Speech of Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev on the official reception in honor of President Heydar Aliyev on behalf of the conference of presidents of major jewish organizations - July 28, 1997

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen!

I cordially welcome you today. I would like to thank you for this very important meeting. As you know, I am on an official visit to the United States at the invitation of U.S. President Bill Clinton. I will hold critical meetings during this visit. First of all, I will meet President Clinton, members of the U.S. Cabinet, Congressmen and others.

I have spent all day today at the United Nations. I met with the representatives of the countries-permanent members of the Security Council of UN. I conducted talks with Koffi Annan, the UN General Secretary. I have also talked to representatives of the media.

I have several very important meetings ahead. However, among all these meetings it is my pleasure to attend this important meeting here in New York with the members of the Conference of the Presidents of the Jewish Organizations in the United States. You have demonstrated great attention to me by being here today. As I gather, some of you do not reside in New York and had to travel here from other cities across the United States. This means a tremendous respect for me. I thank you for this meeting and attention. I invite each and all of you to Azerbaijan.

As it was mentioned here, Azerbaijan is a small nation with a population equal to that of New York. But Azerbaijan is an independent country. The Azerbaijani people have a great and rich history, culture and customs.

Different ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan along with the Azeris. Azerbaijan has always been a multi-ethnic country, and it remains so today. We consider this strength of our nation. We have never intended to convert Azerbaijan into a mono-ethnic state. That\'s why the people who reside in Azerbaijan have had equal rights regardless of their ethnic origin. The Jews in Azerbaijan have been living in our country since ancient times. They are citizens of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan is a homeland for them. The Jewish people have always participated in the socio-political and economic life of Azerbaijan. I would like to inform you that the Azeri citizens of Jewish descent have made significant contributions to the development of our national culture, economy and health care system. We emphasize the services of those in the Azerbaijani science, culture and economy in the late 19th century and early 20th century in particular. They have made considerable contributions to the Azerbaijani people. They are always dear to our hearts.

The great Jewish scientists, musicians, and medical doctors have always earned the respect of the Azerbaijani people. In recent years after the borders opened up, some Jewish citizens of Azerbaijan migrated to other countries, including Israel and the U.S. Nevertheless; we know that they have not forgotten our nation. They periodically visit Azerbaijan and take our national culture to other lands. We can feel that sometimes they miss Azerbaijan.

I am aware that the Azeris citizens who migrated to Israel have established a large Azerbaijani community. In Israel, there are even streets, restaurants and enterprises bearing the names of Baku and Azerbaijan.

I would like to inform you that Azerbaijan has stupendous and interesting resources. One of them is our cuisine. The Jews who left Azerbaijan are popularizing those dishes, especially in Israel. If this trend continues, quite soon most Israelis will start eating only the Azeri food.

One representative of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan joined our delegation on this trip. However, he is an American citizen now and resides in California. He was born, raised, and educated in Azerbaijan. He worked in the arts field in Azerbaijan. He speaks fluent Azeri and is thoroughly familiar with our literature. He has recently visited Baku and met with me. I brought him here as a part of our delegation. His name is Alexander Grich, and he is seated right here.

The relationships between Azerbaijan and Israel are those of friendship. We are developing these relationships every day. In recent years, I met and talked with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Last December in Lisbon, I also met with the current Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu. I keep correspondence with him. I sent him a letter, and he mailed a letter to me several days before I left for the U.S. Both the president and prime minister of Israel have invited me to visit Israel. I have accepted this invitation with great pleasure and will make the visit shortly.

I think the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan is doing an excellent job. We have created favorable conditions for their work. I have repeatedly met with the Israeli Ambassador and receive him as needed. We will make a decision on opening the Azeri embassy in Israel. An Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel will be appointed soon.

I hold the Conference of the Presidents of Jewish Organizations in the United States in high regard. I am aware that this Conference and your communities have considerable influence in the United States. They carry out important work and have significant resources. I think that Azerbaijan and the Conference of Presidents are establishing good relationships. I support the further development of these relations. I believe that we can cooperate in a fruitful way.

We plan to further develop our relations with the United States. We consider the United States our friend. During my visit, we will conduct negotiations on cooperation and sign some inter-governmental documents.

The cooperation of the U.S. and Azeri oil firms in Azerbaijan play a substantial role in the U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. Such companies as AMOCO, Pennzoil, Exxon, Unocal and McDermott are parties to multinational oil exploration projects. The preparations to conclude similar contracts with Chevron and Mobil are under way and are expected to be signed soon. At the same time a number of other firms are operating in Azerbaijan along with the ones I mentioned. All these American companies participate in joint exploration of Azerbaijani oil resources in the Caspian Sea. The American firms have contributed $8 billion out $30 billion of investments that are to flow into the Azerbaijani economy. This is just a beginning of the work. The pending agreements will broaden these efforts and drastically increase the capital investments in Azerbaijan.

The contracts we have signed are for 30 years. In my opinion, these 30 years are just the first phase. I think we will continue our cooperation many decades after the first 30 years. Thus, the United States is gaining significant economic interest in Azerbaijan. We strive to guarantee the viability of these economic interests.

I would like to accentuate another fact. We have a world-class hotel in Azerbaijan. We have transferred the ownership of the old hotel to the Hyatt Regency. This firm is operating that hotel in Azerbaijan so this company has also entered the Azerbaijani market. I want you to know that there is such a hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan. If you visit our country, you will see it.

Azerbaijan is confronted with a number of serious problems. One such problem is the Armenian-Azeri conflict. As you know, Armenian armed forces launched an aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia began this aggression with the intention of annexing Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno Garabagh), which is a part of Azerbaijan. This conflict erupted in 1988. Many lives were lost as a result of this military aggression. The Armenian armed forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan\'s lands. More than one million Azerbaijani citizens became refugees after this occupation. They were expelled from their homeland and now live in tent cities under very hard conditions. We want to end this conflict. We reached a cease-fire three years ago. We are conducting negotiations in order to achieve lasting peace. I hope we will manage to settle this confrontation in a peaceful manner.

The Minsk Group of OSCE is responsible for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Three great powers - U.S., Russia and France - are now the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Regrettably, many countries including the U.S. have very little truthful information about this conflict. The sizeable Armenian Diaspora of the United States has fed distorted information to the public. That\'s why I am planning to hold important meetings regarding this conflict. I especially intend to talk with the members of the Congress. At the suggestion and initiative of the Armenian Diaspora, the U.S. Congress passed an unfair law against Azerbaijan in 1992. The law called for the embargo on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan. Our neighbors - Armenia, Georgia, Central Asian countries and other former Soviet republics - receive large amounts of aid from the U.S. every year. However, we are deprived of this assistance.

We witness a bizarre paradox: we are securing the broad economic interests of the United States in Azerbaijan, but the U.S. government has no right to assist us. This injustice must be done away with. I was very happy to find out in New York that Mr. King, a Congressman from New York, has recently submitted the draft of the law eliminating Section 907.1 would like to meet with and thank Mr. King. People with such a sense of justice abound in the United States. We can prevent the injustices perpetrated by the Armenia Diaspora against Azerbaijan as the number of our friends in the U.S. grows.

We have no lobby in the U.S. However, the Armenians have a very strong lobby. During my meetings with U.S. statesmen, people note that, since the Armenians have a strong lobby and vote in elections, they have to take the Armenians into account. But I am asking: is it our fault that we do not have a lobby here? We will have a lobby here. Our friends will be our lobby including you, the Jewish communities of the United States. I place great hopes on this. I believe you will also agree with this thought.

I have taken a great deal of your time. But please, understand me correctly. First, I am happy and would like to inform you even more. Second, I have many problems to relate. A man has to tell someone about his problems. People tend to confide in those whom they trust, their friends. That\'s why I am telling you about our problems very openly. I am hopeful we will soon solve all these problems.

The Azerbaijanis are a peace-loving nation. Azerbaijan is a very important player in our region, the Caucasus. One needs to realize that and benefit from it. I believe that Azerbaijan, as a peace-loving nation, will do a great deal to establish peace in the region. I hope that you will assist us in these efforts.

I wish you, all the Jews of the world, peace, stability and happiness. I wish peace and happiness to all the citizens of the United States. I propose a toast to our friendship.

Thank you. 

The document was taken from the edition of \"Together towards the New Century\"