Ilham Aliyev attended plenary session on “Moving Mountains? Building Security in the South Caucasus” in Munich18 February 2023, 19:40
A plenary session on “Moving Mountains? Building Security in the South Caucasus” has been held as part of the Munich Security Conference.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended the event.
Moderated by Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Christoph Heusgen, the plenary session was also attended by Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and OSCE Secretary General, Deputy President of the Foundation Council of the Munich Security Conference Helga Maria Schmid.
Moderator Christoph Heusgen: Good afternoon, everybody. It's good to have you here. We have the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Ministers of Armenia and Georgia. And I didn't know this, but the President of Azerbaijan just told me this is a historic meeting. This is for the first time in history that the three leaders of these countries meet. We have to check this in the history book. I know that foreign ministers met, but Helga Schmid, the Secretary General of the OSCE, nods; if she nods, this must be true. So, thank you very much for joining us here. This conference, of course, as we all know, is happening one year after Russia invaded Ukraine, and this conference continues like last year to have this as the main topic. Your countries are not directly involved, but you are neighbors to Russia. And my first question is, how has Russia's invasion and the war against Ukraine, and how has this affected your respective countries? President Aliyev, if I may ask you.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Well, I would say there was no direct impact on us. But the general geopolitical situation has changed entirely and probably will not go back to the time before Russia-Ukraine War. So, we can see some disadvantages concerning trade cooperation with traditional partners. At the same time, some advantages, especially concerning connectivity projects. Azerbaijan has invested in creating modern transportation, logistics, and infrastructure for many years. And now, diverting cargo transportation from Central Asia across Azerbaijan to Europe creates additional opportunities. But you know we had our war two years ago, which lasted 44 days. And we know what war is. We know what kind of devastation and suffering it brings to the people. Therefore, we, of course, want peace to be established in Eurasia. And I think Azerbaijan and Armenia must demonstrate that the transition from the long-lasting stand of mutual hatred and hostility must end. We are now working on a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Hopefully, we will conclude it sooner or later. And that could be an excellent example of how countries with serious historical disagreements can get together and turn the page of hostility. So, that would be my answer.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much, and before I ask the Prime Minister of Armenia to respond to this, I will pass through Georgia. Georgia, of course, has these occupied territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And what is the effect now for your country from the side of Russia? How about the Geneva talks? Is there anything happening? How has how is this impacted you?
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili: Thank you very much. First of all, thank you for organizing this panel discussion. I think this is an excellent initiative and historic meeting, as you mentioned. When the South Caucasus gets together, I think this is an excellent, already successful meeting and thank you for organizing this discussion.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, of course, this is a big challenge for all of us. Since World War Two, Europe and the world, in general, have not experienced such a big challenge. You know that in 2008 we had a war with Russia. And since then, Russia has occupied our historical territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Russia has two military bases on our territory. And since then, we have been facing many problems and challenges. But after we came to power in 2012, we made many efforts to de-escalate the tension. De-escalate tension; simultaneously, we have been very active on our European integration path. Georgia signed the association agreement. Deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with European Union. We called it the visa-free regime. And last year, this was a historic decision when the European Council gave us a European perspective. So to respond to your question about how the war in Ukraine affects all of us in Georgia, we all see that Russia is focused on Ukraine. It's a devastating war. And I must say that we must do everything to stop this war. There is no alternative to peace. And I have to tell you that Georgia has been pursuing a peaceful resolution policy regarding restoring our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have made it very clear that Georgia has a peaceful plan to restore its territorial integrity. I want to thank the OSCE, EU, US and other participants who have been actively involved in the mediation process.
You mentioned Geneva international discussion; this is the only platform we have now with the Russians. And so therefore, I must repeat that this war must be stopped. We have seen this war in the effects of this war in our country in 2008. And lots of people died, and we completely lost control of our territories. And as I said, Russia has military bases on our territory, and it’s ongoing and doesn't stop. I also want to mention that since the 2008 war, we haven't seen any sanctions imposed on Russia or the country we saw that business continued as usual. Therefore, it was a very, let's say, wrong signal.
To conclude, the international community must decide how to move forward. Because if this work continues, it means more devastation and killings of civilians. So therefore, once again, I want to repeat that our intention, our main, let's say, the goal has to be to stop this war.
Christoph Heusgen: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. The killing has to stop. But, let me briefly return to your country; you mentioned 2008. And I was an advisor to the Chancellor at the time, and it was a very difficult situation where we didn’t have to go into detail. But going back to 2008, may I ask you, at that time we had, we dealt with President Saakashvili. And we have seen alarming pictures and photos of President Saakashvili in a very delicate situation, and people are afraid for his life. There’s also a journalist who is in a different situation. I have the impression that in your country, in harsh times, when you have war in the region, you called for national unity. There's something where from the outside, one has felt that this is happening in your country. And as I said, President Saakashvili was a host was a guest very often here at the Munich Security Conference, and they sent these alarming pictures there. Isn’t there another possibility he can get out and get some treatment in hospitals outside Georgia?
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili: First, thank you for this question. I don't want to talk about and speculate about the health of President Saakashvili, who is now in a private hospital. I want people to know that he arrived in Georgia. He returned to Georgia two years ago, more than a year and a half ago. October 1st, to be more precise. The idea of his comeback was to make another revolution in Georgia, to organize mass killings and bloodshed. He failed, and he ended up in jail. So, he requested that we transfer him to a private hospital. I don't want to bother the audience with the details, but I must respond since you asked this publicly. So, he has been in the private hospital for more than eight months, and the Georgian Government has been providing maximum support, maximum comfort, and all the privileges that other prisoners are not receiving. You mentioned the pictures and photos. I want to say that Mr. Saakashvili was a good actor. The Georgian government has been doing everything it can to provide maximum support. Again, I want to repeat that we even proposed and offered his family to bring any doctors from any hospital or country to provide medical in case he needs medical support in Georgia. So, this is my answer. And I also want to mention that you have probably seen lots of fake news and disinformation spreading by the lobbying firms of Mister Saakashvili and his family. For example, I want to give you just a fact. Last month, it was disclosed that his family officially paid $1 million to launch aggressive media campaigns worldwide. So, what you hear and see in the videos or on Facebook or social network does not describe reality. So therefore, no one stands above the law. We are building a strong democracy in Georgia. We are building and strengthening democratic institutions. This is the understanding of democracy, I guess, that no one should be above the law. Saakashvili committed grave crimes, such as killing former banker Girgvliani; this was a famous case, beating up to death a former member of parliament and, in many cases, the seizure of private TV channel Imedi, for example. Plus, he added another crime which is crossing the illegally state border. By the way, for your information, he spent two days in the container truck and refrigerator to get the ferry from Ukraine from Odessa to come back to Georgia to make the revolution. So, this is the story. I didn't want to discuss this individual at this panel to bother you with all the details. But since you asked Mr. Heusgen, I want to respond.
Christoph Heusgen: I don't want to deepen into it; it is just a humanitarian appeal. I want to return to Prime Minister Pashinyan, returning to the question asked outside and President Aliyev. What are the repercussions of the war of Russia against Ukraine on your country?
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. I also would like to thank you for organizing such a format. And I agree that maybe it is a historic meeting. But, it's essential to identify the content of the history that is now being created. Because we can have different outcomes, consequences or results, we need to be result-oriented. And that is our approach.
And, as far as your question is concerned, global instability can improve our region because, you know, full international attention has been concentrated on Ukraine, understandably, for a long time. And it creates new risks for our region. And, it's very important to keep the international attention to our region as well, because there are many risks to be managed. What is our approach to this whole situation? We are devoted to our democratic reform agenda because we believe that democratic reforms, the development of democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights, an independent judiciary, etc., would improve our region’s overall situation. We think it is a benefit for the whole region for us to do our part of the job.
Christoph Heusgen: Yes, thank you very much. This leads me now directly to the Secretary General of the OSCE, Helga Schmid. Wonderful to be here in your hometown, in Munich. The OSCE is an organization of which the three countries are members, an organization of which Russia is still a member. What can the OSCE at this stage do to help cooperation between the countries to help stabilize and have the instruments that the OSCE has at its disposal at a different, difficult time for your organization? What can you do to try to lower tensions and promote cooperation?
OSCE Secretary General, Deputy President of the Foundation Council of the Munich Security Conference Helga Maria Schmid: Thank you. And I'm also very happy to be part of this meeting today. But I would, before I come to your question, Christoph, let me say that we are also witnessing the impact of a horrible earthquake affecting Türkiye and Syria. And I would like to start by paying tribute to all three of you because you have provided life-saving, quick support. And I know, particularly, I want to pay tribute to you, Prime Minister Pashinyan. I know your foreign minister was in Türkiye, I think, only a few days ago; he met with his Turkish counterpart. And in the face of this tragedy, we may find a way to work together. And I think this is very important. But now, there, maybe, no direct impact, as you said, President, when it comes to the war against Ukraine, but we know for sure there is a very strong feeling of insecurity in the wider Black Sea region. And I think the only way forward is really keeping the processes. I agree with you on the Geneva international discussions, dialogues, and regional cooperation. The OSCE, which brings me to your question, is mandated to promote regional cooperation, trade links and connectivity. I think that's very important. Now, it isn’t easy to build sustainable peace and reconciliation. There are outstanding issues that need to be addressed. Related to the board, missing people, detainees, also mines. So this is why it's very important to use all the means we have, also on confidence-building measures for example, regional monitoring, demining efforts could be envisaged. We work a lot already with youth. Youth are tomorrow's stakeholders to unite tomorrow’s leaders in all three countries. You will not be surprised to hear me say that women must be a part of that. But regional cooperation is important. I also, I'm very supportive of the Brussels-led dialogue. I think it can deliver very concrete results and the implementation of the roadmaps agreed upon. Ultimately, it's about people; it’s about the conflict that affected people who deserve a better life for the future.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you, Helga. You also mentioned Prime Minister Pashinyan, that you are helping in Türkiye in the face of this horrible earthquake. Do you see a perspective that there is an improvement in relations between Armenia and Türkiye, what we have been looking for over many decades? In some states, we were close to getting rid of the blockade, and where do you stand there? Is there a perspective that this horrible crisis, this humanitarian catastrophe, is something good that may come out of your relationship? Thank you.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you for sending humanitarian rescuers to Türkiye; we had humanitarian motivations only because millions of people suffered next to us. But in the process, we see quite a positive reaction from the Turkish Government. And if this step will also have political results, it's better. But our initial motivation is purely humanitarian, and as we announced, we're ready to provide as much humanitarian support as it is in our capacities. And we're ready to do that.
As far as political dialogue is concerned, to be honest, before the earthquake, we had political dialogue through the special envoys. In reality, this dialogue was very important. I mean, in the creating atmosphere where these decisions were made. And through this humanitarian conversation and communication, the opportunities for concrete political decisions will be higher. Especially the minister you mentioned visited Türkiye, and some political arrangements were mentioned there. And we are ready to go forward because we believe establishing diplomatic relations with Türkiye and opening our border will positively affect the actual and international situations.
Christoph Heusgen: Yeah, let's hope that this comes out. We had initially been the Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu indeed wanted to come here, but of course, due to the situation in the country, he decided to stay home, but let's hope this will lead to something. Because this border was closed for too long, we also must improve relations there. Now, let me come to the elephant in the room. If you allow me, this is the question President Aliyev initially alluded to. The war started two years ago already, and we see a situation that is still very critical. We are not here to do any negotiations. But then, of course, we are when you look at it from the outside, the international community, we are concerned about the humanitarian situation, and one always looks as we have been looking right now about humanitarian aid to Türkiye, we're looking at humanitarian steps. We see the Lachin corridor from the outside blocked, and we wonder. And maybe prime minister, you can tell us a bit about, maybe efforts to have some confidence-building measures there to see that somehow the situation improves. Afterward, I would like to turn to President Aliyev again. We would like to see that through some small steps, we come to de-escalation and come closer to resolving this conflict.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. You're right. It's already been 70 days since the Lachin corridor has been blocked. And now, unfortunately, we have a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and an energy crisis. Because electricity supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh have been shut down. And the gas supplies have been shut down, and we counted, and during the last 70 days, the gas supplies were cut at least ten times, which is a problem that should be addressed. And our position is that in the trilateral Statement from 9 November 2020, we have particular provisions connected with the Lachin corridor. And according to that statement, Azerbaijan and Russian peacekeepers are obliged to keep the Lachin corridor operable. But now, unfortunately, we have a different situation. I also meant the Lachin corridor, saying that international attention should be kept on the situation because we fear that the continuation of this situation can cause humanitarian consequences for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Christoph Heusgen: President Aliyev, as I said, we are not there. We cannot negotiate the substance of the agreement and how to come to a final conclusion. I think the President of the European Council has been working with you on this. We don't want to get into this. My question is just is there, do you see, because you are saying that we should use this opportunity now to come to a more stable situation. Can you make some humanitarian gestures so that this blockade is stopped? And the people who, according to what the Prime Minister is saying, are in Nagorno-Karabakh are living in very difficult circumstances. That's something you can do as kind of a good way to measure confidence-building. So that talks have a chance to succeed, and a system for substantial questions is not resolved yet.
President Ilham Aliyev: As far as we understand in our communications with our American partners and partners from European Union, and also, as far as I understood from today’s trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Pashinyan, which Secretary Blinken organized, we have a common understanding that there should be a two-track approach to the situation in the region. First, the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks track. Second, Azerbaijan’s communications with the Armenian population in Karabakh.
Just for your information, the word Nagorno-Karabakh is no longer valid. This is the Russian word. “Nagorno” means mountainous. And in Azerbaijan, there is no such administrative unit like Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, I ask our partners to respect Azerbaijan's sovereignty and constitution. There is a Karabakh region of Azerbaijan with an Armenian population. So, this two-track solution separates our talks with Armenia from our internal issues like our communications with Armenians in Karabakh. And also, it was agreed with our international partners that there would be discussions on the rights and securities of the Armenian minority in Karabakh. And we are ready to do it. But with those representatives of the Armenian community who lived, were born, and lived in Karabakh throughout their life. But not with the person who was exported from Russia to have the leading position in Karabakh. Maybe export is not the right word. I prefer the word “smuggled into.” Because nobody knows how he emerged in Karabakh and how he is trying and achieving to go back to Yerevan and from there to Moscow, then back to Yerevan and then to Karabakh. This fact alone demonstrates that there is no blockade. The second fact, which demonstrates that there is no blockade, is that from 12th December until today, when our activists from civil society came to the checkpoint, there have been more than 2,500 vehicles, including tracks of Russian peacekeepers and representatives of the Red Cross. Red Cross took almost 100 medical patients from Karabakh to Armenia for treatment. So, how can we call it a blockade when there is an open road? And if Armenians in Karabakh try to use this road, no one will stop them. So, this is important to understand the current situation. And also, to properly evaluate the current situation, we must go back a bit to history. For almost 30 years, our lands were under Armenian occupation. Prime Minister Garibashvili mentioned that in 2008 after the Russia-Georgia War, no sanctions were imposed on Russia. But I also can say that Armenia occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, violated international law, and did not comply with UN Security Council resolutions for 27 years. And no sanctions were imposed on them. And we always asked for sanctions on Armenia to be imposed to avoid the war. We were waiting for Minsk Group to deliver the result. We were waiting for the Security Council of the United Nations to respect their resolutions. But we thought there was no movement, and there is a common understanding that this conflict is frozen. So, we proved that it is not frozen. We had to fight. We had to sacrifice 3,000 lives to restore our dignity, territorial integrity and justice and implement UN Security Council resolutions. Therefore, we cannot take out of the context today’s situation in Karabakh or our communications with the Armenian community there and forget about the thirty years of occupation, forget about that the territory equal to the territory of Lebanon is totally in ruins, and that was done not by aliens. That was done by our neighbors who came, occupied our land, made a million Azerbaijanis homeless, destroyed 65 out of 67 mosques, and desecrated them. And then, when we kick them out, they now plea for justice. They accuse us of occupation - those who occupied us for 30 years. And one thing also should not be forgotten - the trilateral declaration of November 2020, which the Prime Minister referred to, de-facto, was the capitulation act by Armenia. We fought the war. And the results of the war have been accepted by the international community and Armenian society. And the best indicator was the new mandate the Armenian population gave to Prime Minister. That was the mandate for peace. Therefore, we need to look to the future. And I think today, as we discussed just before the session, is a historical day if we look to the future. Because for the first time, three leaders get together as independent countries. There were cases like that during the Soviet times. And we should not miss this opportunity.
Karabakh Armenians are Azerbaijani citizens, are minority. Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic country. And all minorities in Azerbaijan enjoy the same rights and privileges, including cultural, linguistic, and other and also security. And we are ready to start practical communications with representatives of the Armenian community in Karabakh. And today, in front of Secretary Blinken, I told my Armenian colleague about that. But we can do it only when the Russian citizen-criminal oligarch, a person involved in money laundering in Europe, Vardanyan, is out of our territory.
Christoph Heusgen: As I said, we cannot replace negotiations here, but I would like to give Prime Minister Pashinyan a possibility to react to what he heard from President Aliyev, and then also I would like to give the audience, of course, a chance to ask questions to the panelists. Prime Minister, please.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. About Nagorno-Karabakh, you know, President mentioned the trilateral statement. On the trilateral statement, we have a provision, “Nagorno-Karabakh,” and we have the signature of the President of Azerbaijan under this document. And we have the Lachin corridor that should be freely operable and, according to that trilateral Statement, out of the control of Azerbaijan. It is according to the signature of the President of Azerbaijan. And recently, you know, some Armenian children from Nagorno-Karabakh tried to travel by bus to Lachin corridor, and they were stopped, and some Azerbaijani persons with masks intruded into the bus and children there were screaming, and that was the last attempt of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to commute through Lachin corridor freely. President Aliyev mentioned destroyed mosques. You know, I would like to say that in 2017 in Azerbaijan, several mosques were destroyed to build new roads. And President Aliyev mentioned that I don't know how many thousands of mosques were destroyed. And by the way, in the Soviet time and when in Azerbaijan, approximately 1,560 mosques were destroyed. And it was a usual thing for the Soviet Union. In Armenia, as in Soviet times, churches and mosques were destroyed. And you know, Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, they don't, they shouldn't pay the debts from the Soviet time. And you know, it's very important. It is a very dangerous narrative.
Because there may be an impression that Azerbaijan wants to give some religious context to this situation, it is very dangerous; there is no religious context in the conflict, and the proof is that we have very good and, by the way, in our country, we have Muslim minority. We have in our country acting mosque. That is the reality. And you know, the wording of Azerbaijan, what is concerning using the wording of such kind of almost offensive wording, capitulation etc., you know, from aside, it can be the impression that now, Azerbaijan wants to show that and that is maybe the reality that Azerbaijan adopted a revenge policy. And that may be the policy of Azerbaijan. But, as it was mentioned, we have a very complicated history. And I said, yes, it may be a historic meeting, but for what purpose do we want to use this? For inflaming intolerance, hate, and aggressive rhetoric in our region? Or in opposite, we want to use this platform to make things better. We think that this platform should be used for constructive purposes. Of course, we can now tell many stories of enmity. But what is the meaning of our leadership? To deepen that enmity or use our capacities, authorities, and mandates? I'm proud that I have I've been able, our government was able, even after the devastating war, to have free, democratic elections in our country that were worldwide acknowledged as free democratic, transparent and competitive. And as I said, from our point of view, the solution is democracy, the solution is transparency, the solution is dialogue, and the solution is respect for all countries in our region. We're ready to work in that direction. Thank you.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much. We will not be able to go any deeper into this again. My appeal is what I said at the beginning that maybe this would help a bit to have some confidence-building measures to see if that when children use the Lachin corridor to get humanitarian aid to get, you know, have people traveled there, that this is possible so that people don't have to suffer from the political differences that exist there also, that they have access to energy. So this is only the appeal we can launch here from this podium.
Now, we have a few minutes left to ask questions there. You can only ask questions but give a short statement on this topic. So I just warned you, please, only short questions. Yes, please.
Questions: Thank you very much. I want to put one common denominator. It probably would be much easier for the president and the prime ministers regarding the situation with Russia. Most of us didn't expect the war in Ukraine, forcing you to consider our perception of Russia. Russia has turned itself from stability into a country of instability regarding security.
My question to the Armenian prime minister. As you mentioned a couple of times, the Collective Security Treaty Organization could be more productive now, and Armenia may leave the organization. Can you comment on that?
For the prime minister of Georgia, What do you think of potential strategic moves of Russia while they are losing in Ukraine might be considering making some blitzkriegs in the countries they consider a much more vulnerable and easy target like Moldova and Georgia. Do you see the threats to your country?
For the President of Azerbaijan, you mentioned peace negotiations and talks with the participation of the U.S. as a mediator. So, it looks like Russia has lost its role regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Can you comment on this issue?
Christoph Heusgen: I mean, these are very good questions. But this is very unfair, because by having three people. But since you're from a partner organization, what choice do I have? Prime Minister, please.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Well, you know, and it was public and transparent. We have some concerns connected with the CSTO. And we raised those issues with our partners, and we made it public, and we're working, and the concerns are there in the place and by working to address all the issues and all the questions and concerns that we have.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili: Thank you for the question. You mentioned the threats that are coming from Russia. Well, first of all, I have to say that, you know, talking to our European friends, American friends, our international partners. Everybody has the same position that we're not in a position now to say something more precisely, concretely right, what will happen in Ukraine? Of course, the consequences of this war will impact countries like Georgia, and you mentioned Moldova. Let’s be very frank - on the entire European security architecture, on the world Because what Russia is trying to do now is – they are trying to change the international order - rules-based international order. So, we will have a clearer picture of where we are and what the experts have been saying to us within two or three months. So, you know about Georgia. Georgia is partially occupied; Russia occupies 20 percent of our territories. We experienced this war in 2008. We had an indirect, let's say, war at the beginning of the 1990s when the Russians backed the separatists in Abkhazia and Ossetia. So, we have a good experience. So, therefore, it's really hard to say what will happen. I think time will show us where we are now. Where will be the world, the region and Europe after Ukraine? So, I think too, I have to repeat what I said in my opening remarks. There is no alternative to peaceful negotiation and peace talks. Because we have witnessed that nuclear war rhetoric has come back, which is catastrophic for the entire world, not only for Ukraine and Europe but for the entire planet, right? So therefore, we must expect that big players such as the United States, China, Russia, and the European Union will sit down and talk about the future of this planet. Because, once again, war is not a solution. Georgia is a small country with only a population of 4 million population. Again, with our challenges and achievements in the last decade, this is the only peaceful period – these ten years. When we were in power, we ensured peace and stability. This is what people need. We need peace, stability and prosperity. So by war, we cannot achieve prosperity; we cannot achieve stability. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: We have several platforms to address the issues of normalizing the Azerbaijan-Armenia relationship. One of them is the so-called Brussels format. And yesterday, during the meeting with the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel, we reconfirmed our commitment to the Brussels process again. Today, during the trilateral meeting hosted by Secretary Blinken, we also discussed the Brussels process as a trilateral format. And I think there is a common understanding that this is only a trilateral – EU, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. There is a legacy from the so-called former Minsk Group, which already retired and does not exist, maybe exists only on per. Therefore, the former coMinsk Group co-chairs, which did not deliver any result for 28 years, will have some leverage on the situation. Therefore, we have a platform wasted by the United States, Russia and now by European Union, but no longer by France because of the one-sided pro-Armenian position of the French government. And it is clear that when you are a mediator, you cannot take sides and demonstrate that you take sides. So, I think this is an answer to your question. And above that, I want to say that whoever will help both countries to come to an agreement, of course, will have the champions’ medal. But with respect to the peace talks, we can understand this position. But judging from our experience, I can tell you that peace talks sometimes last too long. We had peace talks for 28 years. Can you imagine from 1992 to 2020? And if we did not resolve the Karabakh conflict on the battlefield, these peace talks would have continued for 28 years more.
It was absolutely acceptable for Armenia because they wanted to seal the situation, to keep our lands under occupation forever. It was acceptable for Armenian friends in different parts of the world. But it was not acceptable to us. And we were prepared; we were mobilizing our efforts; we were growing a new generation and growing a new generation, which came and liberated the lands they had never seen because they were young. They were not even born when Armenia occupied our lands. Therefore, peace talks, yes, I am not against it, but you have to restore justice by force. And this is your legitimate right. This is a right given to you by Chapter 51 of the United Nations. And we used that right. And we fought on our territory. Our war was a war of liberation. And that’s why it was a just war. Our war was not a war of occupation. And that’s why we did not have one from our army who left the battlefield. For 44 days, when Iskander missiles shelled our cities and villages, no one left the battlefield. In Armenia, there have been 11,000 deserters. Why? Not because they were losing on the battlefield but because their war was occupational. There was no motivation for people born in Armenia to go to Azerbaijan and fight for the lands that did not belong to them. And what we have seen as one of the results of our liberation war - the main factor is motivation.
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