Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with group of servicemen on anniversary of April victories of Azerbaijani army31 march 2017, 11:54
It has been a year since the April fighting. On the eve of the anniversary of this day of military victory, I have invited the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and servicemen who took part in the battles. First of all, I would like us to hold a moment of silence for the dear memory of the servicemen who died heroically for their Motherland in the April fighting and civilians.
May Allah rest the souls of our martyrs in peace.
A year ago, Armenia once again resorted to armed provocation, opened fire on our positions, attacked them and bombarded our settlements. As a result of this provocation, our servicemen became martyrs and were wounded. There were fatalities among the civilian population, including a small girl. This was yet another provocation. Prior to that, as international pressure on Armenia mounted, it had also resorted to similar provocations. In November 2014, there was a similar event. At that time, the Azerbaijani army gave them a fitting rebuff. Their last year's provocation was even larger in scale. Defending our lands, the Azerbaijani army carried out a successful counteroffensive operation and dealt crushing blows to the enemy. As a result of the operation, thousands of hectares of Azerbaijani lands were liberated from the invaders. At present, we control tens of thousands of hectares of land.
The April battles are our glorious military victory, a victory that demonstrates the might of our state, people and army. The Azerbaijani flag flies on the territories of Fizuli, Jabrayil and Agdara districts which have been liberated from occupation as a result of the April battles. These battles testify that the Azerbaijani people and state will never put up with the occupation and will restore the territorial integrity of our country at any cost.
The April fighting also demonstrated the professionalism of our army. After a counteroffensive operation launched from an unfavorable position, our army took over strategic positions. Today, these strategic heights and positions liberated from occupation allow us the opportunity to fully control the situation on the contact line and take the necessary measures.
The contact line has moved forward. Today, the Azerbaijani army retains full advantage on the line of contact. The April fighting, as I said earlier, should be included in military textbooks. Both from the point of view of professionalism and the patriotic spirit, the April fighting showed again that the Azerbaijanis are a heroic people. They have once again demonstrated that we will not accept this situation. They have shown that the unity of the people and government is provided in Azerbaijan at a high level and is getting ever stronger. The settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is, as always, a priority issue for us.
Armenia has been creating myths about its army for many years, arguing that it has a powerful army that won a great victory. We know only too well what happened in the early 1990s. At that time, there were chaos and anarchy in Azerbaijan. There was a severe struggle for power. In 1992, the PFPA-Musavat tandem staged a military coup, after which we started to lose our lands at the front. After the occupation of Shusha and Lachin in 1992 and of Kalbajar in April 1993, a geographical connection appeared between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. At that time, we lost our strategic positions. This was a betrayal of the state and people. Armenia, the Armenians and their patrons took advantage of this situation and occupied our lands using external support and with outside interference. This is history. We know this history, and the younger generation also needs to know it for what it is. As I have already noted, after that the leadership of Armenia created myths for many years. The April fighting dispelled these myths and legends, and demonstrated that the only powerful army in the region today is the Azerbaijani army. These battles showed that Armenia cannot and will not be able to keep our lands under occupation without outside assistance. They have had to admit that themselves.
During the April battles, they appealed to international organizations and countries to stop the fighting as soon as possible. Then they began to blame some countries for not coming to their rescue. The Nagorno-Karabakh issue is our internal issue. Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized by the whole world and the Minsk Group co-chair countries as an integral part of Azerbaijan. The events that are occurring and may occur in Nagorno-Karabakh and on all our occupied lands are our internal affair. No international organization or country can interfere in our internal affairs.
During the April battles, the Armenian leadership completely exposed itself. They were defeated on the battlefield and, at the same time, did not receive any support in the political arena. They hoped very much and counted on this support. Not having received such support, they, as always, began to blame various countries. In the end, they had to admit defeat in the April battles. First they said that they did not lose any lands, then they declared that these lands did not represent any significance, then they claimed that they would return these lands. All this is a lie. The leadership of Armenia has disgraced itself so much that Armenia still feels the bitter consequences of that.
One might say that the April fighting undermined their ideological foundations. The Armenian society today is in shock and fear. The forces that have a pragmatic approach to the situation openly declare that if the relations with Azerbaijan are not resolved, Armenia does not have a future. I have repeatedly said that the only way for Armenia to continue to exist as a country is to settle relations with its neighbors. There is only one option for that. It consists in the fact that occupying forces should withdraw from the occupied lands unconditionally and immediately. From this point of view, these battles had a huge impact which is still manifested today. This fighting demonstrated the strength of the Azerbaijani people, state and army. It showed that the attention being paid to army construction in recent years, the policies we are pursuing, the strengthening of the material and technical infrastructure and the combat potential of our army lead to such results.
Today, a new situation has evolved both in the negotiations and in the region as a whole. Although Armenia is trying to evade negotiations, it will not succeed in doing that. No matter how hard it may try, it will have to return to the negotiations, as they are well aware of the direction in which the situation will develop if there are no negotiations. Of course, after the April battles our position at the negotiating table has become even stronger, and this was clearly seen by the entire international community. Of course, they knew that the Azerbaijani state could resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem in any way. The mediators dealing with this issue have repeatedly stated – and such statements were made recently as well – that the status quo is unacceptable and must be changed. We support this. The change in the status quo would mean an end to the occupation because the status quo should be changed by Armenia. After they withdraw the occupying forces from our lands, the status quo will be changed and the basis for peace will appear.
During and after these battles, we witnessed the heroism of our people. Armenia, as always, opens fire on the civilian population when it suffers defeat on the battlefield. This is what happened this time as well. The houses of hundreds of our villagers were destroyed and several civilians were killed. But our people living in places near the line of contact showed great courage. No-one moved away. They did not leave their homes and villages. The Armenians expected to see what happened in the early 1990s. But they miscalculated. At that time, the treacherous PFPA-Musavat leaders were concerned only about power, and people knew that it was completely useless to expect any support from this government. This time our citizens were completely sure that the Azerbaijani state and army would protect them, avenge their suffering and the blood shed. And so it happened. I think that this is the main factor. Therefore, the people of Azerbaijan living face to face with the enemy and facing a constant threat deserve the highest appreciation. Visiting the villages on the contact line after the April battles, I saw with my own eyes again the courage of the Azerbaijani people and their attachment to the Motherland.
Our servicemen showed heroism in April battles. The memory of our martyrs will always live in the hearts of the Azerbaijani people. At the same time, after visiting the wounded servicemen in a military hospital after the fighting, I was convinced of how much they love the Motherland. Despite being in serious condition and having sustained wounds, they said they wanted to recover as soon as possible and return to the frontline. These are present-day Azerbaijani youngsters and citizens of Azerbaijan, their conscience, convictions and love of the Motherland. These are the main factors that strengthen our country.
Today, the Azerbaijani people are united around a common goal: we must strengthen our country even more, strengthen our independence and increase the strength of our army in order to restore our territorial integrity. I am sure that we will achieve that. Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land. Our people have lived, created and built on this land for centuries. We know the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh region very well. Great scientific works are being created now about how the Armenians were moved there in the 19th century. Suffice it to look at the maps published in tsarist Russia in the early 20th century to see that the majority of place-names not only in Nagorno-Karabakh but also in the present Republic of Armenia are of Azerbaijani origin. It is no secret either – the international community already knows this – that today's Armenia appeared on historically Azerbaijani lands. Erivan, Zangezur and Geycha are our historical lands. We lost these lands as a result of injustice and policies of large states. Of course, we should know this history. We must know that the far-fetched "Nagorno-Karabakh entity" has no future. We have no claims to the lands of other states. We do not set our eyes on the lands of other countries. But we will never allow a second contrived Armenian state to be created on our lands.
Unfortunately, in 1918 the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic practically presented Erivan to Armenia. Are all documents are available. One of the first resolutions of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was to transfer Erivan to Armenia as a capital even though Azerbaijanis formed the majority of the Erivan population at that time. It was a huge mistake. This did not protect the young Azerbaijani state from Armenian provocations. Perhaps this was the hope. We could say that we actually lost Erivan then. But we see today that Armenian claims are not becoming any less. They occasionally proclaim various absurd slogans at the highest level, the idea that they have claims to the lands of neighboring countries. During the April battles, we showed them their place. We must be ready to put do that at any time. I want to say once again: Nagorno-Karabakh will never be granted independence. This self-proclaimed formation is not recognized by any country. This was confirmed by the so-called "referendum" held there recently. All the neighboring states, international organizations and Minsk Group co-chair countries unequivocally declared non-recognition of this "referendum". This means that Armenia and its leadership have once again disgraced themselves. Every time notorious "referendums" are held there, it works for us because international organizations and states do not recognize them. Thus, they support and confirm the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan every time this happens.
Of course, we will restore our territorial integrity. Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan has always been within Azerbaijan. It still is and will continue to be a part of our country. In the early 1990s, as a result of the treacherous and corrupt activities of the then government, especially the PFPA-Musavat tandem, we temporarily lost these lands. However, we will and must restore our territorial integrity.
Today, the Armenian leadership continues its provocative activities. For some time after the April battles, it was in anxiety and fear. Now, as if trying to somehow get out of this stress, it is making absurd statements and trying to intimidate us with some kind of a weapon. We are amused by this because they should know, and they do, that the Azerbaijani army is so strong and we have such powerful weapons, ammunition and modern weaponry today that we are ready to destroy any strategic and military site of the enemy at any moment. They should know that there are no strategic and military targets we cannot not destroy. We simply want the issue to be resolved peacefully. But I want to note it again that the most modern weaponry of the world we have acquired in recent years opens huge opportunities for us.
During the April battles, we demonstrated only a small fraction of our capabilities. This once again shows that the April battles were a provocation from Armenia. Today, some people are putting forward different theories and assumptions that Azerbaijan planned to conduct an operation that was subsequently suspended and so on. First, we did what we wanted to do. We achieved the goals we faced in a counteroffensive operation. Today, military and international experts know that the strategic positions we won have completely changed the situation. If we had intended to conduct a large-scale operation during the April battles, we would have used our military potential. This is no secret. Everything is open to international monitoring. The strength of our long-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles is well known. We practically did not use them. If we do, not a stone will be left standing in the occupied lands. Let them know this, and let the political leadership of Armenia which has disgraced itself yet again watch its language and not test our patience.
Our cause is fair. Our people and the international community know this. Our fair cause gives us the right to resolve the issue in any way. Look: the UN Security Council – the world’s top organization – has adopted four resolutions demanding an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from our lands. They are being flouted. But these are resolutions of an international organization. This is the basis. Similar resolutions have been adopted by other international organizations. In other words, this creates a legal basis for resolving the issue. It is very important. If we add to this the historical truth, then, of course, everything is completely obvious here. Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani land historically and legally, and we will return to these lands, of course. For this, we must become even stronger. All political and international measures have been taken. We just have to strengthen our economy and army even more.
I can say that Armenia has sacrificed its independence for this occupation. If it hadn’t been for this occupation and if they could have built a normal relationship with Azerbaijan, Armenia could be showing itself as an independent country today. Everyone knows today that Armenia is not an independent state. Because of this occupation, they have found themselves in complete dependence on various countries, external circles and international financial structures. Their economy is in a paralyzed state, the external debt has reached a critical level, poverty is practically at the level of 40-50 per cent and there are no prospects. How much longer will they deceive their people? Therefore, the main reason for this situation is their predatory policy. Having chosen this path, the Armenian leadership leads its people to a precipice.
We have become a truly independent country in the years of independence. We have proved that we are the masters of our own destiny and that no outside force can dictate anything to us. History has shown this quite clearly. We live with dignity, defend our interests and speak our word on the world stage. Armenia, for its part, is deprived of all these opportunities, which, of course, does not give credit to any country. Therefore, the sooner the Armenian leadership realizes that it is in their interests to put an end to the occupation, the sooner the issue will be resolved, peace will be restored and Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity.
We will continue our policy of strengthening the country and constantly paying great attention to the army. As you may know, although our financial situation is not the same as in previous years, which is natural, there are no restrictions in addressing the needs of our army. I spoke about this to the government and all government agencies know this. First and foremost, army orders are to be provided. Military spending is the largest item of budget expenditure. New camps are built, military bases set up, and weaponry and equipment purchased. After the April battles, new contracts worth a large sum were signed. We have ordered the most advanced weapons possessing high precision and a major destructive power. Some of them have already been delivered to Azerbaijan. Unlike the leadership of Armenia, we do not demonstrate it for the sake of propaganda. But if it is necessary and when the time comes, we will show what we have at the right moment again. Let them know that the Azerbaijani army today is among the strongest armies on a global scale in terms of combat capability, patriotic spirit, material and technical equipment.
We will return to the occupied lands. This is our main task. The flag of Azerbaijan will fly in all our occupied lands, just as it does today on the territories liberated last year.
Having invited you today, I want to give an assessment to last year's events once again and congratulate our army on this success. I wish you and all the personnel of the Armed Forces continued success and victories. Thank you!