From the conversation of the President of Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of Israel headed by Victor Harel the general deputy director on economic affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of this country - Presidential palace, April 12, 2000

Heydar Aliyev: Dear guests, I greet you, welcome to Azerbaijan. I was informed that you held a lot of meetings here and I hope it was interesting for you. I approve and appreciate positively your visit and the meetings which you have held. Because we must develop and expand the relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. This is my categorical opinion and a part of my foreign policy. Therefore I think that your initiative from this point of view is very important.

Victor Harel: Mr. President, it is a great honour for us and at the same time it is pleasant to meet with You. I want to extend to You the sincere regards of the official establishment of Israel and also the President of Israel. Our visit to Baku carries peacemaking character. At the same time, we brought a number of suggestions on economic questions and we intend to discuss them.

Mr. President, You have mentioned rightly that we had meetings. Yes, we had interesting meetings beginning from yesterday, and as a result of this we become to understand your country better, the situation here, feel better the economic and national problems with which you have faced. Therefore, I want to wish You success in this great way.

Mr. President, in fact, this is the first economic mission which has arrived to Azerbaijan from Israel. I think, there is a great potential in the sphere of economic relations, we must develop these relations and raise to the high level. During our stay here we have discussed together with Your experts the possible ways of cooperation and came to a definite opinion.

According to my opinion, after some time we can hold discussions on concrete problems. However, while the representatives of the press are here, I want to say that we express our support for the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The government of Israel follows the project Baku-Ceyhan with great interest. Secondly, I have to say that we already began to purchase oil from Azerbaijan. The quality of the Azerbaijani oil satisfies us completely.

Mr. President, I know that You had meetings with our Prime Minister. You have met several times with former Prime Minister Netanyahu. Lately You have met with the Prime Minister Barak in Istanbul. Both of them invited You to Israel. This invitation remains in force and the government of Israel once more invites You to our country. You know that soon a great holiday of Jews - the national holiday will be held. We always wish to each other to meet in the next year in Jerusalem when we meet on this holiday. But this time I do not want to say - we will meet in the next year. We say that you will arrive to Jerusalem this year.

Some days ago the President of Kazakhstan was to Baku. He arrived to Baku after his official visit to Israel. Most likely he shared his impressions with You. You know that the President of Turkey Suleiman Demirel also arrived to Israel. Tomorrow we are expecting the representative of China in Israel. I think that it is high time for the President of Azerbaijan to arrive to Israel.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. Yes, I have received invitation several times. You have said that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak invited me and the former Prime Minister Mr. Shimon Peres invited me too. During 7 years I met repeatedly, and had a talk with all your leaders and we have warm relations.

I will realize this invitation without fail. I will make a visit to Israel of course, will carry out meetings, and negotiations. And on the other hand, I have not seen your country I will get acquainted with it. Please inform Prime Minister Mr. Barak that when I was in Istanbul, I had promised to him and now I tell you that this year I am sure to visit your country.

There are a lot of former citizens in your country who came from Azerbaijan, Baku. They have founded there society "Baku". I meet with some of them when they arrive here. Many of them worked in scientific institutions, in musical sphere, trade other spheres and I am familiar with them for long time. I am told that they run a restaurant "Baku" in Tel Aviv. They cannot forget Baku, Azerbaijan, and some of them are missing for Baku. It is natural, because they were born here, grew, lived here. Therefore, I will visit and meet with my countrymen. I will do it for certain.

And once again I want to state: my principal attitude to this issue is evident. The Azerbaijani-Israeli relations must develop in all spheres - naturally the economic relations take the first place here. I am very glad that you support the Baku-Ceyhan oil-pipeline. It is natural that you get much benefit from this, because it is easy to supply your country with oil through Ceyhan. I know that at present you purchase our oil from Supsa. Yesterday I was informed that "Exxon" company has sold to you one tanker of our oil. Therefore you know its quality. The oil extracted in Azerbaijan is really of high quality. There is an opinion in our oil company that we must sell our oil to you directly, one matter when you send the oil to the port of Supsa, where it is naturally are part of every company. Yesterday I was told about this and I approved this proposal.

Viktor Harel: Thank You very much Mr. President, first of all I want to express my gratitude to You for kind words You have said about my country. There is really a community of Azerbaijani jews in Israel. Therefore and for other reasons I think Your visit to Israel will be appropriate.

Mr. President, we are here about a day and a half, we got acquainted with your town and country. We have determined that we got joint interests, common features. At the same time we marked a difference. This is a big difference existing between Israel and Azerbaijan. That is to say Azerbaijan is an oil country, but there is no oil in our country. We are the country of "Bible" our country is famous with milk and honey, but there is no oil.

As to your suggestion Mr. President, I fully agree with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan to directly sell oil to Israel. I think that there should be just similar direct relations between friends. Therefore we are the supporters of direct purchase and sale.

Heydar Aliyev: Very good.

Viktor Harel: Mr. President if You find time for some minutes without press representatives, we would define concretely our thoughts. We could bring to your notice the discussions which we held with your Prime Minister and other ministers.

Translated from the newspaper "Azerbaijan", April 14, 2000.