As reported earlier, as part of a visit to Gandja on 30 January, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Azerbaijan State News Agency-AZERTAC.
Correspondent: Mr. President, first of all, thank you for answering our questions. Mr. President, you have visited Gandja many times, a lot has been done in the city. We would like to know your opinion about this work.
President Ilham Aliyev: This is my 18th visit to Gandja as President. It means that I visit Gandja every year on average. There have been years when I visited here twice. And because Gandja is the second biggest city of Azerbaijan, attention to this city has always been at a high level. Secondly, many projects have been implemented in Gandja, and these projects continue to be implemented. The comprehensive development plan of Gandja has been approved and is being successfully implemented. I have been the country's president for 18 years and have been to Gandja 18 times.
In recent years, we have tried to implement major infrastructure projects in Gandja, and the vast majority of these projects have been completed. The electricity supply has been fully resolved. Ten substations have been rebuilt and overhauled in Gandja. The power generation capacity is 220 megawatts, fully meeting the city's needs. At the same time, the city's growing demand, including industrial potential, will be taken into account.
The gas-supply project has been fully implemented. The drinking water project is still being implemented. Unfortunately, this project took a while. It is indeed both very large-scale and cost-effective. It is a project worth about 800 million manats. As a result of this project, the problems of drinking water and sewer in Gandja will be solved once and for all. According to the latest information provided to me, completion of this project is currently at 42 percent. Of course, additional instructions will be given to accelerate the implementation of this project and resolve this problem in Gandja.
Regarding the construction of roads, I can say that, as is the case in the rest of the country, the roads to Gandja have been completely modernized. The construction of the Baku-Ganja highway and the Ganja-Gazakh-Georgia border road has been completed. We are now widening this road from two to four lanes. At the same time, the roads from Gandja to other cities – such as Goygol and Dashkasan – have been overhauled.
As you may know, the railway line from Baku to Gandja has been completely modernized. It is, in fact, a part of the East-West transportation corridor. High-speed trains have now been launched along that route. Manufactured by the world's leading Swiss company, these trains are both time-efficient and comfortable. High-speed trains run from Baku to Gandja and back. This, of course, is very important for the convenience of the people. It is easy to get there by road, and the air service is up to date for visitors and Azerbaijani citizens. Gandja International Airport was overhauled some years ago on my initiative.
In other words, these are critical infrastructure projects. Without resolving these, there would be no development of the city. At the same time, of course, the entire social infrastructure in both the health and education sectors has been updated. Notice that a 245-bed city hospital in Gandja has been almost rebuilt, and an additional 200-bed modular hospital has been installed. Regarding education: more than 30 schools have been built and renovated in the city. The more significant part of this problem has been resolved. Two dormitories of the State Agrarian University have been commissioned. I attended the opening of both. The educational building has been rebuilt. Given that agriculture is now of particular importance to the country's economy, the modernization of this educational center was, of course, of great importance.
At the same time, the cultural life of Gandja is vibrant. The new State Philharmonic Hall and the Drama Theater have been built. So work is being done on the comprehensive development of Gandja, including the reconstruction of parks, alleys, recreation and entertainment areas. All this work is the result of a well-defined policy.
Also, after the Second Karabakh War, Gandja has contributed, as it should, to the development of the Kalbadjar district. Because for now, the only way we can easily travel to Kalbajar is from Gandja to Goygol and from Goygol to Kalbajar. What I mean by easily, we can use that road only in spring and summer. In winter, the road is both impassible and very hazardous. There was no such road there in Soviet times. It was just a trail. We widened that trail in a short time, and I traveled to Kalbadjar through there myself last year, crossing the Murov Pass. At present, a large tunnel is being built under Mount Murov – about 12 kilometers long. So the future development of Kalbadjar, the return of citizens there and the supply of Kalbadjar district, as well as Lachin district, will be primarily organized from this region. Therefore, the restoration of Gandja and the liberated lands of this area is of particular importance for the comfortable life of our citizens. At present, most of the equipment for our military posts and posts along our border goes through here. Therefore, the territories in and around Gandja will continue to play a unique role in the life of our country, especially in the life of the liberated lands.
Of course, the city's population is growing. We will continue to take additional steps to adapt to this population growth and modern requirements. At the same time, the current successful development of the mining industry in Dashkasan district will largely depend on the infrastructure in Gandja because there are both gold and iron ore deposits. Additional instructions have been given to accelerate this work. An industrial chain cluster must be created to use iron ore deposits efficiently. Of course, Gandja will also have a unique role in that. In short, as a result of the implementation of state programs for the socio-economic development of the regions, the city of Gandja has always had a special place. This is the case today, and it will be the case in the future.
- Mr. President, you also inaugurated several essential facilities today. What do these groundbreaking ceremonies show? What can you say about them?
- In fact, these groundbreaking ceremonies show that the development of Gandja and the solution to the city's problems are always in the spotlight. It also shows that, although our primary focus is on the liberated lands, Karabakh and Zangazur, at the same time, all our other cities and regions are also in the spotlight. If we look only at today's program, we can see that a vital facility was opened, a groundbreaking ceremony was held. Among these, of course, I would like to emphasize the opening of the “ASAN xidmət” Center. A few years ago, an “ASAN xidmət” Center was opened in Gandja. However, the demand is so great that people are lining up. Of course, the key features of “ASAN xidmət” are transparency, modern service and convenience. That is why we have named the service “ASAN.” But if there are lines and people spend hours in them, it is no longer “ASAN.” Therefore, on my instructions, the second “ASAN xidmət” Center has been established, and it is bigger than the first. The service was officially launched today and will open its doors to citizens in a few days. So there will be no more lines.
At the same time, the Gandja Drama Theatre was opened today. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I could not meet with the theatre troupe. Still, I remember representatives of the theater approaching me about the construction of the city’s drama theatre when I was in Gandja a few years ago. I promised them that I would consider this request. A magnificent Drama Theatre has been opened, both in terms of architecture and functionality. Again, many problems face the country, requiring an immediate solution.
Nevertheless, every initiative that can contribute to the culture, the cultural life of the city of Gandja must be supported. A few years ago, the Gandja Philharmonic Hall was opened. See how much the opening of this Philharmonic has contributed to the cultural life of Gandja, as well as the overall appearance of the city because it is a gorgeous building in terms of architecture. The Drama Theatre is also a magnificent edifice, with excellent conditions for performers, troupe members and spectators. At the same time, I also got acquainted with the construction of the Gandja Sports Palace today. We started to build this palace on my initiative. This is a massive project. I can say that there is no sports center of this size in Azerbaijan, even in Baku. Although there are many sports centers in Baku, none would concentrate on all major sports. Here we have martial arts, wrestling, boxing, schools such as wrestling and boxing, and a particular gym for indoor games such as basketball, volleyball and handball, a 50-meter swimming pool, extra rooms and halls, a hotel. In other words, I want to say again that this is the largest sports center in our country. The construction of this center in Gandja is a gift to its people. I must also say that when I was not President yet, I initiated the establishment of the Olympic Center in Gandja as President of the National Olympic Committee and that sports facility was built at that time. But over the years, of course, this sports facility has become obsolete, both physically and morally, and the conditions for regular training there were not good enough. But I am sure that this sports center will be commissioned by the end of next year and be valuable for both athletes and city residents. I think I am right when saying that everyone should do sports. So the opening of these facilities and the groundbreaking ceremonies are, of course, a manifestation of care for the city.
The establishment of a locomotive depot in Gandja has already been completed. There is a great need for this. Because, as I said, the East-West transportation corridor passes through Gandja. A locomotive depot was recently opened in Baku, and a second depot has just been opened in Gandja. Notice how much coverage today's program has. These opening and groundbreaking ceremonies show that development must continue in every part of our country; we must not be complacent with the achievements; we must only move forward and mobilize all our resources to create even better living conditions for our people.
- Mr. President, you have also laid the foundation of a Memorial Complex in the area destroyed by the Armenian fascist army during the Patriotic War. We would like to know your opinion about this.
- You know, it is challenging for every Azerbaijani to be standing outside these destroyed houses and watch this horrible scene. During the Second Karabakh War, Gandja was repeatedly bombed by the criminal Armenian army. Thirteen rockets were fired at the city, eight of which exploded, unfortunately killing people. Five did not even explode. This, in turn, shows the plight of the Armenian army. Our citizens who died due to this cowardly shooting should not have died. Among them were children, women and the elderly. Six children died. In the city of Gandja alone, 26 civilians were killed by cowardly fire, and they are the victims of Armenian fascism. The city of Gandja was shelled with “Tochka-U” and “SCUD” missiles. When we made a statement on this matter, the Armenian side denied it. Then the false Armenian propaganda came up with yet another fabrication stating that Azerbaijan itself bombed its cities. Notice the level of disgrace and dishonesty. Just as the Armenians used to say that the Azerbaijanis had committed the Khojaly genocide themselves. This time, too, the Armenians have become a victim of their lies, so to speak. Because major powers follow the trajectory of ballistic missiles, and everyone saw that the Armenian army had deliberately fired at a peaceful city, the city's residential area located far from the war zone, at night. In other words, this was not an accidental fire. It was aimed at intentionally destroying a residential building, killing Azerbaijani citizens, intimidating the Azerbaijani people and deterring the Azerbaijani leadership from liberating the lands. Of course, this is a war crime and must be recognized by the world as a war crime. The Azerbaijani Army did not commit such crimes during the war. We fought the war with dignity. We confronted the enemy on the battlefield. When Gandja and other cities, such as Mingachevir, Barda, Tartar and Goranboy, Aghdam district, Fuzuli district, Naftalan were bombed, I said that we would take revenge on the battlefield. Unlike Armenians, we will never commit war crimes. That once again shows the greatness of our people and the accuracy of our policy.
Armenia, on the other hand, was defeated on the battlefield. They had 10,000 deserters. They have been thoroughly humiliated. Look at the ugly deeds they resorted to aiming to stop us. But the people of Azerbaijan, even the people who came out from under the rubble, bleeding people, those who lost their loved ones, said that we should only move forward. No one and nothing could have stopped us. We took revenge for these innocent people, for our martyrs on the battlefield. We brought Armenia to its knees and defeated it. We defeated Armenian fascism and restored justice.
The Memorial Complex I laid the foundation of today will cover a large area. This Memorial Complex will be built on an area of about four hectares. These demolished buildings will stay the way they are. So this memory should not be erased. We must not forget this Armenian savagery. The war is over. Yes, we say there must be peace. But we must never forget the Armenian savagery and Armenian fascism. We must not forget the victims of Khojaly. We must never forget the victims of Gandja and the victims of our other cities. We bow our heads to their sacred spirit and again say that we avenged them. Perhaps this is a consolation for their loved ones. At the same time, we say that we are victorious people. We are a victorious state. We have defeated Armenian fascism. We must ensure that Armenian fascism never arises again.
- Mr. President, as we all know, there was an attempt to demonstrate a film about Armenian fascist Garegin Nzhdeh in Russia that was prevented. Can this be assessed as the result of the successful foreign policy pursued by the Azerbaijani state? We would like to know your opinion about this.
- I think that, first of all, the Russian public was well aware of this, and as a result of the persistence of the Russian public, this shameful act was thwarted. But it is also true that I was the first person to raise this issue at the political level. In previous years, I have repeatedly raised the issue of Armenian fascists in my speeches. I raised the issue with international organizations and countries and said that Nazis should not be allowed to become heroes. I raised the issue of executioner Nzhdeh in my speech at one of the CIS summits. I said that the statue of Nzhdeh in the Armenian capital Yerevan was propaganda of fascism. This must be stopped. That man was a fascist and an executioner. That man killed innocent Azerbaijanis, then soldiers and officers of the Soviet army during World War II. This Nzhdeh was a fascist, and everyone should know that. But he is still glorified in Armenia. If this were only related to the previous fascist government, it would be half the trouble. Unfortunately, the current Armenian government promotes and protects the Nazis. Staging this unacceptable act in Moscow through the Armenian Diaspora Organization does not fit into any frames. Because Russia itself, like Azerbaijan, is at the forefront of the struggle against the glorification of fascism. We have repeatedly exchanged views with Russia on this issue. We agree at the level of presidents, other officials and public organizations. Fascism must not be allowed to rise. Attempts to distort the history of World War II must be stopped. This policy will lead the world to the abyss. Fascism must not be glorified. On the one hand, although Armenia officially supposedly shares these views, it is actually glorifying a fascist such as Nzhdeh. There are still streets, squares and an underground station in Armenia and Yerevan named after fascist Nzhdeh, and there is a larhe six-meter statue of him. This monument has not been demolished yet.
So what does this mean? This shows that Armenian fascism is still alive. Yes, we defeated Armenian fascism in the Second Karabakh War, in the Patriotic War. I can say that Armenian fascists are not as active now as in previous years. But we can see that fascism is on the rise in Armenia. Former fascist leaders of Armenia, child murderers Sargsyan and Kocharyan are rising and trying to rechallenge us. We have defeated them. We brought them to their knees. They will go down in history as deserters. Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan will remain in the history of the Armenian people as deserters. Because as the Azerbaijani Army approached Shusha, they fled Khankandi like cowards. They are now resurgent in Armenia, in Russia.
The organization of such a shameful act in the Russian capital through the Armenian Diaspora proves what I said. We have defeated Armenian fascism, but it is not over yet. We will continue to wipe out all manifestations of Armenian fascism, and we can do that. But other countries and the international community must also be united on this issue. The destruction committed by Armenian fascism in the 21st century should be an example for everyone that fascism is fascism. Armenia’s patrons, the circles behind Armenia, must know, understand and appreciate our historical mission; they must understand who we have destroyed. We have not only liberated our lands, but we have also cleansed the region, the South Caucasus, of these savage forces. I repeat that they are humiliated now, but no one can guarantee that they will not rise again. We will never allow Armenian fascism to rise in our region. We can never allow Armenia to become a potential threat to Azerbaijan again. If we see that, we will destroy it on the spot. Everyone should know this.
- Mr. President, we thank you for your detailed answers to the questions of AZERTAC.