Interview of the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev for the journalists of the Republic in the plane while returning home from the OSCE Lisbon summit - December 5, 1996

All of you accompanied me in Lisbon, saw the situation there, observed the work and listened to talks. Therefore, there is no need to give you a comprehensive information. However, after the Lisbon summit, I would like to tell some words about the results of the Lisbon summit.

Undoubtedly, the Lisbon summit will take a particular place in history of the OSCE. I consider that the work carried out in Lisbon concerning the present situation, the decisions accepted at the Lisbon summit will make its contribution to security and cooperation in Europe.

Azerbaijan as a state of the OSCE, undoubtedly, shows a great interest in all decisions of the OSCE and realizes the great importance of each of them for our republic as a part of Europe. Therefore, everything that occurred in Lisbon was either interesting or significant for us. From this point of view, during my stay and participation at the Lisbon summit, I was thinking of what Azerbaijan would gain from this summit and trying for it.

At the same time, it is known that besides the general, global questions, each country has problems concerning them only. A question concerning our republic within the OSCE framework is the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) problem. You know that two years ago, this issue was in the center of attention of heads of states at the OSCE Budapest summit. I consider that the important decision on this conflict was accepted at the Budapest summit. Therefore, our desire and purpose there were to attain more progress. Because within two years, from Budapest up to Lisbon meetings, we lived in a condition of the cease-fire regime. We want to move ahead as a result of the work carried out for these two years, this is our purpose. All our meetings and talks were devoted to it. The work done during preparation and on the eve of the Lisbon summit, that is, in Helsinki, Vienna and Lisbon, as well as the work carried out by me from the moment of my arrival on November 30 at Lisbon and up to the end, were mostly devoted to these problems.

I want to note that when we came to the Lisbon summit, the situation was improper for us. There was an article concerning the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in the prepared declaration. But, it had very neutral character. Our overall goal had not been reflected there. Our overall goal consisted in approving or achieving the most comprehensible formula for the fair settlement of the question in the future at the Lisbon summit.

You know, this formula determines that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be recognized by all countries, including Armenia. The settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict should be realized only within the framework of the recognition of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But as Armenia always opposed to this thesis and made a resolute protest to it during the preparation, the preparatory group could not achieve to include these concepts in the project of the declaration.

There was such an article which read that negotiations had been conducted, but no results had been achieved. Negotiations should continue henceforth, there should be a compromise and the question should be solved by peace way - its general content consisted of that.

Undoubtedly, we could not agree with it. Therefore, I held many meetings, negotiations, gave resolute instructions to our membership of the preparatory group. These instructions contained that there was an acceptable formula for the solution of the conflict in the project put forward by co-chairmen of the Minsk group in Helsinki for the last time. There were three elements in it: recognition of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, granting Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) high status of autonomy within Azerbaijan and providing security of all population in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The purpose was to achieve the inclusion of this formula in the project of declaration of the Lisbon summit.

Extremely hard work was carried out. At last, we managed to include this in the project of the declaration. It found its reflection in the 20th article. However, this article did not satisfy us completely. But we understood that it was impossible to achieve more than that. We considered that should the principles consisting of those three elements find reflections there, it would enable to take them for a basis in the further negotiations.

However, the Armenian side opposed the 20th article, impeded to come to the consensus. During the preparation, the 20th article should have been removed from there. In that case, I made of use all negotiations and opportunities. In all negotiations the heads of states, representatives of high rank of various states completely approved and confirmed the fairness of our requirements. However, there is a principle of a consensus in the OSCE. If any country does not give a consensus, the question cannot be included in the document which will be adopted and nobody can impede it.

Therefore, when all opportunities did not yield a desirable result, I had compelled to undertake very courageous and decisive step. I declared in that case that Azerbaijan would not give a consensus to the declaration. It meant that the summit could not make any decision. Perhaps, some people at first considered my step to be a tactical maneuver to a certain degree. However, I carried on very intensive talks which could be measured not by hours, but by minutes.

As a result, the negotiations conducted on December 2 and proceeding from the night of December 2 till December 3, and talks beginning early in the morning on December 3 showed that Azerbaijan would not recede from its position. Heads of states of the OSCE members-countries and all organizers of the summit felt a real danger that the summit might not adopt any document. Then there offers followed to me related to way out of the situation. I answered that the simple and the only way out could be the adoption of the 20th article. I notified that they should work not with me, but should meet the president of Armenia and elucidate him to agree to preserve this article. They said it was impossible. Then I declared that I was waiting for their offers. Some offers were made. I did not accept them because they were not favorable for us.

The last offer was made by the Russian Federation, the United States of America, the OSCE operating chairman, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland Flavio Cotti and representatives of several large states. This offer, the statement of the OSCE chairman, is already known to you. It was presented to me an hour prior to the beginning of the last session of the summit. I got acquainted and made some amendments. I noted that if this statement was adopted, I could override my protest in order not to make OSCE Summit ineffective, and give a consensus to the declaration of the Lisbon summit. And it happened as ought to be.

You observed the last session of the Lisbon summit and you yourself saw everything. The offer was made to me, I declared that I would not override my protest, the 20th article should have been remained. The president of Armenia did not withdraw his protest. Then they addressed with a question how I would act, if such a statement was adopted? I asked the statement to be read. After reading, I declared that if such a statement was adopted and included in documents of the OSCE Lisbon summit then I would agree to the adoption of the declaration. And it happened.

You know that after the chairman of OSCE Mister Flavio Cotti declared the statement, all OSCE members supported this document. At the same time, the representative of the United States of America delivered a special speech and supported it. You know that on behalf of the European Union the prime minister of Ireland spoke and declared that this statement was supported by all states of the European Union.

Heads of countries of the Minsk group co-chairmen made speeches. The chief negotiator of Russia, the prime minister mister Chernomyrdin addressed to the summit and declared his support to this statement. He said the peace talks should be carried out on the basis of this statement. Then the second co-chairman of the Minsk group, the president of Finland mister Ahtisaari, delegation of Turkey, other representatives addressed to the summit. All OSCE members supported this statement. Thus, I consider we got a desirable document, reached our purpose at the OSCE Lisbon summit. I consider it a big achievement, victory. Because for the first time at a level of the OSCE summit, the principles corresponding to the principles of the OSCE on settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, making the basis of the settlement of this conflict were adopted as a document. I am repeating, these are the following principles: Recognition of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, granting Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) the status of high self-governing within Azerbaijan and providing the guarantee of security to all population of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

You know that addressing to the summit at the OSCE Lisbon summit, the Armenian president Ter-Petrosyan said resolutely that Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) could not be in structure of Azerbaijan and this question might be solved only on the basis of a principle of self-determination. And if it would be in structure of Azerbaijan, ostensibly, Azerbaijan would make slaughter against Armenia or Armenians. He made absolutely groundless statement.

But in defiance of it, this statement was adopted at the OSCE summit. I consider that it is a good basis for our peace talks in the future, for the peace settlement of the question, and we are coming back from the Lisbon summit with a feeling of big satisfaction.

I noted it in my speech at the OSCE Lisbon summit and today, after ending the summit and adoption of the important decision for us, I am declaring that the Azerbaijan side will make its efforts for the peace settlement as well as in the future. We will remain loyal to the cease-fire regime, we will try to solve the problem by peace way, direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia carried on by representatives of both presidents will go on. I consider that after the OSCE declared such document, the OSCE Minsk group should negotiate within the framework of this document. I think a good basis for our future activities has been created. Again I am repeating, I am very pleased of the Lisbon summit and I am go back home with a feeling of satisfaction.

Question: Mister President, it is your great victory. Your life was also accompanied with victories. Could you compare this victory to any other one, or it takes a special place?

Answer: You know, we can call it a victory, when we will gain a final victory.

Question: Mister President, the foreign press writes that a strong pressure was exerted on the Azerbaijan president, but it was impossible to change his position.

Answer: Was a pressure exerted on me? He considers it a pressure, appeal or negotiations, it is his business. But, undoubtedly, after I accepted this decision, many heads of states, high-ranking officials of delegations held meetings with me in private, and everyone urgently asked me to change my decision. But in reply to all their arguments, I was explaining that I would not recede from my position. I should also note that in these appeals made to me, and if someone names these appeals pressure, each head of state, each representative of delegation noted the fairness of my decision. That is, they were not blaming me for that decision. Nobody could cavil at my decision. They were saying that I had the right to act so. But they were asking me not to break the Lisbon summit. I answered that, like them, I did not intend to break the Lisbon summit too. I asked them to understand our situation. Here each head of state tries for the interests of his country. My requirements completely correspond to the OSCE principles, I do not act contrary to these principles, and therefore, all my steps are absolutely legal. That is why, if they pressed me, or asked, or addressed - all these remained ineffective. If I did not preserve my position, this document would not be adopted.

I will have you know that these principles have not been reflected in any document till now. So much we tried to take these principles for a basis in the Minsk group, but the Armenian side made protest to it, the Minsk group could do nothing about it.

Question: Mister President, the adviser of the Armenian president Libardiyan declares that Azerbaijan ostensibly makes use of the Minsk group against them in the negotiations.

Answer: We make use of nobody. I demonstrated a resolute position there, I was ready to face every hard struggle and joined this struggle.

Question: The basic issues of the Lisbon summit remained in the second plan, all correspondents wrote only about the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) problem.

Answer: This is a big victory for Azerbaijan. When we came to the summit, the Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) issue had been completely forgotten and within two or three days it became a question number one. It was and not only because of this document, but at the same time all the states realized how much it was a thorny question and a wide public opinion that we have created. It is the greatest victory as such.