From the conversation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi - Rome, the «Gichi» Palace, September 25, 1997

Mr. Prodi,

First of all, I thank you for your kind words. I am pleased of my first official visit to Italy as President of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan and I express my gratitude for the invitation. I agree with your thoughts on the continuous development of the Azerbaijani-Italian cooperation and emphasize that our country holds the same position.

I would like to note that it is important to develop the relations between our countries and there are great potentials to strengthen the Azerbaijani-Italian relations in both countries. From the geographical point of view Azerbaijan has an important place in the region. We attach particular importance to the cooperation with Italy in the political, economic, security, humanitarian and cultural fields. I want to note that Azerbaijan as a part of Europe acts as a bridge building the close relations between Europe and Asia. Our Republic is very interested in close cooperation, both with Italy and all other countries of the world and has already taken steps in this regard. Let me recall you that at the summit of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership and NATO held in July in Madrid, the independent Republic of Azerbaijan joined the «Partnership for Peace» program of NATO and I express my pleasure of the cooperation of our country with Italy in international organizations. I remember the meetings and negotiations I held with Mr. Prodi in Lisbon with pleasure.

Historical contracts were signed between influential companies of many countries and our republic on joint oil developments in the deposits in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea. I highly appreciate the participation of the Italian «Agip» in the contract on the «Garabagh» deposit signed in 1995. I note that the document signed today on the basic commercial principles and provisions of the agreement on the exploration, development and share of production sharing in «Kurdashi» field between «Agip» and SOCAR is of great importance in the further improvement of relations between our countries. I have also to say that a number of reputable companies of the world have shown special interest in this field, but we chose Italy.

Documents signed between U.S. companies «Chevron», «Exxon», «Mobile», «Amoco» and SOCAR during my official visit to the U.S. from July 27 to August 7, this year, will also be important.

I remind that rich deposits in the Caspian Sea were discovered by the oil companies and geologists of our country 50 years ago. It should be especially noted that Azerbaijan plays an important role in the region. Great work is being done currently in the sphere of implementation of the contracts on joint developments of reserves in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea. At the same time it is necessary to finally determine the pipeline route, by which the produced oil will be transported to the world market. These pipelines will play an important role in the export of the Azerbaijani oil and the oil produced in «Tengiz» field of Kazakhstan. Stressing the particular importance of ​​the Eurasian transport corridor in this area, I note that Azerbaijan plays an important role in the success of this corridor. Remember that this transport corridor would be useful for Italy and we could fruitfully cooperate in this area.

Speaking about the problems faced by the independent Republic of Azerbaijan in the first place, we must note the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, ongoing since 1988. As a result of this aggression, 20 percent of our country has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces and over a million of our citizens have been expelled from their homes and live in difficult conditions in the tents. Recalling that this aggression, serving the dirty goals of annexing an integral part of our country, Nagorniy- Karabakh, to Armenia and that with the help of a number of countries it caused grave damages to our country, I would like to say that we make serious efforts to ensure the peaceful resolution of this conflict. We must particularly noted the importance of the negotiations in the framework of the Minsk Group for the peaceful resolution of the conflict and of the principles for the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict adopted at the Lisbon Summit of OSCE last December. I recall that only Armenia voted against these principles supported by 53 countries. Currently, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group are the three great countries of the world, the U.S., Russia and France, and this situation increases the hope for an early resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. In this sense, the new proposals put forward by the co-chairs are interesting and Azerbaijan agrees with them. I would like to mention that the Minsk Group was chaired by Italy in 1992-1993 and I remember our meetings with Mr. Raffaelli well.

Mr. Prodi, I invite you to visit Azerbaijan.