From the speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the ceremony of presentation of the photo album - "Refugees of Azerbaijan" - November 5, 1997

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

The creation and presentation today of the book with the photos reflecting the life of refugees and displaced persons living in Azerbaijan are worthy and significant events. Since 1988,that is, the beginning of the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan there has appeared the factor of refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the number of refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan grew year by year. Now, they are one million in number.

The military conflict began as a result of the military aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan has inflicted very heavy blows on our country. This aggression has damaged Azerbaijan`s economy and all the spheres of life of the citizens. This is a serious tragedy facing Azerbaijan since the end of the century, which has been going on since 1988. It is the most serious and gravest tragedy Azerbaijan had in the 20th century. In all the spheres of life we feel negative and awful results of this tragedy. Heavy consequences of the tragedy are also reflected in the lives of our people.

There are refugees and displaced persons all over the world. However, in Azerbaijan with population of 7 million, one million is refugees and displaced persons. I think that nowhere else one can meet such a thing in the world. As a result of the war, we have many martyrs and losses. It is a deep wound for our people. Everything has been destroyed in the occupied territories, things which were created in the course of centuries; our historical monuments, cemeteries have been destroyed. Along with the said, forcible expel of the people from their native homes, loss of property and family members, living in hard conditions, I mean, in tents and wagons unfit for living are a great tragedy.

Unfortunately, we could not to convey to the world public the proofs about the hard conditions in which the Azerbaijani people lived, about the critical living conditions of refugees. Until the recent years it was impossible to prove who was guilty in the Azerbaijan - Armenian conflict. Whereas, Armenia launched aggression against Azerbaijan, it has occupied our territories; in some international organizations and countries and the world considered as if Azerbaijan was keeping Armenia in blockade, as if Azerbaijan has caused damage to Armenia, as if people in Armenia did not live well because of Azerbaijan`s wrong policy. In some cases, there appeared an impression that Azerbaijan was guilty more than Armenia.

We know that as a result of the consistent policy conducted by our state and government, in most international organizations this question has already been cleared up. It`s clear who is the aggressor and who is the victim the aggression.

A striking example to that is the declaration of the Lisbon Summit on the peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijani - Armenian conflict, adopted by the heads of the OSCE-member countries. It is the result of the consistent policy conducted by us. However, together with this policy, in the past necessary work was not conducted for the dissemination of the truth about Azerbaijan in the world and even now very little is being done in this sphere. I say again that some organizations and public of Azerbaijan have not done necessary work to inform the world public about the hard living conditions of refugees and displaced persons to attract the attention of the world public to this problem and keep this question in the focus of attention.

The book presented today on a certain degree reflects the situation of refugees and displaced persons living in Azerbaijan. I think that it is the first book which so widely reflects this problem; I mean the situation of refugees. I think we need several such books in order to show the living conditions of refugees and displaced persons of Azerbaijan living in tents and other places. We can`t show all of them in one book. But as little was done in this sphere, written about this problem, this book should be highly appreciated.

Taking the chance I want to say that both state and public organizations of Azerbaijan, the institutions engaged in the affairs of refugees and displaced persons are not satisfactory. There is a special committee in Azerbaijan engaged in the problems of refugees and displaced persons. A big department of the Cabinet of Ministers is engaged in this question as well. Other public organizations must not ignore this problem. I think that these organizations and institutions don`t fulfill duly the duties laid on them. My words concern both the constant attention paid to them and the humanitarian aid necessary for the refugees and displaced persons. At the same time, we must keep this question of constant keeping of this problem in the focus of attention of the public of Azerbaijan and of the world all the time.

If we do not like that then the attention to the lives of refugees and displaced persons will grow less and less, the volume of the rendered assistance reduce and in this way the problem of vital importance will become habitual one for us.

It`s not accidentally that the international organizations grow colder to this problem, and they reduce the volume the assistance to our refugees and displaced persons. The institutions of Azerbaijan engaged in this problem don`t pay enough attention to it. Most of them think that many years have passed and both the refugees and displaced persons have reconciled with their fates, accustomed to the life in tents and wagons along the railways, that they have become tolerant, then their life is normal. I feel the presence of such thoughts. And with a feeling of anxiety and worry I say it today to our whole public, to people here, to everybody.

If we haven`t liberated the occupied territories and haven`t returned the refugees to their home, then it means that the problem has not been solved. It means that we all are in dept to the refugees and we should be more attentive to them. A man can tolerate such a situation a month or two. He tolerates because he believes that it will finish soon. But, when it lasts more than three or even more years, he can lose hope. So, we mustn`t let the people lose hope. Working on the question of liberation of the occupied territories, time we have to pay enough attention and care to refugees, too. We have to increase our attention and concern towards them in comparison with the passed years.

But, not everything is going as we wish. I talk about it with anxiety. I demand all the institutions working on this question to remove the committed errors in their work and to fulfill their duties duly, and to make a serious change in this sphere.

The Cabinet of Ministers must be engaged seriously in this problem. Premier Deputy - Izzet Rustamov, the person appointed to this post and considered to be responsible for the solution of this question must know that the work done by them is not satisfactory. And they have to work more seriously and specifically.

Once I criticized the chairman of the State Commission for the Affairs of refugees Gakhramanov. Today I repeat again that the situation must be reformed radically, and we want to see the results of the work done by the commission; the Cabinet of Ministers must always keep this question in the centre of attention, periodically, consistently, they must listen and discuss the question on the basis of a definite plan, they must take necessary measures and to inform me when it is necessary.

I appeal to the public organizations. They entirely have to change their attitude towards this field. We can`t forget the refugees. We must remember that we always have to be close to them, visit the camps they live in, to be aware of their life and to help them as much as possible.

I appeal to the international humanitarian organizations and ask them to increase attention to Azerbaijan and to render us organized assistance. But, sometimes Azerbaijani citizens, who deliver aids to refugees or displaced persons, do not deliver them in time.

Refugees and displaced persons live in many administrative districts of Azerbaijan, and these administrative districts or towns local administrations. I demand them to fulfill the duties laid on them duly.

Of course, if there is an opportunity to spread this book in the world, then it will clear up the imagination about the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan even more. However, to make the world have a full imagination about the situation we must work consistently and regularly, but not from time to time. Until there are refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan, until the conflict is not settled, this question must worry us constantly and consistently.

For those who are not aware of the situation of refugees this book creates wide imagination of it. However, for us, I mean, people who are aware of the situation, who have seen everything with their own eyes this book is something very little. I mean, the situation of refugees in this book is not so critical. I repeat again, this book will impress strangers, but not us. Our task is to convey to the world the whole picture connected with Azerbaijan, with the life of refugees and displaced persons. So, we must create not one, but several books, even series of books or a book devoted to the life of only one refugee camp, we should write a book about the displaced persons who settled in different places. And we must do everything for this purpose. We must use all the necessary means.

I think that the Cabinet of Ministers, together with the President`s Office must develop a program for the creation of such books. On the basis of this program many series of books of identical nature must be published. I have expressed my own opinion. But, there can appear others as well. And proceeding from them we can extend the frame of our activity. It is possible to allocate some finance from the humanitarian and public organizations and the government for this purpose. It is necessary to do it.

We won`t have any obstacles, for doing it.

You know that we are trying to settle the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia peacefully and there is a progress in it. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia basically accepted the proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group. On one of these days co-chairs of the Minsk Group will arrive, and we will hold talks. We think that we have begun the process of peaceful solution of the conflict. We just need to speed the process and remove the existing differences.

Undoubtedly, the occupied territories will be liberated. The military detachments will leave the territory. As you know, in the first stage six districts must be liberated and the refugees must be returned there. But, it will take time.

Until this conflict is settled, the occupied territories of Azerbaijan are released, until the refugees and displaced persons return to their houses, this problem must stay in the centre of attention of all the institutions of Azerbaijan, I mean our government, our public and each citizen. All must try to help to some extent to provide a normal life for the refugees and displaced persons. We must try to convey to the world, to the head of each state and to each international organization the present situation connected with Azerbaijan, to convey the information about the critical living conditions of refugees and displaced persons. Thus, we will reach the victory of justice peacefully way.

I express my gratitude to all the organizations and persons who participated in the creation of the book presented today. I appreciate this initiative. Though it`s late, but this initiative and today`s ceremony will give an incentive to the work to be performed in future.

I hope that the representatives of the foreign embassies and international organizations which take part in this ceremony will do their best to propagate and to disseminate this book, will help to Azerbaijan, to its people and citizens, to the refugees and displaced persons in the solution of the problems connected with the conflict, in general.

Thank you!!!