Autumn 1997 (5.3)
President Heydar Aliyev's views about major issues as presented publicly in (July 27-August 4, 1997) on his first official visit to the United States.
Left: President Aliyev points to Karabakh
and the 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory being held militarily
Three years ago (May 1994),
a cease-fire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Presently, there are no hostilities going on between us. We are
committed to this cease-fire and are trying to achieve a permanent
During the OSCE Lisbon Summit in December 1996, three essential principles were adopted for the peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They include: (1) recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia [Nagorno-Karabakh would continue to be recognized as part of Azerbaijan]; (2) high status of self-rule for Nagorno-Karabakh within the republic of Azerbaijan [Armenians would have a great deal of autonomy to govern themselves but within the statehood of Azerbaijan]; and (3) guarantees for the security of the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh [for Armenians as well as for the Azerbaijanis who want to return to their native lands].
We accepted these principles as did 53 of the 54 OSCE member countries. Armenia alone rejected them. But it is unacceptable to us to have a second Armenian state [Nagorno Karabakh] located within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. Armenia must compromise. We have already compromised.
Section 907 of the
"Freedom Support Act"
When Congress accuses us of blockading Armenia, they should take a closer look at the map. The railroad between Baku [Azerbaijan] and Yerevan [Armenia] to which they are referring, is currently under the occupation of Armenian forces. It is in the hands of Armenia. It is under their control, not ours.
The truth is, Armenia is blockading Azerbaijan. Part of Azerbaijan, namely, the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, is connected to Azerbaijan's mainland through the territory of Armenia. But Armenia has been blockading Nakhchivan and cutting it off from us for more than five years.
The banning of U.S. aid to Azerbaijan is a very unjust decision. The U.S. government renders financial aid directly to the governments of all our neighboring countries. Armenia, for example, receives $100 million annually [per capita this amount is even greater than what Russia receives]. But Azerbaijan has been deprived of this assistance during this transitional period when we need it most.
I'm very pleased that, recently, President Clinton and other high-ranking officials of the U.S. and the Administration, have announced that they are against Section 907, and that they plan to work for its repeal. I would like to express my hope that Congress would overturn this unjust decision against Azerbaijan and restore justice towards us.
Major Pipeline Route
I agree 100 percent with the views of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski when he says that the U.S. needs to support Turkey, as it truly plays an important role in our region and will continue to do so.
Many Azerbaijanis live in Russia; as do Russians, in Azerbaijan. What we want is friendly relations that do not violate the independence of Azerbaijan. These relations must recognize our equal statehood. Russia should not interfere in our internal affairs. We are guarding our independence and not making alliances with any country that would diminish our independence.
We are well aware that Russia maintains military troops and bases in countries which used to be former Soviet republics, including countries like Armenia and Georgia which border ours. Russia does this, despite the fact that these are independent nations today. Russia has a vast amount of military equipment and personnel in Armenia who guard their borders with Azerbaijan, with Turkey and Iran.
In summary, we are in favor of maintaining good relations with Russia. We want to develop these relations, but under one condition-that we are able to protect our borders and maintain our independence.
Bear in mind that the United States has been advancing along this path called "democracy" for a long time-more than 200 years. They've achieved a lot, but they're still working at it. Democracy is not an apple you buy at the market and bring back home.
Great changes have occurred in my own lifetime since I left the Politburo in 1987. These changes have resulted in my becoming very anti-communist though I, myself, was a Communist earlier on. I'm now involved in building a democratic state although I used to be a member of the Politburo and the Communist Party. It took me several years to change my own views, but I did it.
I'm helping build this new society in Azerbaijan. I want to assure you that we will build it as a democratic society. Do we make mistakes? Yes, but we strive to eliminate our mistakes. Democracy is an unending process. The beginning stages of the process are clear, but true democracy has no limit. Even for you, living here in the United States, democracy is an un-ending process.
It's true that the majority of our population is Muslim despite the fact that during the Soviet period Islam was forbidden. But it's important to note that Azerbaijan is not an Islamic state, nor is Islam the state ideology. Islam is not the ideology of the government of Azerbaijan. Church and state are separated.
Although Islam is the ideology of some countries, in Azerbaijan we are building a secular state based on Western and world standards. In other words, we are building a government based on the recognized principles of democracy and universal rights for all.
It is true that there are some forces which are trying to expand Islamic fundamentalism in our country. We consider them a threat to our nationhood. The majority of our people are against fundamentalism. Again, I reiterate - Azerbaijan is committed to being a secular state.
Back in 1969 in the USSR, I
never denied that there was corruption at a time when everybody
was saying, "No, you can never have corruption in a communist
regime; corruption is only associated with capitalism."
But corruption and bribery are the most dangerous ills in our
society. I said it 30 years ago and I say it again today. I have
been fighting corruption and will continue to do so. I would
like to assure you that building a society which is free from
corruption is important for our people - for their morale and
for their future.