Statement of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the official reception given by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the USA in honor of the head of the Republic of Azerbaijan - July 29, 1997

Distinguished Mr. Talbott!

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

I would like to greet all of you and express my satisfaction at the opportunity to meet with you shortly after my arrival in the U.S. capital, Washington.

I have been in the United States three days, and arrived in Washington three hours ago. This is an official visit of the Azerbaijani President to the U.S. at the invitation of President Bill Clinton. I would like to thank Mr. Clinton for extending an official invitation to me to visit the U.S. The Azerbaijan Republic, the Azerbaijani people who I represent, lay great hopes on this visit.

The United States was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the Azerbaijani Republic. Since that time, the relations between the two countries have been broadening. We have already established close working relations in several areas. The cooperation between the U.S. oil companies and Azerbaijan are of special importance.

I am looking forward to all the meetings in Washington. I hope that these meetings will be fruitful and propel the U.S.-Azerbaijani relations even further. I attach special significance to my meeting with President Clinton since my visit to the United States was possible thanks to his official invitation. I am optimistic that our meeting will proceed in a friendly, sincere and productive environment.

I consider my meetings with the U.S. Senate and Congress members important as well, and I will do all in my power to promote the U.S.-Azerbaijani relations in these talks.

I have had several meetings with President Clinton so far, and all of them were held in a friendly and sincere atmosphere. We have established good communications channels. The telephone conversations, correspondence and other means have considerably augmented our communications.

However, I have met only those Congressmen and Senators who have visited Azerbaijan. That's why I intend to meet a large number of U.S. legislators, and express my hope that such meetings will become possible.

There are gigantic opportunities to broaden and strengthen our economic relations. In addition to the close involvement of the American oil companies in exploration of the Azeri energy resources, there is also an immense potential for the U.S. firms to participate in other industries of Azerbaijan. My visit's agenda includes the discussion of these issues and signing specific contracts.

President Clinton and I will discuss a plethora of problems. Nevertheless, our principal goal is to end the Azerbaijani-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, liberate the Azeri lands occupied by Armenia, and establish a long-lasting and secure peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. As you know, the aggression of the Armenian Republic against Azerbaijan resulted in the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's territory by the Armenian armed forces. Over one million Azerbaijani citizens were driven out of their homes on the occupied lands. Most of these people live in tents in terrible conditions.

Despite these losses inflicted on Azerbaijan, we still stand for the peaceful solution of the Azeri-Armenian, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That's why we managed to establish a cease-fire in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. We have maintained the cease-fire for the third year in a row. However, we strive to establish stable peace. This is the reason that we highly appreciate the work done by the Minsk Group of the OSCE. We whole-heartedly accept the principles on peaceful settlement of the Azeri-Armenian, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict adopted by the Lisbon Summit of OSCE last year.

These principles consist of three elements: recognition of the territorial integrity of the Azerbaijani and Armenian Republics, granting a high-degree autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh and finally, guaranteeing the security of the entire population of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). We have made considerable compromise in order to accept these principles and consider the settlement of the conflict based on these principles feasible.

We have gladly accepted the fact that the Minsk Group has three co-chairs: Russia, United States and France. The fact that these three countries have assumed such a responsibility, as Mr. Talbott has noted here, has created realistic and favorable conditions to solve the Armenian-Azeri conflict in a peaceful manner in 1997. The joint statement on the settlement of the Armenian-Azeri conflict made by the presidents of three countries - Mr. Bill Clinton, Mr. Boris Yeltsin and Mr. Jacques Chirac, on June 20 in Denver encourages us.

We are pleased that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group and their representatives have already embarked on their responsibilities. In this respect, I highly regard active contributions of Mr. Talbott who is the co-chairman from the United States. Esteemed Mr. Talbott, I would like to reiterate what I have told you during your visit to Baku: Azerbaijan wants peace; Azerbaijan wants peace in the country, in the region and entire world. Azerbaijan wants to put an end to the conflict with Armenia and establish secure and long-lasting peace.

We have accepted the latest proposals of the Minsk Group as the basis to intensify the peace negotiations. I think that if we worked diligently on the proposals and intensified the negotiating process, we could truly make a serious step toward the peaceful settlement of the conflict in 1997.

I have come to the United States with these desires and plans. I am eager to meet with President Clinton to discuss these issues. I would like to express my hope again that our meetings will be very fruitful, and they will elevate our bilateral relations to the next level. I thank you all for attending this meeting and wish you good health and happiness. I wish the people of the United States of America peace, progress and happiness. Thank you! 
The document was taken from the edition of "Together towards the New Century"