Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception hosted by the President of the Republic of Turkey in honor of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan - Ankara, «Chankaya» Palace, March 12, 2001

President of the Republic of Turkey, my dear friend and brother Ahmet Necdet Sezer,

Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,

I cordially welcome you on behalf of the Azerbaijani people, and I am happy to convey to you the best wishes of our nation.

Mr. President, thank you for inviting me to visit Turkey. I appreciate that this visit is very important for Azerbaijan and Turkey and for the Azerbaijani-Turkish relations at the same time. I would like to express my gratitude on my own behalf and on behalf of the representatives of my delegation arrived here, for the hospitality extended to us, for friendship and warmth. However, I believe that Turkey is not only yours, but also our homeland. Thus, I think that there could not be a bad reception. We live in a sense of boundless love for the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish people. This love has deep roots. This is our historic past. It is our language. This is our national, spiritual values and our religion. Most importantly, love of Azerbaijan for Turkey, existing in the past and in the present day. We watch great success of Turkey proudly. These successes are becoming more and more year by year. Its establishment was laid by the founder of the Turkish Republic and the great leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. That is why, I started my official visit to Turkey with a visit to the grave of the great Ataturk. Each time I visit the tomb of Ataturk, I remember the tremendous role played by him in the history of mankind again and again. However, I believe that if Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in his time, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, had not created a republic and not set the further development of the republic, had not built the powerful Turkish army, not trained strong Turkish soldier, Turkey would have not got such a high development, despite its being in the circle of enemies. We are pleased that the next generation, following the path of the great Ataturk has developed Turkey. Today Turkey is one of the powerful countries of the world. It is an economically developed country living with the principles of democracy and market economy. All of this for us, for the people of Azerbaijan is, on the one hand, the pride and, on the other hand, the source of experience.

Azerbaijan is a young independent country. At the end of this year we shall celebrate the 10th anniversary of independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. From a historical point of view, 10 years are not a long period. However, if we consider the processes ongoing in the world, developments in the region the fact that Azerbaijan lives independently for 10 years is a great and historical event. Since we gained independence we felt the support and the help of Turkey.

Yes, my friend, Turkey is the first country to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan. Other countries also recognized our independence and made statements. Turkey, however, differs from them. By recognizing the independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan it has always provided it with a support to live and develop and has always been by the side of Azerbaijan as a brother. Just as in the past today it all closely connects us to Turkey. Thus, my every visit to Turkey gladdens me.

The delegation arrived here with me. There are many ministers and a group of parliamentarians. They all are very happy to be in Turkey. Maybe some of them may be surprised at such a large group of delegation. However, the reason for this is that we want to develop our relations in all the fields.

I feel a sense of boundless pride because I had to pay an official visit to Turkey at the beginning of XXI century and the third millennium. Talks held today with the esteemed President and Prime Minister covered all the spheres of the Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. This is extremely useful for Azerbaijan. In each problem is important to consult with Turkey. Therefore, if one part of our talks today is dedicated to the development of the Turkish-Azerbaijani economic and cultural relations, in a word, the development of relations in all fields, the other part is dedicated to the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Mountainous Garabagh, the most painful problem of Azerbaijan. When Azerbaijan gained independence it became subject to the Armenian aggression. As you know, in 1988, Armenia made a territorial claim to the Azerbaijani land, the Mountainous Garabagh, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan and eventually it led to a military conflict and war. The war inflicted great losses. For various reasons, due to the assistance provided by some foreign countries to Armenia and because of some mistakes in the administration of Azerbaijan, Armenia occupied a part of the Azerbaijani lands. Armenia first occupied the Mountainous Garabagh and then seven major districts around it. Thus, 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani lands were occupied by the Armenian armed forces. For many years over one million Azerbaijanis driven from these lands live in tents as refugees.

Turkey played an important role in the peace negotiations in the period of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, in the period of war and the cease-fire. In 1992, the OSCE created the Minsk Group for the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Turkey is a member of the Minsk Group and as a member of it, as a friend of Azerbaijan it has done a lot in the 30 years. Unfortunately, all of our efforts, including the measures taken in the recent years by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, Russia, the United States of America and France had no results. Armenia does not leave the occupied lands. The Azerbaijani refugees live in tents. All this cause both material and moral damages.

I am grateful to you, Mr. President. You have noted here that the principles of international law unfortunately, are violated by many countries. There are double standards in the world and Azerbaijan suffers from them. While Armenia occupied the Azerbaijani lands, the United States Congress imposed an embargo on assistance to Azerbaijan in 1992. At the same time, the aggressor Armenia receives 100 million dollars annually from the United States great help in as an assistance. We see these injustices, as you do. For example, we are worried about the injustice which has been recently seen in Turkey. As a result of the efforts of the Armenian diaspora a number of parliaments adopted decisions that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. We have always protested against such decisions and such thoughts.

When in 1998 this issue was raised in the USA Congress the parliament of Azerbaijan expressed its protest. The decision of the French Parliament recently enraged us. Our Parliament issued a special statement. As the head of country I condemned and demonstrated my will against such injustice. Even, during a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in January in Paris, I asked him: Why do you allow such injustice? We protest it. This is unfair to the country like Turkey and the Turkish people, including all the Turkic peoples. Today we demonstrated our will as well. That is, these two facts demonstrate that there are double standards in the world that prevent the adoption of the necessary measures for the liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani lands.

I think that such large countries like Russia, the United States and France could have an impact on Armenia to have a constructive approach to negotiations and liberate the occupied lands. Then we can negotiate on the status of the Mountainous Garabagh. However, unfortunately, they did not do it. We made a detailed exchange of views and I am very pleased with it.

Mr. President, you spoke here about the current status of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and the contract on the export of gas to Turkey which will be produced in the deposit «Shah Deniz» of Azerbaijan. I am very pleased. Since the implementation of the oil strategy of Azerbaijan in 1994 Azerbaijan and Turkey have worked together to build the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Now we need to promote this work, build and put into operation this pipeline. From the deposits of «Azeri», «Chirag» and «Guneshli» we can annually export 50-60 million tons of oil. However, Azerbaijan has signed 20 contracts with major oil companies of the world. Imagine the amount of oil and gas production from there. Thus, maybe in future the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will not be enough and we shall have to create a second line. The same thing I can say about the gas. We signed an agreement for the sale of 6 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey. However, in future this number can be increased to 10, 15 and 20 billion and thereby to provide the needs of Turkey. This area is the center of the Turkish-Azerbaijani economic relations. However, our relations have been developed in all other areas and we shall try to develop them further.

Over the past ten years, Azerbaijan has covered a difficult path as an independent country. As you know, on the one hand, the aggression of Armenia, on the other hand, violation of political stability in Azerbaijan, the fight of some armed groups for power, repeated change of government and finally, the beginning of the civil war in 1993 caused a large damage to Azerbaijan.

I want to tell you that today in Azerbaijan there is a social and political stability. Despite the aggression of Armenia and existing over one million refugees living in hard conditions Azerbaijan develops every year from the economic point of view. Azerbaijan follows the path of democracy. We are young in everything. We are young as an independent state, as a country following the path of democracy and market economy. We are young everywhere. But we have a brother. Turkey passed this way for decades. Turkey has great experience. We use this experience as well as the world experience. We follow this way. Azerbaijan is in the process of building a democratic, secular country and it will pursue that goal in future, too. I am very pleased that Turkey has been on this way for a long time. It fulfills the wills of Ataturk and will always live as a legal, democratic and secular country. Since secularism is one of the main factors which unite Turkey with Europe and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe. It is a historical event for us. You know that there were a lot of obstacles on the way of adoption. But Turkey was by our side in our four-year struggle. Turkey, its government and the representatives of Turkey in the Council of Europe helped us, we always feel their support and we finally were admitted to the Council of Europe due to your help. Now we are together in the new organization. This means that we can carry out our work together. It is not accidental that the representatives of Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe and MPs are also present here. They came and had meetings in the Grand National Assembly. They held negotiations with the representatives of Turkey and came to an agreement on joint activities.

Thus, the path covered by us for ten years is very successful. The Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship and brotherhood have developed. However, this is not the last. The world is developing. We have to keep pace with the world. Therefore, the using success and experience achieved by Turkey Azerbaijan will create and develop its own independent country.

For the countries of the former Soviet Union it was not difficult to become independent because the Soviet Union collapsed. The reasons of its collapse are known. Naturally, the 15 Soviet republics declared their independence. This is a historic event for us that our 70-year old desire came true. However, to protect and preserve the independence for centuries are much harder than to gain it. You know the difficulties of Azerbaijan. I have repeatedly informed you about them. You can be sure that the independence of Azerbaijan is the meaning of our lives. It is the meaning of my life as the President of Azerbaijan. The independence of Azerbaijan will live, be strengthened and our independent country will never return to the past. In this way we have always been and will be together with Turkey. The Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship is eternal and indestructible. We shall remain true to this friendship. We shall further develop our cooperation and unity in all areas in order to maintain this friendship. I hope that during my official visit we shall work on the future of these issues. Thus, on the threshold of XXI century we shall do valuable work together in the name of future and the future generations. I want to express my pleasure of being in Turkey once more. It always brings me joy.

Mr. President, thank you again for the invitation. Once more, thank you for the care, attention and hospitality shown to the delegation of Azerbaijan. Please raise your glasses to Turkey.

Let us raise our glasses to Turkey of Ataturk, to the Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship, to inviolability and eternity of this friendship!

To you, dear guests!

Mr. President, I raise this glass to you!