Azerbaijani Says He Will Promote Peace in Caucasus

Zenit News Agency, Italy
Feb 27 2005

Azerbaijani Says He Will Promote Peace in Caucasus

Received in Audience by Cardinal Sodano

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2005 ( President Ulham Aliev of
Azerbaijan committed himself to promote peace and religious freedom
in the Caucasus, when he visited the Holy See over the weekend.

Aliev, who was received Saturday by Vatican Secretary of State
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, began the meeting by asking the prelate to
transmit to the hospitalized John Paul II “his homage and that of the
Azerbaijani people.” He also said he remembered well the Holy
Father’s visit to Baku on May 22-23, 2002.

A statement issued by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls
reported that “in the course of the talks, relations between the Holy
See and Azerbaijan were reviewed, as well as the existing problems in
the Caucasus, with the common commitment to favor the material and
spiritual progress of that region, and, in particular, the necessary
religious freedom and dialogue between the different components of

Also present at the meeting were Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan’s
foreign minister, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary
for relations with states.

The Republic of Azerbaijan became independent in 1991, after the fall
of the Soviet Union. It has 7.8 million inhabitants, most of whom are
Muslims, although there are important minorities of Russian and
Armenian Orthodox.

Despite the 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its
conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely Armenian
enclave. Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory and, as a result of
the conflict, must support 800,000 refugees and internally displaced

The Catholic community in Azerbaijan virtually disappeared during
Stalin’s persecutions. There are fewer than 1,000 Catholics in the

Last Nov. 18, John Paul II received a delegation of Muslim, Orthodox
and Jewish representatives of Azerbaijan, who went to Rome to thank
him for his 2002 visit.

During the meeting, the Pope and all the representatives agreed that
no one has the right to use religion as an instrument of intolerance
or violence.