From the talk of President of the Azerbaijan Republic, Heydar Aliyev, with OSCE Chairman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Knut Vollebek - Presidential Palace, 13 December, 1999

Knut Vollebek: I appreciate You, Mr. President and express my gratitude for You are receiving me in such late time.

Heydar Aliyev: How could it happen that You have arrived, but I have not received You yet? However why so late? You should have come earlier.

Knut Vollebek: Your country is very far.

Heydar Aliyev: You will not sleep this night.

Knut Vollebek: It looks like You will keep me long this night.

Heydar Aliyev: No, I will not keep You long. You have much work yourself.

Knut Vollebek: I considered it very important to hold talks with You before paying this visit and came here to hear Your estimate of these processes, Your thoughts and views regarding them. I appreciate You for giving me such an opportunity.

Heydar Aliyev: Mr. Vollebek, I welcome You to Azerbaijan and I am very pleased that You have arrived in Azerbaijan again after some time. We are meeting with You for the third time within a short period.

I think You remember when You first arrived in Azerbaijan, I criticized You that You had been leading the OSCE for a year, but came here only at the end of the year. I suppose that You have drawn a conclusion from that criticism and want to increase a number of meetings until the end of current year.

I am very pleased that we met in Istanbul and held detailed talks there. I know that this visit is not related to Azerbaijan. Along with it, the fact that You have come to Azerbaijan proves, I suppose, that You attach much greater significance to Azerbaijan. I am listening to You.

Knut Vollebek: First of all, let me appreciate You for You have found it possible to receive me so late. We understand that we have arrived in your republic very late, but it is the only opportunity in this case.

As You know, some air lines have a program for private passengers making many flights. I do not know, but possibly, there is a program for the guests frequently arriving in Azerbaijan. If there is such a program, I think I am honored with being a member of such a program.

I remember well, Mr. President, Your slight criticism during my last visit. I interpreted it as well-wishing criticism and I estimate the significance of Azerbaijan very highly. I also highly appreciate the meeting which took place between us in Istanbul during the Summit. That Summit was a very important event. I highly appreciate the openness and the stand that You took during our discussion regarding the problems existing in the region.

I want to convey You warm words of gratitude and greetings from our prime minister who attended the signing ceremony of the agreement on pipelines. Both he and I think that it will yield good opportunities for cooperation between Norway and Azerbaijan.

Taking into account that I am in Azerbaijan for the second time within the past three months, I hope You will allow your prime minister and minister of foreign affairs to pay a visit to Norway. I want to mention that I have already invited your new minister of foreign affairs. You are quite right when You underscore that the reason for my trip here is the situation in this region and especially in Northern Caucasia. As a consequence of the decision and declaration adopted in Istanbul, I have come here to visit Northern Caucasian republics. I will be in Chechnya, Dagestan, Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia to evaluate in the wide sense the situation in this region.

Taking into consideration the declaration adopted in Istanbul, I would like to express hope that through the help of the OSCE it is possible to launch a process in order to create a ground for the beginning of a dialogue which can provide a long-term solution for this region.

As You know, the Russian side has stated a position that presently it does not consider it possible to assign the OSCE a political role in the solution of this matter. But perhaps our organization will be assigned with such a role in a longer outlook. I adhere to the opinion that the OSCE can play an important role in search and finding a solution to this conflict.

Taking into account the humanitarian situation and sufferings undergone by peaceful population, I think that we, as well as the word community and such organizations as the UNO and the UN Supreme Commissariat for Refugees and Displaces Persons should play a big role in this process in order to find a final solution to this issue.

I think there is urgent necessity to allow the population of Grozny to leave this city before something serious happens with it. Therefore, I appealed to Russian authorities to put in force 24-hour cease-fire to let people set out and leave the city.

I hope that this call will be positively met and accepted by Russian authorities as well as by various Chechen groups in order to let civic population leave the city so that relevant bodies could assist in this process.

Mr. President, I would like to hear with great interest Your opinion about how it would be possible to find a ground for starting a dialogue as regards this issue, first of all to solve the problems around humanitarian situation, as well as facilitate beginning of a political dialogue.

Heydar Aliyev: First of all, I appreciate You for the greeting You conveyed on behalf of the prime minister. I was pleased that he partook at the signing ceremony of the contract on the construction of Baku-Jeyhan pipeline.

The agreement was signed by the countries across the territories of which this pipeline, providing transportation of Azerbaijani oil lifted jointly with your "Statoil" Company, should pass. You know that the "Statoil" has been given sufficient opportunities to work in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. The document was signed by the presidents of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. These are the countries that should directly implement the project. The president of Kazakhstan has joined us as long as he wanted to make use of this pipeline. And the president of the United States of America, Mr. Bill Clinton, as well as the prime minister of Norway attended and signed this document thus attaching great importance to it.

This was appreciated in Azerbaijan as well as in Turkey and Georgia with great inspiration as far as I know. We have already proceeded to practical work over realization of this project. We are together with You in all these matters. We already have quite large Norwegian capital in Azerbaijan. By the way, not only the "Statoil", but also your many other companies work here - "Kvaerner" and others.

As for Your invitation of the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, I have already given my consent to the realization of this visit. But if You want our new minister to come as soon as possible, I don’t mind. Further, it will be possible to schedule a visit of our prime minister too.

As to the work You are engaged in, as I can see, it concerns the OSCE more than other problems. It is natural. We have been facing the same problem for 10-12 years. The point is that the Minsk group has been dealing with our problem over 7 years, but there are no desired results yet. I mean the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as a result of which, 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory is occupied by Armenian troops, a million Azerbaijanis have been driven out from these territories and a huge ethnic cleaning of Azerbaijanis has been done. I will frankly say that our people regret that the OSCE, which sharply responds now to such conflicts, paid no attention to it at the time when Armenian troops were committing ethnic cleaning in the territory of Azerbaijan. Our country and our people know well what separatism is, what terrorism is and what an ethnic cleaning is. Therefore the matters You deal with for the sake of the soonest settlement of the conflict, and first of all through a political way, deserve support and approval.

I believe that as long as You have got down to the matter, moreover, the major OSCE countries have actively assumed the responsibility - I remember how many speeches of heads of states sounded at the Istanbul Summit - then you will be able to find a solution. A solution that will undoubtedly meet the interests of both the Russian state and Chechen people. Therefore, I wish You success in this walk of life.

But understanding that the situation is very hard I roundly suppose that there was no region in the world - may be it was the same in Kosovo, but it is far away from us, we do not know well, - where the situation was as complicated as it is now in Northern Caucasia, in particular, in Chechnya.

I want to tell You that Northern Caucasia is a part of our region. And a stable situation in Northern Caucasia has great importance for all the countries of Southern Caucasia, particularly, for Azerbaijan and Georgia.

We do not have a common border with Chechnya. The Dagestan Republic, which is included into the Russian Federation, is situated between Azerbaijan and Chechnya. But irrespective of whether we have a border or not, the countries of Caucasia were always historically very closely allied with each other. And second, You know that the majority of nations of Northern Caucasia are the people practicing Islam. And the penetration of reactionary forces of Islamic fundamentalists such as wahhabists to Northern Caucasia bears undoubtedly great danger for the whole Northern and Southern Caucasia.

I must say that Islam religion never sustained terrorism. Various terrorist groups of Islamic persuasion are said to be the regeneration of Islam religion. Therefore, all Your efforts to be directed to providing stability, peace and order in Northern Caucasia are of importance not only for these countries, but also for Southern Caucasia, particularly for Azerbaijan.

At the Istanbul Summit I advanced the idea to work out a pact of security and cooperation in Southern Caucasia. I called on the OSCE, as well as the United States of America, Russia, Georgia and Armenia and all other countries concerned with Southern Caucasia to join this proposal, establish security in Southern Caucasia and provide economic cooperation.

It is almost impossible to provide any economic development, even in Southern Caucasia in the current situation. Although the economic cooperation among the countries of Southern Caucasia could bring great benefit to all these countries within a short period of time.

First of all, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be eliminated, occupied Azerbaijani territories should be liberated, territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be restored and a million refugees banished from the places of their residence should return to their native lands. Although everything in the places they want to return, if they succeed, is destroyed and plundered. Everything will start anew and large funds will be needed, which we do not have. Consequently, very intensive assistance by the international society will be required.

Along with it, it is impossible to leave the situation like it is. Peace should be achieved between Armenia and Azerbaijan, peace in the whole Southern Caucasia. Thereby, the peace in Southern Caucasia and peace in Northern Caucasia are two great goals. I want to wish You success in this regard.

Knut Vollebek: I would like to elaborate upon Your thought as regards the pact on security and cooperation in Southern Caucasia. Do You think that something alike is possible to be created in Northern Caucasia too?

I understand that these are two different things since Northern Caucasia is a subject of the Russian Federation. As You have correctly mentioned, political and economic development are closely interdependent in any state. So, if we set the task before ourselves to work out a long-term solution in Northern Caucasia, we should take into consideration these aspects, i.e. political and economic cooperation. Therefore, I am pleased to have the opportunity I am given - to meet the leaders of three Northern Caucasian republics - Dagestan, Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia.

Do You think whether it is possible to find any formula of cooperation of any structures that can promote cooperation of these three republics and Chechnya in order to find any basis for economic cooperation, for the stability in this region?

Heydar Aliyev: It is quite possible. We know these republics well. For example Dagestan is closer to us. Historically, Azerbaijan and Dagestan were very closely linked with each other. Today we have direct and very intensive economic contacts. 140 thousand Azerbaijanis live in Dagestan and some hundreds of Dagestan nationality people live in Azerbaijan. Therefore, we are much interested that the situation in Dagestan be stable.

And besides, all our communication lines connecting us with Russia pass across Northern Caucasia and above all across Dagestan, Chechnya, Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia. These republics are also a part of Russia, but we always had broader contacts with Russia, with many of its regions, with its central part and Moscow. And therefore, instability in Northern Caucasia has very negative influence on our economic links with Russia. For instance, - it is again about our joint work with You, - we have constructed the Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipeline to export initial oil from the "Chirag" oilfield which is mined by the Azerbaijan State Oil Company together with many other oil companies including the "Statoil". And in 1997, we exported the first oil just via this pipeline. It is our economic cooperation with Russia.

By the way, Russia was much interested in our oil export just via this route. But
how many months does not the pipeline work?

Artur Rasizadeh (prime minister of the Azerbaijan Republic): Six months.

Heydar Aliyev: This pipeline has not been functioning for six months because of the events in Northern Caucasia. It is good that we have put in motion the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline in April of current year. If we did not have this alternative pipeline, we would have to blank all our oil wells due to the situation in Northern Caucasia. And it is just the beginning.

Oil production in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea has great prospects. And we intend to use the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline. But, as You can see, instability hampers us. And it is just one example. But how many our trucks stand idle in the border between Russia and Azerbaijan, in the border with Dagestan.

You know, I could cite a lot of examples. And all of them prove that we need stability in Northern Caucasia. The situation in Dagestan is getting better now. Ingushetia can also rule itself it is a small republic though. Northern Ossetia as well. Although there are very serious problems in all these points. Therefore, Your efforts to remove tension in Chechnya will certainly have positive impact on the whole region of Northern Caucasia. We have good relations with Dagestan, as well as Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia.

Knut Vollebek: How do You evaluate the situation in connection with relations between Chechnya and Georgia? I apprehend that the events taken place in Chechnya can directly influence the situation in Georgia.

Heydar Aliyev: Of course, there is the border between Georgia and Chechnya which is now guarded by Georgian frontier troops, military forces. But I do not think that the events can leap over to Georgia. Although, to my mind, there are one or two villages in Georgia, in the border, where Chechens live. At any case, I know that Georgia is much concerned about the events taken place there and is uneasy about it. We are all anxious. But Georgia has more reasons for anxiety, since it directly borders with Chechnya.

Knut Vollebek: It was a very useful discussion for me. I understand that tomorrow I will enjoy breakfast with your minister of foreign affairs. It will give me the chance to elaborate more deeply the issues we have now discussed with You, as well as touch some other questions of our bilateral contacts.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, but first we will have supper with You tonight.

Knut Vollebek: Thank You, I would be pleased to.

Heydar Aliyev: So, You will have two pleasures.

Knut Vollebek: I have already had one pleasure, then there will be supper and then tomorrow’s negotiations. It means there will be three pleasures.

Heydar Aliyev: Very good. I think we will thank the press if You do not mind. Have any journalists arrived with You?

Knut Vollebek: Yes, quantity of journalists.

Heydar Aliyev: I have authorized to accommodate them in the hotel and of course to arrange supper for them too. Because if the head of delegation is full, but the journalists are hungry, things can be worse.

Knut Vollebek: Articles will be very tough.

Heydar Aliyev: And when we feed them, they will write better articles.

Knut Vollebek: Quite right. Thank You that You have thought about it.

The "Azerbaijan" newspaper, 15 December, 1999