Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the event organized on the occasion of Victory Day in Shusha

08 November 2022, 14:21
Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the event organized on the occasion of Victory Day in Shusha

- Dear servicemen.

I congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on Victory Day.

First of all, may I ask that we honor the dear memory of our martyrs who died for the Motherland with a minute of silence.

President Ilham Aliyev: May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace.

By liberating the impregnable fortress of Shusha from Armenian occupation two years ago, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan wrote a glorious page in our history. This glorious history will stay with us forever. The people of Azerbaijan and future generations will be rightly proud of this glorious Victory.

Shusha is considered an impregnable fortress. When Shusha was liberated by our heroic soldiers armed only with light weapons, they were prepared to die. They were prepared to die for the Motherland, for our lands. We all understood perfectly well that our complete victory would not be possible without Shusha.

In my numerous interviews during the war, I disclosed some aspects regarding the progress of the war. Of course, I could not say everything. I couldn't reveal too many details, especially about future plans. In response to a question, I only said once that our victory would be incomplete without Shusha. I am sure that the people of Azerbaijan understood perfectly well that our ultimate goal, the ultimate goal of the war, was to liberate Shusha from occupation. Not only because Shusha is the crown jewel of Karabakh. Not because after its liberation the strategic location of Shusha determined the outcome of the war. I said that because Shusha was the heart and soul of the Azerbaijani people, it was a sacred place for every Azerbaijani. Every time I am in Shusha – I have been to Shusha more than 10 times in the last two years – every time I approach Shusha along Victory Road, I am sure that everyone can see the heroism, dedication, and professionalism of our soldiers. Because the road we call “Victory Road” was built only two years ago. Our heroic sons have covered this long distance through mountains, forests, valleys, and paths. They defeated the enemy in bloody battles and closed in on Shusha. After that, they climbed steep rocks, defeated the enemy in street battles, and city battles, in hand-to-hand combat armed only with light weapons, expelled them from our land, and hoisted our tricolor flag in Shusha. Only two years have passed since that historic day, and many events have happened in those two years. Over the years, the heroism of our servicemen will become increasingly obvious to everyone.

The road to Shusha began on 27 September. From the first day to the last day of the war, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan only marched forward. They did not take a single step back for 44 consecutive days. However, we know from the military history of the world that in such difficult wars, especially in wars fought in unfavorable natural terrain conditions, there are maneuvers, retreats, and unexpected events. However, it was a strong resolve, the love of the Motherland, and the professionalism of our soldiers that led us to Victory. When six villages were liberated on 27 September, on the first day of the war, the people of Azerbaijan became even more convinced that we would achieve what we wanted and complete our historic mission.

We only advanced for 44 days. Before Shusha, many of our towns and villages, including Jabrayil, Hadrut, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Sugovushan, about 300 villages, a part of Lachin and Kalbadjar, were liberated on the battlefield. The liberation of Shusha broke the back of the Armenian army. As a matter of fact, Armenia was in a panic from the first days of the war. In some cases, it was gripped by panic and hysteria. This is exactly why there were more than 10,000 deserters in the Armenian army, according to their admission. There was not a single deserter in the Azerbaijan Army. This indicates the high moral qualities of our people. Our soldiers were prepared to die. They fought under the slogan “we would rather die than retreat”. There wasn’t a single deserter. This is the true heroism of our people. It goes to show what a wonderful young generation has grown up, many of whom had never even seen Karabakh and Zangazur. They were approaching this sacred land they had only seen on television and in photographs and heard about it from their parents and elders. However, they arrived and fulfilled the historic mission of our people with dignity.

The road to victory was turbulent and difficult. Defeat in the First Karabakh War dealt a severe moral blow to our nation. The reasons for that defeat are clear. At that time, anti-national elements seized power and were fighting for power. They practically surrendered the impregnable fortress of Shusha to Armenia, to the Armenians, to come to power, and this is exactly what happened. The Popular Front-Musavat tandem did come to power one month after Shusha and Lachin were occupied. They came to power on the heels of this tragedy, on the heels of bloodshed, and national disgrace, and in the one year they stayed in power, they devastated the whole country, instigated a civil war, and took their own soldiers prisoner. The lands were being lost, but they engaged in looting and robbery. They mobilized all their efforts to reinforce their power.

In other words, defeat in the First Karabakh War was inevitable. Because an anti-national government can’t win a war. Throughout the years of occupation, Armenia’s official propaganda and the media resources of their patrons attempted to circulate an idea in the world and, at the same time, with the people of Azerbaijan that Azerbaijan could never restore its territorial integrity through war. It would be sufficed to look at the speeches of representatives of international organizations and officials of countries dealing with this issue. They have said so many times that there was no military solution to this war, to this conflict. First of all, they tried to convince us of that. Secondly, they tried to prevent us from resolving the issue by military means. Of course, we also tried to resolve this issue peacefully, but resolve it.

But we saw that the tactic of negotiations was leading to the issue being frozen, and, of course, we could never agree to that.

Finally, the people of Azerbaijan united as a fist and fulfilled their historic mission. The road to war has taken many directions. First of all, we had to equip our army with the necessary weapons and hardware ourselves. A strong economy was also necessary for this. When Azerbaijan regained independence, our financial and economic situation was extremely difficult. Therefore, building a strong economy was considered an important factor in winning the war, and we did that. Our economy has strengthened, we are living at our own expense, we don't need anyone's help, we don't depend on anyone, we are building our own life to the best of our abilities, and we are doing well.

The economic processes, difficulties, and crises taking place in different parts of the world show that the economy of Azerbaijan is stable. A country that has come out of such a difficult war has been carrying out large-scale construction work in liberated territories for two years. The financial source of all this work is our state budget. Over the course of the past two years, we have not received a single manat of aid from any country, organization, or donor. Of course, if anyone wants to help us, we wouldn’t mind. But no one is helping us, and no one will. A strong economy is one of the key factors in building an army. We did it, we created it and we completely eliminated economic dependence. If we were economically dependent on anyone, we could not successfully end the war.

At the same time, we had to expose Armenia's policy of aggression. Unfortunately, international media controlled by Armenia, bent politicians, their patrons abroad, and the Armenian lobby – they had created an opinion that Azerbaijan is an aggressor. When Azerbaijan’s lands were occupied, some countries imposed sanctions against us. In other words, we did not actually use our diplomatic opportunities. Therefore, we had to prove to the whole world that we are right, that justice is on our side, and that international law is on our side. This is why we were very active at the international level. Leading international organizations such as the UN, the OSCE, the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Council of Europe have adopted decisions and resolutions in support of our position, i.e. decisions supporting justice. That created a very important international legal framework.

In parallel with that, we established relations of close cooperation with many countries in a bilateral format both in our region and on other continents. Nine member states of the EU alone have signed strategic partnership declarations with Azerbaijan. This is a third of the European Union member countries. There are also other countries. So these international relations and the international reputation of Azerbaijan allowed us the opportunity to gain more friends. At the same time, we were able to convey and conveyed the truth of Karabakh and the Armenian occupation to the world community. On the whole, the international attitude towards the 44-day war was positive. Some pro-Armenian countries and countries with close relations with Armenia indeed tried to take certain political steps against us. But they failed. Because we have secured strong international support over the years. We were elected as chair of the Non-Aligned Movement. Our chairmanship was approved by a unanimous decision. Our chairmanship was extended for another year by a unanimous the decision as well. We are talking of an international body that brings together the greater part of the world community. A total of 120 countries are members of this institution. We have established close relations with Muslim countries and managed to explain to them that Armenia pursues an aggressive policy not only against us but also against the entire Muslim world. A country destroying mosques cannot be friends with Muslim countries. Can leaders of Muslim countries open their arms to embrace those destroying mosques? This is nothing but hypocrisy. This is betrayal. There is no other name. This is why we have isolated Armenia from the key pillars of the Muslim world. Indeed, we could not isolate them completely, and there are other reasons for this – hypocrisy, as I said. By and large, however, Armenia has become known in the Muslim world as a country destroying and desecrating mosques, and we are to be thanked for that.

We have conducted a very active policy on patriotic issues. Educating the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism was one of the primary directions of my policy as President, and we have achieved it. Our young people are patriotic and attached to the Motherland, and the Second Karabakh War has demonstrated this. I want to say again that our young people who had never seen Karabakh were prepared to die for Karabakh. They were facing death. The ideas of national unity and national solidarity prevailed in our society. At the same time, all the peoples living in Azerbaijan became even more united thanks to the policy I conducted. I have said this many times but I say it again today we are a big family. All peoples living in Azerbaijan are members of one big family. We are together in good times and in bad times, and this unity is a rare asset worldwide. Take a look at other countries: we see dissatisfaction, conflicts, and mistrust on national, religious, and ethnic grounds. What do we see in Azerbaijan – unity, brotherhood, and friendship! All peoples living in Azerbaijan were prepared to die for Karabakh. This is a tremendous asset. We must always protect and strengthen this asset. The Second Karabakh War further reinforced our national solidarity and national unity. It further strengthened our country. We have shaken this heavy burden off our shoulders, and we have got rid of this stigma. We can now hold our heads high and speak with dignity at any event and in any format. We are living as proud, dignified, and victorious people. We owe it to you and tens of thousands of servicemen like you. The people of Azerbaijan know and appreciate this.

Of course, to succeed in the war, we had to implement very important projects, and we did. Today, it would be enough to look at the energy and transport maps of the world and our region to see how much benefit the projects implemented on our initiative have brought to our country and our partners. There are dozens of countries participating in transport and energy projects we have initiated. These projects will gain even more momentum at the current stage, and all these countries are our natural friends and allies. At the same time, these projects have generated additional financial opportunities for us. First of all, we channeled these financial opportunities into strengthening our military potential. If we look at state budget expenditure during my presidency, we will see that military spending has been in the first place. It is in the first place. However, the country has other needs as well. We also resolved the problems of nearly one million internally displaced persons, providing them with new houses. Social matters, salaries, pensions – we had to increase them and we did increase them. We wanted and still want to increase them even more. But first of all, we gave greater financial support to the army, to the road leading us to Victory. It is still the case today. Azerbaijan’s state budget for the next year has reached a record high, including the funds allocated for military purposes. One may wonder why. After all, the war is over and two years have passed. The answer is very simple. Revanchist forces are rising in Armenia. Forces and circles reluctant to come to terms with the results of the war are emerging in Armenia. Armenia does not fully comply with the 10 November 2020 Statement. It has yet to fully withdraw its armed forces from Karabakh, it has yet to make the Zangazur corridor available to us. It occasionally commits military provocations against us. Of course, we have to be prepared and we are.

I can say that our Armed Forces have grown even stronger in the last two years. Structural reforms have been conducted, new units have been established, the number of existing formations has been increased, and they have been supplied with weaponry, ammunition, and new equipment at the highest possible level. The current Azerbaijan Army is stronger than the Azerbaijan Army two years ago, and everyone should know this. Armenia and everyone else should know this!

This is why the road to Victory passed through different directions. Of course, the creation of strong Armed Forces was the top priority, and we did that. In parallel with this, many years of domestic stability, peace, and security in the country certainly strengthened us even more. Because let me say this again. I never want to draw any comparisons but it is impossible to hide anything in today's world. Everything is in plain sight – many countries are struggling with domestic problems, and many countries are facing internal crises, mutual distrust, disruption of public order, and a gap between the people and the government. What do we see here in Azerbaijan – domestic stability, national unity, national solidarity, and unity between the people and the government. This is a great result of our policy. All our steps, including all my steps as President from 2003 to this day have been aimed at strengthening Azerbaijan. Before the Patriotic War, all my steps served the sole purpose of liberating our lands and expelling the enemy from our lands, and we succeeded in doing that. I said during the occupation I said several times that each of us should bring the day of liberation, this sacred day closer with our work, and we brought it closer and closer. We dealt such a crushing blow to the enemy that they are still unable to recover from it. Look at the processes going on in Armenia. They are now spewing their anger and poison at each other. Notice the processes unfolding in the past two years.

Armenia should not forget the lessons of the Second Karabakh War. They should remember that playing with fire will cost them dearly. If anyone there, be it the government, the opposition, or some element sent or instructed from abroad, harbors sordid intentions against us again, they will see our fist again. The history of the last two years has shown this clearly. Even this year, the Farrukh Operation, the Revenge Operation, and the 13-14 September events on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border – all these should serve as another lesson for Armenia. We have taught them this lesson, and we hope that they finally understand it, bend their necks and deal with their internal affairs, not set their sights on our lands, not set their sights on Karabakh. Karabakh is our land. Russian peacekeepers are stationed there temporarily, the 10 November 2020 Statement specifies their term, and if they rely on anyone, they will face another tragedy.

We always respect all international agreements. We are a fair people and a fair country. If we made a commitment, we will fulfill it. We are fulfilling all the obligations we undertook in the 10 November 2020 Statement. We have been fulfilling them for two years, but is Armenia doing the same? No! Immediately after the Second Karabakh War, they were simply so afraid that they fulfilled those provisions without a single shot being fired, and the occupied territories of the Aghdam, Kalbadjar and Lachin districts were returned to us. If they hadn’t returned them, we would have smashed their heads again. But what next? Then they started biding the time again. I want to say again that this commitment has not yet been fully fulfilled. What are the Armenian armed forces doing in Karabakh? Our patience is not inexhaustible, and I want to warn them again that if this obligation is not fulfilled, Azerbaijan will take the necessary steps.

The Zangazur corridor is the responsibility of Armenia. It has taken this commitment upon itself. For two years, we have not been interfering with the cars moving from Armenia to Karabakh and in the opposite direction along the Lachin road. We have taken on this commitment, we are honoring it, and there is free movement. Armenia has also undertaken to have a road connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Two years have passed, but there is no feasibility study, no action, no railway, and no road. How much longer are we supposed to wait?

The events of 13-14 September did not happen just like that. Of course, Armenia has committed another military provocation against us. But our response was also very effective. Our response could have been a little less harsh if they had followed through on their commitments. Our response could have been even harsher if we wanted a new war. We don't want that, we don't want bloodshed. We simply want respect for our rights.

After the 13-14 September operation, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan were stationed at key strategic heights in the direction of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Armenia should understand what this means. We can see the cities of Garakilsa, Gafan, Gorus, and Istisu from those strategic heights now. We are on the shores of Lake Small Goycha. Lake Big Goycha is also within our sight. All these are realities. We created these realities after the Patriotic War. Why? First of all, in response to the military provocations of Armenia and, on the other hand, to insure ourselves against military provocations in the future. Because most of the Armenian posts are visible from the heights I mentioned, and if there is a concentration of forces there, we will see it and take immediate action. At the same time, Armenia does not fulfill its international obligations. Armenia was defeated in the Second Karabakh War and its army was crushed. A defeated country cannot act like this. Therefore, all our steps are justified. Some of Armenia’s foreign patrons indeed want to accuse us of something. I have given their answer. If they crow again, I will respond again. It won't stop me. But the fact is that we demand our rights, and the fact that Azerbaijan is right is not questioned by major international actors.

In short, for the two years since the war, we have continued our policy. We have undertaken extensive construction work in two years. We are actually rebuilding Karabakh and East Zangazur, and we will rebuild them. At the same time, we are strengthening and will continue to strengthen our Army. Armenia should understand that it is not the statements by some Armenian patron that keep us within the current frames, but our own policy. We are not afraid of anyone. We are not intimidated by anyone. If we were afraid of someone, we would never have started the Second Karabakh War. Every single one of us was prepared to die. We would rather die than retreat. Freedom or death! Now we are prepared to die for our rights. Because even though the war ended two years ago, there are alarming moments. I want to appeal to the Armenian people. They are now reaping the fruits of the 30 years of occupation. They are now experiencing what occupation and losses are. We simply responded to them. We fought on our own lands. We have ousted the aggressor from our lands. They need to understand this so that they do not become a victim of the circles based abroad and want to treat this region as a playground for the second time. We have the main say here. We have the main power here. Our Army has shown heroism, professionalism, and dedication. If necessary, we will show it again, we will achieve what we want, everyone knows this, and those who conduct military exercises in support of Armenia on our border should also know this. Nobody can scare us. If Armenia wants to conduct a good neighborhood policy, it should first fulfill all the provisions of the 10 November 2020 Statement. It should be sincere in peace negotiations with Azerbaijan. It should not artificially delay time, it should not wait for some miracle that someone will come and fight for them. No one will come and fight in their sted, but even if someone does come and fight, they will be confronted by the Azerbaijan Army.

We want peace, we don't want war, peace, but a fair peace. The terms we are putting forward are fair and are based on international law, and the peace treaty should be signed based on these terms. If Armenia shows goodwill, it will be signed, if not, it will not be signed. Time will tell what happens next.

All these words of mine have one source – our strong will and Victory in the Patriotic War! This Victory allows us the opportunity to say these words to everyone, to those who despise us. This Victory gave us this opportunity and gave confidence and spirit to all our people. We have restored not only our territorial integrity but also our national dignity. Therefore, dear soldiers, we are indebted to you, we are indebted to tens of thousands of soldiers and officers like you, and the people of Azerbaijan know this very well. I am proud of you as Commander-in-Chief.

Servicemen: Long live the Commander-in-Chief!

President Ilham Aliyev: Long live Karabakh! Long live Azerbaijan!