President Aliyev addresses the nation
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President Aliyev addresses the nation

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has addressed the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis and the New Year, Trend reports.

Address of the President Ilham Aliyev:

– Dear fellow compatriots!

Year 2020 is being consigned to history. It will go down in history as a year of our glorious Victory. Azerbaijan defeated Armenia in 44 days and liberated its native lands from occupation. This victory will forever live in the memory of the Azerbaijani people. This is a historic victory. We have restored historical justice.

As you know, negotiations had been going on within the Minsk Group for almost 30 years. But those negotiations did not yield any results. As a matter of fact, Armenia simply wanted the talks to drag on indefinitely. There was a process of imitating the talks. When I was elected President of Azerbaijan for the first time in 2003, I stated that my main goal as President was to liberate our lands from occupation. In the early years of my presidency, there were some hopes that this issue could be resolved peacefully. Because I thought that the norms and principles of international law provided a solid foundation for that. I knew that historical justice was on our side. At the same time, the UN Security Council resolutions provided a legal basis for resolving the issue. But I saw over the years that our hopes were diminishing, and the reason for that was Armenia’s activities, policies and steps. Over the years, it became obvious that Armenia was not interested in resolving this issue. Armenia simply wanted to keep our lands under occupation forever, and by participating in the talks it was simply trying to create the impression that a process of negotiations was underway and international mediators were also involved in it. As years passed, our hopes were fading away. Meanwhile, in all of my speeches at almost all international events over the past 17 years I kept saying that the solution of this issue is a priority for us. I was saying that Azerbaijan would never put up with this occupation. I was saying that Azerbaijan would never allow for a second Armenian state to be established in the historical and ancient lands of Azerbaijan. I was saying that we would never give independence to the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. There will never be any voting there. I was saying all this, and this position became stronger and stronger over time. At the same time, I clearly saw that if we were not strong, if we did not have the power, we could not resolve this issue. Why did we lose our lands in the first Karabakh war? Because the Azerbaijani leadership at the time could not fulfill its responsibilities. The occupation of Shusha and Lachin in 1992 and of Kalbajar in April 1993 virtually established a geographical link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, and subsequent occupation of other lands was inevitable. Our army was almost destroyed. There was no regular army, our brave and heroic sons were fighting like heroes but were getting killed. Our lands were lost. We had no power. Therefore, the power factor came to the fore. In today’s changing world, the power factor has almost officially come to the foreground. I predicted this 10 years ago, so all opportunities were mobilized to gather strength. Power lies in the economy. If the economy is not strong, there can be no military or political power. We had to create economic independence, and we did that. For several years now, Azerbaijan has been a completely independent country from an economic point of view. We are not dependent on anyone, not dependent on any country, not dependent on any international financial institution.

The economic independence strengthened our political independence. A more courageous policy, an independent policy started to be pursued. It is a policy that serves the interests of the Azerbaijani people only. There are not too many countries in the world, on the world map today that would pursue an independent policy in the true sense of this word. Azerbaijan is one of them, and the Patriotic War showed this again. Despite all the challenges and pressures, we were able to achieve what we wanted. We drove the enemy out of our lands, resolved this issue militarily and then sealed our victory politically.

Of course, a correct policy must be pursued to gather strength. The main goal in my activity over the last 17 years has been to build up our country, to solidify our standing in the international arena and to channel the processes in the country into a positive direction. No pressures or threats could make me deviate from this path. Because I had one goal – to build a strong Azerbaijan and to liberate our lands from occupation!

We have implemented large-scale projects over the years. These projects have allowed us the opportunity to be at the forefront of economic development in the world. Azerbaijan is ranked first in the world in terms of the pace of economic development over the last 17 years. At the same time, we had to weaken Armenia with our policies, and we made no secret of that either. I am not saying this only today. I said even 10 years ago that as long as our lands were under occupation, we would deprive Armenia of all projects and all regional initiatives. We will isolate them, and so we did. Look at the energy, transport and communication maps of Eurasia now. All the roads connecting countries, the projects that bring great benefits to the countries involved have bypassed Armenia. Who did this? We did – despite all the pressures. I said this once before but I want to say again that baseless accusations were made against us even in connection with the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline. It was claimed that we were polluting the environment and disrupting the ecological equilibrium. Why? Because they wanted to stop this project or to run it through the territory of Armenia. Under such circumstances, our hands would have been tied up. All our oil and then gas exports would be in the hands of Armenia. Could I ever agree to that? Of course not! This was why I was coming under a lot of pressure. I rejected the wishes of certain countries because those wishes were against our national interests, and the 44-day war showed who is who and who is a friend. The Azerbaijani people see and know this perfectly well. I have known this for a long time. Therefore, I was prepared for all the libel, for all the pressures and for all the threats. I had one goal – to create a strong state, to liberate our lands from occupation and to restore justice!

We took different measures to weaken Armenia, and all these measures were disclosed to the public. We did not do anything in any secret format. I said that we would isolate them, and so we did – oil pipelines, gas pipelines and highways bypassed Armenia, telecommunication routes bypassed Armenia, power projects bypassed Armenia. Armenia was deprived of possible income.

On the other hand, exposing Armenia in the international arena and conveying the truth about their policy of aggression to the world was one of our main tasks, and we achieved it. Over the past 17 years, almost all leading international organizations have adopted resolutions supporting our position. Organizations such as the UN General Assembly, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, which have always been anti-Azerbaijani, have been compelled to adopt resolutions that reflect the truth about the conflict.

We became a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. I remember that some people considered this a wrong step at that time. But I know it was the right step. When we became a member, we immediately succeeded in a resolution on the conflict being adopted with the support of 120 countries – a resolution that serves our interests. Today, as a country chairing the Non-Aligned Movement, we have a say in the world. I would also like to reiterate that during the war it was member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement that had a say in preventing the adoption of biased anti-Azerbaijani initiatives in the UN Security Council that did not meet our interests in connection with the conflict. That initiative did not pass.

We have established close relations with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Today, these relations are at the highest level in history. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has adopted resolutions on this conflict that are correct, reflect the truth and are aligned with international law. During our contacts with Muslim countries, we informed them about Armenian atrocities. I showed my colleagues pictures of destroyed and desecrated mosques. I asked how they were building relations with this country. After seeing these pictures, how do you meet and shake hands with them? After all, all these atrocities were crimes committed not only against us but also against the entire Muslim world.

We have established close relations with neighboring countries in the region. Because it was previously believed for some reason that Azerbaijan has traditional allies in the region and so does Armenia. We have shattered this concept. Today, all our neighbors are our close friends. We have excellent cooperation with all our neighbors in both bilateral and trilateral formats. There is a trilateral format involving Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, there is a trilateral format involving Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, there is a trilateral format involving Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia. Does Armenia have such a format with any other countries? No! This is a clear example of how correct our policy has been. We have deprived Armenia of what they have considered their strongholds for many years. Because we built our policy correctly. We have always pursued our policy openly. We have not been involved in any adventures against other countries. I said that there would be no provocative steps or initiatives from the territory of Azerbaijan against any country, including, first of all, against our neighbors. This is how we have earned respect in the world, in the region and among our neighbors, and strengthened our country. Other countries have started to reckon with us now. They believed and still believe in our word. I have always said that my word is as strong as my signature.

Therefore, all these factors have played a role. We have shattered the false history presented by Armenia, and at various international events, we provided the world community with complete information about the Kurakchay peace treaty. Everyone saw that the Armenian people have been living in the Karabakh region only for the last 200 years. They were resettled there. We have informed and are still informing the world about what happened in Khojaly. Did anyone talk about Khojaly until the last 17 years? It looked as though no such crime had ever been committed, as though this act of genocide had not happened. Because Armenia was trying to hush it up. It even wants to blame this war crime on Azerbaijan. Just like it did during the Patriotic War – after firing ballistic missiles at Ganja and other cities from the territory of Armenia, they said that Azerbaijan had done it itself. Can there be such a shameless country? Can there ever be such dishonest people? Apparently there can be. It is Armenia. Therefore, we have made tremendous efforts to communicate the truth about Khojaly to the world – both the state and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Today, 13 countries have officially recognized the Khojaly genocide as an act of genocide. We conveyed the truth about the war, the truth about the destroyed cities and villages to the world. However, we did not have the opportunity to go to those villages and cities. No international organization went there. UNESCO, which is trying to criticize us today, claims that we will not be able to protect Armenian religious sites here. However, this is a lie. Sites of all religions are protected in Azerbaijan. Did it go to those lands at least once? Has it ever been to the Shusha mosque? Has it ever been to the destroyed mosque in Zangilan? Has it ever been to the Aghdam mosque? The Armenians kept pigs and cows there. They are criticizing us now.

Armenia would not allow anyone to go there, no-one! They did not even let the ambassadors of the countries chairing the Minsk Group go there. We have twice succeeded in getting the Minsk Group to send a fact-finding mission to the occupied territories. The last mission was 10 years ago. I would tell them every year why they were not going. Go and have a look, illegal settlement is under way. All our cities and villages are being destroyed. Our villages and cities are being renamed, our historical sites are being destroyed or Armenianized. They did not go there because Armenia would not let them. But who is Armenia not to let them go there? Therefore, by doing all this work, we were bringing our Victory Day closer. If you look at my many previous speeches, you will see me saying that each of us must bring this sacred moment closer with our daily work, and we brought it closer, this holy moment of Victory has come.

Various experts in the region have been expressing their views on the inevitability of war for several years. At the same time, among the orders addressed to us over the years, the main thesis was that there is no military solution to the conflict. Someone has brought this up. I know approximately who this was. All other organizations – those dealing with this issue and those not, those engaged in regional affairs and those not – all of them were saying in unison that there was no military solution to the conflict.

I have been on official visits to many countries in recent years – of course, both to countries of the region and others. All these visits have been covered. In many cases, some of my counterparts who have nothing to do with the region, with our region, were saying that there was no military solution to the conflict. How do you know? They were saying – you should say this to Ilham Aliyev, various circles were saying this. Countries and circles that play an active role in world governance were saying this in order to prevent us from taking this path, so that it never happens. Let the status quo remain in place forever and not be changed. However, it was sometimes said that the status quo was unacceptable. But then, as they say, they gave this up. They switched to the phrase that the status quo was not sustainable. Which means that it is acceptable. However, it was not acceptable for us. We confronted Armenia, its supporters, its patrons and pro-Armenian forces on our own. Alone! No-one managed to force us to make a peace agreement that contradicted our interests. But there have been several such attempts. They have tried several times. They even tried to coax us into this by allegedly making some mistakes in document design. But it did not work. And it could not! Because there was and still is a strong resolve. The interests of the Azerbaijani people are paramount. The liberation of our lands from occupation was the most important task, and we were moving towards this task with confidence.

The situation had started to grow tense in recent years. Armenia could no longer hide its intentions. Because the talks had practically become meaningless, and not just in the last two years but over the past five to six years. Armenia regularly held military exercises in the occupied territories. Those military exercises were held in Aghdam district. According to Armenian leaders, 10,000 troops took part in the exercises. There were attacks on our positions. A helicopter gunship attacked our positions and was shot down. This gave Armenia the opportunity to cite this as an excuse and say that Azerbaijan had shot down our helicopter, so now the talks must be stopped. Whenever there was an opportunity to make some headway, they resorted to such provocations.

The April war was not a lesson for Armenia. The April battles, which lasted several days, resulted in our victory, albeit a small one. Armenia was forced to sit back. We liberated a part of our lands from the occupiers and showed that no-one and nothing can turn us away from our path. But this was not a lesson for them. After the April war, the then leadership of Armenia practically promised to withdraw from the occupied territories. This is true. But then they either organized this themselves or something like that really happened – a police unit was seized, a terrorist group committed an act of terror there, and then the Armenian leadership said that, as you can see, the situation here is quite tense and we can’t do that. They deceived us. In 2018, the Gunnut operation, the Nakhchivan operation was another success. We took over a large area, liberated it from occupation and seized strategic heights. This was not a lesson for them either. In other words, we were giving them a chance. In 2018, some call it a revolution, others call it a coup, they know better – a change took place in Armenia. Hopes were awakened, and those hopes were not unfounded. I don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty of that. We were hopeful that the new leadership would get rid of past mistakes and that this issue would be resolved. But this did not happen. Almost a year later, unacceptable steps were taken against us and we were actually deceived. They took time to resolve their internal problems, to quell the internal opposition, to arrest it. The Azerbaijani people know perfectly well what happened after that. Unacceptable statements, insults of the Azerbaijani people, inappropriate actions, disgraceful steps, statements and provocative military operations – in July, August and finally on 27 September. And I said enough is enough, forward! Within 44 days, the enemy army was destroyed. There is no Armenian army today.

During the war, I regularly informed my dear people about the war. The war progressed right before the eyes of our people. After the war, some information has been provided about some operations and some decisions. I do not want to spend too much time on this issue. But in a matter of 44 days, the Azerbaijani Army destroyed the Armenian army. Our heroic soldiers and officers showed the strength of Azerbaijan. Thanks to the properly planned and implemented operations, technical capabilities, the heroism and bravery of our heroic sons, we did the impossible, we destroyed the enemy, the enemy threw in a towel, the enemy fell to its knees. After liberating more than 300 of our cities and villages, the ancient city of Azerbaijan, our native Shusha, and many other settlements, the enemy completely surrendered, signed an act of capitulation and was forced to withdraw from the other occupied lands.

The war is now in the past. The war showed our strength, our indomitable will and our unity. The iron fist, which has become a symbol of war, a symbol of victory, has shown our strength. It is an iron fist of unity and strength. There is unity in our society, our country has strength and will always have it. If someone in Armenia cherishes a sense of revenge, they are making a big mistake. They must never forget this 44-day war. From now on, if anyone tries to insult the Azerbaijani people, they will learn the lesson that will make the 44-day war look small.

Azerbaijan has defeated Armenia. The whole world saw it, it happened right before the eyes of the whole world. No-one could stop us. I said that we would go to the end. We wanted them to provide us with a timetable, a timetable of when the occupying Armenian state will leave our lands. After the timetable was provided, we stopped our military operations.

It is the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis today. When I address the nation every year, I congratulate the Azerbaijanis of the world on this day and wish them a Happy New Year. This time, this congratulation has a special significance. I know that the Azerbaijanis living in the world closely followed the developments taking place in Azerbaijan during the war, observed the course of the war. They expressed their support. Among the thousands of letters sent to me, there are many from the Azerbaijanis living abroad. They showed both moral support and solidarity. Addressing them today, I want to say that you should be proud to be the children of the heroic Azerbaijani people. Today, every Azerbaijani, every Azerbaijani citizen and our compatriots living abroad can rightly be proud that we are the children and representatives of a victorious people.

I want to congratulate all our compatriots on the occasion of this holiday. I want to congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan, first of all, on this historic Victory. The future holds great things in store, a new period begins for our country, a period of construction, a period of development. Days of restoration of our lands await us. This will be a glorious period. Although the enemy has destroyed everything in the occupied and already liberated lands, we will restore all our cities and villages, and create a paradise in the Karabakh region. Our people deserve it. Victory befits our people and we will always be victorious!

My dear brothers and sisters, I wish you a Happy New Year and heartily congratulate you on the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. I congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan on the great Victory. On the eve of the New Year, I would like all of us to say the slogan that has led to victory together: Karabakh is Azerbaijan!

This article originally appeared in Trend News Agency on 31 Dec 2020.