President Ilham Aliyev Received OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs Stephane Visconti of France, Andrew Schofer of the US, Ambassador of Russia to Azerbaijan Mikhail Bocharnikov and Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting AzerTac.
Addressing the meeting, President Ilham Aliyev said:
“It has been a long time since we met last time of last year. And a lot of things happened during this time, because pandemic which changed the world completely and also resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which changed the region. Now the situation in the region is completely new. Azerbaijan resolved the conflict which lasted for almost 30 years, resolved by force and by political means. And I can only agree with what president Putin said, the president of one of the co-chair countries, that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is already in the history. I share this view.
“Unfortunately, Minsk Group did not play any role in resolution of the conflict, though, Minsk Group had a mandate to do it for 28 years. I participated in negotiations for the last 17 years. As I said, during the war, though there have been an activity of the Minsk Group, in elaborating ideas and trying to be creative, but there was no result. And this is a reality. Therefore, Azerbaijan resolved it itself. And by defeating Armenia on the battlefield, we forced aggressor to admit its defeat, to sign declaration which we consider as an act of capitulation of Armenia. And also, all the political forces of Armenia accepted, the ruling regime shares this view that this is a capitulation. They call it a humiliating capitulation. And full responsibility is on Pashinyan’s dictatorial regime. As I said, I participated as a president for 17 years, I had experience in negotiating with previous Armenian presidents, and though, there have been no result, but, there was a process.
“Pashinyan ruined the process, he ruined the negotiation format. He tried to do it. His provocative statements and actions made negotiations absolutely meaningless. Several times I referred to what he said and what he did and the fact that it was absolutely unacceptable. His provocative, insulting actions and statements against Azerbaijan and its people had to be addressed and we punished him severely. So, he had to admit his defeat, he had to plea for a ceasefire. Actually that was what he was doing during almost all 44 days of the war, and he was calling the world leaders several times a day. It’s very difficult to find any European leader whom he didn’t call and he was asking for a ceasefire. But he did not want to implement my conditions, actually only one condition. He gave seven conditions to me, several months ago. I rejected them. I said I have only one-get out of our lands, otherwise, you will see the iron fist of Azerbaijan. So, during the war several times I said, as soon as Pashinyan himself, not his ministers, himself gives us a date when he will get out of our lands we will stop and that happened. I kept my word, as I always do. Pashinyan never kept his word. Neither to me, nor to his own people. He is a liar, and I think people of Armenia already know that. And he continues to lie even now.
“But that already has nothing to do with Azerbaijan. That is internal politics of Armenia. So, as soon as on 10 November, the night from 9 to 10 of November he signed the declaration, we stopped immediately. The next hour the war stopped. But we also gave time for withdrawal. And then, after the request from Russian President Vladimir Putin we even gave additional ten days for them to leave Kalbajar. Though, when Armenian gangs and Armenian army were ethnically cleansing Kalbajar, they didn’t give a day to Azerbaijanis. They killed them, they forced them to leave. Azerbaijanis from Kalbajar had to go through the high mountains, 3500 meters high. That was the beginning of April, very cold and many of them froze to death. So, we gave them additional time.
“What have they done? They started to burn the houses. The houses which they did not build. They started to destroy everything. I was informed just several days ago that they have destroyed all the water power stations which existed there, destroyed completely. They burned our forests. They cut our trees. They behaved, they continue to behave as barbarians. There is no other way how to name those who do it. But we kept our word, we stopped the war. If we did not stop the war, everybody knows what would have happened, Armenian army was completely destroyed, demoralized and had no means to do anything. We demonstrated courage, we demonstrated spirit, we demonstrated professionalism on the battlefield. We destroyed the myths Armenians were creating for decades about unbeatable Armenian army. We demonstrated that Azerbaijani army is unbeatable.
“Within 44 days we liberated big part of the occupied territories, including the ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha. And more than 300 cities, villages, and other settlements. So we showed who is who. When I visited the liberated territories I just witnessed what I heard a lot about, and I have seen in some internet sites, what they have done to our territories. There has been no single building in Fuzuli, all the buildings were leveled to ground, there was no building to even put a flag, Azerbaijani flag on. In Aghdam, the only not completely destroyed building was the mosque. And when we started to investigate why they did not destroy it completely our people said that because they needed to have some building in Aghdam just to measure the distance, if Azerbaijani army goes on offensive. So, it will be easier for them to measure the distance. So, the mosque was a kind of an orienteer for them. But we didn’t go to Aghdam, we went where they did not expect us. We came to Aghdam without one single bullet.
“So why I am telling that? Because this is true. First, because you visit us after more than one year. And I want to be open and very frank with you as I am open and frank with Azerbaijani people. During all these 44 days I was telling them the truth, only truth. Pashinyan was lying to his people and to his partners whom he talked several times a day regularly. And he continues to lie now. But as I said, it’s no longer something which is of concern to is, we resolved the problem, we liberated our territory. During the war, I was asked many times about the losses of Azerbaijani army. I said we will disclose this information after the war is over. And we did it and the number of our heroes, our martyrs and their names and the photographs is now shown on TV. During the war I said that we have no intentions to occupy Armenian territory, though, as you can imagine we had all the opportunities to do it and still have, but we don’t have these intentions. I was asked about that, and I said no. We want to liberate our own territory. We will fight on our own land. And we kept our word. At the same time, I said that for us it’s vital to have a direct land connections to Nakhchivan, and we achieved it by political means and Pashinyan signed declaration which provides connection between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan. This is also an important historical achievement for Azerbaijan. At the same time, it creates opportunities for future discussions about how region will be formed in the future.
“During the war, in numerous interviews with international media I was saying that we have nothing, no problems with Armenian people and our fight is with aggressors, with those criminals who occupy our territory. Armenian people can live as they do by the way in different parts of Azerbaijan now in safety and dignity, and they will live well under our administration. We are seeing now after the war the villages where Armenians lived in extreme poverty. It’s unbelievable how people lived there. What was the purpose of this occupation? Why Armenians needed for so many years to keep their own people like slaves. I don’t know whether you have seen or not, during the first days of the war when Azerbaijani army was entering the trenches of Armenian army among the eliminated occupants there have been people whose legs were chained. And these videos were shocking. They forced people to stay in the trenches, they did not allow those who wanted to run away, to go back, to leave their positions. They had special groups during the war which were standing behind the Armenian troops in order to kill their own people if they run, and they did it many times.
“They are war criminals. Attacking Ganja with ballistic missiles, and Barda, Tartar with cluster munitions and phosphorus bombs is a war crime. Illegal settlement on the occupied territories, which they did and which they were proud of, is a war crime. Sargsyan, Kocharyan are war criminals. And as I said in front of the destroyed city mosque of Aghdam, we defeated Kocharyan and Sargsyan. They want to put a blame on Pashinyan. As I said, Pashinyan is no one, a person who by obstacles was brought by this movement against criminal Kocharyan-Sargsyan regime on top of Armenian government. A person who has no experience, no knowledge, no understanding about international relations, about how to run the country. A person who never in is life was heading even a small Kolkhoz (collective farm). So, he is not the only one to blame. Yes, he provoked us. He did things which were unacceptable. And he was punished for that. But we defeated the army of Sargsyan and Kocharyan. They were creating this army for 30 years. So, these war crimes are now documented. We, of course, have already started legal procedures on what they have done to our cities, we already invited international partners to make a proper analysis of the damage they caused to civilians, to our infrastructure, to our historical and religious monuments. Everything will be documented and we will do what is necessary in these circumstances. So illegal settlement is a war crime. And Minsk Group twice officially organized the fact-finding mission to the occupied territories. Once it was called fact-finding and other time it was called field assessment mission. Andrzej knows, because he is a veteran of this process. He was there.
“At the same time, the Minsk Group co-chairs visited many times the occupied territories and witnessed the war crime of Armenian regime and witnessed the total destraction of our cities. It’s not only Aghdam and Fuzuli, Jabrayil is the same. In Kalbajar and Lachin they were using some of the houses just to settle and in Gubadli and Zengilan they were planning to settle Armenians from Syria whom they used as mercenaries. There were numerous facts in our hands about the mercenaries which Armenians used. I already said, whose residents these people are, don’t want to repeat. But we have passports in our hands, and we have detected foreigners in our prison. So, all that, of course, raises a big question.
“Why was the conflict not resolved for so many years despite the resolutions of United Nations Security Council, decisions of OSCE, decisions of other international organizations? And three permanent members of UN Security Council could not use their leverage, use their potential to force Armenia to leave even from some of the territories. They could not, or they did not want to. That’s an open question. But now it doesn’t make any difference. The conflict is resolved. Azerbaijan did it by military-political means. Many times I heard from you and from your leaders and from your high-ranking officials that there is no military solution to the conflict. I was saying there is, and the history shows that I was right. There is. There was. I think that those who were saying that there is no military solution they realized themselves that there was. They just wanted to keep everything as it is. There have been statements of the presidents of the Minsk Group co-chair countries, I think, some ten years ago. And we supported those statements. It created certain hopes. They were saying in the joint declaration, ‘status quo is unacceptable.’ We said yes, good statement, let’s work on that. Now tell it to Armenia. How many times I was telling you, your predecessors, go and tell Armenia to leave, put pressure on them. How many times I was telling high-ranking officials from your countries, go put pressure on them until it is not too late. But what happened? After some time, leaders of your countries changed this wording. They no longer said status quo is unacceptable. They were saying status quo is not sustainable. That means that for them status quo was acceptable. What other explanation can we have? When they were saying in L`Aquila and in Muskoka the status quo is unacceptable, and then they say the status quo is unsustainable. Obviously, it means that they think the status quo is acceptable.
Many politicians thought that the only way to preserve peace is to keep status quo and we changed it. And we showed that the status quo can be changed by force, by courage, by wisdom, by policy, by concentration of efforts, by solidarity of Azerbaijani people, by the will of the Azerbaijani government and the spirit of Azerbaijani people and bravery of Azerbaijani soldier. We showed that we were right. And then, of course, Armenia was forced to sign the capitulation act. They would have never signed it voluntarily. We forced them, not Minsk Group, we and President Putin did. This is a reality. And if not for President Putin’s intervention and efforts, today probably the situation would have been different. But we achieved what we planned. We returned all the seven occupied territories. We returned ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha, we returned Hadrut district, we returned part of Khojavand, we returned Sugovushan, and others, and actually achieved what we planned.
“Now, when Russian peacekeepers are there and started the activity, the situation is more or less stable. Though, I just got information yesterday about some terrorist acts either by Armenian Guerilla forces or by remainings of what they called Armenian army. This, of course, is of concern, I think the last thing which Armenia should do is to start again. Two days ago on the military parade, which was devoted to our glorious victory, I said that if Armenian fascism raises its head once again, we will smash it with the iron fist. So, the last thing for them is to plan some military actions. We will destroy them completely this time. It should not be a secret for anyone. But I hope that it will not happen. So, peacekeeping mission, is enforced. You know that peacekeeping operations were part of the agreement which was discussed, part of the Madrid principles, but we never seriously discussed it, Andrzej knows as a veteran. We even never touched on that. We had some general exchange of views on what could be the composition of the peacekeepers, which countries it may represent, should they be neighbors, should they be co-chairs. There were different opinions. And I personally never elaborated on that. Because I said that it’s premature, we need to resolve the issue first. And we never objected peacekeepers. We said yes, peacekeepers, they should come, and for a certain time, protect the civilians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis. As is happening now. And now, peacekeeping operations are implemented by Russia and it was supported by Armenia, and by Azerbaijan.
“At the same time, as you know, we are now already in the phase of creation of the monitoring center in Aghdam district of Azerbaijan. The center was also reflected in the declaration, which we signed on the 10th of November. The Turkish-Russian monitoring center, will monitor the ceasefire regime. And this, I think, is also a very good sign of regional cooperation, also, a good sign of cooperation between Turkey and Russia. And this already is a reality.
“The last point, which I also want to raise and I am sure you heard about it being our views for the future, for the future of the region I mean. I have already a couple of times publicly addressed this issue that the region must have new dynamics and there should be new developments in the region. Azerbaijan is ready. As a country powerful from economic and military point of view, as a country with very broad international support, the country which today is chairing the second after the United Nations international institutions, the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan of course will do its part of the job in order to provide long-lasting stability and security. But of course, it also will depend on Pashinyan regime or if this regime is overthrown, on those who will come after. And I think, international community should deliver the direct messages to Armenia, first never ever in the future try to insult the feelings of Azerbaijani people. You will be severely punished. We are patient. We were preparing, we did everything properly, we did not respond to the first Armenian provocation in July the way we could have. We didn’t cross the state border, though we could. have. We didn’t seriously respond to the second Armenian provocation in August when they sent the sabotage group to kill our people. But we responded to the third one in September and responded in a way that we destroyed Armenian army and almost destroyed Armenian state and put an end to criminal regime, on our territory, put an end to dreams of Armenian nationalists about the so-called “Artsakh”, it does not exist. Pashinyan said ‘Karabakh is Armenia.’ It was wrong and he deserved what he got. He deserved this humiliation. Our people, our country deserved victory. Because the truth, and international law was on our side. I will probably conclude now in order to listen to you. Because it was your idea to come. I can tell you again in front of the cameras, I did not invite Minsk group to come. But when I was informed that Minsk Group wants to come, I said alright, I don’t mind, maybe they have something to tell me. If you want to do it in front of the cameras, it’s okay, if not, I can tell them to leave. It’s up to you. Yes, I am listening to you.”
OSCE Minsk Group co-chair of France Stephane Visconti said:
“Mr. President, I listened to you carefully. First of all, this is a very special day today, the 12th of December, the rememberance day. I had the chance to meet with your father when I was in Paris with president Chirac and the part of the negotiation at that time. We understand it, as you mentioned yourself, the co-chair countries have been over the last 28 years trying to fulfil them and that’s difficult in term of the mandate, to facilitate the solution between the sides. I appreciate the fact that you mentioned creative proposals we have been working on that, and of course, trying to find a solution corresponding to the willingness of the partners just as mediators.
“My government has been welcoming the ceasefire and the end of the bloodshed. We have a very positive view on all the provisions of the agreement, signed on the night of the 9th and the 10th. We are ready to pursue the new agenda of the evolution of a totally different situation that you mentioned yourself to stabilize the region, to bring prosperity, in an impartial, and collective way, but it is up to you whether you want the Minsk Group to further work on all the pending issues. Yes, we do have a good basis, we are in the transition period and the future is not written. I will, of course, report to my government all the considerations that you have publicly developed now. Of course, our presence in Baku, as far as I understand, was due to invitation. We would not have come without invitation, so there is probably a misunderstanding in the context of this mission. But again, I want to thank you for receiving us, hosting this meeting and presenting for my government and my president all this views that I will very faithfully transmit. Thank you.”
OSCE Minsk Group co-chair of the US Andrew Schofer said:
“I would also like to extend my thanks for your decision to receive us here today, and your hospitable welcome. Thank you also for your very clear playing out of your position. As my colleague said, we are also going to report that back to our governments. Although I think much if not all that you have said now, you have also said publicly. We understand your thoughts on the new situation we have. We all acknowledge and recognize you are dealing with the new reality and I think the main reason we wanted to talk to you was to get a better sense from you, and you have laid some of this and perhaps we have a more detailed discussion of how you see things going from here. The situation on the ground now, is different. I don’t know if this is how you see the future at large, and I mean by that specifically the Madrid principles talk about opening lines of communication, re-establishing relations, providing a positive environment for a future of all the people in the region. If that is a part of your vision, I think, there is perhaps a role that we, our countries can play in helping to fulfil that. We want to understand from you how you would like to proceed. As you know, we will be going to Yerevan after this and we will have a similar conversation on that side. And perhaps we will have a more detailed discussion outside of the conflict zone.”
Ambassador of Russia to Azerbaijan Mikhail Bocharnikov said:
“If I may, Mr. President, thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you within the Minsk Group co-chairs. Russia as we know played a part in tripartite declaration that was made and attach a lot of importance to the implementation of the provisions of that declaration. I think there are still things to be done to fully implement this document that concerns, as you said Mr. President, return of displaced persons to the areas, peaceful reconstruction of the regions and, of course, what you outlined the future of the peaceful and successful developments of the region in the conditions of peace. As for the Minsk Group, our government has always stressed the importance of this Group, and that’s why we participated and are still participating in the Group. I think the joint position of the Group was expressed quite recently in the statement on the 3rd of December by the heads of the delegations of all the three countries’ co-chairs of the Minsk Group. The joint attitude is reflected there and we will be very glad to assist while we can in implementing those aims of reconstruction which you Mr. President have laid down today. Thank you.”