Ilham Aliyev’s interview with Turkish Anadolu Agency
28 september 2021, 12:00
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by Turkish Anadolu Agency. The interview was broadcast on the agency’s website on 27 September.
- Dear Mr. President, thank you very much for accepting our request for an interview to Anadolu Agency. We are marking an important date – the first anniversary of 27 September, Azerbaijan’s Victory, the date on which Azerbaijan started the liberation of the territories which remained under occupation for almost 30 years. If we go back to that day, if we refresh the circumstances of that day in our minds, why did Azerbaijan counterattack?
- You know, Armenia's provocations against us had become regular. Both their statements and actions against us showed that Armenia was preparing for a new war. I still can’t understand the reasons for this. Because if a state that had been occupying the lands of another state for 30 years intended to start a new war, this must be seriously investigated to find out the reasons. The steps confirming my words are quite obvious. In July, Armenia committed a military provocation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, and as a result of that provocation, 13 Azerbaijani civilians and servicemen were killed. At that time, Azerbaijan gave a fitting rebuff to the enemy, but we did not cross the state border. In other words, we simply expelled them from the territory of Azerbaijan they had entered, and the clashes, which lasted several days, ended. Then, in August, a sabotage group was sent to Azerbaijan. It crossed the line of contact but our soldiers disarmed them. A year ago, speaking at a session of the United Nations General Assembly, I said that Armenia was preparing for a new war. Three days later, our positions and settlements came under artillery fire yet again. We had martyrs again, and on my order, we launched a large-scale counter-offensive. As you know, this operation resulted in a great Victory.
Going one year back, of course, we have the opportunity to analyze all these processes and all these events more accurately now. It seems that the Armenian leadership, the new leadership wanted to take pride on some military successes, to achieve a certain military success. However, they made a huge miscalculation; they made a grave mistake and suffered a bitter defeat as a result.
- Mr. President, couldn’t this war have been prevented? There were meetings of the Minsk Group co-chairs, which was in operation for a long time. Could the Minsk Group co-chairs or other factors have prevented this war? In fact, how should they have prevented it?
- Of course, they could have prevented it. I have repeatedly expressed my views on this issue. If the Minsk Group had put serious pressure on Armenia on time, of course, Armenia would have been forced to withdraw from the occupied territories, and in that case, there would have been no need for war. But they did not put pressure on Armenia even though the three co-chair countries of the Minsk Group are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In other words, they are the most powerful countries in the world. Didn't they have the political clout or political means to send such serious messages to Armenia? They simply gave preference to the “neither war nor peace” policy.
On the other hand, I have repeatedly appealed to the Minsk Group co-chairs and other superpowers, urging them to impose sanctions on Armenia. That could have prevented the war too. Such sanctions would have caused major difficulties for a country as weak as Armenia, and they would have been forced to vacate our lands. In other words, we used all the means available to resolve the issue peacefully – without war and without bloodshed. But at the same time, I kept saying that we would not come to terms with this situation. We would have liberated our land at any cost and were simply giving them a chance.
You know, the new leadership of Armenia, which came to power in 2018, dealt a severe blow to these talks, to the process of discussions. Their inappropriate and extremely irresponsible statements actually paralyzed the discussion process. In other words, the talks were completely paralyzed. Under such circumstances, the Minsk Group should have taken more positive and more courageous steps. Instead, they acted as spectators. They approached the process as observers. Therefore, responsibility for the outbreak of the second Karabakh war, of course, rests squarely with Armenia and also with the superpowers that did not stop Armenia in good time.
- The co-chair countries had long pursued a strategy of maintaining the status quo. However, after the victory, the re-entry of the Minsk Group and the co-chairs into the process and their mediation diplomacy is on the agenda, there are such requests. What do you think about that? Could this be a solution in the future? Will it be of any use?
- You know, the countries chairing the Minsk Group, their presidents made very positive statements several times during the occupation, about seven to eight years ago. One of them, and it was clearly stated, was that the status quo was unacceptable and had to be changed. We also welcomed that statement. I have personally expressed my views on this issue several times and said that it was a statement that was long overdue. To change the status quo means to end the occupation. However, those statements were not followed by tangible steps. Furthermore, after a while they backed down from that statement and put forward a new one – the status quo was not sustainable. There is a huge difference between them. Unacceptable is one thing, but not sustainable is completely different. I criticized them at the time and said that this change of position was water to the mill of Armenia's policy of aggression. Unfortunately, as the subsequent period showed, the Minsk Group simply did not intend to resolve this issue. We saw this again during the 44-day war because certain countries co-chairing the Minsk Group raised the issue against us at the United Nations. There was ongoing war, we were restoring international law in our own lands and waging war for justice, so it was completely unfair to raise an issue of sanctions against us at the United Nations.
As for the current period, we barely see any activity of the Minsk Group. They usually came here during the negotiations, made proposals, set the agenda for meetings at the presidential level and suggested to us what issues could be discussed. Both sides discussed those issues based on that arrangement. But now, although almost a year has passed since the war ended, there are no proposals from them. They came to Azerbaijan once and I told them to make suggestions. We have resolved this issue, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved and there is no administrative unit called “Nagorno-Karabakh”. In my speech at the recent session of the UN General Assembly, I appealed to all countries and said that the words “Nagorno-Karabakh” should not be used anymore. There is no such entity in Azerbaijan. There is Karabakh economic region, and there is East Zangazur. This being the case, the Minsk Group should come up with new proposals. In other words, the issue, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, is over. What more can be done? In my opinion, there could be confidence-building measures, then the opening of roads, the opening of corridors, the support for the peace process, the improvement of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, work on the signing of the peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan that we have been proposing. In other words, I believe that these should be the areas of their activity from now on. Otherwise, can “Nagorno-Karabakh”, a nonexistent entity, have a status? Of course not! I have said this before and I want to say it again – if anyone wants to give Nagorno-Karabakh a status, they should allocate them a territory in their own country, create an entity, create a republic there, recognize their independence, and we will recognize it too. But not in the territory of Azerbaijan!
- Mr. President, as far as I understand, the Minsk Group should also accept the current reality that has emerged in the region after the 44-day war, take related actions and submit new proposals. Is that what you mean?
- As a matter of fact, I want to say again that the Minsk Group has not yet submitted any proposals to us since the end of the Second Karabakh War. If there are no proposals, then it would be irrelevant to talk about the activities of the Minsk Group. In other words, a year has passed. What are your proposals? You are saying that the conflict must be resolved. Azerbaijan has resolved i. Azerbaijan has done it on its own despite all the pressure. Therefore, a proposal is needed. What do they need to do? I have expressed my opinion. Everything else is their responsibility.
- After the new reality had emerged, a statement was signed between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. There are some articles in it – as far as I remember, there are nine articles. Are you pleased with the way these articles are being implemented? Has enough been done over the past year? What articles remain unimplemented?
- On the whole, I am satisfied because the key issues have been resolved. As you know, by signing this statement, Armenia assumed certain obligations and had to fulfill them. These obligations were fulfilled immediately after the war. In other words, the statement explicitly spoke about the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the districts that were under occupation at the time, and 20 days after the war ended, Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin districts were returned to us. At that time, Armenia approached this issue very responsibly. Why? Because it was in fear, because it knew that had it not signed the Statement on 10 November, it could have found herself in an even more precarious situation. In other words, there was no force that could stop us. When addressing the Azerbaijani people during the war on a number of occasions, I said that Armenia should provide us with a timetable, submit a calendar on when it was going to vacate our lands, and we were ready to stop the war immediately.
That date was given to us on 9 November. Armenia actually signed an act of capitulation, or it surrendered, and the war ended on 10 November. So the solution to these important matters was preconditioned by the fact that Armenia was in fear. But what happened after that? Peacekeeping forces arrived, a certain time passed, and the solution of other issues was suspended. It is explicitly stated there that the Armenian armed forces must completely withdraw from our lands. But are we seeing that today? No! On the contrary, about 15-20 days after the end of the war, a sabotage group of 62 people was sent to the liberated lands from Armenia through the territory under the responsibility of the peacekeeping forces – the Lachin corridor. This runs completely counter to the 10 November statement. The Azerbaijani army neutralized them and they were detained. They are called prisoners of war today. But look up international conventions and see who can be considered a prisoner of war. These are not prisoners of war. The war ended and the Statement was signed on 10 November. Any soldier sent there afterwards must be qualified as a member of a sabotage group. So this problem has not been resolved. This is a very important issue, and we insist that it be resolved, fully resolved. It may have been resolved in part.
Another issue is related to the opening of corridors. The statement signed in the early hours of 10 November indicates the need for the establishment of communication between mainland Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Has such communication been provided? No. However, it will not take a long time to provide such communication. The length of roads there is only 40 kilometers. In the year after the war, we have built over a thousand kilometers of roads – both unpaved and asphalt roads. The opening of a 40-kilometer road there is not a major problem. Despite this – Armenia has even acknowledged that – the discussions remained fruitless. In other words, Armenia is flagrantly violating the provisions of the 10 November Statement. We are still showing restraint, but our patience is not infinite. The second Karabakh war showed exactly what happens when our patience runs out. Therefore, we are giving the Armenian leadership a chance to fulfill all the provisions of the Statement signed on 10 November and act responsibly.
- I have a question in this context, Mr. President. The free movement of these sabotage groups and control over the Lachin corridor. Russian peacekeeping personnel, soldiers are serving in these regions. Russian armed forces will have to serve there for five years. What response do you receive when you send a complaint on this issue to Moscow? Do the responses you receive have any impact in the region? In other words, does the performance of the troops stationed there change?
- Of course, we do express our fair objections to Russia on all these cases. However, the sabotage group ended up there when the Russian peacekeeping forces had not yet been fully deployed, because the war ended on 10 November, after which it took a certain time for the Russian peacekeeping forces to be deployed there to the full extent - about 2,000 soldiers. There were many uncontrolled places. So we have to be fair with that. They could not provide full protection of this territory, and the Armenians took advantage of this and penetrated our liberated territories. Overall though, the activities of the Russian peacekeeping forces can be assessed positively. Of course, we do have certain dissatisfaction and claims – first of all, in connection with the illegal presence of foreign citizens in our territory. We have repeatedly raised this issue because Karabakh is our territory, and not a single foreign citizen or a vehicle can enter those areas without our permission. They should seek authorization. I can say that this has not yet been fully resolved, although I can also add that cases of illegal entry of foreign citizens into Karabakh are extremely insignificant. I must note that thanks to our policy and persistence, this process is already being stopped. At the same time, of course, we would like to see respect for our sovereignty and territorial integrity on a full scale, in full. If Russian officials, high-ranking officials say that Karabakh is Azerbaijani land, then the servicemen on the ground should also discharge their duties in line with those statements.
- There was a meeting between Armenian and Russian defense ministers recently. A statement was made after that meeting that the process of arming Armenia had started again. What can this bring to the region? What do you think of that statement? There was essentially a non-existent Armenian army, which the Azerbaijan crushed in 44 days. It is now trying to rise again thanks to Russian weaponry. It would be interesting to find out your opinion on this issue, Mr. President.
- On learning about this, we immediately sent an enquiry to the Russian side and asked for clarification. We are of the same opinion. But we were told that this statement in the Armenian media did not reflect reality. In other words, the Russian Defense Minister did not make such remarks. That is yet another sordid effort by the Armenian propaganda, because nothing of the kind was said. We were officially informed about the absence of such plans. We received a rather detailed response from the Russian side in connection with the further free arming of the Armenian army. Therefore, such item was removed from the agenda.
This testifies to the fact that Armenia does not abandon its dirty deeds. This lie being circulated is first of all a major miscalculation, because if you disseminate words that were not spoken by the Minister of Defense of Russia, it is irresponsible and provocative to say the least. Secondly, we have seen many times during the occupation and afterwards, the Armenian lobby operating in Armenia and Russia constantly tries to do everything to drive a wedge in Russia-Azerbaijan relations. They are engaged in slandering Azerbaijan on a daily basis, trying to create a negative image of Azerbaijan in the Russian media and cast a shadow on Russia-Azerbaijan ties. They believe that in this case some revanchist forces may once again raise their head and start a new war against us. But they are wrong. First, Russia-Azerbaijan relations are at a fairly high level. We openly discuss all issues - at the level of presidents, defense and foreign ministers. We immediately come into contact regarding any matter of concern and solve problems. I can say that there is no topic related to some pressing issues in Russia-Azerbaijan relations today because these relations are quite positive. Such attempts by the Armenian propaganda will not bring them any success. The Russian side received our concerns over the re-arming of Armenia with understanding.
- The Armenian armed forces and politicians sometimes voice various ideas and statements. While the Defense Ministry makes certain statements, Prime Minister Pashinyan expresses his desire to meet with Turkey. There are such proposals. Over the past weeks, he has said this on a number of occasions. How would you assess such remarks by Pashinyan? Besides, is such a desire enough for Turkey and Azerbaijan? In other words, are there obligations Armenia must comply with in order to start the meetings?
- You know, the Armenian leadership made a great number of such contradictory and false statements both before and during the war. We can cite such examples for hours now. While we were liberating our cities and villages, they were declaring that they were supposedly re-occupying our cities. When we hoisted our flags in liberated Azerbaijani cities, they denied it. In other words, it is completely in their nature to call “white black and black white”. Therefore, when they come up with this or that statement, we, frankly, do not take it seriously. It is necessary to analyze and clarify this because such statements are a synthesis of lies, unfulfilled desires, dreams and provocations. Such is the present-day Armenia. This is exactly what we mean when we say that this is a failed state. There is even an international name for that – a failed state. Responsible behavior is also one of the symbols of statehood of any country. We do not see this.
As for the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations, of course, we are interested in peace in the entire region. I believe that the 3+3 platform proposed by the distinguished President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could be the best way for that. But Armenia has not yet agreed to this. It is being announced by the President of Turkey today, and Armenia is being given a chance. This has been supported by Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, but Armenia is opposed. While opposing this, Armenia declares that it wants the normalization of relations with Turkey. If you are interested in normalization, you should, first of all, respond to this proposal positively. Otherwise, a contradiction arises here again, it is unclear. If Armenia’s official statements are consistent with its policies for once, then, of course, it will become easier to analyze. Besides, you are well aware that there is a territorial claim against Turkey in the Constitution of Armenia. They should abandon that. They need to revise and re-adopt their constitution. What territorial claims can such a powerless and completely defeated country as Armenia put forward against such a gigantic country as Turkey? It looks like a mental illness. Therefore, they must give up their claims against Turkey and Azerbaijan. They should normalize relations with Azerbaijan. I am sure that the Turkish side has always supported peace and broad-based cooperation in the region. This is the case today, as very positive signals are coming from Turkey.
But Armenia should assess this very correctly. Unfortunately, the positive signals coming out of Azerbaijan for the two years preceding the Second Karabakh War were misinterpreted there for weakness and powerlessness. We simply didn't want to shed blood. We were aware of our own strength and knew that we could resolve this issue by military means. Armenia did not believe in this. It is still not too late. Let them appreciate the new reality correctly, take actions in accordance with it, look at the map and find their place if they can find it at all. It is just a dot on the map, so they tread accordingly. In this case, of course, large-scale cooperation would be possible in the region.
- The following comes to mind at this point. What is the power that stands behind Armenia and pays no heed to the requirements and relations between countries of the region? What are they planning, Mr. President, by trying to implement such decisions?
- I cannot say that. Perhaps political scientists and analysts dealing with this issue can elaborate that. However, based on my own experience, I can say that many of their actions are irrational, detached from reality and represent an approach based on some kind of mythology, dreams and unfulfilled desires. It is extremely difficult to analyze this correctly from a political perspective. It would be more correct to analyze it from a medical standpoint.
- This is clear. You earlier spoke about regional cooperation, the creation of a six-party cooperation platform, which President Erdogan and you have often referred to. Iran is also being mentioned as a part of this platform. However, there was video footage of trucks sent from Iran to Armenia and Khankendi the other day. You also protested against this. Shortly after that, video footage appeared of the exercises of Iranian soldiers on the Iranian border. It would be interesting to find out your opinion on this issue. Was it a mundane or planned action, a specific message?
- You know, this is not the first time that Iranian trucks have entered the Karabakh region. It has happened several times during the occupation. These trucks went there on a regular basis, and we are aware of that. But, of course, there was no exact information, as accurate as the latest report. Taking this into account, we expressed our dissatisfaction to the Iranian side through various channels. But this process continued.
After the war, the Lachin corridor is being monitored, and the distance from our military positions to the road leading to Khankendi is probably 5-6 meters. We have sufficient technical capabilities along the Lachin corridor, including the vicinity of Shusha and other places. We have cameras and we also use our satellite and UAVs. We saw that trucks keep traveling there even after the war. So I instructed our Presidential Administration to speak to the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan. We did not want to give this an official coloring, let them talk in a friendly way and explain that this should be stopped. It is disrespectful, it is disrespect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Therefore it must be stopped. If I am not mistaken, this conversation took place in July. Then, of course, we began to monitor the situation and by the beginning of each month we collected information on how many trucks have entered and how many have left, what they brought in and took out. We have all the information, including their license plates, and they have been published in the media. But what happened after that? They tried to attach Armenian license plates to Iranian trucks. They committed this falsification in an attempt to deceive us. An extremely incompetent step was taken – a tank truck with a Persian sign but Armenian license plate. I should also note that they attached the same license plates to different cars. So what does such sloppy work testify to? They wanted to continue this business and just disguise themselves. Under such circumstances, of course, at the end of the month we handed in a diplomatic note in an official manner. The Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where a protest was expressed to him and a request made to put an end to this. This took place in mid-August. We hoped this would be stopped. However, from 11 August to 11 September, about 60 trucks from Iran illegally entered Karabakh again. To prevent this, we took action. In other words, our conduct and actions are responsible and based on friendly ties. The first time, we gave a verbal warning, the second time we handed in an official note, and the third time we installed checkpoints – customs, border, and police. Thus, we began to control the road leading to Armenia through the territory of Azerbaijan, after which the entry of trucks into Karabakh was stopped. But it begs the question: was it worth it to bring matters to this point? Today, only 25,000 people live there, in the Karabakh region under the responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping forces. Is this market really so important? Is this trade really so significant that you display such blatant disrespect for a country you consider friendly and fraternal? Of course, we have used all the means enshrined in international conventions and international law. Some are saying that a duty is being levied now on Iranian trucks now, but this is not the case. Georgian cars and trucks also travel along this road from Iran to Georgia. They also have to pay a duty. Don’t we pay a duty when we travel to a foreign country? We do. They are using the territory of Azerbaijan, so aren’t they supposed to pay?
- They are.
- Indeed. This is one side of the issue. As for the military exercises held near our border, this issue is very surprising because there were no such developments in the 30-year period of independence. First of all, I must say that any country can conduct military exercises on its territory. It is of course its sovereign right. At the same time, analyzing this in terms of timeline, we see that this has not happened before.
Why now? Why exactly on our border? These questions are being asked by the Azerbaijani public, not me. Azerbaijanis of the world are asking about this. They are also questioning why no exercises were carried out in this region during the years of occupation? Why weren’t any exercises held when the Armenians were in Jabrayil, Zangilan and Fuzuli? Why are they being held after we have liberated our lands and put an end to 30 years of oppression and occupation? These are legitimate questions.
Of course, we do not wish to see a single fact that would undermine long-term cooperation in the region. I want to say again that Azerbaijan is acting very responsibly and with restraint here too. We do hope that the emotional response to our legitimate actions would soon fade.
- You have touched upon very important issues. We, too, have no choice but to wait for a response from the Iranian side. Speaking about transportation issues, I would like to link this issue with the previous question. For example, is the Zangazur Corridor a condition for Armenia to start the normalization of ties?
- It certainly is, as this is stipulated in the Statement signed on 10 November, and Armenia has undertaken such an obligation. First of all, if it does not fulfill this obligation, then what kind of normalization can we talk about? Secondly, let me reiterate my earlier statements, Armenia must analyze the post-war period with the utmost correctness. The situation is completely different now. The current situation clearly shows the balance of powers. We knew both about our own capabilities and those of the Armenian army even during the occupation. We knew that we had changed the balance in our favor long ago. The whole world can see that now. Therefore, I think that in the current circumstances Armenia should make more effort to normalize relations with Azerbaijan, as it is crucial for them. We can live without that, just as we have done and are doing now. From now on, we will live even better because we have regained this vast territory and returned to our native lands, but their situation has further deteriorated. Therefore, being in perpetual conflict, aiming to build relations with neighbors relying on a baseless and false history is an extremely erroneous step. Armenia should, first of all, be interested in normalizing relations with Turkey, as well as Azerbaijan, it should determine its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, delimitation and demarcation must be carried out. They should be more interested in this than us because there are no borders without this. You know, Armenia, as well as certain foreign politicians, are accusing us of occupying Armenia. Well, first of all, this is a lie. Secondly, why were you silent when Armenia had occupied our territories? Why did you turn a blind eye to that? During the 30 years of occupation, all our historical and religious sites were razed to the ground. All buildings have been demolished. Have you seen that? The Minsk Group co-chairs have been there many times – to Aghdam, Kalbadjar, Fuzuli, Jabrayil. Didn’t they see this?
During the 30 years of occupation, a fact-finding mission was sent there only twice and a report was produced. All the crimes of the Armenians were reflected in the report. The last such mission was carried out about 10 years ago. We have repeatedly appealed to the Minsk Group and its co-chairs, asking them to send a mission again because there was illegal resettlement underway. Armenians from Syria, Lebanon and other places were being brought and resettled there. It is a war crime. It is considered a war crime according to all international conventions. Minsk Group failed to do anything. Therefore, those who did not see this occupation for 30 years and see a non-existent occupation now are either blind or ungrateful, of course. Or they are simply hypocrites. This is the most appropriate term.
We have returned to the land of our ancestors. We haven't been there for 30 years. If the Armenian side claims that the border runs there, then why wasn’t anyone there? If this is the border, then guard it. We have come and settled in these mountains. According to our maps, we have settled in our own territory. If the Armenian side has a different opinion, then let's discuss it together. How long it will take – a year, five years, 30 years, who knows? Let me go back to this issue. On the issue of Armenia’s borders, one should comprehend the reality today. It needs to follow our conditions as soon as possible, accept them and resolve this issue, so that everyone could know where their border is.
- So that there are no further problems, and there are no small skirmishes.
- Is your meeting with Mr. Putin and Mr. Pashinyan on the agenda for the near future to once again discuss these problems and make a decision?
- We once held a trilateral meeting. The trilateral meeting was held in Moscow early this year, in January. This meeting mainly covered issues related to the post-war period because only two months have passed since the war. There have been no trilateral meetings at the presidential level since then. But a working group was set up at the level of deputy prime ministers. This group primarily dealt with matters related to the opening of the Zangazur corridor. However, in June Armenia considered its participation in this group to have been completed. It said that this was related to the elections. The elections were held there in June. Following this, in mid-August, the group met for the first time, after a pause, and will probably meet again next month.
I think that this is an important format because although there is no result yet, there is at least some kind of contact. In the current circumstances, contacts are a necessary tool because many issues can be resolved during these discussions. We in Azerbaijan have started large-scale work in connection with the creation of the Zangazur corridor. Both a railway and a road are being built to Zangilan. Airports are under construction. Therefore, I believe that within two years we will finish all the work on our territory. The scope of work is quite large. The length of the railway and the road in the territory of Armenia is only 40 kilometers. This can be built in a year or a year and a half. So we are waiting for that.
- You have spoken about projects. In one year, in fact, in less than one year you have implemented major projects in the territories liberated from occupation. For example, less than a year has passed and planes can already land and take off at Fuzuli Airport. The same applies to roads. You have laid the foundation of highways to the border with Armenia, and this work continues. Major projects in this area are under way. There are these projects, as well as Armenian citizens living in that region. What can you say about their future, so to speak? How will they use these projects? It would be interesting to know your opinion on this, Mr. President.
- You are absolutely right. Hardly had the war ended when we switched to action without wasting any time. It showed the strength of our state because money alone is not enough to carry out all this work. We need resources, personnel, technical capabilities and skills. We have mobilized all our resources. By the end of this year, we will complete these and other projects related to electricity, for example. In other words, the entire region will be fully supplied with electricity. As you know, the construction of other facilities is also continuing.
Of course, we are doing this, first of all, for our citizens, in order to rebuild this region so that the former internally displaced persons can return there soon. The first such pilot project of a village will probably be ready in Zangilan district by the end of this year or early next year. At the same time, both the population of Armenia and the Armenians living in Karabakh can see this, as they watch our television, listen to our radio and know what is being done here. It is no coincidence that representatives of the Armenian community have already approached our military positions in Shusha several times asking to involve them in this work because they are no jobs there, they live in the environment of unemployment, poverty and hopelessness. We have a positive approach to this, but the legal side of this matter must be fully observed. As I said, and I want to repeat, that we consider the Armenians living there our citizens. They live and have always lived on Azerbaijani soil. Karabakh has always been Azerbaijan – both in Soviet times and before that. During the occupation, it was also Azerbaijan. We consider them citizens of Azerbaijan, they simply need to accept this and save their loved ones from Armenian propaganda. They should build their future, the future of their children. We will be ready to involve them in this work. Why not?
From a strategic point of view, we approach the future through the prism of reconciliation, because I want there to be no more war. In any case, we will not start war if revanchist tendencies do not raise their heads from the Armenian side. If we see that there is a threat to us in Armenia, then we will have to eliminate this threat. It is our legitimate right. But if there is no such threat, then we have no other ideas. 25,000 Armenians live in Karabakh. They, too, can take part in these matters – both in construction and restoration work. In addition, we will create conditions for them in the places and villages where they live in the future. Take a look at our plans related to Karabakh and East Zangazur. The master plan of the city of Aghdam has been approved. Soon, we will approve master plans for the cities of Jabrayil and Fuzuli, and all other the districts. It testifies to our strength, and we can also do that in the villages of Karabakh where Armenians live today.
After the occupation, after the Victory, I made dozens of trips to the regions and was horrified by the picture I saw in some of the villages where the Armenians used to live. In other words, it is a situation that is unbecoming of man. Housing in some villages is currently being analyzed, 95 percent of it is unusable. In other words, no one can live there, so they must be demolished. So a community that has lived in such a humiliating environment for 30 years naturally wants to see a light that will come only from Azerbaijan. One has to understand that this is not an easy issue for them either. The psychological state should also be taken into account here. But in any case, we are showing goodwill, and I do hope they will understand that their happy future, their prosperous future is connected only with the Azerbaijani state.
- Mr. President, I would like to touch upon the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. President Erdogan said at the UN that Azerbaijan's just struggle was over. And he has been making similar statements on all platforms. Where President Erdogan is not attending, you defend the rights of Turkey. In other words, we are actually going through a period unprecedented in history. I would like to ask what you think about the future of relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
- I can say that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan provided extensive information about the right cause of Azerbaijan from high platforms in previous years too. That issue has always been the top priority in his foreign policy course. The statements he made after the war, after the Victory, of course, make us very happy and are further evidence that Recep Tayyip Erdogan always stands by Azerbaijan – just as he said in the first hours of the war that Azerbaijan was not alone and that Turkey was next to Azerbaijan. It gave us additional power and moral strength.
Even before the war, as someone who has lived here for many years, you would know how Turkey is dear for Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan is for Turkey. In recent years, we have come a long way and, one might say, raised our relations to the highest pinnacle. I have repeatedly said – you probably also remember this – that there were no such cooperation, friendship and brotherhood elsewhere in the world. I have also said that many countries have common history, common ethnic background and common language, but notice how many contradictions there are between them, so much mistrust and so many problems.
In other words, ethnic, religious and cultural roots do not immediately mean that these are fraternal countries. There are many such facts both in the Middle East and in the post-Soviet space. Therefore, I believe that to have built a fortress of such wonderful relations that rest on solid historical and cultural foundation is our extraordinary achievement – both of the distinguished President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and mine. I am far from false modesty but it is true. The Second Karabakh War has once again reaffirmed this. By being next to us, Turkey sent a message to the whole world – do not interfere. Azerbaijan is on the right track, and if you intervene, you will have to deal with Turkey. Of course, this was a tremendous advantage.
After the Second Karabakh War, our relations have risen to an even higher level. I don’t know whether or not you are aware of this, but many people in Turkey know that after the war I invited the esteemed President to Shusha. At that time, I said that until he visits Shusha, no one from any other country would go there. There were even people from Turkey who wanted to go there, but I told them, thank you but wait, let my brother come first and then the road will be open. The signing of the Shusha Declaration raised our relations to an even higher level. In fact, by signing the Shusha Declaration, we legalized our de facto relations at the level of an alliance. We already had allied relations in every area but we formalized them, and this is a clear direction for our further activities. We will follow this path. I believe that our relations are strengthening every day. The expanding joint projects and our solidarity and brotherhood serve as an example for all neighboring countries today.
If all neighbors built their relations like Turkey and Azerbaijan, then there would be no wars in the world.
- Dear Mr. President, you have made important statements on pressing issues. Thank you very much. It is my final question. I want to know your opinion very briefly. You often visit the regions liberated from the occupation. Video footage is released and we follow the news. Distinguished Mehriban Aliyeva, who accompanies you in travels across the regions, is recording and publishing this footage. We are receiving the video footage thanks to her, thanks to her social media posts. Both in Azerbaijan and Turkey, your dialogues and actions are perceived with great approval. What can you say about this?
- You know, it happened by itself, in a natural way. We didn't plan this. To put it simply, during the first trip to Shusha, we left Baku in the early morning because the journey was quite long at that time. We made it from Fuzuli to Shusha along the Victory Road in about three hours, and the roads were covered with snow and ice. Therefore, we left early in the morning, it was still dark, and as dawn broke, beautiful sights opened up. Mehriban Aliyeva started recording it with her phone, and she filmed me too. I said that we were headed for Shusha, and that is how it began. Before that, of course, there were Aghdam and other districts. It is a different initiative because my travels are usually covered by official staff. There are usually official meetings, speeches, ceremonies and more. But this was a new approach, and I know that many people liked it. We liked it too. When I was saying those words, it was the people who used to live in these regions that first came to my mind. I was saying this primarily for them, because they had been waiting for 30 years. I was already there, I saw a house, a building, but they didn’t. They must see it all through our eyes. These people always came before my eyes. They have gone through so much suffering and torment, but they did not break, they stood firm. This is Azerbaijan! This is the Azerbaijani people! My words seem to have moved you too.
- Thank you, Mr. President.
- May Allah never let anyone go through such time again.