From the talk of President of the Azerbaijan Republic, Heydar Aliyev, with the delegation of ‎European Union - 21 February, 2001‎

Heydar Aliyev: Honourable Mrs. Minister!

Honourable Secretary-General!

Esteemed Commissioner! Dear ladies and gentlemen!

I greet you once again in Azerbaijan. You are welcome to Azerbaijan! I am very pleased with our meeting.

Today, we have opened with you the building of secretariat established by you in connection with fulfillment of the TRACECA program of the European Union.

It is a momentous event. But our links with the European Union cannot be restricted by the frames of the TRACECA program only. The TRACECA program is only a part of the cooperation. Therefore we have had a large-scale cooperation with the European Union for already several years and want to broaden these links still more.

We highly appreciate the positive role of the European Union it plays now in Europe and worldwide. We want to integrate even closer into the European Union. We are already members of the European Union. Taking an opportunity, I appreciate you for the assistance you showed to Azerbaijan upon joining the European Union. It is the first stage. After it, the way to the European Union is open. We know it is not an easy way. Of course, the demands made by the European Union to the member-states of this organization are far more serious than those put before the member-states of the Council of Europe. But integration to Europe is our strategic course. Therefore we want to follow this way. Certainly, we cannot say how fast and in what time. I mention once again, we know that your requirements are very serious. But we express our wish. At that, judging by the work accomplished by us based on the Program of partnership and cooperation, we think we will be able to follow this way.

Our region is very important for the European Union, for Europe as a whole. We already witness that people in Europe, including in the European Union, see and realize what an important role the countries of Southern Caucasia play for Europe.

Perhaps, you will also confirm that Azerbaijan occupies a special place in this row as it is situated at the intersection between Europe and Asia, West and East, and synthesizes in itself western and eastern traditions. Huge natural riches of Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea and not only there, but also in other places of our republic, create the basis for our cooperation.

However, for join exploitation of these riches, an important question arises before international organizations, including the European Union, cooperating with the countries of Southern Caucasia. It is liquidation of military conflicts, establishment of peace in the region and creation of a security pact in Southern Caucasia. We put such a goal before ourselves and consider that we can get the assistance of the European Union in this matter. Please.

Anne Lind: Mr. President, thank You very much. We are very pleased to pay a visit to your country. I want to inform You that this visit is very important for us.

Southern Caucasia is a very important region for the European Union, because with the expansion of the European Union the region of Southern Caucasia will already become a neighbour region to the European Union. Consequently, being the representatives of the European Union we consider the establishment of peace and stability in the region of Southern Caucasia one of the basic factors of its economic development and increase of welfare of the peoples living here.

We intend to expand the cooperation with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, thereby increasing the presence of the European Union in this region. Undoubtedly, the settlement of all military conflicts existing here is important for facilitation of development of such a cooperation and its greater expansion. Therefore we all adhere to such an opinion that we should also strive for the sake of solution of conflicts and make our contribution to this matter for the expansion of cooperation in the region. The European Union is ready to assist in peaceful solution to the conflict within any frames, but undoubtedly, the solution of these conflicts should be basically sought between the conflicting parties. The settlement of the conflict will depend on them. At the same time, we are interested in this as the supporters of expansion of regional cooperation. We consider that regional cooperation should widen in parallel with solution of the conflicts. Therefore we want to hear how You estimate the present situation in the region and what steps have been taken in the matter of solution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. What can the European Union do for the solution of this conflict - we would like to hear Your recommendations over this matter.

Heydar Aliyev: It is a long subject. If to speak about everything, you will have to listen to me for two hours.

You are aware of the conflicts in Southern Caucasia. First, the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Second, the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict, and in a certain sense the Georgia-Ossetia conflict. But the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is the most complicated of them. This conflict has been lasting for 12 years.

Great efforts have been made within 12 years for the solution of this conflict. But without any results.

To understand everything, one should get at the root of the matter. Why did the conflict start? Armenia advanced territorial claims to the inseparable part of Azerbaijan, the ancient Azerbaijani land - Nagorno-Karabakh. It happened as early as 1998, at the time when both Armenia and Azerbaijan were included into the structure of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, this was not prevented timely and the conflict grew nevertheless into a military one. The war lasted for years and due to some reasons, armenian armed forces occupied both Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven bordering regions of Azerbaijan. Thus, 20 percent of the Azerbaijan territory was occupied by the armenian armed forces. About a million Azerbaijani citizens have been banished from these territories and live in tents. The majority of people from these regions live in tents.

Today, when I left my house and made for work, I saw it was snowing accompanied by strong wind. As I was walking towards my car, I got covered with snow. When your plane landed in Baku, it was snowing and wind was blowing here. When we met with you, both you and I got wet in the rain and snow. Everyone tired to enter the building faster. Now imagine that people live in tents in winter and summer, and not for one, for seven-eight years. They tolerate rain, snow and heat. But what can they do? They have nowhere else to live. Their houses are occupied, all their property is plundered. But despite that, they nevertheless dream of returning to their lands and they are ready to live, of course first years, in tents, but in their land. But we cannot achieve it. Armenian armed forces do not withdraw from the occupied territories.

In May 1994, we stopped the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, i.e. we signed the cease-fire agreement. We negotiate over the peaceful settlement of the issue. These negotiations have been lasting for more than six years already. The United Nations Organization has passed 4 resolutions prescribing that the armenian armed forces should unconditionally leave the occupied regions of Azerbaijan. But Armenia does not observe them. Afterwards, the OCSE Minsk Group assumed this issue. The co-chairs to the Minsk Group are Russia, the United States of America and France. In recent years, they submitted several proposals. But Armenia did not accept them. At the end of 1998, a new proposal was submitted. But now Azerbaijan could not accept it. Because Azerbaijan can nowise agree with that proposal.

You know, direct negotiations are lately held between the president of Armenia and president of Azerbaijan. At these negotiations we are trying for mutual compromises. But we cannot move forward here either. The basic reason is that Armenia demands either independence of Nagorno-Karabakh or its annexation to Armenia. But it is a territory of Azerbaijan. Consequently, it means that we must sign to the violation of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It absolutely contradicts the international legal standards. We cannot allow this. But the Minsk Group has proposed that Nagorno-Karabakh should be given the highest status of self-government within the Azerbaijan state. Armenia does not agree with it. Unfortunately, the world community, the United Nations Organization, the OSCE and other great powers, as well as the European Union shut their eyes to this injustice.

Time is passing by, but the conflict is not settled. There is no peace between the two neighbour states. I do not think that it causes damage only to the Azerbaijan Republic. It, at the same time, damages Armenia. It is true that not even a square meter of its territory is occupied by Azerbaijan. But despite it, they also suffer damage from this conflict. Therefore, the solution of the matter depends on Armenia. But Armenia does not dare solve it. And this not only prevents, but also strongly impedes establishment of peace in Southern Caucasia.

You said about economic cooperation of the Southern Caucasia countries. We also believe that it is a very important question. For example, we cooperate very fruitfully with Georgia in all the spheres. We not only cooperate, but also have very frank, warm and friendship relations. We would like to have peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan too. But the occupied lands should be liberated and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored for that. Then the cooperation among three countries of Southern Caucasia can develop headily. I repeat, the solution of these issues depends on the armenian party. But we want peace. We want only peaceful settlement to the problem. We do not want resumption of war. At the same time, we cannot put up with the fact that a big part of our land remains occupied by the armenian armed forces.

The European Union is a very big and authoritative organization. It can make its presence felt, but we cannot feel it. It is all.

Anne Lind: First of all, I appreciate You and want to inform that, as a matter of fact, the European Union sees its role in the conflict solution in the support to the Minsk Group. We think that very important structure - the Minsk Group is engaged with these processes. We follow the direct negotiations between You and the president of Armenia with great interest and hope attaching high importance to them. The leaders are required big courage to make mutual concessions, and their mutual efforts are required for the conflict solution.

We hope that in the shortest time, very soon, a turning point will be reached in the solution of this conflict, and the matter will be solved through negotiations.

Not stating any opinion about how and under what conditions the conflict will be solved, I want revert back to the question of regional cooperation. Because we think that implementation of regional cooperation in the period of tense negotiations will contribute also to the elimination of tensity between the parties.

Mr. President, I state once again that we interpret very positively the negotiations between You and the president of Armenia. We hearten and call You on to expand your links in the issues of regional cooperation along with holding peaceful negotiations.

And now I would like to give the floor to Mr. Solana.

Heydar Aliyev: He is our old friend.

Xavier Solana: Mr. President, I am very pleased to come back to Azerbaijan again, meet You and hear You. I believe our visit to your country, to the region in such a membership has an important symbolic purport. It is the sign of our kind intentions in respect of your country and region.

You have done much for your country. I am an eyewitness of that. I am confident that You will henceforth do great service to your country.

I have listened very attentively to what You said about the conflict, about achievement of peace. In general, I have always approached this issue very attentively. I know well a politician of what scope and weight You are. I think that we all have one opportunity for the solution of this conflict. At the same time, I note that Your direct negotiations are especially important.

I want to assure You that we are ready to use all our possibilities, all the resources we have to help You during these talks, and do our utmost.

To move forward such a process we feel the necessity in such persons as You, the leaders and brave personalities as You are.

Mr. President, lately, in the recent period, we have gone with You through very exiting and sticking to memory years. We were the eyewitnesses of great events. Let me remind You about one word I said during our last face-to-face meeting in the neighbour room. If You remember, we recollected together the history of Europe during our last meeting, and together looked through it. Remember, we spoke about great tragedies, conflicts and big wars waged in Europe, about the sufferings and hardships they brought, and mentioned in conclusion that all of them found their solution in a peaceful way. Europe is already tired of conflicts and pursues a course of not allowing them anymore. Today, Europe is heading towards integration. The persons representing Europe nowadays may in some years represent perhaps a united and big union with the population exceeding that of Japan probably four times as many and several times that of the USA. They will represent such a structure, such an alliance and armed forces the military power of which will be the strongest in the world. I am personally grateful to my father, grandfather and ancestors for they created an opportunity for me to live in today's Europe, since our ancestors had very clear views on life. They wanted to see Europe united, peaceful and regionally cooperating, to see it a region moving conjointly to prosperity and well-being.

And now let me express my wish to this region. I wish peace to be established in your region, regional cooperation to develop and countries and peoples of the region to live in welfare. Do not feel lonely. You are among friends who are ready to try for the sake of realization of this dream, who wish it. Believe that these words are coming from the bottom of the spirit, heart. To encourage You to great deeds I ask You to continue, broaden Your activity in the name of peace and regional integration which will ultimately bring your people to the desired development, progress and welfare. I express my gratitude to You once again.

Heydar Aliyev: Esteemed Mr. Solana, my dear friend! I appreciate You for the kind words You have said about me. I think and can say that there is very big sympathy between us. Indeed, in these years, we have met with You not once, and held very important talks.

What You have said about Europe, i.e. about the way it passed and its today's prospects, undoubtedly admires me. We want it to be in the same way in our region too. But Europe has passed this way not easily, however it passed it and now it is united. But I cannot say that separatism is completely liquidated today in Europe, including your motherland. Separatism underlies local conflicts too. If we can prevent this separatism, we will be able to do everything.

You may be sure that, I say it to You and all the guests, that I want to establish peace, peace and peace once again for the present generation and for future generations, for my children and grandchildren, for my people. If peace and security are not provided, there will be neither democracy nor economic development or quietness for people. Therefore I have devoted the most part of my life to this and I will also devote the rest of my life. I consider achievement of peace and tranquility in Azerbaijan the biggest happiness for me. I do everything that depends on me.

I think that yes, compromises should be made. But everything has reasonable bounds. There are bounds that cannot be crossed. And if they are crossed, it will cause a counteraction. Therefore I try and will keep on trying. I dream about the day when we establish peace, liberate the occupied lands. Those places are destroyed and the European Union should render us aid of billions of dollars, so that we could carry our restoration work there. I have these prospects before my eyes. Not only establishment of peace, the establishment of peace is the first term. One of the greatest tasks is restoration of destroyed dwellings, hospitals, so that people could live, because everything is ruined. We cannot do it ourselves. Hence, the aid of the European Union would be very important for us. The aid by all international financial centers of the world would be very important for us. I foresee these days, but peace should be established for it. This is the point where we have stopped now. If we can cross this line, the cooperation with you will be fruitful, as well as good cooperation and peace will be provided in Southern Caucasia. Let us unite our efforts. Do not lay everything on me.

Christopher Patten: Although we cannot put our shoulders under such a heavy burden You heaped on You shoulders. I think the European Union can play a definite role in this matter. I think that after peace is made, we can help the poor and homeless people suffering hardships in the matters of education, healthcare, and thus we can impel these people to listen to us and strengthen peace. Although the life has taught us that Allah saves and helps the people making peace. But sometimes we cannot be totally helpful to these people by our activity. I am a commissar feeling a great emotional enthusiasm. But along with it, I am a keen gardener doing everything with interest. For instance, I have never seen such beautiful roses in my life. I think these splendid roses in front of us are the symbol of cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan.

Our relations are very strong and we want them to expand even greater. We widely cooperate with Azerbaijan in many spheres. In the latest years, we rendered the aid of 300 million euros to Azerbaijan. I think that these rehabilitation projects were one of the most important spheres of our joint activity.

For the purpose of rendering aid to the improvement of living conditions of the people, who, as You described so touchingly, remained in the rain, we are fulfilling a number of projects. We have even issued a brochure about rehabilitation projects carried out by us in Azerbaijan, where we reflected the work done in the field of education and agriculture on rendering aid to the stationed people. A deputy prime minister has written a very good preamble to this brochure. It is well illustrated. In the preamble, the deputy premier expresses hope of development and future cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan. We are sure that so it will be.

We realize that after peace is established, the necessity will arise to allocate significant funds to rehabilitation projects, reconstruction work and rendering aid to you. We will also accomplish many joint projects within the frames of cooperation in this region.

During the last meeting, at the opening ceremony of representation office of the TRACECA project, You said many kind words about this project. By these words You invited us do deal more closely with the TRACECA project, to do more. Up to date, the European Union has rendered technical aid of 40 million euros. Besides, 400 million euros has been invested here by the World Bank and European Bank. We understand that we must do still more. There is a project of investing 25 million euros to pipelining. We think that in our following activity we should also increase attention to the pipelines laid across the region and allocate more funds to have the production transported through them delivered faster to the world markets.

I hope these projects will promote general economic development of the region. We are confident that we will enhance the cooperation with you in other spheres as well for further expansion of economic and political reforms in your country. The hardest has fallen to Your lot. But I hope that having achieved great progress within a short term Your will inspire us to work as well as You, to increase our efforts aimed at making these projects successful.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you, Mr. Commissar. First of all, I appreciate the European Union for the aid rendered to Azerbaijan until now. I appreciate you for the reconstruction work in some of our regions. As you have said, You wrote an excellent book and the respected deputy prime minister has written an excellent introduction to it. I would like these words to be a reality. It is not difficult to write a book. But to do a job is difficult. I am very pleased with Your statement that when peace is established in the future, You will render significant aid in the field of reconstruction work in Azerbaijan. But peace should be established first.

Excuse me, but there is a parable: mice want to get rid of a cat and decide to hang a bell on its neck in order to hear as it approaches and flee. All the mice agree with such a suggestion. Then the second question arises. They ask who will hang a bell on a cat's neck. Now it comes out that only I must do it. You promise everything, praise and so on, but I must solve the crucial problem. Esteemed pressmen and oppositionists criticizing the president of Azerbaijan every day - now you see? What will happen if anybody eats me when I am hanging this bell on a cat's neck? This is the disaster.

But it is difficult to eat me.

Xavier Solana: We know it.

Heydar Aliyev: But this is the situation.

I appreciate You once again. As I understood, it is I who has to establish peace, and then You, together with, me will carry out all this work. Am I right? You confirm. Now I must try. But You should not go back on Your words either. Do You promise? You speak about it somewhat in low.

Christopher Patten: We do not want to be in the situation of mice that should hang a chain on a cat's neck.

Heydar Aliyev: You see, but I am in such a situation.

Anne Lind: Mr. President, We assure You that we will not break out the promise, we will be loyal to it, and after this very interesting meeting, our cooperation with You will expand even greater.

Mr. President, I would never dare compare You with a mouse. But at any rate it is You who will have to do the bravest step.

Heydar Aliyev: You know, I would not like to compare myself with a mouse either, but this Azerbaijani parable was to the point, therefore I cited it.

I want to present my friend Solana a book. This book is devoted to the 50th anniversary of the NATO. If you remember, we met there, and not only there, but also in other places, we had many negotiations with you about the NATO and did much. And this book is about the NATO. I present it to You. You will see here Your photos and articles about our negotiations. If our cooperation with the European Union goes well, I will write another book and we will present it to You. Thank You.

Anne Lind: Our meeting with President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, ended. After all discussions, we are ready to reply to interesting You questions.

Question: Being in Yerevan, You made a proposal about establishing and regulating economic cooperation in the region. And the president of Azerbaijan has said at the meeting just taken place that it is impossible unless the conflict is solved. Which following steps are You going to take in this direction?

Do You intend to stick to this idea in future as well?

Christopher Patten: Undoubtedly, there are still political disagreements in the matter of cooperation at a regional level. The joint declaration of the European Union and two countries of this region was adopted in 1999. One of the principal regulations of that declaration is the necessity of any impulse capable of imparting the cooperation a definite shape and accomplishment of essential measures. During the high-level talks and our visit here it became obvious that your country is faithful to its word about peaceful solution to the conflict. We will also strive to do our utmost for the sake of establishment of peace.

Question: 9 years has passed since the day of ratifying the Maastricht agreement. The European Union has affiliated new members within that period. Which other countries will join it in the nearest time?

Xavier Solana: On the whole, as you know, the process of expansion is already going on. Consideration of the issue on following affiliation to the European Union is possible. You know that the Summit has taken place in Nice city where very important documents and agreements were adopted. It attached the impulse to the expansion process. After this problem is solved, the candidacies of other states to the European Union can be also considered.

Question: You have said today that You attach great significance to the TRACECA program. Does not it seem to You that this program is delayed a little? If it is so, then why?

Christopher Patten: In connection with the implementation of this program, we assemble routinely in Brussels and hold discussions. I have also said at the meeting with the president of Azerbaijan that there is a project now on allocating funds at the rate of 25 million euros to the construction of pipelines within the frames of the TRACECA program. We plan the realization of several more projects in the field of pipelines. If this program is delayed, it can relate to the project transfer from one point to another. I speak with you frankly and can say that it is a very important project and we will make every effort for its realization.

The "Azerbaijan" daily, 22 February, 2001