Statement of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev on the Official Reception prepared by the US Secretaries of Commerce and Energy in Honor of the Azeri Head of State at the Old Senate Suite of the US Congress - July 31, 1997

Esteemed Mr. Secretary Daily!

Esteemed Mr. Secretary Pena!

Esteemed Congressmen, Ambassadors!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I sincerely greet you here in the building of the United States Congress, the building that witnessed many historic events. I express my deep respect to you and the government, state and people of the United States of America who you represent.

I would like to thank all of you for this important meeting and express my gratitude to Secretary Daily and Secretary Pena for their warm words about our country and U.S.-Azerbaijani relations.

I feel very happy that I have a chance to visit the United States. This is the first official visit of the president of independent Azerbaijan to the United States of America. This visit was possible thanks to the official invitation of the U.S. president, Mr. Bill Clinton.

I am grateful to President Clinton for this invitation and hospitality, and for the friendliness and kindness that have been demonstrated to our delegation during our stay in the United States.

After gaining its independence, Azerbaijan established good working relations with the United States, and the bilateral relations are moving forward in all areas. My official visit and numerous talks, meetings and conversations are indicative of growing U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, their qualitatively new stage of development. I am eagerly waiting to meet with President Clinton tomorrow. I think that our meeting, talks and documents to be signed will become a historic event in the U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. We are proud that young and independent Azerbaijani Republic has established equal relations with the most powerful country of the world, the United States of America. These relations are expanding and benefiting both sides. We are proud that the Azerbaijani government delegation and the Azerbaijani president are in Washington, the capital of the United States.

We deem that the American-Azerbaijani relations should broaden and acquire a total partnership character. We sincerely desire this. I believe that, during the meeting with President Clinton, we will be able to take those serious steps. Our meetings and negotiations in the United States demonstrated that we can truly achieve new heights in our cooperation.

My meetings with various U.S. Secretaries including Secretaries of Defense and Energy, my talks with the Secretary of Commerce, meetings and conversations with Congressmen and Senators, other high-ranking U.S. officials and the great political figures who have certain influence on shaping the policies of this country, have created an impression that there is a great interest in the U.S. toward Azerbaijan.

My meeting with President Clinton will be the highlight of my visit to America. This meeting will summarize all the talks and meetings up to that moment, and hopefully will implement our wishes.

Both Secretary Pena and Secretary Daily noted here that the United States of America has a vast interest in the Caucasus, the Caspian basin states in general, and Azerbaijan in particular. These thoughts are well justified. I am convinced that, due to geopolitical and strategic location of our region including Azerbaijan and the prolific natural resources of Azerbaijan and our region, the United States should increase its interest to and relations with our region, especially with our Republic.

We are ready to create such interest and ensure these efforts. You can be assured that Azerbaijan can be your reliable partner in this respect.

Our economic relations are bearing fruit. The large U.S. oil companies are already operating in Azerbaijan. I state with great pride that the oil contract signed in September of 1994 has been successfully carried out. Thanks to the work of the international consortium in charge of the contract implementation, we will produce the first oil in September of this year.

We are consistently implementing all the contracts, including those concluded with U.S. firms. Tomorrow, we will witness the conclusion of yet another set of contracts. We will sign very important contracts with Chevron, Exxon and Mobil. AMOCO is the first American company to have arrived in Azerbaijan. It was one of the original companies that signed the contract in 1994. AMOCO signed a new contract with Azerbaijan on developing the \"Dan Ulduzu\" and \"Ashrafi\" prospects. We will conclude another agreement with AMOCO on developing another oil prospect and generally expanding our cooperation.

We highly value the projects implemented so far. We can be proud of them. At the same time, we can notice the rapid growth of our cooperation. However, this is not the last limit. Even larger opportunities are awaiting us.

I would like to hope that, along with the U.S. oil companies already established in Azerbaijan, other U.S. oil firms would actively join the growing cooperation. A number of them have already arrived in Azerbaijan. I was content to meet with their representatives here. Nevertheless, I wish more American companies would come to Azerbaijan. The doors of Azerbaijan are open to everyone, especially to every American businessman and firm.

Secretary Daily and Secretary Pena spoke highly of the economic reforms, the democratic processes, the transition to market economy and other efforts that we have been exerting in Azerbaijan. Thank you for your words.

I assure you that Azerbaijan will continue on its path of independence, and no one can jeopardize our nationhood.

We are building a democratic, law-governed and secular state in Azerbaijan, and this process is ongoing. We will attempt to use the American experience in this process and elevate our country to the level of progressive countries of the world.

The market economy is currently developing in Azerbaijan, and the transition to it will be completed soon. We will achieve serious improvements in the Azerbaijani economy and the welfare of the people through market economy and economic reforms. This is a strategic direction in building our state and economy, and solving the social problems. We will not renege on this path. That\'s why we feel a tremendous need for cooperation with the United States.

The United States of America is the most developed country in all respects - the economy, state building, democracy, and human rights. The accomplishments and experience of the United States are a great example for us. Today, we observe that the United States makes new progress in both domestic and foreign policies. We, as a friendly country, congratulate the United States on these accomplishments, and wish the American people continuous success on this road.

The recent successes of American diplomacy are many. They include such achievements at home as improving the economic sphere including the reduction of the budget deficit and its complete elimination, creating jobs for more than ten million people, and directing efforts at bettering the social conditions of the people. These are the result of leadership of President Clinton. I congratulate you all on these successes and wish for more in the future.

The United States is our friend. We would like you to consider the U.S. to be your friends. We, the Azerbaijani people, are very faithful to this friendship. We intend to solve many difficult problems that our country faces with the help of this friendship.

One of those complex problems is the aggression of Armenia against our Republic. As a result of this aggression, 20% of our lands were occupied, over one million people were ousted from their homes, and today we witness their deplorable living conditions. Armenia has violated the territorial integrity of our country. You know that this aggression dealt a terrible blow at the Azerbaijani people, causing human casualties and destruction. One million out of total seven million of our citizens are refugees who live in tent cities. Despite this situation, we still intend to settle the conflict peace fully. We want peace. We want solid peace in our country and the entire region. We want to establish and live in peace, and have good neighborly relations with Armenia.

Now it is the right time to achieve peace. We reached a cease-fire three years ago, and we still live under the cease-fire regime. I assure you that we will preserve the cease-fire from now on, as well.

At the summit in Lisbon last December, the heads of member-states of OSCE determined the principles that would guide the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. We can achieve peace based on these principles.

The United States, along with France and Russia, took the responsibility of heading the OSCE Minsk Group. Presidents Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac issued a joint statement on peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on June 20th, 1997 in Denver. All these efforts have created very favorable conditions for concluding peace.

The Azerbaijani lands occupied by the Armenian armed forces have to be freed in order to solve the conflict in a peaceful manner. The armed forces of Armenia must leave Azerbaijani lands. The Azerbaijani citizens who became refugees as a result of the Armenian aggression must return to their homes in the occupied lands. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. Nagorno-Karabakh must be given a high degree autonomy within Azerbaijan. We can achieve peace only through these means.

The United States and its president can accomplish a great deal in this direction. I came to your country with these wishes, and I will go to meet with Mr. Clinton with these desires and plans. I would very much like that 1 leave that meeting with good news for both you and us.

The public and government of the United States have already agreed that the unjust Section 907 adopted against Azerbaijan in 1992 must be lifted. Section 907 has tremendously damaged Azerbaijan and is considered discriminatory against Azerbaijan. This law has also been a significant obstacle in Azerbaijani-American economic relations.

After my meetings with Speaker Gingrich and other Congressmen, Senators and U.S. government officials, I have concluded that lifting the 907 has become realistic. However, I also understand that, in order to remove this law, more work is.

I invite all of you to assist U.S. in this respect. I would like to express my hope that, thanks to your help, we will finally be able to get rid of Section 907.

In this official visit, the meetings bear good news for Azerbaijan and its people. You should know that all the citizens in Azerbaijan are closely watching my visit to the United States. I am hopeful that, together with you, we will work hard these days and make the wishes and hopes of the Azerbaijani people come true.

In today\'s meeting, the mood that reigns in this magnificent banquet room and the hospitality that was shown to us lead us to believe that these plans will be implemented.

I thank you again. I wish the people of the United States peace, stability and prosperity.

I would like to congratulate the United States of America, the American people, the growth of the American-Azerbaijani relations, the American state, the American President Bill Clinton.

Thank you.