ANKARA: Interview with Ilham ALiyev


Azer Tag
[April 15, 2004, 15:40:09]

The influential Turkish newspaper `Hurriyet’ has published an
interview of its editor-in-Chief Ertogrul

Ozkek with President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev.

AzerTAj offers its readers the text of the interview.


The flag of Azerbaijan streaming in the Black Sea

I notice first changes right after landing in Baku airport. Now it is
named after Heydar Aliyev. This is not, however, the only
change. Those in people’s attitude to Turkey are also noticeable this
time. Everyone I was talking to, asking just one question: will you
open borders with Armenia?

Before my arrival here, some 20 Azerbaijani journalists had left
Nakhchivan for Turkey, where they are now holding the campaign `Do Not
Open Borders with Armenia’. Some opposition papers call on to even
expel the Turkey’s Embassy in case of the country’s opening borders.

In the evening, we are in the `Izmir’ restaurant located inthe `Izmir’
park. Singers appear on the stage one after another, every next voice
is better than the previous one. The last singer starts singing the
song `Charpinirdi Gara Deniz’ /The Black Sea Storming/exiting the
audience. She starts swinging the Turkish flag with her one hand, and
the Azeri flag with other. The songâ=80=99s last chorus says: we will
do hoist Azerbaijan’s flag in Karabakh.

In such an atmosphere, we are talking with President Ilham Aliyev. And
one of the reasons for giving interview to Guner Jivaoglu from
`Mlliyetâ=80=9D and to me on the eve of the President’s visit to
Turkey was most likely a desire to bring the state of Baku public
opinion to Turkey.


ERTOGRUL OZKEK: Passing away of esteemed President Heydar Aliyev was a
loss to the whole Turkish world, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

ILHAM ALIYEV: That was a really great loss to us. He had been
suffering from the disease, but it is impossible to put up with the

– When was the last time you saw the esteemed President?

– In September.

– Met in America?

– Yes, I had held the office of Prime Minister by that time. I went to
see him. Twenty days later, elections were held. Right upon arrival I
began my pre-election campaign. I planned to go there once more after
the elections on December 16, but he passed away on 12th.

Rate of growth reaches 11%

– This time, I found Baku changed. A lot of newly erected
buildings. What about economic development?

– Our economy is on the right way. Rate growth has reached 11
percents. Azerbaijan came from communist system. Today, however, the
share of privatesector makes up 74%, and this points to market economy
in force.

– Are you pleased with the course of oil pipeline construction?

– The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan is being successfully constructed. This is
Heydar Aliyev’s brain-child, as well. I am pleased with the work being
done on the pipeline.

– Will the developments in Georgia have any impact on the system of
oil transportation?

– No, they won’t.

– Is it possible to use Iranian territory or any other route?

– It is possible in the future, this is a question of tomorrow, not
today. Maybe Azerbaijan will produce so much oil that we will have to
lay additional pipelines.

The point is not ecologists but Armenian Lobby

– What about those who opposed the project?

– The Baku-Ceyhan project’s opponents have not yet given up their
policy. On the first phase, the countries-opponents were frankly
disputing the project. Now the tactics has been changed. The
non-governmental organizations operating as `environment protectors’
and under the influence of the Armenian lobby, want impede its

– How do you see further developments in the Caucasus? After the
collapse of the Soviet Union, three strong leaders were in the region:
Demirel in Turkey, Heydar Aliyev here, and Shevardnadze in Georgia. It
helped to avoid losses.At the moment, however, the three countries’
leaders do not have due experience. May it cause any problems?

– Unfortunately, instability exists in our region. The Caucasus today
is so sensitive region that the slightest mistake may lead to
tragedy. You have been quite right saying they were very strong
leaders. Their unity, friendship, personal relations were playing very
important role. I hope we, the young ones, will continue their

Karabakh and Cyprus are not the same

– Mr. President, we often hear in these last days that following the
settlement of the Cyprus problem, that of Palestine- Israel and
Karabakh conflicts will be put on a waiting list, and that you will be
put more pressures. Do you share this opinion?

– I see no parallel between these problems. Azerbaijan has always been
subject to pressure. But it is totally unjustified as we are not the
sourceof the conflict. Armenia occupied our territories. Nagorny
Karabakh and 7 adjacent territories are still under occupation. As a
result, 40 thousand Azerbaijanis from Nagorny Karabakh, 700 thousand
from the adjacent regions were forced to migrate.

– Are there other refugees?

– Naturally, 250 thousand Azerbaijanis from Armenia. There are also
20-50 thousand Meskheti Turks. Therefore, over one million refugees
exist in Azerbaijan today.

– Is it possible that the conflict will not be settled?

– The large states, OSCE and Minsk group directly engaged in the
problem should approach its settlement on the base of the
international legal norms. Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must
be restored.

– What about Armenians in Nagorny Karabakh. They say of

– Armenians have got the independent Armenian state. If they declare
the principle of self-determination wherever they live, will they
manage to establish more Armenian states in Georgia, France or

– If you had to address Armenia from here, what would you suggest in
concrete words to settle the conflict?

– I’d say frankly: first, we will never accept the developments
de-facto. These lands will never be a part of Armenia, and no
independent Armenian republic will be created there.

– Isn’t it too categorical and implacable stance? Maybe there is a
need to be more constructive, in order to start negotiations at least?

– We do have a constructive proposal.

– What is it?

– On the first phase, we suggest them to withdraw troops from the
occupied regions to start negotiations. Right after that we will open
railway communications; economic links will be re-established, and it
will become possible to open borders between Armenia and Turkey. We
will also give the highest autonomous status to Nagorny Karabakh.

– How do you see the situation of the Armenians living in Karabakh?

– Our proposals are as follows: we are ready to give highest possible
autonomous status to Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh, but not

– What status?

– For instance, national minorities are living throughout the
world. We are ready to give the highest level of autonomy, in the
broadest sense of the word.

Pressure exists, but one cannot ignore the national aspect

– Mr. President, some anxiety has been observed in Azerbaijan in
relation to opening borders between Turkey and Armenia. What would you
say in this regard?

– This is Turkey’s internal affair. We have not received an official
notification from Turkey. So, I would say nothing about it at the

– What would you say if Turkey, however, opened the borders with

– Sure, it would cause damage to Azerbaijan-Turkey relationship. Our
President Heydar Aliyev used to say that we are one nation, two
states. So I don’t think it’s possible. In addition, Armenians claim
not only for our lands but also Turkey’s. Realization of such an idea
would arouse deep regret in Azerbaijani people.

– Turkey, however, is preparing to join the European Union, so opening
the borders is important condition. Turkey is taking certain steps
concerning the problem of Cyprus as well.

– We know Turkey is subject to pressure. We also want Turkey to join
the European Union. But Turkey is a large state. Putting pressure does
not makeit necessary to ignore national aspect. Discussions have not
yet started, and even if they start, how long will they take – one
year, five yearsâ=80¦

Baku Armenians are our men’s wives

– Do you maintain contacts with Armenian President?

– We once met.

– Did he, for instance, congratulate you on the election as President?

– No.

– Did he send a letter of condolences after Heydar bey’s passing away?

– Yes, it was a telegram.

– Population of Armenia is decreasing. People leave the country.

– But Armenian lobby stays. One should not take Armenia just as a
country. Armenian Diaspora is very strong.

– Are there still Armenians in Azerbaijan?

– There are some 20 thousand Armenians in Baku. They are mainly wives
of Azerbaijani men.

– What about Azerbaijani women married Armenians.

– Very few. It happened very rarely in the past.

We don’t have Islamic movement

– Does the Islamic movement exist in Azerbaijan, and how strong is it?

– No, it is out of question. Our public is guided by the principle of
good will.

– How much is percentage of Christian population?

– 5-7 percents.

– What about Jews?

– Some 100 thousand people.

– Greater than in Turkey.

– There have always been a lot of Jews here. Both in Soviet times and
now. They live in peace.

– Are those Russians who have stayed here pleased with their living

– I think they really are, they would leave otherwise. We treat them