From the conversation of President of the Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev with Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Azerbaijan Alexander Blokhin Presidential palace, December 17, 1999

Heydar Aliyev: I am glad to meet You again. Unfortunately, it is a closing meeting with You as an ambassador. Despite this, I hope on further cooperation, having in view that during Your tenure in Azerbaijan as the Russian Federation Ambassador, You contributed a great deal to the development of relations and enhancement of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia. Therefore, I greet You.

Alexander Blokhin: Heydar Aliyevich, I thank you very much for receiving me. This is a truly unusual meeting today. Within four and a half years of my stay here, we quite often met in salons and it seemed normal, that there would be the next meeting again. But it is a sad meeting today, at least for me. Because I am not going to judge what and how much I have done here. You, Azerbaijanis, my friends whom I have obtained here within four and a half years have to judge first of all. At least, as it seems to me, I can look into the eyes of everybody in Azerbaijan with a clear conscience, as I understand that to leave not looking into the eyes of the President and people would probably be the hardest punishment. I say, that I leave with clear conscience, as I know that whatever I have done in this country within four and a half years, I have always tried to find the ways of solution, which would be mutually beneficial both for Russia and Azerbaijan.

Maybe I did not excel with a special eloquence concerning Your personal merits, Heydar Aliyevich. But it is not because I did not see them or I did not appreciate them. Well, may be it is my nature. But today, I can already say it openly and honestly, as I am leaving for good and no one can blame me if I say some words about a president to have him do something. Not for that purpose. I quite sincerely think that the period of my tenure in Azerbaijan is probably the most important, the most responsible and the most interesting period in my life. You, as a president and as a human whom I as an ambassador respect not for the occupied post, but simply because I have seen how much You, whatever is said, have done for Azerbaijan and were somehow a part of my life all these four and a half years.

I have seen that all what You do is aimed at Azerbaijan’s benefit. I bow before it and would like to frankly say thank You, as all these four and a half years became a big and a real school for me. I am very glad that I was sent just to Azerbaijan in due time, that the life has brought us together and, that I have seen what a great politician means.

While working with You, I tried to do something useful for Russia and Azerbaijan and at the same time, I saw how You worked. It is truly a life worthy of any human. Do You remember Mayakovski: “A young man, thinking over being and deciding who he should learn the life from”. If to rephrase Mayakovski, I would say: “I would learn from comrade Aliyev without hesitating”. Heydar Aliyevich, You are really a great politician and a real human. And I am not ashamed of saying it, it is a great pleasure for me to say it, as today, no one can blame me for flattery because I am leaving.

Thank You very much Heydar Aliyevich. I hope I will have an opportunity to meet Baku people on 18 December. I hope that You will honour us by coming to the Theater of Musical Comedy. I will have an opportunity to say goodbye to Baku people and to Baku. I don’t know what Yesenin was thinking about when he was leaving Baku, but perhaps, he had a feeling something similar. Baku is really a part of my life and a part of my memory. Independently of my further fate, it is impossible to oust it, as it remains inside every person.

I would say, it was a special period of my life. Therefore, I treat You with a big gratitude. The requests that I made to You and that covered the broadest range, starting with definite people - my countrymen and up to some political issues and so on, were not set aside. And at least, my personal requests were not disregarded. It is very important for any ambassador. Because if an ambassador’s questions are left without an answer, it means he does not follow out anything. So, thanks to You, I had an opportunity to cope with a task I had been charged by the President of the Russian Federation and by the country on the whole.

Heydar Aliyevich, thank You very much.

Heydar Aliyev: I think, that You have done a great deal for the development of Russian-Azerbaijan relations within more than four years of Your tenure here, in Azerbaijan, as the Ambassador of the Russian Federation. I can also say, that You worthily represented Your country, decently protected its interests and suitably fulfilled Your duties, which You were charged with as the Ambassador of the Russian Federation.

Russia is a great country. To be the Russian ambassador in any country is a great honour. Particularly, in such a country as Azerbaijan, which, perhaps, is not so big country by its size, but has very close historic relations with Russia, its peculiarities and significance in Caucasia region and not only in Caucasia. Therefore, I think, You can return to Moscow with a feeling of completed duty.
As for our joint work, maybe Your work was not so hard just because the Azerbaijan state policy and my policy as the President of Azerbaijan were always aimed at the consolidation and development of relations with Russia in political, economic, humanitarian, cultural, scientific and all the other spheres.

It is not so easy, in the sense that Azerbaijan, as well as other countries of the former USSR, have gained independence, having broken off from a greater part of the Soviet Union where Russia always took a special place.

We were together with Russia in XIX and XX centuries. Especially, starting with the 20 of this century, when we were within the Soviet Union and were very closely interrelated. Therefore, to break away from each other and from Russia now, to build own independent life, to maintain own independent internal and foreign policy, but at the same time to retain and reinforce relations with Russia in my opinion is not such an easy task for Azerbaijan, as well as for other similar countries.

The events, connected with Karabakh starting with 1988 and then grew into the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, and the events happened on 20 January, 1999, very negatively affected the attitude of various layers of society to the soviet regime, to the Soviet Union and the soviet government. And some people still equate Russia to the former Soviet Union. Therefore, the wounds, which were in many cases exploited and are still exploited today by some people, have always been a big problem to construct relations. It proves how difficult it was to implement it. But I, as a president, has never given up my principal line.

Perhaps, some people in Russia did not like and do not like today anything in our foreign policy. But I do not think it has a state character. Most likely, it is a result of subjective judgments and manifestations. A primary strategic line consists of Azerbaijan’s strict following friendly and kind partner relations with Russia today and in future.

We attached and do attach in Azerbaijan priority highlight to the relations with Russia. This will remain the same and especially in my policy. There is a great field of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia. You have probably felt within four and a half years of Your work here, what a big respect people have to Russia, the Russian culture and Russian language.

Azerbaijan is an example throughout all the Moslem East. There is no country over here equal to Azerbaijan, where temporal mode of life started to be born so early and became a norm of life for all the people and all the society so fast.

Today, when we are an independent state, we certainly attach great importance to our national values, traditions, national culture and religion. Besides, for Azerbaijan as a temporal state, as a state, closely connected with Europe and this connection has occurred just through Russia and through Russian culture, the major thing is to provide the development of our people based on common to all mankind values. And these values are both our national and European values, as well as Russian values, which constitute in their synthesis the basic contents of Azerbaijan’s life.

Lately, the Russian press has been propagating, that Armenia is the key ally for Russia in South Caucasia among the CIS states. It is your business. But if all the Russian schools are closed in Armenia and the law, that all the people have to study only in Armenian has been adopted, and it is your key strategic and the best ally, what can I say? Let it be this way. Now, Azerbaijan does not belong to this category for some unclear reasons. But You just look, how many people in Azerbaijan study in Russian schools and the most of them are Azerbaijanis. The Russian sector has been retained in all our higher education institutions. We can cite a lot of such examples. I would say, that these ingrained feelings will never disappear and the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan will always be kind, friendly and the best. I repeat, it is a strategic line of our foreign policy and we want it to be as it is.

Each independent state wants to establish relations with all the countries and each state has its own interests. The interests of Azerbaijan are first of all economic interests, as well as interests directed to the development of its people based on common to all mankind values.

Along with this, despite everything, Azerbaijan will always be a friend of Russia, it will develop this friendship and cooperation. And I think, when Russia is able to secure stability in North Caucasia, there will be even more opportunities because the situation in North Caucasia extremely restricts our economic links. I am sure, that Russia will be able to protect its state sovereignity and its territorial integrity. There is no doubt on this. And our further relations will develop even greater.

I would like to note, that You have also contributed to all this process within these more than four years. I know that You, as an ambassador, protecting interests of Your country and upholding Russia’s interests, have always acted in the spirit of further development of the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan. I know it, I have seen it and I am openly stating it today.

I know that You have done a great deal to destroy the misinformation or a false opinion formed in various circles of the Russian Federation. I know about this. I know that You have tried to do this. We have always tried and try to strengthen and develop the relations with Russia. And You, as the ambassador of Russia have also tried and done Your best and all that depended on You to make the development active for both sides.

Therefore, I highly appreciate Your activity as the ambassador of Russia in Azerbaijan. You have worthily represented Your country. It is very important and chief factor. To be a worthy envoy of his own country and moreover, to be able to develop relationships with the country of Your stay is an ambassador’s key task. But not anyone can achieve it. I think, You successfully coped with this task. And therefore, You have gained great authority in our society and there is the kindest attitude to You, I think You have left a good trace by your work here.

If we speak of what You have done for the Russian Federation, then it is worth to note that You have set up a good embassy compound, both a building and accommodation, furthermore, in the best part of Baku city. It pleases me, as I want each foreign embassy to have proper conditions here for its fruitful activity and besides, to beautify our city and our republic. What You have created, embellishes the city and provides very good conditions for Your work. I do not know if the ambassadors in other CIS countries could do the same what You have done here, but even if anyone has done, it does not matter, Your example is the best one.

I am glad that You are to be promoted to a higher position in the Russian government. It is a rare case when someone is proposed to a higher position in the government after an ambassador’s position. I am very glad at and I congratulate You. I hope when You take a new post, You will still maintain relations with Azerbaijan and on Your new post, knowing the real situation in our country better than anyone else, You will try to develop the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan and gradually eliminate negative factors, artificially created by certain hostile to Russian-Azerbaijan relations forces. Because You best of all know the actual state of affairs in Azerbaijan. Therefore, I am glad of that.

On the other hand, we can mention that evidently, the work in Azerbaijan is so that an ambassador is appointed to a higher position form here. I am glad of that. I wish You success in Your future work and health. I hope You will not interrupt friendly contacts with us, I mean the relations with the government, state and friends You have found here. I invite You to Azerbaijan as a guest any time. Besides the formal, we also have good personal relations established. I appreciate this as well. Come to Azerbaijan any time you wish as a guest. We will keep in touch with You and I hope You will also do it.

Alexander Blokhin: Your words are like balsam for my heart, as to hear appreciation of my work from the President of the country where I am representing my state is, probably, the most pleasant thing for me as an ambassador.

When You spoke about the attitude of Russia to Azerbaijan, about the problems, existing here, as well as about negative and good moments, I paid attention that there were much more good aspects. I think if Russia and Azerbaijan, while building their relations will always keep and develop those good achievements that have existed between us for 200 years, it will be the ground for good future relationships.

Of course, it was not possible to solve all the problems, but I think that the today’s level of relations between Russia and Azerbaijan is quite high. I am especially inspired by Your meeting with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. I know his positive reaction to this meeting. I would say it can become a very good additional basis for raising relations between our two countries to a higher level.

And if my successor heard me now, I would wish him to preserve all the positive aspects, even small ones, because great relations and great friendship spring up from them.

Taking an opportunity, I would like to thank You and all the Baku people for hearty welcome because this city has always helped me in my work and consoled me in hard times. I am sure, that there is no alternative to the friendship between Russian and Azerbaijan people. I am highly convinced, that whichever political forces or people try to prevent this friendship, they are bound to failure. I am sure, that we are capable to solve all the problems if there is a good will.

Heydar Aliyev: I also want to mention very fruitful talk with the chairman of Russian government Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in Kiev. I was very satisfied at that meeting and talk with him. By the way, the talk was very long and I would say that perhaps, it was one of the most significant meetings with the representatives of lidership of Russian state. So, I think this meeting will have very serious meaning for the development of our relations.

“Bakinskiy rabochiy” newspaper, 18 December, 1999.