What do Azerbaijanis think of Japan?

Dear Sirs and Madames,

I greet you - the media representatives and express my utmost respect for you.

At the invitation of the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Haschimoto, I have been on an official visit to your beautiful country for four days. This is the first official visit of the President of Independent Azerbaijan to Japan.

Before I finish my visit, I can say that I am very satisfied with my stay in Japan and with the work that has been done here. I think it was a successful visit with several meetings, negotiations and discussions.

I was received by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan Akihito and had talks, meetings and negotiations with Prime Minister Hashimoto, the representatives of the Government of Japan, in particular with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Transport. I went to parliament and met a group of MPs who represent the Japan-Azerbaijani Friendship Association. I have met many business people from Japan. Leaving Tokyo I can say that from February 24th until today I had a total of 38 meetings. Each of these meetings was very useful, interesting and made a good impression on me.

Both the meetings, negotiations and discussions with Prime Minister Hashimoto and the signing of intergovernmental documents are of particular importance. Together with the Prime Minister, we signed two important documents - a joint declaration on friendship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan and a joint declaration on economic and trade cooperation. These declarations reflect the basic principles and directions for the further development of cooperation between two countries in all areas. The following documents were signed: the agreement between the Foreign Ministries of Japan and Azerbaijan on mutual consultation; the agreement between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Azerbaijani government on the lending of 20.7 billion yen for the construction of the “North” power plant; Notes about the Azerbaijan donation of 4 million yen.

We have signed an agreement with the “EX-IM” Bank of Japan to grant a loan for the construction of the ethylene production plant at the state-owned company “Azerkimya”. This project will be carried out by the Japanese company “Nichimen”. The total value of the project is approximately USD 95 million.

In the Prime Minister's office, the agreement on the allocation of shares to the Japanese “Mitsui” was signed, according to which the Azerbaijani side should take a 15 percent stake in the project for the “Kurdaschi” oil field in the Azerbaijani part of the Caspian Sea.

All in all, our negotiations with Prime Minister Hashimoto and the signed documents are historically important events and create a strong basis for future, successful cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan.

We attach great importance to relations between Japan and Azerbaijan, especially economic cooperation. I am glad that we succeeded in creating a good basis in this regard during my visit.

I have met many directors from Japanese companies. Many of them work in the energy, oil and gas industries. I met these companies because they showed great interest in Azerbaijan, its economy and the oil and gas industry. The Japanese company “Itochu” is a member of the first large consortium established after the 1994 contract between the 11 oil companies for the development of three promising oil fields in the Azerbaijani part of the Caspian Sea. In 1996 the company “Itochu” joined another consortium of foreign companies for the processing of the oil fields “Dan Ulduzu” and “Eshrefi” in the Azerbaijani part, with a market share of 20 percent.

As I have already mentioned, yesterday an oil company - “Mitsui” - received the right to work in Azerbaijan. The Japanese companies have presented us with a large number of offers that we will all look at. I am personally interested in your acceptance so that we can expand our cooperation.

In order to make cooperation between Azerbaijan and Japan even more successful, yesterday we reached an agreement with Mr. Hashimoto on the establishment of the joint Japanese-Azerbaijani intergovernmental economic commission.

I think it is important that we discussed not only economic issues with Mr Hashimoto in detail, but also the international situation, or the situation in the South Caucasus, where Azerbaijan is located. You know that there has been a military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1988. This conflict, which can be characterized as a bloody war, has inflicted enormous moral and material damage on Azerbaijan. In the course of this conflict, Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories for various reasons, and more than a million Azerbaijani citizens were displaced from these territories. They currently live in different regions of our country. The majority of them live in tents in difficult economic conditions.

In May 1994 we signed a ceasefire agreement with Armenia. Since then there has been no active war. We are negotiating for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The basis for this is the Lisbon Declaration of the OSCE of 1996. This declaration lists the guidelines for the settlement of the conflict: the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the granting of the right to self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh region within the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Ensuring the safety of all residents, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. On the basis of these guidelines, the Minsk Group proposed the solution to the OSCE in two phases. The first phase provides for the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the six Azerbaijani administrative districts around Nagorno-Karabakh and the return of the refugees - the residents of the respective districts. In the second phase, two more cities are to be liberated and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh determined.

We accepted these suggestions. In Armenia, however, these proposals were accepted by some of the heads of government but not by the other. The Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan, who agreed to these proposals, announced his resignation on February 3rd. Armenia is currently campaigning for a new president. Because of this, the negotiation process has been stopped and will resume after the presidential election.

I would like to mention that in the joint declaration that we signed with Prime Minister Hashimoto yesterday, Japan declared that it was the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including the OSCE Lisbon Principles on the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan , supported.

We think that all countries should respect international legal norms. The violent displacement of borders and the violation of the territorial integrity of any state are prohibited.

Another question that we discussed with Mr. Hashimoto yesterday concerns the “Silk Road”. I value the diplomacy and doctrine of Prime Minister Hashimoto regarding the “Silk Road” very highly. I informed the Prime Minister that many countries, including Azerbaijan, have done a lot to rebuild the road. For example, a Eurasian transport route was created through which goods can be transported from Central Asia to Europe and back via the Black Sea, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. A total of 33 countries lie along the Silk Road. Japan is the most easterly point on the road. Azerbaijan is in the middle of this street. From there the road goes through Europe to Spain, Portugal and Ireland. On the initiative of the EU, a meeting of the 33 countries to settle issues relating to the further development of the Silk Road is planned in Baku at the end of May this year.

During my stay here we discussed many other questions as well. We regard Japan as a country that has achieved great success in its economic and social development, makes its contribution to the development of the world economy, and enriches world science and civilization with very important inventions, cutting-edge technologies.

I have great respect for the Japanese people, their hard work and skills. Before leaving Japan, I wish the Japanese people good luck, prosperity and peace. Thank you for your attention.

Question (ITAR-TASS agency): Heydar Aliyev, in your last interviews you gave your opinion on the relocation of the main line from the field in Baku. Nevertheless, I would like to hear your opinion on this issue and on what Russia wants in this regard. And what do you think of Boris Yeltsin's proposal to convene a meeting with all five states of the Caspian Sea to determine its legal status? Many Thanks.

Answer: It is known that there is already a pipeline from Baku with a northern route through Russia to Novorossiysk and we export oil through it. A second pipeline is being laid through Georgia to the port of Supsa on the Black Sea and the construction of a third oil pipeline is being planned. The participants in the consortium consider their construction from Baku to Ceyhan through Georgia and Turkey to be more suitable from an economic point of view. It is known that all oil pipelines are built from the funds of the oil-transporting countries. In this case, economic profitability is paramount. Due to this fact, the laying of the line to the Ceyhan port in Mitellmer is also planned.

As for your question about President Boris Jeltzin's proposal to meet with the states of the Caspian Sea to determine their status - which, by the way, I did not know anything about and I am now hearing from you for the first time - I think before such a summit takes place, you have to prepare well. That means you have to agree first, then organize summits to make a final decision. So I am not against the summit. But this meeting must take place after good preparation at the government level.

Question (the newspaper “Minity”): My question concerns the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. It is known that both America and Russia supported Armenia. However, after your visit to America in August last year, Washington's position changed and the Deputy Secretary of State Talbott visited Armenia to convince them of the peace process. An agreement was then signed with Armenia. Is this agreement now being respected?

Answer: Had he really been to Armenia? No, that is not true. That is wrong information.

Correspondent: It was agreed that Talbott would lead the peace negotiations. Will this initiative be implemented by Him now?

Answer: It seems you have wrong information. There is the Minsk Group of the OSCE, Russia, the United States of America and France are the co-chairs. Mr. Talbott is the United States co-chair. We have no information on his alleged visit to Armenia. But as I mentioned before, the negotiations were stopped because there was a change of government in Armenia. We hope that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group will behave objectively and treat both Armenia's and Azerbaijan's interests equally.

At that time, Azerbaijan was judged very unfairly, not objectively. The adoption of the 907th Amendment to the "Act to Protect Freedom" in 1992 by the US Congress was the result of this injustice. This represented discrimination against Azerbaijan. It was passed under pressure from the Armenians in America. I hope that all states will now judge this question fairly.

Question: Especially after your visit to the United States, European and American companies started coming to your country. Don't you think the Japanese are too late on this?

Answer: Indeed, the Japanese are late, which is actually unusual for them. The Japanese are always first everywhere. I believe that after my visit and the agreements on many issues, the Japanese will make up for this delay and we will help them with that.