Speech of President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the official reception in honour of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - Zugulba, Presidential residence, August 29, 1997

Distinguished Mr. Prime Minister!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I warmly greet you in Azerbaijan. There is a great similarity in the present day situation of our countries. Your people faced a number of hardships in the establishment and development of its independent state. Overcoming these difficulties, you could advance your country very much in the last decades. Achievements in the spheres of economy, science, culture and technology are very great in your country. All these lead your country to the ranks of the developed countries and allowed the solution of social problems and improvement of the welfare of your people. I congratulate you on the occasion of these achievements.

Azerbaijan regained its independence in late 1991. It is a great and historical event for our people. Azerbaijan could occupy its worthy place within the world community in a short time. Azerbaijan considers its sacred task to make eternal its independence and freedom and develop it. But we faced many hardships on this way.

The most critical problem for us is the violation of the territorial integrity of our country because of the Armenian aggression. 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory has been occupied by the Armenian armed forces as a result of this conflict. More than one million Azerbaijani citizens have been expelled from their homes and they live in tent camps in hard conditions. Despite hard blows to our people, we want peaceful settlement of the conflict. That is why we signed a ceasefire agreement three years ago. We maintain ceasefire and we shall obey it further.

Peaceful settlement of the issue is possible on three principles adopted in Lisbon. We think that this issue could be settled on the basis of those principles. We cherish great hopes to the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group, especially its co-chairs, the USA, Russia and France. We suppose that we shall achieve the solution of this issue thanks to their activity and our peaceful policy. For this, the Armenian armed forces must withdraw from the occupied territories, the expelled Azerbaijanis return their homes, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan ensured and granting a high self-rule status for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan is possible.

This is an opportunity for the fairest solution of the conflict. We don`t claim to anybody`s territory, but will not yield a meter of our territory to anyone. That is why, the occupied territory of Azerbaijan must be liberated at any cost and its territorial integrity ensured. Undoubtedly, we rely on the assistance of the world community in this issue. I hope the Azerbaijani-Israeli cooperation will assist us much in this issue.

My recent official visit to the USA was an important event in the contacts between Azerbaijan and the United States. The presidents of the US and Azerbaijan signed an important document for the development of cooperation and partnership contacts between our countries. We highly appreciate it. We consider it remarkable event for us to establish partnership contacts with a great and advanced country as the USA. The Israeli-Azerbaijani cooperation is of great importance in our cooperation with the United States.

Azerbaijan is a peaceful nation. Azerbaijan is a multinational country and all nations live and enjoy equal rights here. Azerbaijan has been a native land, motherland for the Jews for centuries. Jews has lived in peace and friendship along with Azerbaijanis for centuries. Today, Jews are citizens who enjoy equal rights, as well as Azerbaijanis. All these create good conditions for our cooperation.

I suppose that this meeting today, opens a new stage for the Israeli-Azerbaijani cooperation. I thank you for this and along with you my best desires to the representatives of the Israeli nation and government who arrived in Azerbaijan. I especially thank your wife, Sarah for her visit to Azerbaijan. We observed the sunrise from the Caspian Sea together with you. A nice view. People sleep nights expecting the light of the sun for tomorrow. People always craved for the sunrise. We feel this together with you in ongoing hours.

I have not watched sunrise from the sea for nearly 15 years. I left Baku in 1982 and later I had not an opportunity to watch this event. Although I live here for the last 4 years, I had no such an opportunity. Allah gifted you and me such a nice opportunity. It predicts a bright future. I think it is a symbol of the nice future of the Israeli-Azerbaijani contacts. I greet you once more in the shore of the Caspian Sea, in the light of the sun. I wish you good health and happiness.

We rise glasses to honor of the Jewish people, Israeli state, its Prime Minister, our distinguished guest Mr. Netanyahu, his wife Sarah and our colleagues accompanying you and Israeli-Azerbaijani friendship. 

Translated from "Heydar Aliyev: Our independence is eternal" (speeches, declarations, statements, interviews, letters, appeals, decrees) - vol. XII, Azernashr, Baku-1998, p. 107.