Statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the joint press conference held with the President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze after the completion of negotiations and signature of documents between the delegations of Azerbaijan and Georgia - Tbilisi, March 8, 1996

Ladies and gentlemen,

My friend, President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze informed you on the details of the documents we signed on the first day of our meeting. It frees me from providing any information. I totally agree with what Shevardnadze said, with his comments and assessments.

At the same time I want to emphasize the importance of the agreement “on strengthening friendship, cooperation and mutual security” between Georgia and Azerbaijan. It is of a paramount importance if we take into account the traditional friendly relations between Georgia and the Republic of Azerbaijan existing for decades and centuries, the factor of good neighborhood and close friendship and many issues relating to each of our countries and our region and active cooperation in the international sphere.

Declaration \"On Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Caucasus” which we signed is of great importance. I would say that this is the first serious and important political document of this kind. Its importance and great significance is that the Caucasus suffers from instability, conflict and from many ethnic clashes and processes. Therefore, the aim of each of us, in particular, the heads of governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan are open the road to peace, security and cooperation in the Caucasus. The document, which we have signed, in content and character opens the way to such a cooperation. Others can also join. Therefore, I want to hope that other countries of our region, as well as other world countries will join this document.

The documents we signed today on the transportation of the early oil of Azerbaijan to the Black Sea coast through Georgia are very important. They have great importance for the economy of Azerbaijan and Georgia. This is also friendship and cooperation. I hope that the future generations will appreciate the work done by us today in this sphere. As the construction of oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Black Sea through Georgia will attract many companies and countries in future.

Every document we sign is of great importance for us. Thus, I am very pleased with our negotiations, the signed documents, the friendly atmosphere in our mutual relations which prevail here in Tbilisi today. I express my gratitude to Eduard Shevardnadze for the invitation to visit Georgia and for the warm reception to me and to all the members of our delegation. We feel at home, next to our brothers here. We arrived here with these feelings, and the hours spent in Tbilisi, in the Georgian land fully justify our feelings and hopes.

I believe that we shall have time to talk, as the program of my visit is quite extensive, and I think we shall meet again with the press. And now I would be satisfied with what I said and add that I invited President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze to visit Azerbaijan and today I affirm this invitation once more. I think that after a lot of work that we have done here, this visit will be fulfilled. Thank you for your attention.

Question: Both presidents spoke about the peaceful Caucasus. Thus, I have a question to both presidents. Perhaps, with the signature of the agreement on the transportation of the early oil through Georgia Russia has lost to a certain extent its influence in the Caucasus. How do you think, will it try to restore the sphere of influence at the expense of the Mountainous Garabagh and Abkhazia where it plays a peacekeeping role, or replace it with something else?

E. Shevardnadze: I think that in the transportation of the Caspian oil through the territory of Georgia, that is, in the western direction there is no need to look for any subtext. Though, it is of historic importance both for Georgia and the Caucasus, I would say that it is an ordinary decision. There is no contradiction, conflict and the decision is not directed against any country. You know that in this issue there are two directions, north and west. The desire of corporations to have two parallel routes is natural and logical. In other words, it does not affect the interests of the third countries. On the contrary, I believe that these interests are maximally taken into account.

Heydar Aliyev: I believe that no one has lost but won.

Question: Messrs. Presidents, you spoke about the initiative to restore peace in the Caucasus. How real is the work of the formula \"Peace in the Caucasus\", how confident are you in the support of the other countries of the region on your initiative? The second question is for Mr. Aliyev: How do you assess the situation in Chechnya and to what extend do you consider the transportation of oil promising via the northern route in this respect?

Heydar Aliyev: I noted the importance of the declaration that we signed. I think that Eduard Shevardnadze and Heydar Aliyev made a very important initiative, an initiative to strengthen peace in the Caucasus. There can be nothing above this. As to the way by which we shall implement this initiative, of course, it will not be easy. But, at the same time, if someone would resist peace in the Caucasus, it will, of course, appear in the eyes of the Caucasus and the world community as an aggressor and a supporter of conflicts and instability. Therefore, I believe that common sense will prevail and although we still suffer from conflict and instability in the Caucasus, we surely have to move here to establish peace. The Caucasus should become peaceful and safe, a region of peace, good-neighborliness and mutually beneficial cooperation. This is all I can say about this question.

You probably know better the situation in Chechnya than I do, because you have borders with Chechnya and we do not. I do not want to evaluate the situation there as it changes daily. I can only say that we have always been against separatism and terrorism as we do now. That is my statement on this issue. As to what extent this situation could affect the transportation of the Azerbaijani oil to the Black Sea coast via the northern route, through Russia I think that the administration of Russia will take care of it.

E.Shevardnadze: I agree with the words of Heydar Aliyev. He gave a detailed answer to the question on our initiative. I want to add that the United Nations, the European security structures, the Security Council and the CIS are engaged in the Caucasus. Russia carries out its mediation functions. But we have not been able to make the Caucasian factor work. I mean the conflicts that have arisen in the recent years which have led to serious consequences. I think all of the value of our initiative is that the Caucasian factor will be used here, I mean the Caucasian countries and nations.

Question: I would like to know your opinion about the common and distinctive features of the conflict in the Mountainous Garabagh, Abkhazia and Chechnya.

Heydar Aliyev: All the three conflicts are terrible. But the worst and historically earliest of them is a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This conflict has eight-year history. Eight years ago, the Armenian armed forces committed military aggression against Azerbaijan and occupied 20 percent of its territory. More than a million of our citizens have been expelled from the occupied lands.

This is certainly not like any of the Abkhaz-Georgian or the Chechen conflict. Therefore, I believe that each of these conflicts is terrible and tragic for every people and every country. But each of them has its own characteristics.