The Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev`s interview with the editor-in-chief of the news journal Oil and Gas Richard Witley - August 2, 1997

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you for sparing me your time. I feel honored from my meeting with you. I congratulate you on Your first official visit to the United States and wish you great success.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you for the sincere words. Yes, my official visit to the United States is being successful.

Journalist: Mr. President, would you, please, accept from me this present with the name "Journalism" inscribed on it? The editor of journalism Mr. Kennedy is sending you his kindest regards.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you very much.

Journalist: Mr. President, can I have your photo taken?

Heydar Aliyev: Here you are, I don`t restrict anything. My relations with the Press are very good.

Question: Mr. President, would you share with me your opinion on the progress, obtained from the use of energy resources in the Caspian Sea?

Answer: Yes, we have some achievements. On September 1994 we signed a historically significant contract with a big group of prestigious oil companies in the world. This contract has been named `The Contract of the Century`. In fact, it is a very big contract.

Today I can say that the contract is being implemented. This September oil will be extracted from the fields, exploited jointly according to the contract. We have started the construction of the pipeline for the export of this oil to the world market. The first oil pipeline has been built. Another pipeline is being built too. The first pipeline will go via the territory of Russia to the Novorossiysk port in the Black Sea, and the second pipeline will go in the Western direction- via the territory of Georgia to the Supsa port in the Black Sea. Preparations have been carried out for the construction of the big oil pipeline too. We think that this oil pipeline should pass through the territory of Turkey and reach the Ceyhan port in the Mediterranean.

We have signed some more contracts after the contract, signed in 1994. By my official visit to the United States we had signed six contracts. In Washington D.C. we signed three contracts with the Chevron, Exxon, Mobil. These contracts were signed in the White House. Now there are nine major contracts. In Washington D.C, alongside with these three contracts, we signed an agreement with Amoco, which will allow them to have an exceptional right on the exploitation of our oil field. Perhaps, the tenth contract will be signed with the Amoco.

Question: Mr. President, I have one more question in this connection. Much has been written about the oil fields: "Azari," "Chirag" and "Gunashli." There have been many ideas about the exploitation of these oil fields. There are other oil fields in Azerbaijan, such as the oil field "Neft Dashlari" What steps have been taken for the exploitation of these oil fields?

Answer: You know, we have been exploiting “Oil Rocks” (Neft Dashlari) for 50 years and will work out it further on. At present we are using also some other oil fields, exploited in the past and will use them further on. But the oil fields, that you have mentioned, are new. For example, we have long been extracting oil from one part of the rich oil field "Gunashli." Its other part, which is very deep in the water, has been included into the contract, alongside with the oil fields "Azari" and "Chirag." Besides these, there is also the "Garabagh" oil field. We have signed a contract on the exploitation of this oil filed with the U.S. company Pennzoil and other companies. We have also signed different contracts on the oil fields "Shahdeniz," "Dan Ulduzu," "Ashrafi," "Lenkaran-deniz," "Talish-denizi," and "Yalama-Samur" with the companies of a number of other countries. Yesterday in the White House we signed contracts on the joint exploitation of the oil fields of "Absheron," "Nakhchivan" and "Oguz" with Chevron, Exxon, Mobil. The number of the oil fields, on which we will sign contracts, will increase more.

Question: Mr. President, what is the reason for the refusal of the company "Rosneft" from the exploitation of the oil field "Kapaz"?

Answer: You know, the oil field "Kapaz" is situated on the border of the Azerbaijani and Turkmenian sectors in the Caspian. The Russian companies, Lukoil and Rosneft had several negotiations before. We informed them that this oil filed belongs both to Azerbaijan and Turkmenia. During my official visit to Russia the Lukoil, Rosneft and the Russian government offered us to sign an agreement on the joint exploitation of this oil field. I mean, this is not a contract. This is simply a protocol on the joint exploitation of this oil field. We signed it. But later Turkmenia disagreed with it. We stated that we do not deny Turkmenia`s right concerning this oil field. That is, this oil field is situated on the border, one part of it being in the Turkmenian sector, another part in the Azerbaijani sector. Therefore we are planning a joint work there. But Turkmenia claims that this oil field is in her sector.

Generally, it is impossible to understand Turkmenia`s position. On the one hand, Turkmenia is against the principle of dividing the Caspian into sectors. But we are working in accordance with this principle and consider it fair.

Question: What do you think of the condominium?

Answer: Turkmenia is for the condominium. In case of condo-minium, Turkmenia has no right to criticize us because of the protocol, signed on the oil filed "Kapaz.". "Kapaz" is in the middle of the Caspian. According to the condominium we have the right to work there. Turkmenia is also for the principle of condominium. But after we signed a document on the oil field `Kapaz`, Turkmenia claims that this field is situated in their sector according to the principle of sectors.

We think that according to the principle of sectors, "Kapaz" is situated on the border, one half of it belongs to Turkmenia, another half to Azerbaijan. But according to the condominium we have the full right to use this oil field, because it was first explored by the Azerbaijani experts.

Question: You are for the international principle of considering the Caspian as a sea and against its being called a lake, aren`t you?

Answer: You know, we should study the fact whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake. I don`t want to say anything about it now. The main thing is that all the oil fields in the Caspian have been explored by Azerbaijan. During the Soviet power Azerbaijan dealt with all the matters of oil production in the Caspian. Therefore we have the right to all the oil fields in the Caspian. Besides, in 1970 the Soviet government adopted a decision on the division of the Caspian into sectors. We have always divided the oil, extracted in the Caspian on the basis of that decision. During the Soviet power, despite the fact that the Caspian oil industry was managed by local administration of Azerbaijan, on the basis of the principle of sectors, the oil, produced in the Azerbaijani sector, was considered at the disposal of Azerbaijan and the oil, produced in the Turkmenian sector was considered at the disposal of Turkmenia. We worked in accordance with this principle. In order to create a new principle, negotiations are needed. But we consider that it is a fair principle.

Question: Mr. President, just now you used the word "negotiations". I would like to know if any negotiations are held on the relations of Azerbaijan with Russia? Generally, how would you characterize these relations? And what kind of changes is expected in the Iranian-Azerbaijani relations in connection with the newly-elected President Khatami`s coming to power in Iran? Generally, what can you say about the attitude of Russia towards the pre-Caspian States and what is Azerbaijan`s position in this connection?

Answer: The relations of Azerbaijan with Russia are normal. Russia is Azerbaijan`s neighbour and is a great country. Azerbaijan used to be a part of Russia for 200 years in the past. The economies of our countries are closely interconnected. We want to continue these economic relationships and to co-operate in other areas, too.

Many Azerbaijanis live in Russia and many Russians live in Azerbaijan. Therefore we want to further develop our friendly relations.

I paid an official visit to Russia at the invitation of President Boris Yeltsin on July 3-4 this year. It was my first official visit to Russia as the President of Azerbaijan. You see, within this short period of time I have paid official visits to both Russia and the United States. . .

During my official visit to Moscow, I had extended talks with Boris Yeltsin and other officials. We signed several important documents on the development of co-operation between our countries. We want to continue these relations. But these relations should not affect the independence of Azerbaijan, these should be equal relations on condition that the internal affairs of Azerbaijan are not interfered.

We are protecting the independence of Azerbaijan very much. We cannot have anything against our independence.

As you know, there are Russian military bases, troops in the territories of some of the countries that belonged to the Soviet Union in the past, but are independent states now. Also in Armenia there is a big military basis of Russia. The Armenian borderlines with Iran and Turkey are defended by the frontier troops. But we have none of these. We will never allow it happen.

We maintain good relations with Russia and want to develop our relations on condition that our sovereignty and independence are protected and guaranteed.

Question: Has there been any progress in your negotiations with Ter-Petrosyan for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict?

Answer: Let me answer the second part of your previous question. You asked about Iran. Iran is Azerbaijan`s big neighbor in the South. We want to maintain friendly relations with Iran too. 30 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. It comprises about half of the Iranian population. That is why we want to maintain normal relations. But our state structures differ. We do not interfere with their internal affairs and they should not do it either. We maintain our relations in accordance with this principle.

In Iran the newly-elected President Khatami will start his activities tomorrow. We want to maintain normal relations with both former and present Presidents. We shall support the new President if he initiates anything positive for the development of the Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.

You asked about Armenia. As you know, there is a military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This conflict is the result of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia started this conflict with the intention of invading the Azerbaijani territory- Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh) with the help of armed forces and annexing it to Armenia. Because of some reasons 20% of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. More than one million Azerbaijani citizens have been forcibly driven out from the occupied territory. They are living under very hard conditions in tents. We do not want any war. An agreement on the cease-fire was signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan three years ago. We have been maintaining this agreement. But we want a lasting peace. For this reason we are holding negotiations.

We are holding these negotiations through the OSCE Minsk Group. Three co-chairmen have been appointed to the Minsk Group since the beginning of this year. The U.S. has taken the responsibility of being one of the co-chairmen. Alongside with the U.S., France and Russia are also co-chairmen of the Minsk Group. We hope that these three great powers will achieve the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict during their co-chairmanship.

Main principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict were determined at the Lisbon Summit of the state and government leaders of the OSCE member-countries. These principles consist of three articles: the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the provision of Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh)with the high-level self-administration right within the boundaries of the Republic of Azerbaijan; the guarantee of the security of the entire population in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh): both the Azerbaijanis and Armenians. We have accepted these principles. But Armenia won`t accept them. Armenia claims the status of independence for Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh). The international community, the international organizations cannot agree to this either. For this claim is against the international legal standards. For we cannot have another Armenian state established on the Azerbaijani territory.

We have made some concessions. Armenia should also make some concessions. I have met with the Armenian President several times. And I will meet with him in future too. We had a thorough discussion of the issue on the peaceful settlement of the conflict at our meeting with President Bill Clinton yesterday. President Bill Clinton stated that the U.S. and her President will attempt to settle the conflict by peaceful means and it has been planned to get an achievement in this sphere this year.

Question: Mr. President, will Section 907 be repealed?

Answer: I would very much like Section 907 to be repealed. I had extended talks about it during my meetings at the U.S. congress as well as in the House of Representatives and Senate. At the same time we had a thorough discussion of this issue at my meetings with the Speaker of the Congress Mr. Gingrich, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Mr. Gilman and President Clinton. At these negotiations they promised me to try for the repeal of Section 907 and provide it. This section must be repealed.

Once you are interested in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, I must touch upon one more issue. As you know, it has lately been found out that some officials from the Russian Defense Ministry have given to Armenia a lot of weapons worth of one milliard dollars while there is a cease-fire in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. We are seriously concerned over it. We have protested against it. I have held negotiations with the Russian President. We have requested them to take back these weapons and punish the criminals. There are dangerous missiles, even nuclear-headed missiles among those weapons. Therefore they are very dangerous.

Question: Mr. President, I know you are short of time. But I have two questions left. The first question is: Is the pipeline passing through Chechenstan safe?

Answer: Now it is safe. Because last month in Baku we, the representatives from Russia, Azerbaijani and Chechenstan signed an agreement on this oil pipe-line. The President of Chechenstan Asian Mashadov arrived in Baku, appealed to me. Their request was to sign a trilateral agreement to pass the oil pipeline through Chechenstan. I agreed to it. The Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to it too. In the consequence, a trilateral agreement was signed in Baku on July 10.1 think that there is not any obstacle in this matter.

Question: Mr. President, Baku was one of the centers for science and technology in the former Soviet Union. You had great merits in the development of both Azerbaijani and Soviet science when you were in power in Azerbaijan and later in the Soviet Union. Do you think that Azerbaijan, Baku will again become the center of scientific research? How will the scientific researches proceed in Baku?

Answer: Baku is again turning into the scientific center. Now we have got more opportunities for it. Because we are an independent state. In the past we could only proceed within the framework of the Soviet Union. But now you can see what close relations have been established between the scientific research centers of the U.S. and Azerbaijan. International scientific symposia are held in Baku, representatives from all the countries of the world go there. It has been for the fourth year that an international exhibition `Caspian Oil and Gas` was held in Baku. 250 companies from 60 countries of the world were taking part in this exhibition this year.

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you for the interview. Excuse me for taking much of your time.

Heydar Aliyev: I kindly request you to give broader information about Azerbaijan in your journal. I am giving you the map about the oil pipe-lines. I am also giving you these books about Azerbaijan as a present. There is more information about oil in the books too. Thank you.

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much. 

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