Ilham Aliyev has raised the flag of Azerbaijan in the center of the city of Lachin
21 September 2022, 18:20
The head of state delivered remarks.
Remarks by President Ilham Aliyev
- At the end of the 44-day Patriotic War, Armenia was forced to sign an act of capitulation, thus acknowledging Azerbaijan’s historic victory. As a result of capitulation, Armenia had to remove its troops from the occupied part of the Aghdam, Kalbadjar and Lachin districts, and so it did.
A part of the Lachin and Kalbadjar districts had been liberated during the 44-day Patriotic War. The southern part of Lachin and the northern part of Kalbadjar were freed from the occupiers by the victorious Azerbaijani army. However, the city of Lachin was not under our control. The reason for that was that the automobile road connecting Armenia with Khankendi passed through the center of the city, which was why we could not take control over the city of Lachin. However, as a result of negotiations on 9 November, the construction of an alternative way was incorporated into the document on my insistence, and consultations were to be carried out on constructing a new road in three years. We completed the consultations earlier than that. The route of the new road was agreed upon with the Russian side, and prompt measures to start the construction of the new road. This period took a total of a year and eight months. In other words, an alternative road was ready after a year and eight months. We issued an official notification that the road would be ready on 2 August, and Azerbaijan would enter the city of Lachin, including the old road, on August 5, thus returning to Lachin. After that, the Armenians living in Karabakh asked us to give them additional time until 25 August. Although there was an illegal settlement here, we showed humanism and gave them this opportunity. Thus, on 26 August, the Azerbaijani Army entered the city of Lachin, and we regained the city of Lachin.
This is a historic event. The liberation of Lachin will remain in history forever. Today, I raised the Azerbaijani flag in the city center, in the central street of Lachin. This flag will fly here forever.
As is the case with the Lachin district and all other residential settlements under occupation, the city of Lachin was subjected to Armenian vandalism. There are traces of Armenian vandalism in every village and city. The city of Aghdam was completely razed to the ground. So were the cities of Fuzuli and Jabrayil, as well as all our villages. In some places, including Lachin, Armenians conducted illegal settlement, as Armenians from Armenia and mainly from abroad – Syria and Lebanon – were brought here. This is a war crime. This is defined as a war crime in all international conventions, and this crime took place right before the eyes of the world community.
Most of the city of Lachin has been destroyed and razed to the ground. The illegal settlement was carried out in some places. The world community, and international organizations, including the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, who were directly dealing with this issue, were turning a blind eye to that. However, they had seen witnessed this scene many times, multiple times. Traveling from Armenia to Karabakh and from Karabakh to Armenia by this road, they saw that illegal settlement was taking place here. They saw that Azerbaijani place names were being altered. They saw that Lachin, our historical and ancient Azerbaijani land, was being Armenianized and that illegal settlement was being carried out here. But they turned a blind eye to that as if showing their tacit consent. We, the people of Azerbaijan, could never put up with this. I always said we would never allow a second Armenian state to be created on our lands.
I want to say again that the liberation of Lachin district and Lachin city from occupation is a historic event. The entire Patriotic War is our glorious history. Still, considering their strategic importance, the rugged terrain, and the harsh and cold climate, the liberation of the Lachin and Kalbadjar districts is critical. When Lachin and Kalbadjar districts were occupied in the early 1990s, a geographical connection was established between Armenia and Karabakh. Lachin district was occupied on 18 May 1992, and Kalbadjar district at the beginning of April 1993. Thus, the Armenians achieved their dream. They believed that they would live in these lands forever. They believed that they could succeed. They saw several countries patronizing them, and the organization dealing with these issues turned a blind eye to their crimes. It seemed as though they were encouraged in what they were doing and became even more arrogant. At the initial stage of the occupation, they destroyed all our settlements, but then they felt that their crimes were going unpunished. So, they started illegal construction, including in the city of Lachin and the villages of Zabukh and Sus.
Let me also note that together with the city of Lachin, the villages of Zabukh and Sus were also liberated from the invaders on 26 August. So, we should never forget all this history. We are standing on these lands today at the cost of the lives and blood of our martyrs, thanks to the dedication of our heroic soldiers and officers. No one gave these lands to us; no one returned these lands to us through negotiations. International organizations, including the UN, its Security Council, and the OSCE, should have forced the occupying state to vacate these lands. Sanctions should have been imposed against Armenia. None of this happened. On the contrary, to perpetuate this occupation, Armenia, Armenians of the world and their patrons wanted to join forces and realize their sordid intentions. I have always been saying that the people of Azerbaijan will never agree with this. I have always been saying that if the issue cannot be resolved peacefully, we will resolve it militarily, and we did exactly that. We defeated the Armenian army in a matter of 44 days. We have liberated Shusha, which was considered an impregnable fortress. We have liberated Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Hadrut and Khojavandi on the battlefield. The enemy was brought to its knees and was forced to vacate Lachin, Kalbadjar and Aghdam. While standing in the city of Lachin today, I feel rightfully proud that our tricolor flag is flying on the ancient land of Azerbaijan.
The Second Karabakh War could have been avoided had Armenia listened to us. Had they vacated our lands of their own accord, the Second Karabakh War would not have happened. The battles of April 2016 were a great victory for us – both morally and from a strategic point of view. The heights we liberated in the wake of those battles created additional opportunities for us, including our successful campaign in the Second Karabakh War.
After the April battles, Armenia was frightened and was ready to withdraw its troops from the occupied lands. It even promised to do so. However, it did not keep its word afterward. The April battles were not a lesson for them. Two years later, the “Gunnut” operation was carried out in Nakhchivan, and strategic heights were taken under control. This did not teach them a lesson either. Finally, the Second Karabakh War culminated in a complete defeat of the Armenian army, as the victorious Azerbaijani Army liberated our native lands. We thought this would teach them a lesson because the Armenian army was in a destroyed state. A country with 10,000 deserters is not capable of waging war – neither physically nor morally.
We offered them peace immediately after the war. This was perhaps one of a handful of examples in the military history of the world when lands remained under occupation for 30 years, people lived in suffering and deprivation, historical and religious monuments were destroyed, cities were razed to the ground, and more than a million mines planted, and yet we are offering peace. However, we see again that Armenia is not interested in peace. It is still nurturing some revanchist ideas. We proposed to them to start the delimitation process. This process has stretched out over about a year. Although this process has started, it is purely formal in nature; there are no negotiations on the substance of the issue and no discussion around maps. We have prepared all the maps of the 20th century and the previous era. The delimitation process should be carried out based on these maps.
We have proposed five principles for signing a peace treaty with Armenia. In words, they accepted them, but we do not see it in practice. Again, this is a stalling tactic. According to the act of capitulation signed by Armenia on 10 November 2020, the Armenian armed forces should have withdrawn from Karabakh. They haven’t fully withdrawn yet. Armenia was supposed to provide a corridor to ensure a connection between the main part of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. So far, not only have they failed to provide the corridor, but the corridor’s route has not been communicated to us. No concrete work has been done. We have now built the railway to Zangilan. We built the highway to Zangilan. At the end of next year, we will bring the railway and the highway to the border with Armenia. However, nothing is being done across Armenia, and it seems they are unwilling to do anything. They are still delaying time.
Moreover, in the past few months, they have committed repeated military provocations against us. More than 1,400 new landmines were planted in the Lachin district alone, and these mines were planted in 2021, i.e., after the war. This is a flagrant act of terror against Azerbaijan. Since the war ended, more than 240 Azerbaijani citizens have been killed or seriously injured due to landmine explosions. In other words, the war against us continues, and our people are dying. Can we allow this to happen? We can never allow that to happen. We have repeatedly warned Armenia to stop these dirty deeds, or it will regret it.
As a result, when another provocation was committed against us on 13 September, the Azerbaijani army responded and put the enemy back in place. I do hope that this will finally teach them a lesson. Because they saw that no one and nothing could stop us, No one’s call, no statements or initiatives can stop us. We are on our land, and we are protecting our land. Our positions along the border allow us the opportunity to anticipate any Armenian provocation and take necessary measures. We are in favorable positions on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border from Mount Murov to the Araz River. These positions give us a military advantage and the possibility of visual control over a vast area, including control over essential communication lines. We are already based in these areas. We didn’t have access to these borders for 30 years.
After the Second Karabakh War ended, we accessed our borders. If Armenia wants to accuse us of entering their territory, there is no basis for that. First, if the border was where they said it was, they should have established the border, built border lines, established communications and carried out engineering work. They were under the impression that all of Karabakh and Zangazur would remain theirs, which is why they did not do anything on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
In other words, in the absence of border delimitation, no one can claim where the border passes. Let me reiterate that we are ready for discussions and approach the work of delimitation commissions, the Azerbaijan-Armenia commissions, with great responsibility. We have collected all the maps. I want to say again that we have all the maps, including those from the 19th century, the 20th century and even earlier, and those maps clearly show who is sitting on which land. Therefore, no one can accuse us in the absence of delimitation.
On 13 September, we gave martyrs again. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace. May Allah grant healing to our wounded veterans. May Allah grant patience to the relatives of our martyrs. But they should know that the martyrs rose to martyrdom for the sake of the Motherland. We didn’t want war. This is precisely why we have been negotiating for nearly 30 years. We want to sign a peace treaty with Armenia after the Second Karabakh War.
However, if the enemy commits provocations against us, we will give it a fitting rebuff. Armenia should think carefully today. No one can speak to us in the language of ultimatums. They should not count on anyone. I want to say again that no one and nothing can stop us. We are on the side of the law, justice, and international law. We have restored our territorial integrity and are protecting it. We were able to show the whole world what we were capable of doing. We have liberated our land by force, and we are proud of that. All the people of Azerbaijan, all Azerbaijanis of the world, are proud of this. We are proud of our martyrs, our Army and our soldiers, and our tricolor flag flying here today symbolizes our Victory.
Now is the time to restore the city of Lachin. Preparations for this are already underway. I sent several groups here immediately after 26 August. An analysis will be performed of the entire housing fund. Damage will be assessed. At the same time, proposals will be prepared for urgent work to be started. The city of Lachin, the village of Zabukh and the village of Sus will be rebuilt first. I am sure that we will achieve this soon because the work we have done since the end of the Patriotic War – large-scale construction and restoration – shows that we are restoring and will continue restoring our Motherland.
Coming here from Mount Murov today and looking at these beautiful mountains, I saw again how beautiful our homeland is. Twelve tunnels are under construction from Mount Murov toward the city of Lachin – imagine that, in this direction alone. Not to mention the Fuzuli-Shusha, the Horadiz-Aghband and other directions. A total of 12 tunnels are being built from Mount Murov to Lachin city. Their total length is 17.5 kilometers. The longest of them, the Murovdagh tunnel, is 12 kilometers long. It took me a few hours to get here now, but the day will come – and that day is not far away, in two or two and a half years at the latest – people will travel from Goygol to the foothills of Mount Murov to settle and live here very comfortably. Also, instruction has been given regarding the construction of the Gubadli-Lachin highway. We are engaged in the construction of the Horadiz-Zangilan-Gubadli highway. I have ordered that the Gubadli-Lachin highway have four lanes. This way is the main road.
Power engineering specialists were immediately sent here. The electricity infrastructure of Lachin was inspected, necessary measures taken, and generators delivered. Lines will be extended here from the Gulebird Hydropower Station, which we built in a short period, so there will be no problem with electricity here.
The city has a master plan, which was drawn up in the 1980s. It is now being analyzed, additions will be made to it, and we will restore the city of Lachin. I do hope that the first group of the natives of Lachin can return to the city of Lachin by the end of next year. I hope so, and I will do everything in my power to achieve this and restore the city of Lachin as soon as possible. We will restore the Lachin district and all other districts.
The people of Azerbaijan can see what we are capable of now. They see that we won the war, we are winning in day-to-day life, and what makes us strong is the will of the people, the unity of the Azerbaijani people. Our Victory in the war was the product of our people’s unity. The people’s resolve and support strengthen us to implement construction and development work.
I want to repeat that I am proud to have raised our national flag in the center of Lachin. This flag will fly here forever! We will live here forever! Long live, Lachin! Long live Azerbaijan!
x x x
The head of state then viewed the destruction perpetrated by the Armenians in the central street of Lachin and elsewhere across the city.