Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by local TV channels

10 January 2024, 13:20
Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by local TV channels

On January 10, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by local TV channels.

Rovshan Mammadov from Azerbaijan Television: Mr. President, good day. First of all, I would like to thank you very much on behalf of all of us for the interview. After the full restoration of our sovereignty, especially after the Khankendi Victory, each one of us wanted to have such a meeting and such an interview. Therefore, thank you for taking our wishes into account.

Mr. President, we are living through a new historical reality, a new historical stage. The biggest reality, as mentioned, is the complete liberation of Karabakh, the elimination of separatism and terrorism from Karabakh and, as you have said, discarding it into the trashcan of history. Of course, this reality is underpinned by strength, a principled approach, determination, resolve and your Iron Fist. That is why I would like to start my first question by reviewing the past 20 years of activity from the standpoint of today's realities. Today, if we look at the last 20 years of our Azerbaijan, which has fully restored its territorial integrity, Azerbaijan, which has fully restored its sovereignty, what kind of picture comes to life? What journey have we covered in these 20 years?

President Ilham Aliyev: The history of the last 20 years is obvious, and the key issue here is that the people of Azerbaijan made the right choice back in 2003. Because I believe that the year 2003 was the most crucial moment of our independent history. At that time, the conceptual approach to the future of our country had fully justified itself, i.e. Heydar Aliyev's policy was continued. If history had taken in a different turn, it is hard to say what misfortunes and tragedies could befall our nation and a state. In any case, the first two years of our independence explicitly showed that in the absence of a strong leader and a thought-out policy, any country, particularly a newly independent one, might encounter serious dangers. In 2003, the policy laid down in 1993 was once again supported. I do believe that we should compare today's realities not with 2003, but with 1993, because it was then that Azerbaijan embarked on a path of development, stability set in, the civil war was stopped, and our country came out of international isolation. If we look at the developments of 1993-2003, we will see that it was in those years that the principles of the present-day statehood were established and civil society emerged in Azerbaijan. At the same time, the unity of the nation and the government became an important factor.

As far as the history of the last 20 years is concerned, everything is quite evident. If we talk about that at length, we will probably have to dedicate the whole interview to it. I simply want to say that today's Azerbaijan is among the strongest countries of the world in the truest sense of the word. I believe that we can serve as an example for many countries both in the world and in the region in terms of the correct choice of domestic policy priorities. This is not just my opinion, some of my colleagues have been quite open about it.

The new tasks facing the country today are the tasks of the new era. We resolved the key task, as you mentioned, a few months ago by fully restoring the sovereignty of our country, and the events of September, of course, should not be taken out of the overall context. In other words, the path we followed until September was a consistent path, a goal-oriented path, the right path. From the point of view of the processes unfolding in our country at the political or military level, this event was the exclamation mark, as it were, of all the work we had done. Today, we are entering 2024 as a nation that has fully restored its sovereignty. I believe that the new era of our modern history began exactly after September 20.

Mirshahin Aghayev from Real TV channel: Mr. President, on October 15, you raised the Azerbaijani flag in Khankendi, and it seems to me that it was not just your hand, it was also the hand of the National Leader Heydar Aliyev, it was also the hand of Panahali Khan, it was also the hand of the founding fathers of the Azerbaijan People's Republic, and all these hands were consolidated in yours. I left Khankendi almost 30 years ago – it was in 1991 – and I had an interview with Matvey Radaev. The interview was held in the “Orqkomitet”, which the separatists later turned into a residency. I was wondering what feeling you experienced at that moment. I will associate the answer to this question with the spirit of all the great people I mentioned.

President Ilham Aliyev: You know, when the people of Azerbaijan, all Azerbaijanis of the world saw those images, we all probably experienced the same feelings, including myself. My feelings were no different from those of all Azerbaijani citizens – pride and joy, of course. At the same time, I also thought that one should always believe in justice. Because for 30 years, faith in justice in Azerbaijani society was somewhat undermined, and this is not good for any society. This inevitably has a negative impact on people's consciousness, may lead to despondence, and creates conditions for pessimism to spread in society. In other words, these factors are very dangerous for the emergence and strengthening of society, a healthy society. Therefore, there must be a reason to believe in justice. We should all know that justice does not appear out of the blue and that you have to secure justice. In the modern world, we had long understood this. If you look at my speeches, perhaps for the last 10-15 years, I have repeatedly said that international law does not work. These mechanisms are deployed only for the weaker countries. Bigger states ignore them. For them, it is as if law is not law, international law is not law. Under such circumstances, countries that demand justice, and rightly so, must secure this justice themselves. Guided by this principle, we worked hard in recent years and restored justice ourselves. Therefore, it is also important from this point of view, because our faith in justice has been restored. In other words, we all saw that, yes, justice has prevailed, we have completed our just cause and restored justice ourselves.

Unfortunately, the key players of the international community did not share our opinion. On the contrary, they tried to blame us and to engage various pressure mechanisms against us. In other words, we achieved this justice by waging political and diplomatic war at the international level. Therefore, our Victory is even more important.

Also, the images you have just mentioned were coming before my eyes. The same square, the same city, but a completely different landscape. In that square, at the top of that square – I have to say that an Azerbaijani architect, if I am not mistaken, his name was Hasan Majidov, he was the author of the building called “Obkom” – we all witnessed the beginning of a very ugly game against Azerbaijan from that building, from that square. As a living witness to those events, you will also remember that the Special Committee established in Karabakh at the time had actually become a mechanism for alienating Karabakh from Azerbaijan. That Special Committee, the person who was in charge of it and other persons, all their steps and actions were aimed at separating Karabakh from Azerbaijan and annexing it to Armenia.

So, all these images went through my mind, and of course, the abundance of feelings I experienced does not allow me to say which particular one was dominant. Of course, when I raised the flag in Khojaly, I thought to myself – today we can say with complete certainty that the blood of Khojaly victims did not remain unavenged. The raising of the flag in Khojaly was therefore more emotional. I can say that quite frankly. And raising the flag in Khankendi was about complete restoration of justice and the final point in our Victory.

In other words, these are historic moments. We are all happy to live in this era, to be witnessing it. We participated in achieving this great Victory, everyone in their place, you are media representatives, myself as Supreme Commander-in-Chief, all categories of our population brought this Victory closer with their hard work. It had become a nationwide issue, a nationwide movement, and despite the efforts of many of our international partners, this topic was not forgotten for 30 years. They wanted to make us forget this. Under various pretexts – cooperation with Armenia, creation of contacts through various NGOs to prepare people and societies for peace – the aim was that the young generation growing up in Azerbaijan should grow up in a different spirit. But our goal was that the growing generation should be patriotic, never come to terms with this injustice, and if we are not lucky enough to restore this historical justice, the future generations should do it.

I have to mention another issue. Of course, we all wanted to restore our territorial integrity as soon as possible. However, from the point of view of history, 30 years is not such a long period of time. During this period, many proposals were put forward during the negotiations, and some might wonder why Azerbaijan was not accepting them. After all, based on these proposals, several districts would have been returned to Azerbaijan without any war, the former displaced persons would have returned to their homes, and at the same time, the situation would have been normalized. Why doesn’t Azerbaijan agree and come to terms with these proposals? Of course, the negotiations had their own strategy and tactics. Of course, we conducted the negotiations in a manner that minimized external pressure while achieving our goals. But the main thing for me was that this is a historical issue, it is a national issue, and it would be wrong to seek some seemingly favorable gains. We must solve the issue in a fundamental way, we must solve it once and for all, we must fully restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty.

There should not have been a single nest of separatism anywhere in our country, and if our generation was not lucky enough to do that, we should raise such a young generation that would come and do it after 20 years, after 30 years, after 50 years. That was the primary issue. Of course, we are all happy to have seen and experienced these historic days, and this historic Victory will remain forever in the history of the people and state of Azerbaijan.

Chinara Nurmammadova from ARB 24 TV channel: Mr. President, one of the most important events of the past year was the establishment of the “Lachin” border checkpoint. Immediately after that, pressure started to be exerted on Azerbaijan, accusations were made that “a humanitarian crisis is being created in Karabakh”. At that time, the flag of Azerbaijan had not yet been raised in Khankendi, the separatists were still active there, and the pressure was mounting. Currently, the situation has changed and completely new realities have emerged. What are the nuances we can talk about now? What risks did Azerbaijan consider when establishing the border checkpoint?

President Ilham Aliyev: You know, after the signing of the November 10 Trilateral Statement, we had to ponder about our future steps. Because November 10 was also a point in time, and I could not say exactly on November 8 how the war would end, i.e. I could not say with complete certainty. Of course, I knew that it would result in our Victory, but it was impossible to say on November 8 how and when that would be the case. Because on November 8, of course, a major event happened – Shusha was liberated from occupation and the resistance of separatists became meaningless from a strategic point of view. Of course, had the war continued, it would have been very difficult to liberate the Kalbadjar and Lachin districts, especially in the winter season. However, we would have done that too. But our losses could have been extremely high, even higher than in the 44-day war. We all knew that well, because even now anyone visiting those regions can see how challenging the terrain is. However, if Armenia had not signed the act of capitulation, we would have continued the war until the end.

Therefore, after November 8, the next day, from morning to evening, until night, was dedicated to talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia through the President of Russia. I think that the adoption of the Trilateral Statement, its adoption under those conditions was an enormous political success for us. Of course, if Shusha had not been liberated from the occupation, we could not have included those conditions in that statement. In other words, our Victory and our strength allowed us the opportunity to introduce conditions that were not related to this issue, especially regarding the Zangezur corridor.

However, a certain vacuum emerged after November 10. No one knew what would happen next. The co-chairs of the Minsk Group, who were still there at the time, had no clue as to what to do next. There were some visits. The situation in Armenia was, of course, ambiguous. The people of Azerbaijan were celebrating, but I knew that this was not the end of the matter. Because there are a number of unfinished issues and they had to be clarified, first of all, the issue related to former Lachin corridor.

After a certain period, especially when we saw that Armenia was sending weapons and mines to Karabakh and carrying out rotation of military units through this road, we started to raise the issue that we should exercise control over it. Unfortunately, the Russian side did not take a positive approach to that at the time. However, we continued our efforts. I can say for sure that we appealed to the Russian side at the highest level for a long time, five times, urging them to let us control this road together. Because it turned out that you that they did not have full control over it. As you probably remember, the manufacture date of the mines that were discovered there also raised a lot of questions. How could the mines produced in Armenia in 2021 have been brought there? In other words, these mines were brought through that Lachin-Khankendi road. This was why we raised the issue – let's stand at a joint checkpoint together and boost oversight. At the same time, the critical approach to the Russian peacekeeping forces would also subside because we will share the responsibility with you. Unfortunately, the suggestion was not accepted. Finally, on April 23, we had no choice and were not going to wait any longer. We settled on the bridge over the Hakari River in a matter of a few hours. Of course, preparations had been made, and despite all the efforts, we did not move anywhere from there.

So, it became no longer possible to illegally transport weapons, ammunition, mines and manpower to Karabakh. Nevertheless, we did not create any obstacles to humanitarian movement. We all remember very well that patients were evacuated and transported under the auspices of the Red Cross. After some time, the Armenians living in Karabakh started to use that road and experienced no problems at all. Their cars were simply inspected. They traveled in their own cars. The Azerbaijani border guards were very attentive and were instructed to treat civilians with respect. However, military provocation was committed after that. Our post came under fire and, of course, we shut down the road temporarily to conduct an investigation but then reopened it. You probably remember what happened after that, so, I don't want to say too much about it. The leftovers of the Armenian state and some local separatists actually deprived themselves of humanitarian aid.

In other words, the events of April 23 are very important. At that time and after that, I said that our territorial integrity was fully restored on April 23. We began to control all the borders and once again showed that we were the owners of these lands. Until April 23, we demonstrated several times to Armenia and local separatists that this is our land. The “Operation Farrukh”, “Operation Saribaba-Girkhgiz,” “Operation Revenge” were all critical military operations we carried out. As a result of these operations, the strategic hills and heights of the Karabakh region, which were not under our control at the time, were regained, and this was of great importance in the September 19-20 operation. So, those operations were not spontaneous, they were goal-oriented. Because during the war, especially if we consider our terrain, the main issue is about who controls the heights, and the main reason for the fact that the September 19-20 operation was completed in a short period of time is precisely the operations I mentioned above and, of course, the control of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in the direction of Lachin. Because the separatists were already deprived of these opportunities to resupply.

Fikrat Dolukhanov from Public TV channel: Mr. President, what factors preconditioned the local anti-terrorism operation that led to the full restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty and, as you mentioned, the establishment of historical justice in September 2023? Was it possible to get by without using force? And what Armenia and the Armenian separatists relied on as they failed to properly assess your repeated proposals and warnings?

President Ilham Aliyev: They probably did not expect that this operation would take place. Apparently, someone had convinced them that they would be able to operate there within their so-called entity, within that separatist entity until the end. However, all the messages we sent to them were clear and unequivocal. I should also note that after the Second Karabakh War, some of the local Armenians contacted our representatives and made suggestions about contacts, and we did not reject that. Because our ultimate goal was to fully restore sovereignty and convince the population living here that they can live comfortably and safely within a single state of Azerbaijan. Our intention was quite open and clear, and some positive steps were taken during those contacts. In other words, the selection of the route and construction of the new Lachin-Khankendi road was a very important event and somewhat laid the foundation for the events of April 23. Because we built a new road and returned the city of Lachin to ourselves. I should also say that after the road was ready at the beginning of August, we sent a message to the command of the Russian peacekeeping forces that we were accessing the road on August 5 and taking Lachin under our control. So, it was a notification. It was not a request; it was a notification. After that, as you know, local Armenians asked for some time, until August 25. We agreed and entered Lachin on August 26. So, all this is part of the journey to the events of September.

There were other positive developments, including the fact that houses in the village of Zabukh were not set on fire. However, I can tell you that we knocked down all the houses built by the Armenians, and citizens of Azerbaijan that moved to Zabukh live in houses built by Azerbaijan. But that was an indicator in itself. And we welcomed that. This was a somewhat normal step after the atrocities in Kalbadjar and Lachin when houses were burned and trees cut down. In other words, all these positive events gave us reason to believe that we will restore our sovereignty without bloodshed and without any operations. The Armenians of Karabakh have been told repeatedly that that was their only option: whoever wants to stay here would live as an Azerbaijani citizen, otherwise go to Armenia or elsewhere. Even during the meeting with former IDPs in Lachin, on May 28, I openly said that Armenians had one option: to dissolve the illegal entity, surrender and abide. I said this openly. I am completely sincere in this and all other issues, in all my speeches, and I think that the Armenian side already knows this. We do what we say and we mean it. However, it seems that other messages were given to them as well. Of course, international actors also played a very negative role here. Sending some reassuring messages to Armenia and the separatists made them think that they should do nothing about this situation.

I must also note that when the Second Karabakh War ended, an informal agreement was reached between the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan that nothing would be changed, i.e. everything will remain as it was. Of course, holding illegal elections there was also a violation of this agreement. As you know, those illegal elections were held there on September 9, and that was the second red line crossed. The first red line was crossed when the Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan send a congratulatory letter to the separatist regime on September 2. It was both a crossing of the red line and, in general, a very controversial step. Because prior to that, the prime minister of Armenia had officially recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan and declared it many times. So, what was this congratulation letter about. Therefore, after September 9, of course, there was no other option left, especially if we take into account that mine terror against us was being continued and several of our soldiers fell victim to landmine terror on the eve of those events.

The anti-terrorism operation was conducted very successfully and professionally, our soldiers showed tremendous heroism. It is said that the operation took 23 hours and several minutes, but it was actually completed in less time. We advanced to all the designated positions, took control over all the communications, took over all the heights, and the surrender of the separatists was inevitable. Had they not surrendered, they would have been eliminated. There was no other option. According to the information we have, about 15,000 soldiers were serving in the military units there. They surrendered sooner. After that, there were just negotiations, and more precisely, they were just discussing our conditions. However, whatever conditions we put forward were met, including the dissolution of the separatist entity and all others. We said that if you surrender, we will stop the operation. Our goal was not to destroy the Armenian army there, but to ensure that the Armenian army withdraws from there, and we made this clear many times. We were asked if they would be guaranteed safety if they put down arms. Of course, we were not going to impose any sanctions on innocent soldiers. However, our position regarding the leaders of the separatists was unequivocal – their capture. Some of them tried to escape from there through the Lachin road, others were found in Khankendi, and elsewhere. We knew their whereabouts. In general, I can say that we were fully aware of what was happening in Karabakh after the Second Karabakh War. We were monitoring the situation both visually and operationally. We were trying to convey this to Armenia that we were in totally in charge of the situation and we could conduct an operation at any moment. I told both the Armenian leadership and international actors that I could press the button and carry out this operation in a minute and they would not be able to do anything. I told them quite clearly. The course of these events showed – I think this should be a lesson not only for Armenia, but also for those standing behind it – that we do not tolerate a language of threats and being treated with arrogance.

Again, the operation was very successful from the point of view of military science. It was similar to the Shusha operation. Of course, the Shusha operation was an operation that required special professionalism, but this one was also very successful. In other words, all tasks were fulfilled and an end was put to separatism.

Lidiya Molodtsova, from CBC TV channel: Mr. President, if you would allow, I will ask my questions in Russian, because CBC is an international channel and broadcasts in Russian. We have recently been seeing a growing number of anti-Azerbaijani statements by French officials, resolutions that Paris is trying to take it to the UN Security Council, as well as the militarization of Armenia. What is the reason for such a negative attitude of France? What does Paris want from Baku?

President Ilham Aliyev: These are good questions. We would like to know this too, especially since this relationship started out quite promisingly, if we look at history. Both in the early 1990s and when I became president of Azerbaijan, the relations were quite normal. It is a different question whether this was because our lands were under occupation or simply because there was a generational change in French politics. I find it difficult to tell. But at least the balance maintained. I have already said in an interview how France became a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. I don’t want to repeat that. Although it may be worth reminding those who may have forgotten or didn’t know that the then French President, Jacques Chirac, had been persuading my father at length to agree to France’s co-chairmanship, but he was refusing. And then, on more than one occasion during my meetings with President Chirac, he was telling me how he was trying to persuade my father and promised that France would be neutral, and also how he was keeping his promise to me, even when my father was no longer there.

I always took it positively. And in general, it seemed like that on the surface. I do not know what was behind the curtain, but visually the balance was maintained until recently. It was disrupted by the French side even before the Second Karabakh War, apparently because of a generational change in the foundations of French foreign policy. We are observing this now not only in France, but also in most European countries, when people with significant authority in their own countries and in the international arena left the stage and some random people, populists and demagogues came instead, and we can see what this has led to.

As for the escalation of relations, it started during the Second Karabakh War, when the president of France repeatedly called and expressed his attitude to what was happening during those 44 days – I would even say that more than repeatedly, if one could use such an expression. Well, I won’t go into too much detail, because those conversations were confidential, but a part of what we talked about has already been made public. At any rate, they achieved nothing and the war was stopped with the mediation of President Putin, not President Macron or anyone else. And the Trilateral Statement was signed by Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, not by France, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

I thought that after such events in our relationship, common sense would prevail and no bridges would be burned, because this is generally not what France and we need although both of us can live in peace without each other. Nevertheless, all that continued, and you know that both the French parliament and the senate recognized the so-called “Artsakh”. My recommendations regarding the location of the so-called “Artsakh” are probably not forgotten. By the way, they are still valid, perhaps we could now only change the location, because I know that the mayor of Paris has awarded honorary citizenship to the natives of Karabakh. I would actually suggest providing them not with honorary but real citizenship, placing them somewhere in the center of Paris and proclaiming the Artsakh Republic. This is just a comment.

As for the current situation, there was certainly a period of tensions after the Second Karabakh War, but there were relations nonetheless. As you know, we agreed to the participation of President Macron at the meeting in Prague and there were contacts at other levels – the visit of the French foreign minister to Azerbaijan and that of our representatives. So, the relationship went on, but after the anti-terrorism operation it essentially stopped, but that was no fault of ours. France had openly started to engage in anti-Azerbaijani activities without disguising itself under any other factors. There have been attempts to adopt a resolution and subsequently sanctions against Azerbaijan at the UN Security Council. I believe at least five times such attempts were made and they ended in a complete failure all five times because we received the support of many countries and they could not garner the necessary support to have this resolution adopted. This, of course, was a very strong political blow to them, because we defeated them on their own court, so to speak. Also, I think another serious blow to them was that the European Union did not go along with them, although the head of the European Union’s diplomacy, unfortunately, turned out to be one of the supporters of France’s policy against Azerbaijan. In general, however, EU countries failed to agree a common position on Azerbaijan, and France insisted on sanctions and so on. These theses had already been voiced, they were already in the air, as they say, but it was just words.

But then they began to resort to completely unacceptable actions, such as the desecration of the statue of Natavan, wrapping it in cellophane, which in itself represents an act of vandalism, annulling the sister cities agreement between Ismayilli and that city. But, of course, we responded and are still responding with the same token. That, I would say, is the bottom of moral degradation when anger, impotence and hysteria are vented onto a statue. Here, they are almost no different to the Armenians. The latter dug up Natavan’s grave and destroyed her statue in Aghdam. We have restored it, or rather, made a new one, the exact copy. And France has desecrated the statue of Natavan in France. The analogy is obvious.

So, this is the situation now. We will definitely rest on laurels. We are not a country that only defends and justifies itself. We have taken and will continue to take appropriate actions, especially since there are ample grounds for the world to recall the atrocities of French imperialism in colonial countries. These include nuclear tests in Algeria, which infected vast territories that cannot be used now. It is the same mine terror, and people in Algeria are actually still being killed by mines laid by the French. It is the genocide of 1.5 million Algerians, and not just that. These and other crimes in colonial countries, certainly blatant facts of neocolonialism when France today sees nothing wrong about having colonies and governing them, suppressing and denying enslaved countries the opportunity to emerge from this colonial yoke. And we as the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement have raised this issue, created the Baku Initiative and held events. Representatives of the colonial territories, the so-called overseas territories of France who participate in these events, say that they are subjected to all kinds of pressures. We know that. They are being summoned, brainwashed and threatened. An Azerbaijani journalist was recently detained in New Caledonia. How can that even be possible? On suspicion of alleged espionage. She had gone there to cover events. A representative of a European non-governmental organization from Switzerland was detained at the request of the French side while he was on his way to events in Geneva dedicated to neocolonialism.

Frankly speaking, I am surprised the Swiss authorities followed France’s lead and took such a shameful act, especially since this journalist is a citizen of a very large European country. So, this is the true face. And this true face was exposed by us. For some reason, all this was hushed up until now. All this was kept quiet, people did not want to deal with that, were afraid of problems, were afraid of threats, etc. But we are not afraid. I think what is happening today – the fiasco in the UN Security Council and in the European Union, futile attempts to hurt us through their representatives in the European Parliament, and maybe even to “pinch” – all this is useless. We will, of course, continue. We are completing our chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement, but the Baku Initiative Group will live on. We will contribute to exposing French neocolonialism and to the process of freeing French colonies from the French colonial yoke.

Gunel Karbaliyeva, from Khazar TV channel: Mr. President, at the Silk Road Forum in Tbilisi, the Armenia prime minister mentioned a project called “intersection of peace”, which is a renamed version of the “Armenian junction” project. The so-called project supposedly envisages the development of communications between Azerbaijan, Türkiye, Iran, Georgia and Armenia. However, Azerbaijan has been putting forward this proposal for three years. The Armenian prime minister described it as a new initiative. In general, is it possible to implement such projects in the region without Azerbaijan's approval?

President Ilham Aliyev: Of course not. You probably know it well – it is impossible. I think this is just a PR campaign. As you know, Armenia has not fulfilled a provision of the November 10 Trilateral Statement and actually ignores its obligations. This is why they have come up with such a proposal to cover it up and, at the same time, get rid of the term “Zangezur Corridor.” I must also say that the word term “Zangezur Corridor” somehow irritates them a lot. I say to them that the corridor does not call into question the sovereignty of any country, there is a North-South Corridor that passes through the territory of Azerbaijan, and it does not mean that our sovereignty is being questioned. There is also an East-West Corridor, but for some reason, the attitude to this corridor is a little different in Armenia. This is why it was named an Armenian intersection, a junction and then an “intersection of peace”, but this is actually nothing more than a PR campaign.

First of all, they must provide an unimpeded passage in the area between Zangilan and Ordubad. It is their obligation. I have already said and I want to repeat: cargo, citizens and vehicles going from Azerbaijan to Azerbaijan should pass there freely without undergoing any inspection and customs clearance. As for cargo moving from other countries, for example, from Central Asia to Türkiye through the territory of Armenia or even cargo sent from Azerbaijan to Türkiye, of course, all customs duties must be paid. This is a very fair position.

Another important issue is the safety of this road. I have repeatedly told the Armenian leadership that Armenia's guarantees would not be sufficient for us. The statement of November 10 indicated that Russian border guards would provide security and control in the 42-43 km stretch, and this obligation must be fulfilled. Armenia wants to shy away from this now. However, this is not logical either. Russian border guards are at the airport of Yerevan in Armenia, at the Armenia-Iran and Armenia-Türkiye border. Why can they be deployed there, but not here? It is simply an excuse for not opening this road. We have been waiting for three years. They have accused us of planning to use force to open that road. However, this was an absurd accusation. I must also state that it is France that is responsible for such speculation, for spreading such cheap rumors. We know for sure that they were saying this everywhere, and it probably continues to be the case to this day – that Azerbaijan will attack Armenia today or tomorrow. However, there is no basis for this, no preparations are being made, and it is actually impossible to hide such preparations. Everything is visible from above, from the satellite, and there are also other sources of information. We simply waited for three years, and when we saw that it was not working, we had no choice. We need to connect the main part of Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan by a short route, and as you know, an agreement has already been reached with Iran. Not only an agreement, but a groundbreaking ceremony has already been held. The construction of the first bridge in the direction of Aghband has already started and a second bridge is planned in the direction of Ordubad. We will probably start it this year.

Therefore, Armenia will continue to be at an impasse. Now, as they say, they are running amok, having realized that they have been left out. In fact, as you know, the deputy head of the US State Department made an incomprehensible statement that either it will pass through Armenia or we will not allow it to happen. Okay, we have been saying it for three years that it should go through Armenia, but Armenia does not allow it to happen. And now they are blaming us for choosing another route. In other words, do create conditions for it to pass through the territory of Armenia, to pass through the territory of Mehri, under the conditions I mentioned, and then there will be no need for another route. Otherwise, it is not clear. Today, the connection between the main part of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan is carried out through the territory of Iran. Why are there no objections to that and only to the Mehri part? Armenia-Iran trade is growing and flourishing day by day. Iran has opened a consulate in West Zangezur. Why doesn’t this raise any questions? So, such illogical and nonsensical statements do not bring honor to anyone, and when they say that “we will not allow it to happen” – I have already said this – what exactly does America mean? How will it not allow it to happen? Will they come and build a barrier in Zangezur or place an army in Zangilan or in the territory of Iran? How exactly will they not allow this to happen? This is our sovereign matter. Recently, a bridge over Astarachay was opened with Iran. Why? Because the volume of cargo transported along the North-South Corridor has doubled and the terminal in Astara is unable to handle all that cargo. We have opened a second crossing with Russia in Khanoba, and there are now two crossings on the Russia-Azerbaijan border, there used to be one. There are also two crossings with Iran. So, it is our sovereign business.

Therefore, my advice to the Armenian side is not to engage in manipulations here. Their proposed route from the main part of Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan is completely useless and it will be impossible to use that route year-round. The weather conditions and natural terrain there are very harsh. The most appropriate option is through the Mehri area. Back in Soviet times, a railway passed through it, and a highway was being built there as well. Both the railway and the road should pass through there. People and goods should pass from Azerbaijan to Azerbaijan, as I said, without any inspections. Otherwise, Armenia will remain an eternal deadlock, and if the route I mentioned is not opened, we are not going to open our border with Armenia anywhere else. So, they will do themselves more harm than good.

Rovshan Mammadov: Mr. President, my colleagues will probably continue asking questions related to Azerbaijan-Armenia relations, but I would like to slightly digress and talk about another topic that is on the minds of the public today. It is related to the snap presidential elections. It is known that it is scheduled for February 7 of this year. Different opinions and theories are being expressed, but we can get the most correct answer from you. Mr. President, what are the main factors behind such a step?

President Ilham Aliyev: You are right, there are different theories about this. I am glad you asked this question, so, I can explain the key reasons to you and the public. The first reason is, of course, the full restoration of our sovereignty. The elections mark the end of an era. In September, we concluded such an era, which was an epochal event. I think that there has been no similar Victory in the centuries-old history of Azerbaijan. Considering all the factors – political, military, the 30-year occupation, the natural terrain of the territory, the number of defense lines – I think that this is the most brilliant Victory of our people and state. Of course, when this new era begins, a presidential election should mark the beginning of this new era. Because every period is a certain period of time, and the liberation of the territories occupied for 30 years and the full restoration of sovereignty are the beginning of a new period. This is the first reason.

The second reason is that for the first time in our independent life, an election will be held in every corner of our country. Since presidential elections are the most important elections compared to all others. I thought that the first elections to be held across the entire territory of our country should be the presidential elections. If we were to hold this election on time, i.e. in April 2025, then municipal elections would be the first to be held. I thought that would not be right. The presidential elections should be the first elections to be held in liberated territories and every part of our country.

Another reason is that my activities as President have passed the 20-year mark. This is also a certain period and we must consider this as a conclusion in itself, and the holding of a presidential elections again after 20 years, of course, represents a justification for this chronological period. So, these are the main reasons. But I have arranged these reasons according to their importance. The first reason, of course, is the beginning of a new era, and the presidential elections will provide a blessing for this new era as well.

Rovshan Mammadov: Mr. President, can this also be seen as the beginning of a new mission?

President Ilham Aliyev: Of course. Because in general, I think that there will probably be discussions about this in the society. Our primary national mission was to liberate our territories. In other words, the whole nation was united around this idea, around this mission, and we have achieved that. I have my own views about the future development, and in many cases, they will be decisive, of course. However, I would like discussions around this issue to take place in society, by politicians, political experts, scholars, and intellectuals, i.e. what should be our main national mission and idea regarding our future development. This should be the topic of a public debate.

Of course, the new era should have its own new goals. We cannot enter the new era with old goals, because those goals have already been achieved. There are countries that have been exploiting their historical past and historical successes for years and decades. However, they themselves have nothing to do with those victories. We do not want to be like those countries. Whatever we have done, the people appreciate and will appreciate it. However, it would not be right to constantly exploit the historic Victory. First, it is not correct from a political point of view. Secondly, there should not be an atmosphere of complacency in society.

First, we must be very vigilant at all times, because the opposition to us will not end with the issues we have mentioned, but will be continued. After all, we have moved grand layers on a global scale. Analysts can probably see that our victory has cost certain countries quite dearly. We have managed to move serious layers. We have won a victory that is no matter of local importance. It has somehow become one of the main issues of the international agenda.

Of course, the negative attitude towards us, the negative attitude from traditional sources will not abate. The aim of arming Armenia is calculated exactly at that, at keeping us under constant pressure. These are efforts to prevent us from living comfortably and, unfortunately, France is still in the forefront. France is the country that arms Armenia, gives them support, trains their soldiers and prepares them for another war. When I said that France's policy is causing tensions in the Caucasus, this is exactly what I meant. Some irrelevant illusions may emerge in Armenia that someday they can tear Karabakh away from us again. Such ideas do float around in their society, including within the leadership. I do not rule out the possibility that these ideas, as they say, may become more and more widespread.

This is why we should never become complacent. If you remember, I said after the Second Karabakh War, and we did exactly that – we should create an even stronger army. We have come a long way in the last three years. It would perhaps be wrong to speak about it now, but the information in the media is sufficient. New armed units played a very important role in the anti-terrorism operation – new equipment, new ammunition, the most modern equipment. I have already said that at least one billion manats will be invested in our defense industry factories this year, both by the state and the private sector. So, we will provide ourselves with the necessary resources in a larger volume.

In other words, we should never become complacent. The army building process will continue, and Armenia should know that no matter how much weaponry it may purchase, no matter how much support they may receive, if there is a source of danger to us, we would immediately eliminate it. I am not hiding it, so that no one can say tomorrow that something unexpected happened. Let the listeners hear that if we see a real threat to us, not the rickety French “Bastions”, those tin cans, but a real threat, we will destroy that threat in any location with preventive measures.

Therefore, there should be no complacency in society. I am not saying that we should think of a new war at all times. No, I am sure it won't happen and I will do my best for that. Enough of wars. However, our new conceptual development strategy, new directions of our national ideology, and complacency with the achieved successes may lead to a certain stagnation. This is the topic of a separate extensive conversation. Maybe one day we will talk about this issue separately but in any case, answering your question, I must say that yes, a new era is beginning and I am sure that this era will be successful for our country.

Mirshahin Aghayev: We are living in a time when miracles are commonplace. Mr. President, notice that we are sitting here, putting questions to the victorious leader of the victorious nation and receiving answers, and our dear viewers are watching us. I want to believe that among these viewers there is Arkadi Ghukasyan, which we never imagined will be the case but which has already become a reality, there is Bako Sahakyan, there is Arayik Harutyunyan, there is Ruben Vardanyan, and these people are real indicators of the victory of the Azerbaijani people – indicators in the format of defeat. At the same time, I want to talk about the peace treaty. Because work on the peace agreement is probably what all these processes should culminate in. But on the other hand, one also wonders whether it is possible to take Armenia's words for their face value, especially considering that their fate is not in their hands and has not been for a long time.

President Ilham Aliyev: You know, our historic Victory was so brilliant, and when our sovereignty was restored over the entire area as a result of the operation that lasted only a few hours, some could not even comprehend it. It began and ended so quickly. At the same time, against the background of this brilliant Victory, the capture of the characters you mentioned was somewhat overshadowed. But this in itself is a great historic event. The criminals who waged a bloody war against us, committed vandalism, perpetrated the Khojaly genocide, destroyed our lands, cities and villages have been arrested, detained and will be brought to justice soon. Among them are all the former leaders of Karabakh, the so-called prime minister who was imported to Karabakh, and others. Only two people are missing from that group, they are in Yerevan, and if they were here too, the full team would be assembled. This is indeed a celebration of justice, and when I said that we must have faith in justice and fight for it, this is exactly what I meant. They could never have imagined that their wishes to have tea in Baku would be fulfilled like that and that they would be sitting in the detention center in Baku and waiting for the court judgment.

As for the peace treaty, I must say this again. I have already mentioned that when the Second Karabakh War ended, there was a certain vacuum and no one knew what would happen next. Because it is really a unique situation, and it was the Azerbaijani side that suggested at that time that there should be a peace treaty to fill this gap. In any case, negotiations should be started. Even representatives of the Minsk group, which was still active at the time, came to me asking what they should be doing. In other words, they asked for my advice. I said that the Karabakh issue had already been resolved. If you want to do something, if you want to do something good, you can participate in the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization process. But no offer followed. Then we put forward this proposal ourselves. But even after it was put forward, there was no response. After that, we defined the well-known five principles and negotiations started based on these principles. It is true that Armenia and some other countries wanted to add the subject of Karabakh to these principles at that time. However, we were against it from day one. Because I said that Karabakh is our internal matter, and if a peace agreement is signed, it will be an agreement between states. I also stated that it should be a very concise document – not 5-10 volumes, but a maximum of 5-10 pages, just the fundamental principles. There is no need for inventing a bicycle here, the principles of international law should be applied here.

However, the negotiations did not give rise to any particular hopes for a while. Because Armenia and certain countries standing behind it insisted on including the issue of Karabakh there, especially the issue of its status. After some time, the real situation, our steps and position, including the location of the status as indicated by me, led to some changes in their position. There was no longer the issue of a status, but one of the rights and security for the Armenians living in Karabakh that both Armenia and its patrons were trying to include in it. In response, we said that if this is the case, then the rights and security of the Azerbaijanis who were expelled from Armenia should also be included there with the same terms. Everything should be mutual, and their argumentation – i.e. let's call this group “Armenia Plus” – was very illogical: they were expelled 30 years ago, but these people are here. In other words, they do not have equal rights. However, this was actually a racist approach. Our position remained unchanged: either this issue is not reflected in the peace treaty or the rights and security of both peoples will be reflected. This was the main reason why the negotiations were so ineffective.

After the events of September, we were faced with a new situation. The promises were made to Armenia, especially in the UN and the European Union, that sanctions would be applied against Azerbaijan, that Azerbaijan would come under great pressure, and this so-called operation would cost Azerbaijan dearly. All these communications created confidence in Armenia that they could draw up the peace agreement as they want and that someone can pressure us into agreeing to it. This was why they didn't respond to our proposal for 70 days – because proposals were exchanged here five to six times and texts were sent for review. When we officially informed them that we had been waiting for 70 days, or it was perhaps 60 days, they made an offer, and now their offer, their comments do not contain a single word about Karabakh and the Armenians of Karabakh. So, this topic has already been removed, and real conditions have emerged for signing a peace agreement only now, after the September operation. I should also point out that in contrast to them, we provided our comments after 30 days, not 70 days, and two weeks later they submitted new comments on January 4. So, the question may still be asked: if these comments can be provided in two weeks, why did it take you 70 days last time? So, my hypothesis is fully proven.

This was an explanation of some of the behind-the-scenes events. I think this might be interesting for you and the public. But the main thing is that I believe the fundamental conditions for the signing of a peace treaty have now been created. Therefore, work on the wording should progress fast. There is also another issue. As probably know. Armenia is seeking the guarantors for this peace treaty. We believe that there is no need for that. This is a peace treaty to be signed between two sovereign states. We don't need any guarantors here, and if it is going to be signed in a bilateral format, it should be signed. If someone wants to help, we don't mind that either. However, this help cannot be mandatory. Because some are now competing for hosting negotiations in this country, that country or elsewhere. It is a bit like a geopolitical rivalry. I wouldn't want that. I would not want Armenia-Azerbaijan relations to become a geopolitical issue. This is an issue between our two countries and we have to solve it ourselves. If we agree, a peace treaty will be signed. If we do not reach an agreement, then either the negotiations will continued or they will stop. Both options are possible.

Mirshahin Aghayev: Four years ago, on January 21, a moderator asked you a question at the Davos Economic Forum: Mr. President, many forces have come together in Eurasia, Russia and China, and the question was asked who would you call first as President of Azerbaijan. I was there when that question was asked and answered, and today I want to repeat that question. Why? Because when that question was asked, Azerbaijan still lacked 20 percent of its territory and our territorial integrity had not been restored. Today, I want to put this question to a leader who has restored state independence and sovereignty. As President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, who would you call?

President Ilham Aliyev: I can say that I rarely bother heads of state with phone calls. Because I think that all my colleagues are very busy people and there is no serious topic that needs to be discussed urgently. Usually, when there is a topic, messages are sent through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or through my assistant. I call and congratulate some heads of state only on their birthdays. Of course, during the Second Karabakh War the people I talked to the most on the phone were the President of Türkiye and the President of Russia. And this is natural. The President of Türkiye was with us from the first to the last day of the war, and his political and moral support for Azerbaijan was a message to many. This was not simply a message of solidarity and support for the people of Azerbaijan. This was a serious message to those who wanted to get involved in the war – stay out. Therefore, the people of Azerbaijan should never forget this. We regularly talked on the phone, my brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan was interested in the progress of the war, and he was the first to congratulate me on the Shusha victory. I have had many conversations with President Putin. As you know, Russia made several efforts to stop the war, and I set the conditions. I said during our phone conversation in early October that we were ready to stop, but we had conditions. They should vacate our lands and provide me with a timetable, give me a timetable of when they would leave. I have already said this to the Azerbaijani public, as you probably remember. You probably remember my TV addresses in which I said that Armenia should give us a timetable, and we were ready to stop the war, and so, it happened. On November 10, we were given a timetable and we stopped the war. So, the contacts were mostly around that, and, of course, on November 9, as I said, from morning until early hours of November 10, this agreement, the text of the agreement was being agreed. In principle, whoever I congratulate on their birthday is published in the media. Whoever congratulates me, there are not too many of them, four to five presidents, I call these four to five presidents too and congratulate them by phone. But if there is a serious issue facing our country today, of course, first of all, I will call my brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan and inform him.

Fikrat Dolukhanov: Mr. President, a little while ago, there was a conversation about future development, a new era and a new mission. I would like to touch upon the Great Return program. In one of your speeches, you used an expression that Karabakh and East Zangezur are turning into a paradise. We are seeing that there is a rapid recovery and reconstruction. What are your expectations from the 2024 and what institutional steps are to be taken for a more active involvement of local entrepreneurs and foreign investors in this work?

President Ilham Aliyev: The work done so far is obvious. I wouldn't want to talk too much about that. Simply, along with all the large infrastructure projects, I think our main achievement is that the displaced people have returned to five settlements. The cities of Lachin and Fuzuli, and the villages of Aghali, Talish and Zabukh are already reviving. This year, the return of displaced people to these settlements will continue. I will approve this year's Investment Program in the coming days, it has already been discussed several times. The Investment Program for Karabakh, East Zangezur and other parts of our country is our main tool, our main vehicle for reconstruction.

All infrastructure projects in Karabakh and East Zangezur will continue this year. These are massive projects. As you know, the construction of reservoirs, roads, bridges, railways, schools and hospitals has already started, and some of them have already been put into use. Drinking water lines, electricity projects, the reservoirs I mentioned, irrigation, for example the Sarsang Reservoir – today it is filled by only 50 percent. During the occupation, Armenians only exploited it. In other words, not a penny was invested in it. The Khachinchay Reservoir was completely destroyed and it was recently opened. In the near future, we will open the Kondalanchay Reservoir in Fuzuli. We have rebuilt Sugovushan, now the canals are being laid. Then the construction of the Zabukhchay Reservoir will be completed this year, which will provide irrigation water to a large area. In other words, when former IDPs return, there should be conditions for planting and harvesting. I must also inform you that our institutions are seriously dealing with the employment of returning displaced persons, trainings are held for them before they return, new production sites and industrial enterprises are being created and will continue to be created there. Two large industrial zones have already started to operate in Aghdam and Jabrayil, and these zones will be significantly expanded this year.

All these infrastructure projects allow us the opportunity to return a larger number of former IDPs to their ancestral lands this year, and there are five cities they will return to this year – Shusha, Jabrayil, Kalbadjar, Khankendi and Khojaly. Former IDPs are expected to return to the cities of Aghdam, Zangilan and Gubadli in 2025. In parallel with this, construction will continue in many villages – the one I laid the foundation of recently – and former IDPs will return to several villages. For example, the Sus village of the Lachin district will be ready. After that, we are starting to restore the villages of Karkijahan, Malibayli, Turshsu of the Khojaly district. Villages have been completely destroyed. I visited them during my last trip to Karabakh. They are completely destroyed, the Malibayli mosque was also destroyed and vandals used it as a manure storage.

In other words, what I have listed are the cities and villages former displaced persons will return to, and it has already been declared that our goal is to return 140,000 former IDPs to their ancestral lands by the end of 2026. I am sure that we will achieve this goal. I must state again that we are doing all this at our own expense. No donor organization or any party is helping us. Only Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have given us brotherly support in connection with the construction of two schools in Fuzuli, and all other projects are being realized at our own expense.

You have also mentioned the private sector. I am very glad and want to appeal to the private sector again and call on them to invest more actively in Karabakh and East Zangezur. The private sector is already implementing several projects in the Hadrut settlement, Dashalti village and the city of Aghdam.

The state will fulfill its responsibilities, we will return the former internally displaced persons. But, at the same time, I believe that Karabakh and East Zangezur should not be inhabited only by natives of this region. People from any parts of Azerbaijan should have the opportunity to live there too. Of course, for example, is someone from Baku or Sumgayit wants to live there should be able to do so, buy a house, buy an apartment, buy land, build a house and live there. In other words, the state, of course, will not build any houses for them.

I have informed all our relevant agencies that we are building houses for those who want to live there, not for those who want to have a country house there. This is not a place for country houses, it is a place to live. Whoever wants to live there, the state builds a free house for them and organizes everything. If someone wants to move there simply because of the beautiful scenery and clean air, the private sector will build residential complexes for them. For example, in the city of Aghdam, there is a multi-story building, and people may go and live there. Today, such projects are also being implemented in Dashalti and Hadrut.

Therefore, my advice to the private sector is to take advantage of these opportunities. Because the time will come, as I said, and we will turn Karabakh and Zangezur into a paradise, it will become a reality. I have no doubt about that because all master plans of the cities have been approved. All master plans of the cities were developed by the leading European companies, including the city of Shusha. Shusha will become a city that will be unparalleled in the world. Its architecture and nature will form a unity.

This is why our private sector, instead of building houses in Baku or Sumgayit should go and build houses there and see that it will be economically viable and it will also be important from the point of view of social responsibility. Because today, very good conditions are being created for businesses in Azerbaijan and the state supports them. Therefore, I think that this should be the social responsibility of businesses. Let them go, build enterprises, build houses, build plants, factories, and the state will do all the work it is responsible for – infrastructure, hospitals, schools, reservoirs, gas lines, drinking water lines, electricity lines, houses, roads, and bridges. Now if we look at the tunnel under Murovdag alone, its length is about 12 kilometers. Just imagine, one tunnel is 12 kilometers long, but there are dozens of such tunnels – albeit not of this size. So, in 2024, a very strong impetus will be given to this work and all our goals will be met.

Chinara Nurmammadova: Mr. President, today we are talking about the Great Return, restoration work, but there are other tasks before us: delimitation and demarcation of borders. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan considers it important to delimit and demarcate the borders according to the maps of 1975 and some countries have also made this claim. Why does Armenia want to refer to the maps of 1970s today? Which maps are more relevant for Azerbaijan, and I would especially like to know your opinion regarding the issue of Karki in Nakhchivan and seven villages of Gazakh. How will this issue be regulated under the process of delimitation and demarcation?

President Ilham Aliyev: The issue of the eight villages under occupation is always on the agenda. This issue was discussed during my contacts with the prime minister of Armenia, including the last conversation on foot in St. Petersburg. I raised this issue, and this issue is also on the agenda of commissions dealing with delimitation. I should also inform you that the next meeting of the commissions is scheduled for this month, and this issue is on the agenda: the delimitation issue of that region, the Gazakh-Tovuz region.

Why maps of 1975, or 1970, or even the 1970s and 1990s, as expressed in some proposals. The answer is very simple and I want to talk about it today. It is no secret that in the 20th century the lands of Azerbaijan were given to Armenia in parts. One day after the establishment of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic in 1918, unfortunately, the city of Irevan was handed over to Armenia. However, there was no reason for that. This is an ancient city of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani people lived there for centuries, and the history of Irevan, i.e. the historical appearance that is being erased today confirms the existence of Azerbaijani architectural monuments, their centuries-old existence. Irevan is one of the cities that seem not to have an old city. But it was actually an Azerbaijani city, which was demolished and destroyed. As for that decision, I think, and everyone will probably agree with me, that it was a grave historical crime – not a mistake but a crime. First, the Azerbaijanis living in Irevan at the time were not even asked. Second, what was the rush? Were they in a hurry? The republic was declared on May 28 and Irevan was handed over to Armenia on May 29. And the explanation of that defies any logic – in exchange for that, Armenia would give up its territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Did it? No, it got even worse. The protests by representatives of Irevan on the government of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic at the time were not taken into account. So, it was a huge historical crime, and it was only a beginning. After the Sovietization in April 1920, in November, the Soviet government took the bigger part of West Zangezur from Azerbaijan and handed it over to Armenia. This is also a historical fact, there are maps, there are maps of the early 20th century. There is a map of the Azerbaijan People's Republic and there is Zangezur on it - not eastern or western, all of Zangezur was the territory of Azerbaijan, and this happened during the Soviet era. Such gifts of land continued over the years. The last such gift of land was made in May 1969. By then, our lands were given to Armenia in parts, and from an area of about 100,000 square kilometers – I am talking about the territory of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic – it dropped to 86,600 square kilometers. After Heydar Aliyev became the leader of Azerbaijan in July 1969, these land gifts and this process was stopped. Until then, it was given away in parts.

This is why they wanted to use the maps of the 1970s as a basis. I asked them why maps of the 1970s. Tell me, explain to me what the methodological and political basis for that is. There is none. If we refer to the political foundations, then we should take either the period of the establishment of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic or the period of Sovietization as a point of reference. It is a political methodology. If we prefer the chronological methodology, then let's see what maps were like at the beginning of the 20th century and build our work on these maps. That is, you are leaving out the 1960s, 1950s and 1940s and want to refer to the 1970s. Precisely because our historical lands had already been given to them. This is why we strongly objected to that and continue to do so. Unfortunately, it is not only Armenia that wants to use the map of the 1970s as a basis, but its “Armenia Plus” group, and we can never agree to this.

Our position is quite fair and logical. We should refer to a political methodology as a basis, a chronology method should be taken as a basis, or we should not base our work on any map at all. A commission was established. Expert groups should be set up to speed up the work of the commission. Let them go around those places and define that border. Because today our border is conditional in nature.

As for the occupied villages, I think that our proposal is also very logical. As you know, there are enclave and non-enclave villages. The villages that are not enclave, the four villages should be returned to Azerbaijan without any preconditions. The villages that are enclave – an enclave Armenian village is in the territory of Azerbaijan – a separate expert group should be established and this issue should be discussed. We believe that all enclaves should be returned. The roads leading to these enclaves should have the necessary conditions and the people living there should be accommodated in these enclaves. So, this is our position. We cannot understand Armenia’s position. I just want to report to you what they are saying. They are saying that the sides should retreat in a mirror-like fashion. But to retreat where? Some of my colleagues asked me this question in May 2021. You remember that some clarification was being done on the border at the time and they asked us during a telephone call to fall back. I asked where do we fall back. They said where we you come from. I said we had come from Baku, so shall we return to Baku? We haven't been there in 30 years. If that was indeed a border, then Armenia should have recognized it as such and placed border markers. After all, they did not see it as a border. They believed that their border was in Aghdam. Because we went there from Baku, we hadn’t been there. So, where are we supposed to go back? Tell me where to go back and we will. There was no answer to my question.

So, of course, we are not going back anywhere. Neither from the positions of May 2021 nor from the positions of September 2022. We are not taking a step back because that border must be defined. However, our location, which is currently disputed by Armenia, does not include any settlement. The positions and heights where we stand have never been inhabited before. Today, Armenia continues to occupy our villages, and this is unacceptable. I want to note again that this issue will be clarified during the meeting of the commissions at the end of this month.

Chinara Nurmammadova: Mr. President, will this be the subject of a peace treaty? Because it was announced by a number of officials that the issue of delimitation and demarcation will not be the subject of the peace agreement.

President Ilham Aliyev: Yes. In principle, the peace treaty may contain a clause related to delimitation and demarcation. However, if we wait for the delimitation and delay the peace agreement, then the peace agreement may not be signed even after 30 years. Because we have repeatedly said that delimitation with our friend and neighbor Georgia has not yet been completed. Only 70 percent of the border has been identified and confirmed. Our delimitation process with Russia lasted for 20 years, it was signed only in 2012, and although 13 years have passed, all those poles and signs have not yet been placed and the process of demarcation has not been completed yet. Therefore, if we mix up these two topics, then the peace agreement will be delayed perhaps by 30 or 50 years. We believe that a peace treaty should be signed, and the sooner the better. We are not saying that this must be done on our conditions, but I think that our terms are the fairest. The delimitation process must continue. The villages must be returned to us. An agreement can be reached as a result of the work of the commission on enclaves. So, I think this is a completely logical approach.

Gunel Karbaliyeva: Mr. President, Azerbaijan's renewable energy potential is increasing year after year. The Caspian region is becoming one of the primary centers of Europe's energy transition. There are even plans to increase this potential by 30 percent by 2030. At the same time, our country will host a major event like COP29. What will be the upcoming goals and main directions?

President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, we attach great importance to this issue and believe that we will achieve what we want here as well. The goal is not to fall behind the processes in the world today, especially in the world’s energy sector. Because we all know that many leading ex-oil companies are even changing their names to energy companies. The demand for green energy will grow. Oil and gas companies will be faced with significant challenges if they do not have green energy projects in their investment portfolio. In fact, various restrictive measures are not an exception there either.

Therefore, we should be up to date with this general trend, especially considering that we have unparalleled potential. The figures have been mentioned many times, and not only by us. The International Finance Corporation, which is a branch of the World Bank, has confirmed our potential in the Caspian at 157,000 megawatts. Therefore, this direction is now a priority in the field of energy. Already in October of last year, the first large Solar Power Station was put into operation, and according to the schedule, we will increase the volume of renewable energy to the level of approximately 3,000-4,000 megawatts in the next three to four years. For comparison, I can say that the total capacity of our power plants is currently about 7,000-8,000 megawatts. A new 1,200-megawatt plant is being built and will be put into operation soon. Currently, approximately 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas is used for the production of electricity in our power plants. Now, renewable energy will allow us, among other things, the opportunity to spend not those 5 billion cubic meters of gas, but perhaps 1-2 billion cubic meters of gas for the production of electricity and export the rest of the gas. The demand for our gas in Europe is increasing by the day, and we can do this through renewable energy alone.

Contracts and memoranda of understanding we have signed envisage the production of 10,000 megawatts. The contracts and memorandums we have signed are with the world's leading green energy companies. Therefore, it can be assumed that all of them will be implemented and this will meet all our domestic demand. Of course, this will also have a positive contribution to climate change. At the same time, it will enable us to export natural gas in larger volumes. Even if half of 10,000 megawatts is achieved, it will still be enough for us. But I think that our work will not be limited to these 10,000 megawatts, because the potential is too great. Both onshore and offshore sites have been approved and the next major solar and wind farms are scheduled for commissioning next year. So, this is the main issue, and I think that its potential will have a great impact on the creation of jobs, the introduction of new technologies to Azerbaijan and the development of our regions. Because all our remaining potential stations outside the Caspian Sea are located in the regions, including the Karabakh region.

Fikrat Dolukhanov: Mr. President, on December 10, the opening ceremony of the Serbia-Bulgaria Gas Interconnector took place in the city of Nis in Serbia, and the idea that “Azerbaijan is a reliable energy partner of Europe” was once again voiced at the ceremony. At the same time, your special role in the implementation of these projects was emphasized again. How would you assess the role and future of Azerbaijan for Europe today?

President Ilham Aliyev: This was an important ceremony and my participation in it, of course, was a manifestation of the growing role Azerbaijan is playing. Of course, we are talking about Azerbaijan’s gas, and Serbia is the eighth country to be receiving Azerbaijani gas. So far, Georgia, Türkiye, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Hungary have already joined our gas system, various interconnectors have been created, and the driving force of all these interconnectors has been the Southern Gas Corridor. Because if we hadn’t come up with this initiative in good time, and not only with the initiative, if we hadn’t implemented it, of course, there would be no talk of any interconnector today. All these interconnectors, including Greece-Bulgaria and Bulgaria-Serbia, Romania and Hungary, are branches of the Southern Gas Corridor. So, today eight countries are buying Azerbaijan’s gas, six of them are European countries. The number of these countries will further increase in the future. Because we are now involved in talks with several European countries, and I can say that the negotiations are at an important stage.

The demand is there and will continue to grow, we have the resources, the “Shahdeniz” gas field is the largest gas-condensate field in the world. We started last year, but 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas will be extracted from the Absheron gas field this year. This is an additional resource for us. After that, at least such a task has been set before the end of this year, by December, I hope that first gas will be produced from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field as part of a project called “Deep Gas”. The potential is quite immense there too.

We have other projects and the second phase of the “Absheron” gas field – a decision must also be made on that as well, i.e. an investment decision. If this decision is made, and I am sure it will be, the volume of annual production from “Absheron” will be 5 billion cubic meters. This is a very high figure. Apart from that, “Shafag”, “Asiman”, “Umid”, “Babek”, “Nakhchivan”, “Karabakh” – preparation work is underway on all these fields, and their resource base is quite large.

In other words, when I once said that Azerbaijan would continue to be an important partner even after 100 years, I meant exactly that, and today it is coming true. I must also state that the Southern Gas Corridor is now operating at full capacity, and if we want to send additional gas volumes through this corridor, it must be expanded. Of course, additional funds should be invested there, but it can be expanded by means of pump stations, and there is demand. In principle, the creation of a new gas infrastructure in Azerbaijan can be considered in the future, and we are also considering this.

Europe not only supports Azerbaijan's work in this field, but there have been quite a few appeals to us, and we have responded positively to them. As you mentioned, the European Commission describes Azerbaijan as a reliable partner. The Energy Commission of the European Union describes Azerbaijan as a pan-European gas supplier, and they are absolutely right. The volume of gas we are sending to Europe is not much, but it stands at around 12 billion cubic meters. This is half of our exports. But the coverage of countries justifies that expression, i.e. Pan-European supplier.

Of course, this is our great achievement. This brings us immense dividends, both economic and, of course, political. After all, it is no secret that the gas factor is currently at the forefront from the point of view of energy security. Our advantage lies in the fact that we have invested heavily and created a modern gas distribution network. Our resource base is quite extensive and will continue to grow. The demand in Europe will definitely increase. No matter how much they may want to switch to green energy, they will still need natural gas.

When it comes to green energy, Azerbaijan will play its role here as well. Because the green energy corridor, including the cable that will be laid under the Black Sea, is calculated based on Azerbaijan’s resources. That is, all issues related to gas and oil have been resolved. Exporting green energy will further increase our importance. The European Commission, of course, understands this perfectly well, and the next meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council will be held in Baku in early March, and this Advisory Council is co-chaired by Azerbaijan and the European Commission.

However, I would like to draw your attention to another aspect of this issue. Unfortunately, some politicians in Europe either do not understand this or lack sufficient information. After the events of September, some of them even declared that gas cooperation between Azerbaijan and Europe should be stopped. Such statements, of course, do not strengthen our cooperation. It is true that this statement was made by the president of the European Parliament. The European Commission has never made such statements and, of course, will never do. But the president of the European Parliament is not a minor position, and if this person says this, then it is thought provoking. But I must state from the very beginning that if this position prevails for whatever reason, then the companies that simply signed long-term contracts with us will have to pay fines worth hundreds of millions, if not billions of euros. Therefore, senior officials making such nonsensical statements should be more careful.

Azerbaijan receives much less income from gas exports compared to oil exports. In principle, if we assume that we do not export gas today, ordinary citizens will never even feel that. If our gas supply to Europe is interrupted for whatever reason, many countries will be in a more difficult situation, and everyone in Europe should understand this, including the president of the European Parliament who makes such irresponsible statements.

Lidiya Molodtsova: Mr. President, in 2019, by a unanimous decision of member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan assumed chairmanship of this international body for a period of three years. Due to the initiatives and successful work, as you have already mentioned in response to my previous question regarding the establishment of the Baku Initiative Group, as a sign of confidence in the Republic of Azerbaijan, our chairmanship in the Movement was extended for another year. What has Azerbaijan's chairmanship in such a reputable body given us and what successes has the Movement achieved over these years?

President Ilham Aliyev: It has given us invaluable experience in leading the largest international entity after the UN and made us even more confident that we are on the right path, because we have always fully shared and continue to share the fundamental principles upon which the Movement was created, i.e. sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence of states, and we also share the ideas that guided the founders of the Movement more than 60 years ago, i.e. to be far away from major geopolitical centers and not to take sides with anyone. So, it was essentially a movement for independence, a movement for independent politics, a movement, as I believe, that is not against the so-called global players, but for one’s own choice, for one’s own dignity, for the opportunity to live as people of our countries see appropriate. And we have always shared these principles and share them now. I think that international analysts, who already know Azerbaijan better and see what we are guided by, understand perfectly well that the policy, I would not describe it as equidistance, but a friendly one, as we say in Azerbaijani “everyone must mind their own business.” This is the best way of cooperation. Integration processes should be carried out voluntarily, no integration should lead to the dominance of the main integrator. We are seeing that in the EU now, as some EU countries, leaders of these countries who have great support in their own countries, become “black sheep” in the EU space because their position differs from the general trend. And where are the principles of democracy, where are the principles of equality on which this structure is supposed to be based on? If a member of the organization has a different position on some issue, why should it be discriminated, sanctioned, deprived of finances, and quite illegally by the way. This is done in full view of the whole world. So, the masks have dropped.

This is why we are always in favor of voluntary integration, but it should be reasonable and should correspond to the interests of countries. This is why the Non-Aligned Movement was created as an alternative, as a structure that would be independent in decision-making, especially since most of these countries experienced colonialism. But as time passed, it began to degrade a little bit and few people remembered it even internationally. When we took over chairmanship of this organization, we naturally could not be a formality leader. What did we come there for? Not just to tick a box. We came there to implement our policies. And, of course, the unanimous election of Azerbaijan and the unanimous prolongation of our chairmanship enabled us to confidently carry out this policy, because we had the mandate of 119 countries, or 120 together with us. And, naturally, we focused our attention on the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty. This was understandably the main topic for us. But not only for us. We were able to steadily work with all the national delegations to create a new platform. Of course, we understood that we needed functional dynamics, and we also understood that some members of the organization had irreconcilable contradictions among themselves, which, in fact, prevented the Movement from transforming into an organization. So, we decided to go through the process of creating structures that would create platforms. You can't do it all overnight, especially since we became chair after being a member of the Movement for only 10 years. This was why we put forward a number of initiatives and they were supported. So, we created parliamentary, youth and women's platforms. And it somehow breathed life into the Movement and we held several summits and ministerial events. Especially as they coincided with COVID, our activity against vaccine nationalism also gave both our work and the Movement as a whole a new impetus. And I have to say that those were not just political statements. From a practical point of view, the World Health Organization used our database for vaccination.

We were very active and vocal in opposing the countries that showed their true colors. One of these countries, for example, had for a long time also claimed some kind of moral leadership in the world, although it has no grounds for that. I am talking about Canada. But its so-called moral leadership manifested itself in the fact that they bought five times as many vaccines as they needed. Then they expired and were thrown away, whereas many countries that couldn't have access to those vaccines simply lost thousands, tens of thousands of their citizens. And it wasn't even about the fact that these countries didn't have money, they just didn't have access to vaccines. And we, by the way, were also faced with the lack of access. And then I wrote a letter to the President of the People's Republic of China. By the way, in response to Mirshahin's question, I know who I would call. So, I sent a letter to Mr. Xi Jinping with a request to allocate a vaccine quota for Azerbaijan, and I am very grateful that President Xi Jinping responded very quickly and we were provided with 500,000 vaccines. So, we started vaccination somewhere on January 20, earlier than many countries, which was possible thanks to the help from China. We had the money to buy, but we didn't have the capacity. Meanwhile, Canada was buying five times more vaccines than it needed. How were these vaccines distributed? After all, the vaccine manufacturers, other than China, are mostly Western countries. So? We all remember how they were distributed: only to themselves and then they threw them away. And they didn’t care about the others who may die, may not die, may get sick. And this once again reveals the true face of those trying to preach democracy, equality, justice and human rights. Deceitfulness, hypocrisy and selfishness – this is how I would describe it. We provided financial assistance, and we simply gave some of the vaccines we then received to countries that needed them – more than 80 countries. So, if we take the size of the country, Azerbaijan, its population and potential in general, then we probably helped more than anyone else in per capita terms.

And we thought it was absolutely right because we should always help. I think that one of the factors that made our foreign policy successful is that we always helped when we were asked and when we had an opportunity. I think it is the same in life – if there is an opportunity we should help, if not, well, as they say, a man cannot give what he hasn't got. Today, as we conclude our chairmanship this month, we are handing it over to Uganda. We are handing over a completely different structure and we will still be in the troika with Uganda. After Uganda, Uzbekistan will take over chairmanship. So, we will continue our activities, including in the area of fighting neo-colonialism. And, of course, as I have already said and you have noted, the Baku Initiative Group has already received a ticket to life, no one will ever push it anywhere else. And whether we will play the leading role in the Movement or not, the Baku Initiative Group is our brainchild. And as long as colonial countries do not get freedom, we will help them.

Rovshan Mammadov: Mr. President, speaking of international relations, I would like to address my last question based on the opinion you expressed a while ago. You said that the solution of the Karabakh problem moved the layers in the global arena, and, of course, we saw who are our enemies are, as their masks were torn, and we also got to know our friends more closely. In this regard, one of the important steps taken by Azerbaijan in international diplomacy has been to increase the number of its friends and expand the geography of cooperation. Also, one of the models demonstrated by Azerbaijan is the hosting of global events. Not only Baku but also the liberated territories are now hosting global events. We can name dozens of such events in the last three years, and of course, 2023 was remembered by two major events. This is the unanimous decision to hold both COP29 and the Urban Forum in Azerbaijan. How will Azerbaijan take advantage of these gatherings and global platforms in terms of increasing the geography of cooperation and once again conveying its fair position to the whole world?

President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, these are very important events. They once again show Azerbaijan's international reputation and our successful policy. Because everyone knows the course of events related to COP29, and I can say again, I can say with complete sincerity that as a result of our very precise and thoughtful diplomatic steps, we got the opportunity to host this prestigious event in Azerbaijan. You know that although the host of COP30 was known, Brazil, the host of COP29 was not known until the last days. During the last few weeks, even after that conference started in Dubai, there were still active diplomatic contacts, and we achieved what we wanted there as well. However, our traditionally stubborn friends tried to hinder us at both events again – at COP29 in a more covert form. Here, a step towards peace in the region was being envisaged as well, and going against this step would have certainly not earned anyone dividends. Because of this, behind-the-scenes activity was more evident and there was even an open campaign against us regarding the World Urban Forum. On the eve of the voting, many countries were pressured into not voting in favor of Azerbaijan. But they failed there too, and the holding of these two events will certainly significantly enhance the international reputation of our country.

Moreover, if we look at COP events, even the Urban Forums are usually held in developed and large countries. Because in terms of the number of visitors, it is the biggest event. There were approximately 70,000-75,000 foreign visitors in Dubai, and along with all other factors, welcoming so many guests, creating conditions, and solving all organizational issues are evidence of great potential. So, this is another demonstration of our country's capabilities. At the same time, it is our attitude towards the green agenda, and immediately after we were given this honor, a media campaign was launched against us again. The traditional actors are The Washington Post, The New York Times, which, as you remember, President Trump quite accurately described as fake news, Figaro and a few others immediately started a dirty campaign against us. Without any reason whatsoever, they even lashed out our environment minister, whom I appointed to COP29. He must have encountered such a situation for the first time. They were pointing out that he had worked in an oil company for many years. What does it mean? I also worked in an oil company for nine years, so what? This man worked as a vice president for environment in an oil company. After that, he has been working as minister of ecology for six years. All this is being put aside, as if it never happened and only his biography in the oil company is talked about. In any case, these are natural, because whenever an international event is held in Azerbaijan, we face such campaigns, be it the European Games, Eurovision or even the Astronautical Congress. We would actually be surprised if this is not the case. I wonder why. What did we do wrong for the West to be “praising” us? In other words, if they “praise” us, it means we have made a mistake.

In any case, the hosting of these two events is a major development, and I am sure that both events will be held successfully and the visiting guests will see the realities of Azerbaijan. From the point of view of essence, I think that it is more important to hold such events in countries that produce oil and gas and have an oil and gas history. Because this was a claim against us and even against the United Arab Emirates, and before that against Egypt. And such claims are made because oil and gas producing countries are hosting this event for the third time. But this issue should be approached from a different perspective. These countries, countries that are rich in oil and gas, are inside this process. They want to contribute to our common cause. Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates to an even greater extent not only provide for its own energy security without the green energy, but also for the energy security of many others. But this is a symbol of great responsibility. It is an indication that we want to allocate our resources to this field so that green energy can develop in our countries, as they say, and contribute to the rest of the world. Here, of course, very serious processes will take place. Azerbaijan will have a special role to play as president of COP29. The course of the proceedings will largely depend on our position. We have already received offers on cooperation from several countries. We will determine the directions of cooperation during this preparatory period and will be ready to cooperate with all countries. This will be a great experience for us. Because I still think that this is the world's number one international event, an international conference, and from the point of view of the attention of the world community, it is more prestigious than the UN General Assembly. Because it is usually presidents who come and speak at the UN General Assembly. At the time of their speeches, there is usually no one in the hall except for their own delegations. After that, they leave. But there will be real work here, there will be discussions, perhaps even certain clashes of ideas, i.e. it will be an interesting process, and we are certainly proud that Azerbaijan is spearheading this process.

Mirshahin Aghayev: Mr. President, I have been listening to you for a long time now. France is a powerful country, a nuclear state. Not only did we not lose to them, we even won during its presidency in the United Nations Security Council. Looking at it this way, all Western states we are up against are quite powerful. But at the same time, they have weakened and Azerbaijan does not bend before any of them. I want to ask a question. What is President Ilham Aliyev's strength and what is weakness of theirs? For example, why do they not have enough strength for Azerbaijan, vent their fury at a woman, actually the statue of a woman? Our team members visited France and lifted the veil that was wrapped around Natavan’s statue. They saw that it had been painted. What makes them so weak and what makes you so strong?

President Ilham Aliyev: I think that the main source of our strength is our being right. Because we are right and we have enough reasons to prove this to any audience and at any event. We were absolutely right in the Karabakh issue, and no one can deny that. We were right in being guided by the ideas of independence because we are an independent country. If we are an independent country, why should we be at someone else’s beck and call? Then let's not even be an independent country. If someone thinks that they will control us, they are wrong. There have been such attempts. No more recently because they already know. But it did happen. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We have never done that. We have never interfered even in the internal affairs of Armenia. Even during the occupation, we never interfered in their internal processes. However, we had enough opportunities. Even today we don't. Notice how many attempts have been made to interfere in our internal affairs. So, many cunning plans have been drawn up against us. You remember them all well. Back in the early 1990s, the baseless Section 907 was passed against us. Why? We allegedly kept Armenia in a blockade. After all, our land was occupied, so, how could we keep them in a blockade? At that time, Heydar Aliyev had not yet come to power. At that time, there was a “democratic” government in Azerbaijan that was applauded by the West. Notice how widespread anti-Azerbaijani feelings were at the time and how many baseless accusations we were subjected to after that. Totally unfounded.

In other words, we were right in this matter as well, we were protecting our independence, we were moving towards our goals, and now when I analyze the past events from a new perspective, I see that the basis of these injustices against us was probably the unresolved status of the Karabakh issue. Because they wanted to constantly keep us under pressure, constantly portray Azerbaijan as a country of dictatorship, autocracy, a country that crushes democracy, so that we deal with these accusations, defend ourselves day and night, or bow to them and ask them not to offend us. But what did we do? On the contrary, we expressed our position in the face of the attacks, and then they saw that this didn’t work. They can’t forgive us for liberating Karabakh because this removed the lever from their hands. Azerbaijan, figuratively speaking, got off the hook. This factor no longer exists. After the Second Karabakh War, they raised the issues of status and rights of Karabakh Armenians so that they could poke their noses into it again. They insisted that an international mission be sent there in order to confuse the situation again. That lever is also out of their hands. So, now they are looking for a new topic. I am answering your question somewhat broadly, but this is the main platform for that. We were always sure that we were right and never did anything wrong.

Let me say again now that they are accusing us of willing to attack Armenia. I have already said this and I will repeat it again with total sincerity. If we had wanted to, we would have done so. We would have gone to the very end. The city of Jermuk – the city with former real name of Istisu – was right in front of us. Who could have stopped us? We had no intention. Our intention was to protect our border. We had to have the heights to be able to monitor Armenia’s plans visually. A westerner told me during a conversation about this topic that you have a satellite and you can see it from the satellite. I told him that my eyes were my satellite. I have to see it with my own eyes. A satellite is a device, it may get out of order or may be turned it off, as it is in your hands. We have not done anything wrong, and this is the main factor. The second factor is our strength, the unity of our society, the unity of our people, and we could never win the war without this unity. I am saying this quite clearly. Because it was the spirit of the people that determined this Victory, it was the spirit of the people that sent our soldiers forward, it was their upbringing. No matter what weapons you have, no matter how many troops you may have trained professionally, if you don't have the spirit, you can't capture any height. They were prepared to die, as you know.

I have spoken a lot about those who are against us, maybe that is enough for this interview. But they failed to evaluate us properly, which is probably why they lost. If they had assessed us correctly, they would not have meddled with us, and meddling with us may prove too costly for each of them. These events you mentioned are clear evidence of that both in the UN and in the European Union.

Rovshan Mammadov: Mr. President, the interview has been going on for almost three hours and you have answered our questions on up to 20 topics. Thank you for the interview. On behalf of all of us, we wish you success in your future activities, especially in your work toward a new mission. Thank you very much.

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you, thank you very much. I wish you good luck, robust health and new victories in the New Year.

Rovshan Mammadov: Inshallah!

President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.