Interview of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev to the Japanese TV «NHK» channel - Tokyo, February 27, 1998

Question: Mr. President, during your first official visit to Japan you met the Emperor, Prime Minister Hashimoto, ministers and economic circles of Japan. What, in your opinion, is the main result of this visit?

Heydar Aliyev: The main result is that we laid a good foundation for the further comprehensive cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan. Economic relations between the two countries have been developed in the recent years. Our relations have developed after Azerbaijan gained its independence and diplomatic relations between Japan and Azerbaijan were established in 1992. But now, when the first official visit of the President of Azerbaijan to Japan is taking place, fruitful talks, negotiations, meetings are held, important documents are signed, I believe that we have laid a good foundation for our future development and opened a new stage of comprehensive cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan.

Question: You signed a joint statement on friendship and partnership yesterday. What is the significance of this document?

Heydar Aliyev: I believe that the statement on friendship and cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan is of historic significance, as in the statement we proclaimed the principles and directions of our further cooperation. Therefore, it is important that it recorded very important provisions for Azerbaijan, it concerns the international status and economic problems of Azerbaijan. For Azerbaijan, which is in conflict with Armenia, part of its territory has been occupied, its territorial integrity has been violated, it is important that Japan declares its support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the impossibility of changing the borders by force. Japan declares that it supports the principles of the Lisbon Summit of OSCE on the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and confirms that international legal norms are unshakeable. This is very important. Japan promised to support us in joining the World Trade Organization. We promised to support Japan in its election as a permanent member of the Security Council. Thus, there are both political and economic issues in this statement. It is of great importance.

We signed the second statement on cooperation in trade and economy. This is also a very important statement, which contains the principles of our cooperation, and allocation of concessional loans by Japan to Azerbaijan. For instance, a loan of 20 billion yen has been allocated for the construction of «Shimal» power station. A grant in the amount of 400 million yen has been allocated. This opens the road for us to enjoy the resources of the Japanese Foundation for International Cooperation, which, I think, is a very important organization in Japan, in establishing economic relations between Japan and other countries.

Question: Mr. President, you said about the revival of the «Great Silk Road», and our Prime Minister Hashimoto announced the concept of laying this road through Asia as a strategy for foreign policy of Japan in the twenty-first century. Can our two countries find common language and common elements in this strategy?

Heydar Aliyev: First of all I want to state that I highly appreciate the doctrine and diplomacy of Prime Minister Hashimoto concerning the «Great Silk Road». This is a historic initiative of the Prime Minister of Japan, and I attach great importance to it. Second, the views and thoughts of Japan and Azerbaijan are completely consistent. Japan is located on the eastern edge of the «Silk Road» and Azerbaijan in the center of the road which occupies a very important strategic position. It is not just because we are in the middle of this road, but because we are on the shore of the Caspian Sea. «The Silk Road» will be laid from Japan, China and the Central Asia to the Caspian Sea. There is a ferry traffic between the eastern and western coasts of the Caspian Sea, which belongs to Azerbaijan. Baku is the only major port on the «Silk Road». Therefore, Azerbaijan occupies a very important place here. Having the same approach to this issue the Prime Minister and we come together and unite our efforts.

Question: What do you mean specifically, talking about the new «Silk Road»?

Heydar Aliyev: The new «Silk Road» is the restoration of the old «Silk Road», by using modern means of transport. Earlier, when this road was used, there were no modern means of transport, people moved on foot or used primitive means of transport. Now there is railway, motor transport and ships, which make the «Silk Road» more effective than it was thousand years ago.

Question: What do you think, what will be the role of Japan in the revival and development of the «Silk Road»?

Heydar Aliyev: I believe that Japan can play a big role in terms of providing loans, as the «Silk Road» is supposed to establish a modern infrastructure. Thus, of course, Japan can make a contribution to the creation of the infrastructure by its finances. For example, it can develop the Baku seaport, the port on the coast of Turkmenistan - Turkmenbashi. We need to develop the Georgian port of Poti on the Black Sea. There are other needs, too. Therefore, Japan can do much for the «Silk Road».

Question: Since your presidency in 1993 the political situation in Azerbaijan began to stabilize. How do you estimate the situation in your country?

Heydar Aliyev: These four years have been very difficult and complicated. Azerbaijan had a civil war in the June of 1993. Azerbaijan was on the edge of a disaster, was split in fact. On the one hand, Azerbaijan had a war with Armenia and the Armenian armed forces using the critical political situation, easily occupied several regions of our country. On the other hand, various political and armed forces within Azerbaijan were engaged in fight for power with each other. Taking the advantage, some organs who wished to secede from Azerbaijan its northern part, wanted to divide Azerbaijan, and did it in the south of the country, where they formed the so-called «Taliysh republic».

Question: What kind of foreign powers they were?

Heydar Aliyev: There are great countries, which usually use this opportunity. Therefore, the civil war and the complicated political situation, of course, threatened the integrity of Azerbaijan. Of course, it was very hard for us to stop the Civil War, and gradually create conditions for the elimination of criminal groups. I had a very difficult road. I was able to stop the civil war in 1993, but in October 1994, other armed groups rebelled against me and attempted an overthrow. You have probably heard and saw that I addressed to the people on the television, and they gathered to protect me. I managed to prevent the coup. Then in March 1995, some armed forces, particularly the Police Detachment for Special Purposes, which was part of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, with the participation of foreign secret services once again attempted an overthrow. It was revealed that the special organs of Turkey, Russia, and various political forces of Azerbaijan had participated in it.

Question: Is there an international consortium against you?

Heydar Aliyev: It is absolutely right. I was able to prevent it then as well. Then there were the attempts of terror acts against me. They wanted to blow up the plane, the bridge over which we had to cross with President of Ukraine Mr. Kuchma. In a word, I could overcome it all. Now the political situation in Azerbaijan is normal, it has stabilized. I managed to liquidate the armed groups. Although, we have political parties that are in opposition. Some of them have not yet given up their old habits, attitudes to use force, acts of terrorism and sabotage. But now our country is strong, we are able to resist such criminal acts.

Question: Where did you get such a huge force to overcome this?

Heydar Aliyev: We have experience and authority. In countries experiencing such a difficult transition, leaders must have an authority and win the confidence of the people. My most important weapon is the trust of the people in me and their attitude towards me.

Question: What do you think, what will be the role of your country in the international community?

Heydar Aliyev: I believe that the twenty first century will be the century of Azerbaijan for further progress, social and economic development and cinfirmation of Azerbaijan in the international community as a democratic and secular state. The twenty first century will raise the reputation political and economic importance of Azerbaijan as a country with a geo-strategic position in the Caucasus. I can see this potential.

Question: What are the prospects for future relations between Azerbaijan and Russia?

Heydar Aliyev: Russia is a great country with great economic resources, a large number of population and a development history. Thus we want to maintain good and friendly relations with it. Moreover, Azerbaijan was connected with Russia for two centuries, first in the tsarist Russia and then in the Soviet Union. Therefore, we are closely connected with this country, we have very close cultural and other relations. Russia is the home to many Azerbaijanis. Thus, we want to have friendly and good neighborly relations with it, but on an equal basis, avoiding any «big brother» or imperial sentiment. We want Russia to be a democratic country, to treat all its neighbors equally, including Azerbaijan.

Question: Very important meeting of the heads of the CIS countries will take place next month in Moscow. You and President Shevardnadze claim that the CIS is still a political structure in which not all the members are equal. In your opinion, what is the reason? What reforms should be conducted in CIS to make it exist in future?

Heydar Aliyev: in the CIS summit in Chisinau, many presidents, including me, strongly criticized the activities of the CIS and expressed great dissatisfaction last October. President Yeltsin agreed with all of this and instructed the Council of CIS governments to prepare proposals. Let us see what proposals will be prepared. In any case, our principles remain in force. CIS can be effective if it is based on equal cooperation. This is the first option. Secondly, I believe that relations in CIS with all countries should be equal. We cannot tolerate Russia to have special relations with Armenia and less close with Azerbaijan. For example, in Chisinau, I spoke against a military alliance of Russia with Armenia and it has military bases there. Russia has military bases in Georgia, too. I think that this is not necessary and openly I criticized it. Or, for example, at the beginning of the last year, the Russian authorities announced that within three years the Ministry of Defense of Russia illegally, unlawfully delivered to Armenia with large number of heavy weapons, tanks, missiles, guns, heavy equipment and ammunition worth of one billion. While Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the state of military conflict, Russia, as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, playing the role of the mediator in the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, illegally delivers Armenia a large number of weapons. It bothers us. I sent a letter to President Boris Yeltsin.

Question: Have you received an answer?

Heydar Aliyev: Not yet. I asked him to investigate this fact. It is very important to return the illegal weapons back to Russia, since the presence of such a large number of weapons in Armenia is a danger to our region. These are the facts that complicate the work and activities of CIS. If they are removed, CIS can be effective.

Question: Last year you made a historic visit to the United States of America. What are the prospects of relations of Azerbaijan with this country?

Heydar Aliyev: Yes, indeed, my visit to the US was very important and historic. There we signed very important documents with President Bill Clinton. I believe that there are good prospects for the further development of cooperation and mutual relations between the United States and Azerbaijan, especially, in the field of economic cooperation. You know that many of the major US oil companies are involved in the development of the Caspian deposits. The United States has a strong interest in pipelines, which should pass through Azerbaijan. In a word, we have great prospects for cooperation, to which I attach great importance.

Question: What can you say about Section 907?

Heydar Aliyev: Unfortunately, the amendment adopted by the US Congress has not been repealed yet. We try to repeal it. President Clinton assured us that he will try to repeal Section 907.

Question: Mr. President, in what direction do you want to develop cooperation with Japan? What are your hopes for the Japanese political circles in the stabilization of the situation in the Caucasus?

Heydar Aliyev: I believe that the cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan should cover all the spheres. That is, we want a comprehensive cooperation. We agreed with Mr. Hashimoto to create a joint Japanese-Azerbaijani commission yesterday, it will function permanently and ensure our cooperation. Of course, cooperation occupies a special position in the economic field. We shall promote it. We have great opportunities for being used by the Japanese companies. We need the Japanese technology, engineering and scientific inventions, because it creates great opportunities.

Now, I would like to talk about the role of Japan in the stabilization of the situation in our region. I believe that economic presence of Japan in our region, in the Caspian basin and the Caucasus, will certainly play its role in the stabilization of the situation in our region.

Correspondent: Thank you.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. Through your Television I convey my best wishes of happiness, prosperity, peace and success to all the citizens of Japan.

Correspondent: Thank you.