From the talk of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, while meeting the French delegation headed by Jean-Jacques Gaillard, new co-chairman of the Minsk Group of OCSE - Presidential Palace, November 9, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: Welcome, Mr. Gaillard. I am satisfied with the intensification of the activity of France as a co-chair of the Minsk Group. I congratulate you on your appointment. I hope you`ll stay in this position till the solution of the issue.

Unfortunately, the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group, the US, France and Russia often replace their representatives engaged in this issue. We understand that every country has its own policy. But such replacements undoubtedly has a negative impact on our affairs. I wish you to cooperate with us long and not to leave your position so soon. Please, I am listening to you.

Jean-Jacques Gaillard: Mr. President, thank you for the hospitality. I am glad to be with you in Azerbaijan today. I have come here to meet some people, to learn the situation here, to understand some points. Mr. President, during my visit I have met the refugees together with the deputy Prime Minister on the affairs of refugees. In general, I think that it is one of the most important parts of the issue we are engaged in; that`s why I pay attention to it.

Mr. President, I deliver to you the friendly greetings from my country. The President Mr. Chirac and the French government pay a great attention to this issue and are always interested in it. Thus, I have come here with a will to do my best for the solution of the conflict. I promise to make all my efforts.

Mr. President, you wished me to hold my position for a long time. Of course, I shall. But on the other hand, I wish not to hold so long. I want to add something, too. Maybe all you said is true, but it does not concern France. Because my predecessor held this position for 3 years.

Heydar Aliyev: I am very satisfied that my friend Mr. Chirac and the French government pay a great attention to Azerbaijan and to the solution of the conflict. When I wished you to stay in this position long, I meant your tenure till the settlement of the problem. But we wish this conflict to end soon and the Minsk Group to finish its function most of all.

It is a pity that we couldn`t reach any achievements in the peaceful solution of the conflict during seven years since the establishment of the Minsk Group in 1992. The negotiations are under way. The Minsk Group functions and meetings are held. During the passed time there have been two summits of OSCE - in Budapest in 1994 and in Lisbon in 1996. There some decisions were made, but they haven`t been implemented; therefore, the conflict hasn`t been settled yet.

During the visits of the Russian foreign minister Mr. Ivanov and the newly appointed special convey on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem of the US President Mr. Cavanaugh to Azerbaijan I expressed my dissatisfaction of the Minsk Group and the co-chairs. Today I`m expressing it to you, representative of France.

After the Lisbon summit of OSCE in 1996, along with Russia, the USA and France became co-chairs of the Minsk Group. It created hope in our people. Because till then Russia was engaged in those affairs alone. The appointment of the USA and France co-chairs was the initiative of Azerbaijan. But we thought that the three superpowers will secure the solution of the conflict. Unfortunately, it didn`t happen during the passed three years. In a week - on November 18, a new summit of OSCE will be held in Istanbul. We are going to the summit without any progress in the solution of the conflict.

After the summit of OSCE, in 1997 the co-chairs of the Minsk Group made two proposals for the peaceful solution of the conflict. Azerbaijan supported the proposals, while Armenia rejected both. In 1998 the Minsk Group did almost nothing. Only in November 1998 it proposed to solve the conflict on the principle of "common state". We didn`t accept it, but Armenia did. We couldn`t accept a proposal because it meant the establishment of a second Armenian state within Azerbaijan. Armenia accepted the proposal because it was in its interests. However, the Minsk Group has to make proposals which suit the interests of both parties.

We asked the Minsk Group to make a new proposal. A year has passed, but there is not any proposal. Thus, we are right to express our dissatisfaction. Only Azerbaijan has suffered from this conflict, do you know it? 20 percent of the territories of Azerbaijan have been occupied by the Armenian armed forces and they are still under occupation. Over one million Azerbaijani citizens were forced to leave the occupied lands and become refugees. For 6-7 years they have been living in critical conditions, mostly in tents.

I thank you for your visit to the refugees. You saw that no one could live in such conditions for 6-7 years. But the conditions of those living in Baku are a little bit better than of the others. The people in the tents suffer much.

Since yesterday it has been snowing in Baku. Now it is raining in Azerbaijan, soon it will snow. People suffer from rains. Just imagine how much the people in tents suffer. Tents don`t protect them from rain. They walk on unpaved, muddy streets. Anyway, I don`t want to go into details of the situation. I suppose that you have an imagination about that.

I remember that people who have visited Azerbaijan for 6 years were sad because of the situation of the refugees who live in tents. However, the world community, as well as the co-chairs of the Minsk Group is indifferent to this issue. Therefore, I declare that Azerbaijan bears the whole burden of the conflict. Naturally, Azerbaijan wants to end the conflict soon, to liberate the occupied territories, to return the refugees and displaced people to their homes. You are to know that everything in the occupied territories has been destroyed. Thus, they will suffer for some years after the return.

Therefore, we are dissatisfied with the inactivity of the Minsk Group. I suppose that a step forward has to be made in the Istanbul Summit of OSCE. I have talked to Mr. Chirac several times. Recently, I spoke with him on phone. I feel that Mr. Chirac tries to solve this problem. His attitude to the issue is important for us. But we need a real result. That depends on the activity of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group and of their representatives. Thus, I hope that your appointment will intensify this activity.

Jean-Jacques Gaillard: Mr. President, I want to note that the activity of the Minsk Group hasn`t been so passive. It has made two proposals. Both of the proposals still remain in the agenda. However, the issue has another side. Some time ago, direct negotiations between you and the Armenian president started. We agreed with this idea and believed that your negotiations will establish a ground for the renewing the activity of the Minsk Group, i.e. it can help initiate of the agreed principles.

We support the idea that the reached agreement would be sustainable if it was reached by the leaders of both of the countries on the fundamental principles. I want to say that the Minsk Group, its co-chairs are ready to renew the activity, to establish a contact between the parties, to learn their positions and help the solution of the issue.

Of course, we understand that the urgent solution of the conflict is necessary for all.

Mr. President, let me ask you a question. I just wonder how you see the development of the process after you launch a dialogue with the Armenian president?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, since April the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been meeting directly and negotiating on the solution of the conflict several times. Those meetings are useful. I think that such meetings can help solution of the conflict. After the meetings both of the presidents have declared that mutual compromises are necessary. Along other issues, the main outcome of those meetings was that both parties understand and declare necessity of compromises, without what it is impossible to settle the problem. I confirm that, too.

But at the same time, I think that our direct negotiations should not stop the activity of the Minsk Group. Anyway the conflict has to be solved together with the USA, Russia and France within the frames of the Minsk Group. I think that our direct negotiations should not stop the activity of the Minsk Group. i.e. they must go paralelly, then it would be more effective. The issues not agreed by the two presidents can be agreed with the help of the Minsk Group. I consider that these activities have to be led as complex. I am still adherent to this opinion.

Jean-Jacques Gaillard: Mr. President, how do you see the practical relation between the two paralelly led activities?

Heydar Aliyev: It is clear. The Minsk Group must be interested in these affairs, receive information and participate in it, instead of stopping its activity.

Jean-Jacques Gaillard: Mr. President, then you invite the 3 co-chairs of the Minsk Group to visit and to meet you soon.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, I do.

Jean-Jacques Gaillard: Thank you very much.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you.

Translated from the newspaper "Azerbaycan", November 10, 1999