Statement of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on the official reception in honor of Heydar Aliyev given by United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Houston Partnership Society - August 2, 1997

Esteemed Mr. Mayor Distinguished!

Mr. Secretary of State!

Distinguished Mr. Congressman!

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends!

I cordially greet all of you, the Texans, the state of Texas, its capital Houston and I express my respect and highest consideration to all of you.

When I was preparing for the official visit to the United States, I knew that the trip would take a long time because the flight from Azerbaijan to here is long enough, plus there were many matters to attend to in the States. Despite all this, I considered it my duty to visit Texas and Houston. I made a special arrangement to include this leg into my schedule.

I am extremely happy that I had a wonderful chance to come to Houston, Texas and be able to greet you today. Texas has a special and eminent place in the history of the United States. Texans have always been a proud and freedom-loving people who have fought for their liberty. They are famous for their courage, bravery and heroism. Texans have left indelible marks in the history of the U.S. and the whole American continent. That`s why the word \"Texas\" is associated with bravery and courage across the world. I have always sympathized with the books and information about Texas that I have read, and I have a great respect for Texas and the city of Houston.

Twenty years ago when I was the leader of Azerbaijan, we established friendly relations between the Azeri capital Baku and Houston and declared these two cities sister-cities. We proposed this idea. At that time Azerbaijan was not an independent state; it was still a republic of the Soviet Union. The US-Soviet relations were not in great shape. The Cold War was still raging on. It is true that at that period the concept of \"razryadka\" was suggested, which was aimed at diffusing the tensions between the West and East, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The \"razryadka\" is a Russian word. Its English equivalent is detente. The word detente was quite popular at the time.

That was the beginning of \"razryadka\" 20 years ago. It was to take a long time before real \"razryadka\" would take place. At that precise time, we in Azerbaijan displayed increased interest toward the United States. We wanted to set up a link between our two countries. However, a formidable wall was separating us from each other. We wanted to make holes in this wall, even demolish it if we could. We exerted our efforts in this direction. Later we did dismantle the wall. But at the time we were searching for ways to overcome this obstacle created by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. We proposed to make Baku and Houston sister-cities since both cities were the oil centers. Houston responded to this offer. We succeeded in creating these relationships twenty years ago.

When we were establishing them, I as the Azeri leader was contemplating whether the time would come when we would be free and be able to establish full relations between our two countries. The time would come when we would be free to travel anywhere in the world, including the United States, and people around the world would visit Azerbaijan as well. That time has come. We dreamed of this day.

Three days ago, an official reception in my honor was organized in the building of the National Museum in Washington. During the reception, a lady approached me and showed me a photograph. I noticed my photo together with the picture of Mr. Tune, who was the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow at the time. The lady informed me that the gentleman standing next to Mr. Tune was her husband. She requested that I sign the picture for her. I did it with pleasure. I felt quite happy about that meeting.

Today one of our friends told me that the American lady who got my autograph was exuberant, as she felt very nervous while she tried to get my signature. I told him that I was even more excited that she was. I was excited because I recalled the meeting with the U.S. Ambassador in Baku in 1978 twenty years ago. The picture was taken during that meeting. Another aspect that made me happy was the degree of emotional strength that this lady possessed in order to preserve the picture for twenty years. It tells me that this photo may be important to her, perhaps even dear.

I recalled this meeting for I met with the U.S. representatives who occasionally visited Azerbaijan at that time. The U.S. had no embassy in Azerbaijan in that period. Both the Ambassador and other representatives were in Moscow. They used to come to Azerbaijan from time to time. It was my pleasure to meet with them.

It was exactly at that time that we made a decision to make Baku and Houston sister-cities. I am overly satisfied to see that a step we took twenty years ago now has led to not only the friendship between Baku and Houston, but also Azerbaijan and America. We now have close friendship between Azerbaijan and Texas in general and Houston in particular. All these are positive developments.

Tonight, at this dinner, I express my gratitude to you for this great attention and fantastic reception. I am thankful that the Governor of Texas, esteemed Mr. Bush, awarded me with the title of an honorable citizen of the State of Texas and the Secretary of State made this announcement tonight and handed this document to me. I thank you.

Earlier today I visited the house of the mayor of Houston and his beautiful wife. Our meeting was very friendly and cordial. I am so happy to attend this reception dinner with you today.

Esteemed Madam and Mr. Mayor

I sincerely thank you for this attention and circumspection. I thank you for your warm and friendly words tonight about Azerbaijan, its history, and myself, the President of Azerbaijan. It was announced today that the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and Houston-Azerbaijan Cooperation Society sponsored this reception. I am thankful to these organizations for this meeting and dinner.

Gathered here today are the leaders of the major American oil companies whom I have met both in Azerbaijan and the United States. We attach special importance to the economic cooperation with the United States. The U.S. oil companies play a paramount role in the establishment of these relations. Today when I met with my American friends, they mentioned they had visited Azerbaijan in 1989-1990 during the Soviet power and were interested in our country. It was the result of this interest that the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan signed a large contract with a several U.S. companies such as Amoco, Pennzoil, Unocal and McDermott in September of 1994 in Baku. Exxon later We elevated the economic relations between our two countries to a new high level. The recently developed sincere and friendly relationships between the U.S. and Azerbaijani governments and states were the basis for this success. These are especially important to us. We intend to develop and broaden them.

With this purpose in mind, I accepted the official invitation of President Clinton and arrived in New York on June 27th, and today I am in Houston. I have held a number of meetings and negotiations in the United States. All of my meetings were positive, interesting and fruitful. The summit of this visit was yesterday on August 1st. I met with President Clinton at the White House. So did our delegations. These meetings were held in a friendly and cordial environment. We discussed a number of issues. I can state that our positions coincided in almost every issue.

The result of this meeting was the joint statement signed by President Clinton and the Azerbaijani President on the further development of the bilateral relations between our countries. This statement is of a historic importance. This document lays the legal foundation of the relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan. This agreement demonstrates the support of the United States and its President to the processes in Azerbaijan, its state independence, and sovereignty and territorial integrity. President Clinton and I also signed a document on protecting the investments. I also met with U.S. Defense Secretary Mr. Cohen and signed an agreement on cooperation.

In other words, we have signed a number of critical documents to create the legal basis for future cooperation between our countries. These accomplishments are historic and mirror our intentions to broaden our relations with the United States.

Azerbaijan considers its independence an historic achievement. This achievement was the realization of a century-long struggle and desires of our nation to become a free nation. Our people are proud of this accomplishment. We are aware that the road of independence is not easy, and there are myriad hurdles on our path. We realize this. Some countries are working against our country and sabotage our statehood. We realize this as well. However, I have repeatedly stated this and will reiterate it here on the soil of our friend, the United States, Texas, Houston: Azerbaijan`s independence is eternal and unassailable. We will not let anyone deprive us of our freedom.

We are building a law-based, democratic and secular state in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was the first democratic republic in the Muslim East. It lived only 23 months. We lost our independence. We managed to restore our independence again in 1991. We will never give it up again. I repeat: we are growing as a democratic state. Democracy, human rights, political pluralism, market economy, openness of the country to the world, freedom, independence and favorable environment for foreign investments are our strategic objectives. We are implementing these ideas.

We have had some success. The World Bank and IMF that are based in the U.S. approve of our accomplishments in the economy. However, the joint U.S.-Azerbaijan statement signed by the U.S. and Azerbaijani presidents is the most important assessment of our economic achievements. In that document, the U.S. president supports the democratic processes and transition to market economy in Azerbaijan; he endorses and supports the economic reforms in Azerbaijan and its freedom, independence and territorial integrity. This acknowledgment means invaluable support for us. For all this assistance, support, the attention and hospitality displayed to us, I want to thank the people of the United States and its esteemed president, Bill Clinton.

You, our respected friends, can be assured that we will keep our word on all the statements we made and the documents we signed here. We highly cherish our partnership with the United States. I want to affirm that we will always be a reliable partner. We, as the joint statement stressed, will continue to closely cooperate with the U.S. in political, economic, security and other areas. We consider all these aspects the guarantee of Azerbaijan`s democratic, law-based and economic development and our independence. I want to express my respect and gratitude to you again. I thank you. I invite to even closer cooperation with Azerbaijan.

Our country is confronted with many abstruse problems. The most difficult problem is the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. As you know, nine years ago, Armenia launched a military aggression against Azerbaijan with the purpose of annexation of the Azeri region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This war inflicted great damage on us. For different reasons the Armenian armed forces managed to occupy 20% of Azerbaijan`s territory. The Armenian occupying forces ousted more than one million Azeri citizens from their homeland.

We brought about cease-fire three years ago. Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a cease-fire agreement. We have successfully maintained the cease-fire regime since then. We are opposed to the resumption of hostilities and will not allow that. On the other hand, we will not tolerate the occupation of our land by another country. We plan to settle the issue peacefully. The parties made some progress in this direction recently.

The participants at the Lisbon Summit of the OSCE in December 1996 adopted three principles on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These three principles are: the recognition of the territorial integrity of both Azerbaijan and Armenia; broad autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan; security guarantees for the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We accepted these principles. The Minsk Group of the OSCE currently has three co-chairs: Russia, the United States and France. Three Presidents - Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Jacque Chirac - made a joint statement on the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on June 20th in Denver, Colorado. Yesterday Mr. Clinton reiterated his intentions to continue the work aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principles adopted at the Lisbon Summit. We believe this and lay hopes on this prospect. We hope that as the agreement signed by Bill Clinton and the Azeri President states, the year of 1997 will see a considerable progress in the process of settlement of the conflict.

In this context the U.S. Congress adopted a discriminative law against Azerbaijan -the Section of 907 of Freedom Support Act. This law is extremely detrimental to our country as we are deprived of the U.S. financial assistance that other countries receive. As you know, every year the United States renders financial and material aid to many countries around the world including the countries of the former Soviet Union. The Section 907 imposes embargo on such assistance to Azerbaijan. However, this is not the only negative consequence of this act. This law impedes the growth of the economic relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan. We are trying to get rid of this law, and many officials in the United States are actively working to eliminate the Section 907. Many oil firms that cooperate with Azerbaijan are exerting their efforts in order to lift this law.

During my visit I have been to the Congress and met with a number of Congressmen and Senators. I held talks with Speaker of the House Gingrich, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and other representatives. Congressman King has submitted a very valuable law draft in this respect. I suppose that all these events have prepared the conditions for lifting the Section 907. President Clinton has repeatedly declared that he will continue his efforts directed at removing the Section 907. This intention was reflected in the document that two presidents have signed.

Respected friends, I address you as well. Do not spare your efforts. We, Azerbaijanis, are a peaceful and hardworking nation. We want to live in peace and safety. We are striving to peacefully settle the Armenian-Azeri, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, we have one condition. The condition is that the Armenian armed forces must withdraw from the Azeri occupied lands, and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. Over one million Azerbaijani refugees must be able to return to their homes. The parties are capable of accomplishing this task. I appeal to you to assist U.S. in this endeavor. We want peace. Anyone who helps to establish peace does a benevolent deed. We desire peace in our country. We stand for long-lasting and stable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We want peace in our region and the world.

The people of the United States are peace loving. The U.S. has done a great work aimed at maintaining peace, stability and justice throughout the world. The foreign policies of U.S. President Clinton have made great strides recently. It was precisely the United States and its President Bill Clinton who managed to stop the war in Bosnia. Thanks to the United States myriad military conflicts around the globe have been resolved. I am hopeful that the United States and its political and state leaders will not spare their efforts in helping to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the Caucasus, the Armenian-Azeri conflict. I hope that American President Bill Clinton will take bold steps to resolve the conflict. We lay great hopes on this help.

I am leaving your country in 2-3 days. I am going back to my homeland with great hopes and optimism. You are causing these high expectations. I wish all these hopes would come true.

I thank you for coming to this hall tonight, your hospitality and care. Thank you for listening to my long speech with such enviable patience. I wish you good health and happiness. I wish the American people happiness and prosperity. I raise my glass to cheer Houston, Texas, the people of the United States of America, the U.S. President, my dear friend President Clinton. Thank you. To you!

I have many thoughts. That`s why I want to express all of them. This is my personality: I always want to concentrate on state matters. I always forget my personal issues. Today is a happy day for me. My grandchild was born today. You have congratulated me. Thank you. He is my son`s son. This is a special event for me. He is my sixth grandchild. This is so exciting. It happened so that my first grandchild was born in 1981. I was in Georgia at that time attending some ceremony. The guests from all around the U.S.S.R. flocked to Georgia. The birth of my grandchild turned into a big event at that ceremony. I was very happy. People congratulated me. Then I was traveling in the Far East region of Russia in 1986.1 was working in Moscow at that time. I received the news of my newly born grandchild during that trip. Finally, this is the third time when the birth of my grandchild caught me when I am out of country. This coincidence has a particular importance for me. I am glad that I received this news while I was here in Houston. I thank you for your hospitality and congratulations. Everyone who has a grandchild knows how sweet it is. We, the Azeris, get extremely excited about this. I believe you, Texans, will also agree with me that a grandson is especially sweet. That`s why I am so happy.

Thank you very much. I kiss all of you. 
The document was taken from the edition \"Together towards the New Century\"