It is a historic day today. Today, the Azerbaijani flag was raised in the central square of the city of Khankendi. I sincerely congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion.
Exactly 20 years ago, the people of Azerbaijan showed great confidence in me by electing me the President in the elections. At that time, I addressed my people and promised that I would defend the national interests of the Azerbaijani people and the Azerbaijani state and that I would protect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. I took an oath with my hand on the Constitution and the Holy Quran. I am glad that all the promises I made during the last 20 years and all the tasks I set before myself have been fulfilled.
Today, all the people of Azerbaijan are genuinely rejoicing. All the people of Azerbaijan are praising Allah. We have been waiting for this day for more than 30 years. But each of us, I am sure, believed that this day would come.
Twenty years ago, when I began discharging my duties as President, I set myself the top priority task of raising the Azerbaijani flag in all our territories, all our lands, cities, and villages that were occupied at the time. Every day, every hour, we moved towards this sacred goal. Every day, we were bringing this cherished moment closer and repeatedly saying that each of us should try to bring this day closer with our hard work.
Over these years, Azerbaijan has become stronger. Azerbaijan has been able to take its rightful place on the global scale. Azerbaijan is now being acknowledged around the world. The position of our country and the steps of our state carry an enormous meaning not only for the region but also for a broader geography. In many cases, Azerbaijan has been the author of significant initiatives. Over the years, we have created a solid political and legal foundation for resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. At the same time, we have created a robust economy, and the successes achieved in this direction over the past 20 years are evident. Our economy has grown more than four times. A strong economy means independence. Independence should never be conditional. You must have a strong economy and a powerful army to achieve absolute independence.
We worked tirelessly to strengthen our army. We have created such a powerful army that the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan can honorably fulfill any task today, and we proved that on the battlefield. We forced the enemy to sign the act of capitulation in just 44 days during the Patriotic War three years ago. At the same time, the counterterrorism operation we carried out last month that lasted only 23 hours showed our strength, and the enemy surrendered by waving the white flag. We are rightly proud of our Armed Forces.
The primary reason we are here today is the people of Azerbaijan, the sons of Azerbaijan. We have raised a young generation ready to die for the Motherland, our lands, and they were confronting death. May Allah have mercy on all our martyrs. We bow our heads to their souls. We, the people of Azerbaijan, are in their eternal debt. Three years ago, over the last three years and during the counterterrorism operation in September, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers showed true heroism, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. We are proud of our Army and our Armed Forces. They are the source of our pride. Not only Azerbaijani citizens but also, I am sure, tens of millions of Azerbaijanis living in the world are rightly proud of Azerbaijani soldiers, officers, and the state of Azerbaijan.
The counterterrorism operation last month was inevitable. The people of Azerbaijan know very well, and I am sure so does the world community, that we wanted to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict peacefully. For seventeen years, I personally participated in meaningless and fruitless negotiations many times. Why? Because I thought that this issue should be resolved peacefully. But gradually, our hopes dwindled. Analyzing the occupation policy of Armenia once again, I can say with complete confidence today that they had no intention of returning even an inch of land to us.
Unfortunately, the mediators dealing with this issue wanted to freeze the conflict, to perpetuate it. They wanted this wound to fester. The people and the state of Azerbaijan could never come to terms with this situation. I have often said that we will never accept this situation; we will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on our land.
The Patriotic War lasted only 44 days. Throughout those days, I repeatedly addressed the people and, at the same time, addressed the enemy, urging it to lay down arms and provide a timetable of when they would vacate our lands. And then we would be ready to stop the war. After we had liberated Shusha, our sacred home and the impregnable fortress, the enemy realized its defeat and waved the white flag, and we had stopped the war.
I remember some people asking the question then: Why did we agree to stop the war on November 10? Today, while standing here, I want to reiterate that we have to do everything at the right time, and we do. The overwhelming majority of the Azerbaijani people understood perfectly well then, on November 10 and in the ensuing period, that we would achieve what we wanted. And what we wanted was the flag of Azerbaijan flying here.
The people of Azerbaijan showed great confidence in me 20 years ago, and I have always felt it over these years. And this confidence has further grown. Today, my most significant rewards are the words I said during the occupation and the words people have been repeating. I said back then that I knew how and when to do something. Even when the Second Karabakh War stopped, the people of Azerbaijan were aware that I knew what I was doing. Less than three years have passed since that day, and we are here today, in Khankendi, in the center of Khankendi, standing under the National Emblem and the Flag of Azerbaijan. It is a great happiness and a historic event.
Perhaps it is not suitable for me to talk about history now because we lived this history. We created this history. The people of Azerbaijan won such a Victory that it has become known to all, and this Victory will be with us forever. This Victory will forever be in our history. The generations that will follow us will forever and rightfully be proud of this Victory.
This year is the “Year of Heydar Aliyev.” We have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev throughout the year. How do we celebrate? We celebrate it by continuing his policy and honoring his historic legacy. I celebrated the National Leader's birthday in Shusha. Some people wondered where the ceremony would be held, who the speakers would be, and which foreign guests would attend. Then, they realized that no ceremony would be held. Why? Because our respect for the memory of the National Leader had to be measured by concrete actions. This is the first. Secondly, Heydar Aliyev was very modest and never fond of lavish ceremonies. I recall his 50th birthday very well. In 1973, we celebrated it at home only with the family. I also remember his 60th birthday too. He was working in Moscow at the time. There were no guests there either. To celebrate his 70th birthday with my father, I went to Nakhchivan. And on his 80th birthday, his health was deteriorating, and we celebrated it in the hospital in Ankara, in a hospital cafeteria.
This is why we had to celebrate my father's 100th birthday in Shusha, which has a significant symbolic meaning for us and has a special place in the heart of every Azerbaijani. There, addressing the people of Azerbaijan, I spoke from the heart. Today, the souls of the National Leader and all those who didn’t live to see this day are rejoicing. All the people of Azerbaijan, their followers, cheer their souls.
Of course, the fact that I came here today when we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Leader has an enormous symbolic meaning. I should also note that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province, which did not have historical, geographical, or political grounds to be established in Azerbaijan, was nonetheless created here 100 years ago – in 1923. This is a history of 100 years. Notice how much our people have suffered over these 100 years and how many times history has put us to the test. We didn't bend or break; we confronted such an immense tragedy alone, and no one stood by us. No country stood with us when our lands were occupied, not even moral support. All major powers were behind Armenia, and today, history repeats itself. Look at the countries that are most hostile to Azerbaijan today.
These countries sided with Armenia at that time, in 1992-1993, incited them to invade our territory, supported the invasion, and justified their actions. Nothing has changed in these 30 years. Our people were faced with immense tragedies. One 1 million people were left homeless. Our lands were destroyed entirely. Today, visitors to the liberated lands can see Armenian savagery with their eyes. There is not a single sound building left here. Ethnic cleansing has been carried out against us. Genocide was committed against us, the Khojaly genocide. More than a dozen countries have recognized Khojaly as an act of genocide. The movement called “Justice for Khojaly!” has gained international momentum.
The path we have covered from that difficult period is one of honor and dignity. We united and gathered strength. The people of Azerbaijan showed their wisdom once again in 1993, supported the National Leader Heydar Aliyev, elected him as President, and we have been on the path of development ever since. In the last 20 years, this development has become more rapid and is manifested across every domain.
This building was built in the 1960s at the expense of Azerbaijan’s budget. At that time, it was the building of the party committee of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province. It was called the “PartCom” building. Many people used to have offices in this building. There was a time when the Azerbaijanis and Armenians lived here in an amicable atmosphere. There was a time when the Azerbaijanis and Armenians lived in friendship not only in Khankendi but also in Karabakh, Baku, Gandja, Irevan, Goycha, Zangezur, Daralayaz, and Basarkechar. I remember those years. After Heydar Aliyev came to power in Soviet Azerbaijan, some nationalist forces that had existed in Karabakh until then completely withdrew for precisely 18 years. From 1969 to 1982, there was not a single incident. I remember coming here with my father. I remember that atmosphere. Here, there was a friendly atmosphere in the true sense of the word. Work was being done together. Today, we raised the Azerbaijani flag over the Sarsang Reservoir. The Sarsang and Sugovushan reservoirs were built on Heydar Aliyev’s initiative in 1976. At that time, so much investment was made in developing regional agriculture. A railway was built from Aghdam to Khankendi, a higher education institution was established here, and most of the buildings you see in Khankendi were built in those years. Agriculture was thriving. At that time, the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province alone supplied 100,000 tons of grapes.
All this was a source of income for those working in collective and state farms at the time. People lived well here. There was no discrimination. To confirm these words, I can give you an example. At that time, the party committee of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province had a nine-member bureau. Eight of them were Armenians, and one was Azerbaijani, and he was the first secretary of the Shusha City Party Committee. So, if there was discrimination, then what does this example show? The first secretary was Armenian, the executive committee chairman was Armenian, and so were all other officials. There was no discrimination here at all. In Azerbaijan, a newspaper was published in the Armenian language, i.e., it was in those years, and we cannot simply discard those years aside. On the contrary, those who remember those years should share those memories with the younger generation. Because this was the case, but what happened next?
In 1987, Heydar Aliyev was removed from his position and the bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was also ousted from the position of the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, and only two weeks passed when Armenian nationalists raised the issue of transferring the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province from Azerbaijan to Armenia. It was raised by an Armenian nationalist who lived in Moscow. Where was this issue raised? In a French newspaper. France again. So today, when we return to that history and analyze those events, we can see that nothing was a coincidence.
Unfortunately, the then-Azerbaijani leadership let the situation spiral out of control and showed cowardice, helplessness, and indecision. Nationalists occupied this place, so many rallies with anti-Azerbaijani slogans were held in this square, and all this encouraged the nationalists even more. Armenian nationalists, Dashnaks, and bloodthirsty international terrorists were constantly coming here from Armenia. It was here that the policy of ethnic cleansing against our people began. Those sitting in this building in those years were the cause of the tragedies of Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples. Azerbaijan was left without Heydar Aliyev for only six years, and those six years remained in our history as a tragic, critical, and shameful period for us. Our lands were occupied, and anti-national governments replacing one another only tried to protect their personal interests during the Soviet period and during independence. In particular, due to the treacherous activities of the Popular Front-Musavat anti-national duo, this entire territory was occupied, and then they “froze their duties” and cowardly withdrew.
And again, the genius of Heydar Aliyev, his personality, and the Heydar Aliyev factor came to the aid of the Azerbaijani people, and we rightly refer to the Nation Leader as the Savior. At that time, the state independence of Azerbaijan was at stake.
Some of those holding the highest office positions in this building are now in Baku. They wanted to come to Baku, threatened us, said that their tanks would be on the streets of Baku, and were right in a sense. Their tanks ended up in the Military Trophies Park. They said that they would come to Baku to have tea. And they are right in this, too. They are having tea now in a detention facility. The three clowns who called themselves “president” challenged us from this building, threatening and insulting us. We approached this matter with restraint and patience, as with everything else. Because we knew that we would come here, I knew that. Exactly 20 years ago, on October 15, 2003, I made that promise to the people of Azerbaijan and myself. Yes, we waited for 20 years, or rather for 17 years. Three years ago, our flag was raised in Shusha. However, we have achieved what we wanted and fulfilled the decades-long wishes of the Azerbaijani people. We have restored the dignity of the Azerbaijani people. We have returned to our lands, we have restored our territorial integrity, and at the same time, we have restored our dignity.
The three clowns who used to sit here and call themselves “president” await their deserved punishment today. I wonder if the man who used to sit in one of these buildings and call himself a “prime minister” will ever dare to threaten us again. His tea is being served in the detention facility as we speak. A separatist who called himself a “foreign minister” once sarcastically said that Azerbaijan should open an embassy in our country if it wanted to raise its flag in Khankendi. Now, his tea is also served there in the detention facility. Our flag is flying high here. This should be a lesson to them.
Unfortunately, the words I said 20 years ago and repeated many times did not register with them. They thought those were just words. No, I do what I say; everyone knows it, including Armenia, and they should not forget it either. Don't forget the Patriotic War! Don't forget the counterterrorism operation! If some forces in Armenia ever think about revenge, let them take a good look at these images.
Dear compatriots, standing in this square today is a great happiness, joy, and a source of pride. I proudly raised the Azerbaijani flag today, and I want to say again to my dear people that we deserve this Victory. The people of Azerbaijan achieved this victory at the cost of their blood and lives. The Flag I raised today will fly here forever, and we will live here forever. Karabakh is ours, Karabakh is Azerbaijan!