabagh conflict. You have enough information about this conflict.

This conflict broke out in 1988 and continues until now. Because of certain reasons, the Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory and keep it under occupation until now. The citizens of Azerbaijan have been expelled violently from their lands and still live in tents. Once more I express you my gratitude that you could visit there by helicopter and see them.

We have never supported war in Azerbaijan. And the conflict was not started by Azerbaijan. Armenia started the conflict claiming to the Mountainous Garabagh, a primordial territory of Azerbaijan. And it has led to an escalation of war, eventually blood has been shed, people have been killed. In the occupied lands more than 700 villages, towns, settlements, habitations have been devastated. But, despite these, we have always favored the peaceful settlement of the problem. For this reason, in May, 1994, we signed an armistice agreement with Armenia, and we observe this agreement until this day. It is already more than five years both Armenia and Azerbaijan live in cease-fire. But it cannot remain so long. It is very hard for us. Because, I already noted, our lands are under occupation, people live in tents. It is not too hard for Armenia as it is for us. But it is also a big problem for them. Therefore, undoubtedly, it is necessary to find a common language. The correct decision should be made; we must reach a fair peace.

You know that the OSCE Minsk Group is engaged in this question. The co-chairs of the Minsk Group - Russia, the United States, France, lead this work. In the last years, we cooperated with them broadly. Twice - in December, 1994, and in December, 1996, at the OSCE summits in Budapest and Lisbon - the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was discussed and corresponding decisions were adopted. Before these decisions, when the land of Azerbaijan was occupied, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions on the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied lands. These resolutions have not been implemented by the Armenian side, and the principles accepted in the Budapest and Lisbon Summit have not been realized again, because of Armenia`s unconstructive position.

You know that after the Lisbon Summit, the Minsk Group of the OSCE has put forward two proposals. We have accepted both of them positively. But these have not been realized, as Armenia has not accepted them. At the end of the last year, a new proposal was submitted. But we did not accept it. The previous two proposals did not absolutely meet the interests of Azerbaijan, but it was possible to count them fair to a certain degree. Principles, which form the basis of these two proposals, grant the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) a high autonomy status within Azerbaijan, demand the liberation of the occupied territory by the Armenian armed forces, return of the refugees violently expelled from their lands, ensure the security of all the population of the Mountainous Garabagh, - both the Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Again, Armenia did not accept it.

The last proposal is called "the common state" principle. That is, territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is formally preserved, and new state - the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) is established within the territory of Azerbaijan. And Azerbaijan has no power of influence over this new state, which is in its structure and in its region.

It is known that from the very beginning of the conflict, the Armenian side had an aim: either to annex the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to Armenia completely, or to achieve the independence of the Mountainous Garabagh. The last proposal, that is "the common state", undoubtedly, provides this claim of Armenia. We, probably, will deceive ourselves. We will think that territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not violated, the Mountainous Garabagh is in the structure of Azerbaijan, that is, in its territory, but the Mountainous Garabagh is completely independent. We, certainly, could not accept it, and today I declare that we can not accept it either.

In the last 15 days, the special envoy of the US president on the Mountainous Garabagh and the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs have visited our region - both Armenia and Azerbaijan. I have conducted extensive negotiations with them and openly declared that neither the United States, Russia, nor France as co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the OSCE have executed their duties from the Lisbon summit until now. We think that the Minsk Group and its co-chairs should submit new proposals relevant to Azerbaijan. Otherwise, the question will not be solved.

You know that Azerbaijan is the country exposed to aggression. More than one million refugees of Azerbaijan live in tents for seven years. Our people are patient, but, patience is also not inexhaustible.

Informing you about it, I declare once again that we are supporters of only the peaceful settlement of the question. We shall try for it in future as well. We shall maintain the regime of cease-fire. With this purpose, as a result of my meeting in Yalta with the Armenian President Kocharyan, instructions were given to the Ministers of Defense to meet and take necessary measures. Several days ago the Ministers of Defense of Armenia and Azerbaijan have met in the border, held negotiations and will take measures for further strengthening the cease-fire.

We aspire to take an advantage of all means for achieving peace. Including, the meetings held recently between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are of great importance. However, the Minsk Group of the OSCE should make more efforts for the resolution of the problem.

You said your organization is not dealing with the resolution of conflicts. We know about it. But at the same time you display great interest to this issue. It pleases us. We think that by displaying interest, and as the representative of the Council of Europe, within the frames of possibility, you will also make efforts for achieving of peace and stability in all the regions of Europe.

You said the admission of Georgia to the Council of Europe worries us. It is not so. We are glad. I have congratulated President Shevardnadze on this occasion. There are friendly relations and cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan. Our peoples have been friends for centuries. I believe nowadays the relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia as independent states in the South Caucasus can be an example for others. In particular, the construction of the oil pipeline to Supsa port on the Black Sea from Baku via Georgia and the oil pipeline of Baku - Ceyhan from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia for the export of energy resources of the Caspian Sea are the indicators of our close cooperation with Georgia. We want to live in peace, friendship, cooperation not only between Georgia and Azerbaijan, but also among all the countries of the South Caucasus.

Measures taken by the Parliaments of the Council of Europe for establishing relations and trust among the countries of the South Caucasus are undoubtedly significant. We consider these measures - meeting with the speakers of parliaments of the three countries, that is, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, in March in France under your leadership and the meeting in Tbilisi had the purpose of settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict by peace.

There are also many other problems here. If I speak about all of them, it will take hours. But I spoke about the basic problems, and I assure you that if they are solved, if peace is established, other problems - both internal and external ones can be solved easily. And consequently, I am addressing to you and to the Council of Europe to make every effort to establish sustainable peace and stability in the South Caucasus and to help us in future, too.

Perhaps, you are tired of listening to me, but I am speaking about it in reply to your question.

The processes, occurring now in the Northern Caucasus, in particular in Daghestan, that is, acts of terrorism and robbery, intruded into the territory of Daghestan, strongly worry us.

Our border with Russia passes through Daghstan. Daghstan is a part of Russia, that is, a subject of the Russian Federation. We have always supported the territorial integrity of each country, and today we act as supporters of territorial integrity of Russia. Therefore, we consider that Daghstan is an integral part of Russia and must remain like that henceforth.

Such fights, acts of terrorism, terrible explosions and others threaten each country. We are very anxious about it because we are very close to Daghstan.

Besides, you should know that approximately 120-130 thousand Azerbaijanis live in Daghstan and a lot of Daghestan Lezghins live in Azerbaijan, too. There are a lot of Avars and representatives of other ethnic groups of Daghestan in Azerbaijan. Therefore, all of these have always historically tied us with each other.

Daghestan is a friendly country to us, certainly as an integral part of Russia. We think the Russian federal forces and the forces of Daghestan will put an end to these processes ongoing in Daghestan and ensure stability in the area.

According to the information published in the press, the Islamic extremists and others ostensibly want to carry out a reactionary policy there. Undoubtedly, it can never benefit Daghstan. All the Daghestani peoples profess the Islamic faith. However, Islam never supported terrorism, or extremism. I consider that these terrorists just use the feeling of people.

Explosions in Russia are, undoubtedly, extremely unusual. If you look through the history of Russia or the former Soviet Union, it is impossible to see a similar case. I cannot recall anything. Anyway the most part of that period has passed in front of my eyes. Besides, we read books, we read history. I did not see, hear that since the 20th century there have been similar explosions in the territory of Russia. We think that the government of Russia, the Russian authorities will somewhat put an end to these events soon. We want criminals to be arrested, punished and as a whole, we want political stability in Russia.

Russia is a friendly country to us. We have wide relations with Russia and we wish peace, stability in Russia, including in the Northern Caucasus, a part of Russia.

I see that you have no more questions. Thank you.