The Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev`s Interviev with the editor-in-chief of the Houston Chronicle James Howard Hibbon - August 2, 1997

Journalist: Mr. President, You are welcome to Houston! Your present residence is situated in one of the outstanding places in Houston. Mr. President, yesterday you were in Washington D.C and held meetings. Would you, please, share with me your opinion on your meetings with President Clinton?

Heydar Aliyev: I have been paying an official visit to the United State of America. This is an official visit, carried out at President Clinton`s invitation, at the same time it is my first official visit to the U.S. as the Azerbaijani President.

I have had a number of meetings during this visit. Yesterday I had meetings and negotiations with President Clinton in the While House. We signed a joint statement on Azerbaijani-American relations, a document on the mutual protection and instigation of the investments. Documents on the cooperation between the U.S. Ministry of Energy and Azerbaijan, as well as several other documents have also been signed.

As you know, very important contracts were signed between Azerbaijan and the U.S. companies: Chevron, Exxon, Mobil and Amoco with the participation of the Vice-president Albert Gore and other members of the U.S. government in the White House yesterday. These contracts are on the joint exploitation of the four Azerbaijani oil fields.

You are well aware that many U.S. oil companies have established close links with Azerbaijan, we have signed contracts and are cooperating now. Alongside with the above-mentioned U.S. companies, the UNOCAL, Pennzoil, McDermott are also carrying out wide activities in Azerbaijan.

In conclusion of the negotiations, held in the White House yesterday, we signed documents on the cooperation between Azerbaijan and the U.S. in the political, economic, educational spheres and other above-mentioned documents.

Question: Mr. President, there is one more point that unites Houston and Baku, that is oil. These two cities are considered oil centers. I would to know if Baku has any clients.

Answer: There are many clients. The companies, which cooperate with us, have greatly invested in Azerbaijan and want to get a lot of income from it. And this income consists of oil. They want to get income by selling the oil in the world markets. That is why there are many clients. The majority of the produced oil will be taken to the Western markets. It means, those companies will sell this product wherever they want. There are no limits here.

The Chevron produces oil in the oil field `Tengiz` in Kazakhstan. They take this product via the territory of Russia to the world market. But they seem to have somewhat limited opportunities in exporting this oil. That is why they have appealed to us.

And we have created an opportunity for them to take that oil to the world market. Now a part of the oil, produced in the oil field "Tengiz" in Kazakhstan, is carried in tankers via the Caspian to Baku, through the railway to Georgia and from there it is taken to the port of Batumi in the Black Sea.

We are building pipelines in order to carry the oil, produced in the Azerbaijani oil fields, to the world market. The biggest oil pipeline will pass through the territory of Turkey and will reach the Mediterranean. About 60 million tons of oil, which will be annually produced in our oil fields, will be taken through that pipeline to the Mediterranean. The product will be taken to any place one wishes. No doubt, the United States of America will not carry this oil to America. There is a lot of oil around the USA. They will sell this oil to where they want.

Question: Mr. President, you were one of the leaders of the former of Soviet Union. Now you are the leader of Azerbaijan. Will you, please, tell me if the Azerbaijani people will benefit from the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Answer: For sure! When we were in the Soviet Union, the Azerbaijani people were not owners of their resources. The oil production in Azerbaijan has a 200-year-history. In the 1920s when the Soviet Union was established, Azerbaijan met about 90 per cent of this big country`s oil demand. But we could not use this oil as we liked to. All the oil produced in Azerbaijan was spent on meeting the Soviet Union`s demands. Other natural resources, potentials of our Republic were also spent on meeting the U.S.S.R.`s demands. But now we are an independent state. This independence is of a great historical significance for the Azerbaijani people in all spheres.

By the way, the matter is not only in the use of these natural resources. We are a completely independent state. Azerbaijan has her own place in the world community as an independent state. The moral significance of this is much more than its material significance.

As one of the leaders of the Soviet Union in the past, I can say that I wanted the collapse of the Soviet Union and desired a state independence for Azerbaijan. Now we have achieved it. This is a historical event for us.

Question: How did the Soviet Union manage to suppress different national minorities and nations? These national minorities are growing up now.

Answer: You know, I cannot say that the Soviet government completely suppressed the national minors. It would be injustice if we said so. Necessary conditions were created for the protection of the rights of all the national minorities in the Soviet Union. And the Azerbaijani people had its republic, government, parliament and the opportunity to conduct all the work in its mother tongue. Azerbaijan was developing her own national culture, science and traditions. But these opportunities were to a certain extent limited, because the Union republics were included in the structure of the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet power many actions of injustice took place against some national minorities. For example, after World War II the Chechens, the Ingushes in the Caucasus, the Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from their places. The Azerbaijani people also suffered injustice in the Soviet period. For example, in 1948 a decision on the mass deportation to Azerbaijan of the Azerbaijanis, living in Armenia, was passed and carried out. The Soviet leaders also had great mistakes in the sphere of national policy. The military conflicts, which are going on in the former Soviet countries, are the results of those mistakes. In 1988 Armenia carried out a military aggression against Azerbaijan. The aim of this military aggression was to annex to Armenia the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) autonomous region, which is historically the part of Azerbaijan. Then both Azerbaijan and Armenia were equal republics within the Soviet Union. One republic used aggression against another republic, and both of them were within one and the same state, that is why the Soviet government should have prevented this conflict.

I would like to tell you also about another tragedy, which took place then. Big forces of the Soviet Army were ordered to attack Baku in January 1990, when the Azerbaijani people was implementing measures, holding meetings in protest against the injustice towards our Republic by the Soviet Union and with the aim of gaining its national freedom. In the consequence, peaceful, innocent people became martyrs, were killed and the streets were covered with blood.

These acts of injustice resulted on the one hand, in different conflicts and on the other, in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Question: Mr. President, I would like to know if nationalism plays any part in the conflict between different nations, for example. Between the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples. Are these conflicts hereditary for some nations or are there any other reasons?

Answer: No doubt, nationalism plays a part in conflicts. On the other hand, the claim of territories and separatism are also the reasons for these conflicts. For example, Armenia used aggression against Azerbaijan in order to separate Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) from the Azerbaijan territory and annex it to herself. This is an action against the international legal standards and human rights. This is an intention of one country to invade the territory of another. You know it from history that a lot of wars broke out because of such reasons.

Question: Mr. President, in what do you see the settlement of the conflict? If possible, will you, please, state your opinion on the steps of compromise for Armenia as well as for Azerbaijan.

Answer: First of all, we see the settlement of this conflict in peaceful means. The conflict, which started in 1988, turned into a war later. The Armenian armed forces used aggression against our country and invaded 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory. As a result, more than one million of our compatriots were forcibly driven out from their homes. Ten thousands of people were killed. The riches of Azerbaijan in the occupied territories were completely devastated. In spite of all these human losses and damages, we signed a contract on the cease-fire three years ago. It has been for three years that there is no shooting. We want to solve this problem by peaceful means. On our part, we are taking compromising steps.

Principles of peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict were determined last December at the Lisbon Summit of the state and government leaders of the OSCE member-countries. These principles consist of three articles: first, the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia; second, the provision of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) with the right of high-level self-administration within the Republic of Azerbaijan; the guarantee of the security of the entire population in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh): both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. To accept these principles means a compromise for us. We have accepted it, but the Armenian side has not accepted it, they won`t compromise.

I dwelt also on this problem at the meeting with President Clinton. President Clinton agrees with the peaceful initiatives of Azerbaijan. We want to solve the problem peacefully. But Armenia does not accept these principles and claims the status of independence for Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh), which is an Azerbaijani territory. But we cannot let it happen. We cannot allow the establishment of another Armenian state in the Azerbaijani territory.

I repeat it: we want to settle this conflict by peaceful means that is why we are compromising. The reason why the conflict has not been settled until now is that the Armenian side won`t compromise.

After my meeting and negotiations with President Clinton yesterday I have come to a conclusion that the United States of America and President Bill Clinton personally will deal with this issue very seriously.

Journalist: Mr. President, I know that you have other meetings too, therefore I don`t want to take much of your time any more. Thank you very much. I express my gratitude to you for sparing me your time.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you very much. I present these books to you. You will read them. 

The document was taken from the edition of "Together towards the New Century"