Lecture delivered at the French Institute of International Relations by the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev on the topic ┬ź Azerbaijan and Caucasus on the eve of XXI century┬╗ - Paris, January 13, 1997

Esteemed Mr. Rector!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I am very pleased to be in Paris, France, and participate at the meeting with you and with such a prestigious audience. I am quite aware of the caliber of France, Paris and the people who have gathered here, therefore I feel honored of this meeting.

Before speaking about the issues on the subject you are interested in my biography, before I introducing it I would like to make a little correction in it. By the end of 1982, after Leonid Brejnev`s death, I was invited to Moscow to occupy the post of the First vice-deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, at the same time; I was elected to the Politburo of the USSR. I held this position until 1987 when I had to resign because of fundamental disagreements in our views with the administration of the Soviet Union, especially with Mikhail Gorbachev and me. Then I was subjected to persecutions. You may know from the history of the Soviet Union that those, who left the high posts in the government were completely isolated from the public and political life.

On January 20, 1990, in other words, seven years ago, when the leadership of the Soviet Union decided to send a big unit of troops to Baku and suppress the national movement, I opposed this action and left the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Following it, I was subjected to persecutions, a great libel campaign was conducted against me and I had to leave Moscow in the summer of 1990. Since I opposed the unjustified actions of the soviet union leadership, unfortunately, I was not allowed to live in Baku, too, where I lived the main part of my life. I had to go to Nakhchivan, to my homeland, where I was born in and which I left when I was quite young. In these days Nakhchivan was in blockade, as it is now. I lived there for three years in isolation. In June 1993, when Azerbaijan was on the threshold of a civil war, I returned to Baku at the invitation of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia and many others representing different circles of the society in the republic. First, I was elected the speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, and later, in October 3, 1993, as it was said here, I was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

I think it is necessary to add this information of which you are already aware do that not to make you think that everything was easy in my life – I was a member of the Politburo and then, I became President of Azerbaijan.

Let`s return to the main topic of our conversation. In 1993, when I returned to Baku, Azerbaijan was in trouble, a civil war was underway. In fact, this was the second year of the independence of Azerbaijan. In order to give you an idea on our country, I have to inform you about the events happened long before Azerbaijan became an independent state.

The republics which were parts of the Soviet Union obtained independence as a  result of the collapse of the Soviet Union by the end of 1991. However, the processes underway in the 15 republics of the former Soviet Union were not the same, they were quite different. In 1988 Azerbaijan faced an aggression; Armenia committed an aggression against Azerbaijan claiming to annex the Mountainous Garabagh region of Azerbaijan. The Mountainous Garabagh is a small region of Azerbaijan, after the establishment of Soviet regime in Azerbaijan, it was granted the status of autonomy within Azerbaijan in 1923. One should say that in the conditions of the soviet system this small autonomous region developed sufficiently. However, the nationalist and extremist circles both in Armenia and in other countries, including the Armenian party  “Dashnaksutun” regularly created an atmosphere of the necessity of adherence of the Mountainous Garabagh to Armenia. However, the attempts undertaken in different periods were not successful. They were prevented and, as I said before, the Mountainous Garabagh was enjoying a successful development.

I would like to inform you that by 1988, when this conflict just started, the population of theMountainous Garabagh 170 000 in number, 30 percent of them were Azerbaijanis, the other 70 percent – the Armenians. There was nothing surprising. The people of different nationalities live in other regions of Azerbaijan, like in other republics of the Soviet Union and in other countries. However, a movement by annexing the Mountainous Garabagh established both in the Mountainous Garabagh and Armenia, led into an armed conflict. By the way, it should be noted – I am frank with you and I refer to reliable historical sources and materials – that the interview of professor Aganbekyan to the French newspaper “Humanité” in the end of 1987 served a spark and in really an incendiary spark for inflammation of this conflict. In his interview he declared that the Mountainous Garabagh should pass to Armenia, he discussed this issue with the leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and the latter gave his consent to that. Of course, there were other similar interviews. I told you about this interview since Mikhail Gorbachev was directly referred to here. Everything started with this and it resulted in the eight-year long bloody war.

I think that when Azerbaijan and Armenia were within the Soviet Union – more than three years passed since 1988 to 1991 – the soviet leadership could prevent this conflict and its expansion which led to such grave consequences.

The unfair attitude of the Soviet leadership towards Azerbaijan caused a high tide of discontent to the communist regime and the socialistic system amongst the people of our republic. When the rage of the people caused by unfair attitude of the communist leadership of the Soviet Union reached its peak by the end of 1989, the soviet leadership and personally Gorbachev decided to suppress our people by sending a big armed unit of the soviet troops to Baku in January 20, 1990.

The tragedy of January in 1990 worsened the social and political situation in Azerbaijan. Finally,it resulted in instability in the republic. Using this opportunity, some forces in the republic struggled for coming to power. In October 1991, when Azerbaijan got its independence, it experienced a hard political situation. All this was undermining the rule in Azerbaijan resulting from coups d`etat. Such a coup d`etat took place in Azerbaijan in 1992 and  the Azerbaijani Popular Front came to power. However, it could not stay in  power even a year, the armed bands revolted and overthrew it, the civil war was unleashed in the June, 1993.  In these conditions I assumed the responsibility to administer in Azerbaijan in 1993. Despite great difficulties, the situation in Azerbaijan was stabilazed in the course of the last three years.

However, Azerbaijan was in war with Armenia. Using the lack of internal political stability in Azerbaijan, as well as the outside strong support rendered by some countries, the armed units of Armenia occupied a part of the Azerbaijani territory. Actually, some 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory is under the Armenian occupation. This includes the Mountainous Garabagh and the surrounding districts of the total territory which is about 16 thousand m2. These districts are adjacent to the territory of Armenia. Some one million of our citizens were driven out from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, they have settled in different regions of Azerbaijan, many of them live in tents.

An agreement on cease-fire was achieved with Armenia in 1994, it is being maintained as long as two years and seven months. However, the  territorial integrity and boundaries of Azerbaijan has been violated, our country have suffered great material and moral damages. We don`t want to resume the military operations, we think that this problem must be settled peacefully and we do our best for it on our behalf. The main condition for the peaceful solution of the problem is the withdrawal of the Armenian armed units from all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, restoration of the territorial integrity of our country and return of all our citizens to home. Then it is possible to grant the highest status of self-governance to the Mountainous Garabagh within Azerbaijan and guarantee the security for all the population of Garabagh. This is a compromise formula and we do it  in order to establish peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and create a peaceful situation in our region and in the Caucasus as a whole. However, Armenia holds a destructive position, therefore we can not achieve the settlement of this problem. Armenia strives for independence the Mountainous Garabagh and then to annex its territory. We do not agree with this, we cannot let any country have a part of our territory.

Armenia demonstrated its destructive position in the OSCE Lisbon Summit of OSCE in December, 1996. The Minsk Group of the OSCE engaged in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has proposed the  principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. Three main principles are there: the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia, granting of a high status of self-governance to the Mountainous Garabagh within Azerbaijan, guarantee of the security of the population of the Mountainous Garabagh.

We agreed with these principles for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. However, Armenia rejected them and didn`t give its consent for the inclusion of this project to the final document of OSCE. Nonetheless, these principles were reflected in the special statement of Secretary of OSCE due to the firm position of Azerbaijan and fair attitude of other countries. Amongst the members of OSCE only Armenia rejected these principles, consequently rejecting the main principles of the United Nations, OSCE and the norms of the international law in general. However, we think that as a result of the support of these principles by the OSCE members, especially the intensive activity of the Minsk Group member countries, these principles can serve as the basis for the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and establishment of stable and lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

I said you all this in order to let you have an idea in which conditions the independent Azerbaijan is building its national state and settles its social and economic problems.

If we speak about the conflicts in the Caucasus in general, about the situation here, we must mention the Georgian and Abkhazian and the Georgian-Ossetian conflicts in the territory of Georgia, the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, there are some other conflicts in the other regions of the Caucasus. Thank God, they didn`t expand. We think that the adoption of the principle of inviolability of territorial integrity of any sovereign state is of crucial importance for the settlement of the Armenian –Azerbaijani and other conflicts in Caucasus. We are for the inviolability of the territorial integrity of all the countries in the world. We condemn separatism, aggressive nationalism and international terrorism in every corner of the planet.

Despite all these problems and difficulties, Azerbaijan exists and develops as an independent state and strictly follows the way of democratic, civil and civilized state building and establishment of the democratic principles in all the spheres of life. In November, 1995 we held referendum and adopted the first ever democratic Constitution of Azerbaijan, at the same time, the first multi-party elections to the parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The provisions of the Constitution are fulfilled, the parliament works, many laws for the democratic development of our country were adopted. Political pluralism exists everywhere in Azerbaijan, we pay a significant attention to the protection of human rights, individual rights and freedoms. Azerbaijan is a multinational, where three religions – Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Judaism are practiced freely. We are reforming our economy on the basis of the free market economy, state property is being privatized and we are expecting to privatize some 70 percent of the state enterprises in the forthcoming two years. We have adopted a revolutionary for our conditions law on land reforms. This law envisages the privatization of land enabling their owners to sell and transfer it to other people.

These measures produce their results. The social and economic situation in Azerbaijan is being improved, inflation was low in the recent two years. For instance, the monthly level of inflation is  less 1%, in general, it is less 5% in 1996. The rate of the national currency – manat remains stable, recently its rate in comparison with that of the USA dollar has improved. We have taken numerous measures for the liberalization of economy and foreign trade. We actively involve foreign investors for making investments to the economy of Azerbaijan, participation in the privatization process and joint exploitation of major industrial and agricultural enterprises of our country.

Azerbaijan possesses abundant natural resources, great economic, industrial, agricultural, scientific-technical and intellectual potentials. The main road, which we follow now is the formation of the economy based on the principles of the world economy, using the experience of the most economically advanced countries.

We have achieved great successes in the sphere of joint exploration of oil and gas fields of Azerbaijan together with foreign companies. In September 1994, we signed the first contract with the consortium of the international oil companies on the joint development of the oil deposits in Azerbaijan, it is called “Contract of the Century”. Today, in Paris, in the Elysee Palace, the fifth contract on joint developments “Lankaran-daniz” and “Talysh-daniz” oil deposits, located in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea was signed between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and “ELF Aquitaine” and “Total” of France in the presence of the President of France Jacque Chiraque and the President of Azerbaijan. The contract signed today provides the joint work for 25 years and investment of 1,5 billion US dollars. According to the initial calculations, it is expected to extract some 350 million barrels of oil from these oil deposits. Contracts signed in the last two years provide the investment of 15 billion US dollars in the economy of Azerbaijan, 16 transnational companies from 11 countries of the world take part in these contracts.

I think that these figures give you an idea on how Azerbaijan rationally uses its natural resources and high technologies and the capital of the most advanced countries in order to integrate into the world community. Hopefully, all which I say will persuade you that our country is open to the world. The main objective of Azerbaijan is to integrate its economy to the world economy. All conditions for free entrepreneurship have been provided in our country, foreign investments are guaranteed by our legislation by Constitution and, of course, by the President. All this enable us to say that Azerbaijan has a bright economic and political future. We are confident that by following the road of democratization in all the spheres of our life we shall manage to integrate Azerbaijan to the most civilized countries of the world. Azerbaijan tries to develop friendly relations with all its neighbors. I spoke about our relationships with Armenia. Russia is our neighbor in the North, Iran – in the South and Georgia – in the West. Turkey is also our neighbor. We maintain normal relations with all these countries except Armenia and we shall do our best to strengthen them further.  

Azerbaijan is of great importance because of its geographical location. I think that its geographical and geopolitical location is important not only for us, but also for the world community. Azerbaijan is located on the intersection of Europe and Asia. As a European country, it is on the edge of Europe. Azerbaijan strives to be a European country. We are actively cooperating with the European Union, our application for obtaining a guest status in the Council of Europe was accepted, and we hope to become a full member soon. We take an active part in OSCE; our country is a member of all the international organizations.

Azerbaijan is of great importance not only for the Caucasus but also for the region which is much larger than the Caucasus. I think that stability in the Southern Caucasian region – I speak about Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia – is an important factor both for the whole Caucasus, and also for Russia and other neighboring countries. As an important fact we are trying to perform our duty the as we can do best. I think that if we settle  the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, it will settle all other conflicts in the Caucasus and establish peace and stability in this region, which will be of great importance for other countries and for Europe as a whole. On our behalf, we are doing our best and we shall keep on doing it for achieving of the stability and peace in the Caucasus.

Actually, Azerbaijan enjoys a stable internal political situation. Unlike the past years, we have complete social and political stability in the country in the last three years. The state has full control on the situation in the republic and I am sure that the situation in Azerbaijan will improve every month, every year.

We appreciate the development of the French-Azerbaijani relations. Today, during my talks with President Chiraque, head of the General Assembly, minister of Commerce and mayor of Paris I declared once more that we shall make full use of all available opportunities for the expanding and deepening cooperation between France and Azerbaijan in economy, culture and politics. I think that the contract signed today with “ELF Aquitaine” and “Total” companies of France is a good basis and a persuasive appeal to all other companies of France in order to get them interested in strengthening their efforts for the cooperation with Azerbaijan.

Ending my speech I would like to say that I am very pleased of my visit to France, Paris, today. The history and experience of the French Republic, experience of France in democracy and in other spheres is a rich source and example for us in democratic state building in Azerbaijan. I express my profound respect and tribute to the French Republic and French people. I wish you and all the French people happiness, prosperity and new successes. I am ready to answer to your questions. Thank you for the attention.

De Montbrial (President of the Institute of International Relations of France): I thank President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. Taking into consideration that it is late already, I would like to put only three questions to the president of Azerbaijan. I think that these questions will be asked in any case.

Question: The first question is of informative character, connected with the problem of inheritance of the Soviet Union. Is the problem of inheritance between Azerbaijan and Russia settled or there are controversial points that collide Ukraine with Russia?

Second question: You spoke about oil; however, you didn`t mention the problems related to pipelines. Could you say some words in this regard?

Third question: You mentioned that you have good relations with Iran. Can the problems related to the Iranian Azerbaijan be expected?

Heydar Aliyev: As for Russia – it is the hair of the former Soviet Union – of course, there are still unsettled problems. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Azerbaijan achieved its independence, I was not in Azerbaijan, i.e. I was in Azerbaijan, but I was not in politics. When I became President of Azerbaijan in October, 1993, I started to analyze. I understood the property of the Soviet Union has been distributed unfairly. As I mentioned here, I headed Azerbaijan for 14 years. I was one of the leaders of the Soviet Union for more than five years, I was aware of what is in the territory of Azerbaijan in the soviet period. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan was not let to have what it had. It was unfair. We raised some small issues recently. However, it is late now. Nevertheless, I have already said that all this was unfair.

As for the oil pipeline, the consortium of the foreign oil companies has adopted a decision to lay  two pipelines for transporting oil together with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. One of the stretches to the Novosibirsk on the coast of the Black Sea passing through the Russian territory, – it was constructed partially, in 1996 the construction was terminated. This pipeline enables us to deliver oil to the Black Sea coast and further. Another pipeline that we are going to lay in March and finish by 1998 will pas through the Georgian territory and reach to Supsa port on the Black Sea. However, according to the contract signed in September 1994, it is envisaged to construct the biggest pipeline up to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean in Turkey. There are several projects and proposals on the route of this pipeline. Final decision has not been taken on it yet. I think that we shall have to construct this pipeline too. Because after signing the contracts the overall volume of oil to be produced in Azerbaijan in future is increasing. The foreign oil companies operating in Kazakhstan propose to export the produced oil through the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan to Europe. It said that too much oil have to be exported via the territory of our country. Therefore, these pipelines should be constructed. They are needed to export the oil from Azerbaijan, Caspian basin and Central Asia. It confirms once more the great geographical, political and strategic importance of Azerbaijan.

As regards your third question in connection with  Iran, as I have mentioned earlier that , we maintain friendly relations with this country and we take necessary steps to strengthen and develop them. As for the Azerbaijanis living in Iran, indeed, they are many there. I don`t have an exact figure, but it is said about 20-30 millions. They are citizens of Iran. Today Mr. Jacque Chiraque said that there are five million Muslims in France. They constitute a part of the French people. The Azerbaijanis living in Iran are Muslims, too, they constitute a part of the Iranian people, too. From this viewpoint, I don`t see any problem. I have said already that we support the territorial integrity of all the countries – that of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, France and Iran.

De Montbrial: I thank President Heydar Aliyev for accepting our invitation to participate in this meeting and answering these important questions. I wish a Happy New Year to the leader of Azerbaijan and persons accompanying him and let me propose to finish the meeting. 

Heydar Aliyev (jokingly): No, let me say. First, it is not democratic. You asked your questions and did not let others to do the same. We have come to France to learn democracy; however, it became apparent that an authoritarian regime exists in this Institution. Therefore, I am going to stay here another hour and answer your questions. You should know that we follow the way of democracy and I am ready to answer all the questions. Speaking in general, I am not pleased if there are few questions. 

Question: Mr President, I would like to know about the real state of the Azerbaijani-Russian relations and how do you appreciate the participation of you country in CIS? 

Heydar Aliyev: We have good and friendly relations with Russia.  We wish they were better, we take necessary steps on our behalf for it.

As for CIS, we are a member of CIS. However, we do not agree with some issues. We behave in a democratic manner; we express our viewpoint and our position. Speaking in general, we reckon that CIS must be a more democratic union. Democratic principles must be established more in this union and CIS must improve and develop. 

Question: Mr President, you said that Azerbaijan is a multinational country, Russians and Jews live there. Could you say the number of  Russians and Jews in Azerbaijan and what kind of rights they enjoy? 

Heydar Aliyev: I can say it. The number of Russians is more than 300 thousand and Jews are about 50 thousand in Azerbaijan. They enjoy all rights as full citizens of Azerbaijan. We are glad that people of these live in our republic. I must say that some immigration of the Russian speaking people from Azerbaijan took place in 1988-89 and in 1993. we prevented it. Some of them left Azerbaijan because of instability in our country, in some cases they were treated unfairly. We eliminated this problem. Actually, the Russian speaking population live in normal and stable conditions in Azerbaijan. There are MPs of  the Russian and Ukrainian nationalities in our parliament, the people of these nationalities work in the state and economic bodies. We consider the multi-nationality of Azerbaijan as a wealth of our country. Armenia has built a mono-national state. Not nobody except the Armenians live there,  I think that they committed a mistake. However, that is their own business. 

Question: I would like to precise my question. Were the people of other nationalities urged to accept the Azerbaijani citizenship or did they do it voluntarily? Second question: What kind of rights do the  foreigners living in Azerbaijan enjoy but still willing to keep the Russian passport?

Heydar Aliyev: You know, nobody was obliged to accept the Azerbaijani citizenship, there were people who wanted it, and people who did not. There is freedom in this regard in our country. There are Russians in Azerbaijan who have the Russian citizenship, we do not mind. The citizenship is not determined by ethnic identity. I think that the same is in France. We are guided by this principle in Azerbaijan. 

Question: I would like to ask a question on the status of the Caspian Sea. It seemed from what you said that there is no problem in this connection. Can the lack of agreement on the status of the Caspian sea inhibit or delay the exploration of the oil deposits there? 

Heydar Aliyev: You know the Caspian Sea has been existing since thousands of years. However, its status was never defined. Actually, there is a great need in that. However, negotiations on this issue are underway amongst the Caspian Sea countries. I think that we shall achieve a common viewpoint some day. Nevertheless, it can not create any difficulty for the countries to explore the oil deposits in its sector. Division of the Caspian Sea on sectoral principle has been defined long before. We use the established experience and we think it right. 

Thank you.