From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation headed by reporter of the Committee on Political Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Terry Davis - 15 April, 2003

Heydar Aliyev: Your visit to Azerbaijan is connected with an extremely important issue for us, for our country and people.


We are cooperating with the Council of Europe. We have been in the Council of Europe already for two years. Many representatives come to Azerbaijan from the Council of Europe on different issues.

More than ten years have passed since the Armenian armed forces occupied 20 per cent of the Azerbaijani territory. All Azerbaijanis, who lived there, were forcibly banished or compelled to leave those places as a result of the war. However, we cannot prove in the world community that Armenia has Azerbaijani lands under occupation within these ten years. Therefore, we welcome your visit, we have been waiting for you for a long time and instill hopes in your visit.

You have held here a lot of meetings. At the same time, as I can see, you are working very intensively. Yesterday, you held many meetings. I was informed about that. Today, you have observed from the helicopter a big part of the Azerbaijani territory and finally, visited one of the campsites where refugees live. I have heard about that. Perhaps, you have seen much there. You are taking the trouble. You should have stayed in Azerbaijan a little longer to be able to see all this in detail. But, apparently, it is your style of work.

I think you have a definite impression as a result of these meetings, and finally, the things you have seen today in a campsite. I do not know whether to expound this issue to you or you are already thoroughly informed about it? However, in spite of that, I think I should state my opinion to you and introduce information on this issue.

You are probably aware of the history of the settlement of the Armenians in the Azerbaijani lands. I do not want to tell you about that. In due time, the Armenians were especially resettled here from Turkey and Iran, and they started to live in the territory of Azerbaijan. Never mind, let them live, there is not a special problem here. But unfortunately, they and their ideologists lived with quite different dreams. Not being satisfied with the land they lived, they attempted to broaden their territory and tried to achieve it to a certain extent.

In 1920, when the Soviet power was established in our region, Moscow marked the borders of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia at its own discretion. Then they gave a part of the ancient Azerbaijani lands to Armenia. In the period when the communist ideology reigned here, they tried to avoid conflicts among the two nations.

You know, the Azerbaijanis are very law-obedient people, but the Armenians are not. Then the Armenians raised territorial claims again. The Garabagh problem, which today turned into an international problem, started since 1920, 1922 and 1923. The Nagorno-Garabagh is an Azerbaijani land, there is no doubt in that, as it is located, one could say, in the center of the territory of Azerbaijan. But the Armenians once driven out from Iran were placed there. The Communist Party was engaged in the given problem raised in 1921-1923. As a result of the survey, the population of the Nagorno-Garabagh declared their desire to stay within Azerbaijan.

Hence, the question was closed and the Nagorno-Garabagh was given the status of an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, afterwards the nationalists in Armenia, not the population of the Nagorno-Garabagh, raised now and then the problem of separation of the Nagorno-Garabagh from Azerbaijan and its annexation to Armenia. But the system existing in the Soviet Union, the strict regime, nipped it in the bud, that is, no conflict erupted then.

I am a living witness of a certain period in the history of the Nagorno-Garabagh as a part of the territory of Azerbaijan. From 1950, 53 years ago, I worked in Baku in the state security service. Then, we constantly studied those issues according to a specific character of our work. I can remember that the population in the Nagorno-Garabagh lived normally. However, some well-known representatives of intelligentsia from Yerevan used to come to Nagorno-Garabagh two or three times a year and incited the population to affiliate with Armenia. In 1950-1960, this issue got even greater development, however it was restrained.

Since 1969, I was the leader of Azerbaijan - you know how long has passed since then - and I was especially engaged in Nagorno-Garabagh problems. I mean I was trying to solve the problems connected with socio-economic situation in Nagorno-Garabagh better than in other regions of Azerbaijan in order to deprive them of any claims in this regard. And I attained it.

I often visited Nagorno-Garabagh. I opened a university there, we established a number of industrials enterprises - a silk factory, a shoe factory, an engineering plant. In other words, we provided the unemployed with work. We additionally invested huge funds in agriculture and provided its development there. If you see today the center of Nagorno-Garabagh, Khankendi, - the Armenians call it Stepanakert, - you will understand that the majority of the new apartment houses and administrative buildings existing there were constructed in the period of my work there. The population of Nagorno-Garabagh was grateful to me. Each time, during my visits there, they received me very solemnly. Even aged women came out to the streets, embraced and kissed me. All these photographs remain up until today. The relations were very good, they believed me infinitely. And I, in my turn, rendered them a special aid.

Running a little ahead I would like to say that in the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when different people appeared here, they accused me that I had supposedly rendered the Nagorno-Garabagh a special care, helped the Armenians. I indeed helped them and I don not deny it. But, as the saying goes, there are no grounds to accuse me of that.

Later on, in 1982, I left for Moscow as you know. There, I took the post of the member of the Political Bureau and first deputy chairman of the Soviet of Ministers. I especially instructed the people in the administration to focus attention on Nagorno-Garabagh. They naturally tried, but not like me. Then the Armenians, the nationalists in Yerevan, making use of my departure, started to interfere with the problems of the Nagorno-Garabagh more intensively. They stirred up the situation there. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani leadership did not pay due attention to those issues, and the center, Moscow, always supported Armenia in this respect.

The conflict started there in February of 1998. First they started to claim that they wanted to unite with Armenia, then armed clashes broke out, which gradually grew into an armed conflict.

In 1988, the USSR was still strong. But you probably know that in 1988, I resigned in Moscow. I did not have any opportunity to interfere with those issues. But I observed them from outside. I was aware of the power of the Political Bureau, the Soviet government. If they had wanted, they could have prevented all this at that time. But they did not do it, and Mikhail Gorbachev probably played a special role in the aggravation of the process. Subsequently, it was revealed that he was a very pro-Armenian person.

This conflict lasted four years during the period of the existence of the USSR. Just imagine if such a strong state as the Soviet state had decided to eliminate this conflict, would it have allowed it to expand gradually within those four years? On the contrary, we have sufficient data that then Moscow incited the Armenians wishing to solve this issue in their favour. The war for Nagorno-Garabagh between Azerbaijan and Armenia broke out as early as before the collapse of the Soviet Union and then the Armenians had already occupied some regions of Azerbaijan.

Then the Soviet Union collapsed. Armenia and Azerbaijan declared their independence. Of course, much was to be done for the construction of an independent state. Azerbaijan did not have any possibilities to wage a war, it did not have skilful military specialists at its disposal. But Armenia possessed wide opportunities in this respect. The Russian military units deployed in Armenia were comprehensively used in this matter on the Armenian side.

Then, the struggle for power was ongoing in Azerbaijan. A person sent to work here in 1988 ran away. Mutalibov, elected as president of Azerbaijan in 1991, also fled and still lives in Moscow. Then the Popular Front came to power - the people who are in opposition today - who, naturally, were also deprived of an opportunity to rule the state. They were the people who came from streets. Therefore, they lost their authority among the population within a year and scattered. Making use of such situation, the Armenian armed forces occupied the Azerbaijani lands. In 1993, a socio-political crisis, one might say, arose in Azerbaijan. As a result of struggle for power the Popular Front could not rule the country, and I, then lived in Nakhichevan, was invited to Baku. I was elected speaker of the parliament. Abulfaz Elchibey, leader of the Popular Front, was the president. I told him there is a way out of this situation. But unfortunately, two days later, he secretly left Baku for his native village located high in the mountains. I stayed alone here.

I do not want to speak about that. In any case, in 1993, I normalized the situation to a certain degree. Then I could not focus much attention on the war, front, as I did not know how and with whom to work. However, I mobilized our military units, we reinforced our activity and liberated some lands. In May 1994, both Armenia and we agreed to sign a cease-fire agreement. On May 12, we signed it. In May, this year, it will be nine years since the establishment of the cease-fire regime. There are no military operations after the armistice agreement.

But the Armenians killed and burnt many Azerbaijanis, captured them and did not give them back subjecting them to tortures. We lost many people - both military and civilians.

Then, in 1992-1993, the Security Council of the United Nations Organization discussed this issue four times and stated that Armenian armed forces should unconditionally withdraw from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. However, Armenia does not fulfill it and no one blames them.

In 1992, the Minsk Group was created within the frames of the OSCE. Since 1993, I have been constantly cooperating with the Minsk Group. At first, Italy was at the head of the Minsk Group, then Switzerland, then Finland. But Russia was in the center of this issue all the time.

In 1997, the OSCE submitted two proposals on the peaceful settlement of the conflict. At first there was only one proposal. We accepted it, but Armenia did not. After some months, the second proposal was submitted. We accepted it again, but they did not. Therefore, this did not yield any results either.

In 1996, the OSCE Summit took place in Lisbon. I raised the issue rather strictly demanding that Armenia should recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Armenia does not recognize territorial integrity of Azerbaijan until today. A meticulous provision about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was prepared and included into the concluding document there. Armenia did not agree with it. As you know, the decisions are made there based on consensus.

I thought for a long time and did not fully agree with the concluding document of the OSCE. Consequently, situation exacerbated there. Many heads of states addressed me saying: "you are violating the final document of the OSCE Summit". I remember Albert Gore telling me: "you are violating". I replied: "Armenia is also violating, it does not agree with it. He objected: "it is their right". I also said: "but this is my right, too". And thereon, the conversation finished.

Then the then OSCE chairman from Switzerland came, talked to me for a long time, and finally prepared a good statement on behalf of the Summit. All about the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and other questions were reflected in that document. It was an extremely important document. Therefore, I waived my veto, and the document was adopted. However, Armenia did not accept it; it did not fulfill this statement of the Lisbon Summit.

Hereby, the situation got gradually strained. Three or four years ago, Russia put forward a strange proposal - the formula of a common state. It considers Nagorno-Garabagh and Azerbaijan a common state. Consequently, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is maintained, but Azerbaijan has no rights to administer the affairs of Nagorno-Garabagh, and interfere in its affairs. I was very dissatisfied with that. Then, Primakov was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia. I even phoned him and talked to him very seriously asking why they had worked out such proposal. That meant they deceived us. Now, we are no longer silly to be deceived so easily. But Armenia accepted this proposal at once. And today, they also suggest working on this formula in some cases. It means that, in particular, Russia as well as other states does everything for the benefit of Armenia. For instance, Russia, the United States of America and France are the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. I have already spoken about Russia, but the USA does not take a principal position either.

Neither does France. No proposal has been submitted since then. The co-chairs to the OSCE Minsk Group stated that the presidential elections were being held in Armenia, and this issue should be postponed. But in May, there are parliamentary elections. In October, presidential elections will take place in Azerbaijan. And thus, the year will draw to a close. At the same time, the people, as you have seen, still live in hard conditions, all their wealth was totally destroyed in the occupied territories long ago. Now, the Armenians have brought the lands to a poor state, too. Sometimes it is reported that they settle in those territories the Armenians from other places.

It is strange that the representatives of none of the international organizations want to visit our occupied lands. There is a monitoring group of the OSCE. Of course, its leader, Kasprzyk visits these territories, goes there. I asked the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group twice to visit at least one region there, to see how the matters stand there. They went there and said upon return that everything was destroyed. A 130-km part of our border with Iran has passed to the hands of the Armenians. We were informed that drugs and weapons are smuggled and many other crimes are committed. This territory is absolutely beyond any control.

The Council of Europe has charged you to study the given issue and disclose your opinion. It seems to me that it is the first case when this issue has become the point of someone`s interest, and it is the Council of Europe. I hope that You will get engaged in the solution of this issue, as we cherish great hopes in You. I appreciate You, I have been speaking a little bit long, but I wanted to inform You about everything.

Tarry Davis: Mr. President, You have also mentioned that since the day of independence of Azerbaijan, many delegations from the Council of Europe have arrived here. Perhaps, I am the first person to arrive here from the Council of Europe who does not have to congratulate You on admission to the Council of Europe. I told my Georgian friends about that too, sometimes people want to congratulate a person after admission to the Council of Europe as well.

Mr. President, You are aware of the purposes of my visit. I appreciate You for the information you provided. I also want to express my gratitude for the information presented by you and the ministers during the meetings today and yesterday, as well as by the special representatives on this issue empowered by You. I have toemphasize that after my arrival here your parliamentary delegation informed me rather comprehensively about it. Your parliamentary delegation works very intensively in the Council of Europe on this issue as well as all on other issues.

Of course, the history of the events in Nagorno-Garabagh and around it is of great importance. I consider that the United Kingdom resembles the South Caucasus in this respect. In other words, we attach great importance to history. I think that history will take very broad space in the report at I will prepare.

Mr. President: You said that international organizations do not visit Nagorno-Garabagh and the territories adjacent to it. As You know, I have visited the adjacent regions and got acquainted with the situation of people living there, because I considered it really important to go there and see their life conditions. I would not like the population of Azerbaijan to have such opinion that my trip to Nagorno-Garabagh means that I have some links with that region. Today, while talking to You, I drew such a conclusion that it is a good idea to make a trip there.

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, it is necessary to go there.

Tarry Davis: Of course, I will go and it will be taken into consideration.

I am highly thankful to You for the time allotted to me. I waste the time of the busiest person in Azerbaijan. Mr. President, I am quite well informed. I cannot say to your representatives more than I have already said. I will not make here any statements, and after Azerbaijan I will go to Georgia to visit my friends there, and then I am going to visit Armenia. I am not going to Nagorno-Garabagh during this visit. But before concluding my report, I will certainly visit Nagorno-Garabagh. I have already promised and will do my best for the solution of the problem. Thank you very much once more for your time.

Heydar Aliyev: I thank you. It is my wish. You said that you had promised and you will do your best for the solution of the problem. It is enough for me, I do not need additional words. Thank you very much.

The Azerbaijan daily, 16 April, 2003.