Speech of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the official reception on behalf of the Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro in honor of the Azerbaijani President - Rome, "Quirinal" Palace, September 25, 1997

Mr. President Scalfaro!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I heartily welcome you. I express my profound gratitude to you, Mr. President, for the official invitation to your country, for the fruitful negotiations we held, for the friendly, warm attitude and the hospitality which we felt from first minutes of our arrival. Thank you very much.

I consider that our meeting today and, my official visit as a whole open a new stage in relations between Italy and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan as young independent state requires and wants it very much. With great respect, we approach to the historical past, to the huge contribution of the Italian people to the world civilization and to their active role in the last 50 years in strengthening peace, well-being and peace in Europe and all over the world. Italy is one of the biggest states of the world, occupies an important place in the life of the world community, in particular, in an economic, political life of Europe. Therefore, we wish to support active relations with Italy in political, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres. I consider that our conversation today, negotiations with you passed in this spirit.

Mr. President, thank you for your kind words about the Azerbaijani people, about their aspiration for independence, about all democratic transformations taken place in Azerbaijan after its state independence. You are right, Mr. President, that the way of transition from the centralized planned and command system to free market economy, from the system of totalitarism, authoritarian regime to democracy is difficult and complicated. However, Mr. President, I wish to assure you and all our friends that Azerbaijan firmly stands on the position of independence and independence of our country is indestructible. We are happy is that the Azerbaijani people, the authorities in Azerbaijan and the President firmly stand in the position of the state independence. We resolutely and confidently follow the road of democratic changes, we build a democratic, legal, secular state. We carry out economic reforms and we build the economy of Azerbaijan on the basis of market relations. We conduct the privatization of the national property, privatization of land, transfer of all lands to private property ownership of peasants with the right of sale and purchase.

While implementing economic reforms, we have adopted a number of laws for conducting reforms successfully. We have opened the doors of the economy of our country for all the world and for all foreign investors. We have created all conditions in our laws, legal documents for the attraction of foreign investors to Azerbaijan. All this yields positive results. There are positive changes in the economic life of our country. In last three years, nine big contracts with the oil companies of 12 countries have been signed on joint development of oil deposits of Azerbaijan, 20 companies have been involved in these contracts.

Since 1995, we cooperate with the "Agip" company of Italy. And today the signature of a contract is expected between State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and the "Agip" company of Italy on joint oil developments in one of the rich deposits of Azerbaijan. 

If there had not been the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, if the military aggression had not led to the occupation of 20 percent of our territory, we could have been successful more achievement. More than one million Azerbaijanis have been violently expelled from the occupied areas, the majority of them live in tents for five years in very hard social and economic conditions.

Azerbaijan is a peaceful country, the Azerbaijani people are peaceful, we do not want war, conflicts. Therefore, three years ago we signed a cease-fire agreement and since we observe the regime of cease-fire. We wish to settle the conflict on the basis of the three Lisbon principles – withdrawal of the armed formation from the occupied territories, restoration of the territorial integrity of our country and return of refugees to their former places of residence, then granting a self-administration status to the Mountainous Garabagh within Azerbaijan.

The Minsk conference, the Minsk Group are actively engaged in this question. Italy possesses a worthy place in structure of the Minsk Conference, the Minsk Group. Therefore, we are grateful to the Italian Republic. I remember, in 1993, in the beginning of 1994 Italy presided in the Minsk Group. Then, we felt the fair position of Italy in the settlement of this conflict. Mr. President, today during the meeting with you I became firmly convinced that Italy is for observing the norms of international law, recognition of the territorial integrity of any country, including Azerbaijan, peaceful settlement of the conflict. Mr. President, I express my gratitude for your fair position. We hope that Italy will hold this fundamental, fair position in the future, too. By the way, it is necessary to note that Italy showed this position as well as in December, 1996, at the Lisbon Summit of OSCE.

We are optimists, we hope for the peaceful settlement to this question. And we will do our utmost for achieving it and hope for the support by the Republic of Italy henceforth.

There are great opportunities for cooperation between Italy and Azerbaijan in economic, scientific technical and cultural spheres. We shall try to use these opportunities effectively as much as possible. The "Agip-Eni" company plays important role in this cooperation.

Today, once again I wish to express my deep respect to the history of Italy and to the present day life of the Italian Republic. Mr. President, I wish to thank you for your kind words addressed to the Azerbaijani people, to the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a part of Europe and wishes to be a full member of the European Union, the Council of Europe. We shall rely on your support in this question.

I wish successes and prosperity, peace and well-being to the Italian people. Mr. President, I wish you, the outstanding political statesman of Italy health and long years of fruitful life. It is pleasant to me to see today your daughter behind our table and to communicate with your family. I want to wish all your family good luck and well-being. Accept my kindest wishes.

I raise the toast in honor of the Italian people, Republic of Italy, to the further strengthening and development of friendly relations between Italy and Azerbaijan, to the further prosperity of the Italian people, further strengthening peace and well-being in Europe and all over the world, to you, Mr. President, in honor of your daughter, all your family. I wish you a long life, successes in all your activities. Thank you.