President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan did not only wage the war of the 21st century, but also the war of morality

On April 13, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev participated in the "New Vision for South Caucasus: Post-Conflict Development and Cooperation" international conference held at ADA University.

In his opening remarks at the conference which is attended by representatives of world's leading think tanks, Rector of the ADA University, Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev thanked President Ilham Aliyev on behalf of the attendees for his participation at the conference, for willingness to share his vision for the future of the region.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev first of all expressed gratitude to ADA university, and to rector Mr. Pashayev for organizing such an event: "I am glad that ADA University within the relatively short period of time became one of the leading universities in Azerbaijan and has a very broad international connections. Also, I'm very grateful to the participants of the conference for their participation, because as you can imagine the situation after war is very fragile. Though the ceasefire is being maintained still there are a lot of questions about post-conflict development and the topic of the conference is post-conflict development and cooperation."

President once again, thanked to all the participants for their attendance and said: "We consider this as not only a sign of interest to what is happening here in the region but also as a sign of your solidarity with the people of Azerbaijan who suffered from Armenian occupation for 30 years. Before talking about post-conflict development we need to understand that our lands were under occupation for 30 years and we cannot exclude our memory, the memory of those who lost their family members, the member of those who were deprived from the fundamental right to live on their own lands.

We cannot forget the atrocities committed by Armenian army. We cannot and will never forget Khojaly genocide and the innocent victims of Khojaly genocide organized by the leaders of Armenia and the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh regime. Therefore, it's very important to understand that this memory will be with us. We will keep it in our heart. At the same time, we need to look to the future. Also, the destructions on the territories which we liberated are beyond all our worst expectations. Because we more or less knew what Armenians have done to our cities and villages. Because there have been from time to time some video footages some information from some international representatives who managed to visit those lands. Probably you know that foreigners who were illegally visiting then Nagorno-Karabakh were deprived of visiting the territories which you have visited. They were deprived of going to Aghdam, to Fuzuli, to other territories which surrounded the former Nagorno-Karabakh administrative district. Because Armenian government didn't want foreigners to see the devastation and to see their hatred to Azerbaijanis, because it's clear that those destructions and devastations were done after the first Karabakh war stopped. Because it's not possible to destroy the cities and villages during the war.

They did it deliberately in order to erase the legacy of Azerbaijani culture in order to erase these territories from our memories, in order to change the origin of those lands. Therefore, we need to understand the feelings of Azerbaijani people and now when we returned to those lands and we see with our own eyes what the occupation of Armenian forces did to our historical monuments, religious monuments, to our cities and villages. Of course, this is a very important factor in order to understand our steps with respect to post-conflict situation. You are all very well aware of what happened. You were involved in this process you know. So, there's no need for me to make a long speech talking about 30 years of occupation. Probably I will conclude now in order to have more time for discussions."

Giving detailed answers to the questions during the conference, President Ilham Aliyev underlined that the Azerbaijani position was always constructive: "As I said many times, during our meetings with your formal colleagues, ambassadors of the Minsk Group from France and Russia that Azerbaijan always was interested in finding soonest solutions to the conflict because we were the suffering side. I had a strong feeling during negotiations and I shared it with you that Armenia doesn't want a solution. They say they want but they do everything in order not to have this solution. What we have seen after we liberated the territories, those fortifications, those huge hundred millions of dollars investments in mining, in building this defense lines. We clearly understand that they were doing it in order to keep these lands under occupation forever. So, their tactics was actually to be in the process of negotiations, I mean the previous governments, to have kind of a process, to imitate, to negotiate, to agree on something, to disagree on other things. But when it comes to make a decisive step to step back," the head of state underlined.

"With respect to our behaviour during the war from the very beginning it was very clear that Azerbaijan is conducting not only the war of 21st century but the war of new morality if I may say so. When war started my immediate commands to our military servicemen was to behave with dignity to behave in a moderate way, and to do maximum in order not to do damage civilians. And the fact that there have been less than 40 victims on Armenian side among civilians clearly demonstrated," the head of state added.

President Ilham Aliyev said unfortunately Azerbaijan's behavior during the war was not assessed properly by Armenia. "This is a very unfortunate development of events, because if we are talking now about post-conflict situation, we need to concentrate on some elements which can lead to future reconciliation. But there have been such a long period of deliberate policy of demonization of Azerbaijan, inventing stories, presenting Azerbaijanis as enemies as those who occupied Armenia or occupied Karabakh. So, it probably takes time for the society to understand and not only during the war, but even after war what we have done. We returned more than 1500 dead bodies of Armenian soldiers. We are still participating together with the Russian peacekeepers in these searching operations. And I can tell you that in the first Karabakh war we had almost 4000 missing Azerbaijani soldiers. None of them was returned. None of them. So, this is a difference," said President of Azerbaijan.

Noting that it was difficult to predict how Azerbaijanis and Armenians would interact in the future, President Ilham Aliyev said he believed that to a large degree it would depend on the will and political wisdom of politicians: "Because I think we need to be more active here and in Yerevan in order to try to build bridges, of course, if Armenia wants that. We don't know what are their intentions. They never elaborated on that. I already on several occasions made it very clear that we consider the page of the conflict turned down. We even can talk and I already said it a couple of times about a possible peace agreement with Armenia. These are our plans. But we do not have any messages of this kind from Armenian side. Armenian prime minister is silent, Armenian foreign minister is very aggressive and Armenia is not in the situation now to afford themselves to be aggressive against Azerbaijan. They should remember what happened during the war. Armenian opposition is now actually in hysteria. And Azerbaijanophobia, Turkophobia became one of the main, it always was very important but now, I think, it is the only factor

President Ilham Aliyev underlined that they would ill build their election campaign on Azerbaijanophobia, Turkophobia, on the feelings of revanchism. Therefore we cannot establish this interaction unilaterally. Our position is clear. We are ready for that. It will not be easy. Those former refugees who will return to Aghdam and other territories they will see what Armenians have done to their lands, to the graves of their beloved ones, to their religious monuments. What will they feel? I can predict. I felt the same. When I was approaching the line of contact during the war, and was only able to see Aghdam through lenses from binoculars and when I went there, to all the occupied territories. Yes, I am a President and I must be in line with my duties, but we are all people we have feelings, we can hide them, we can control them but sometimes it is very difficult. So, I can predict what will be the feelings of former Azerbaijani refugees but as a President, as a person who looks to the future we will do everything if Armenia has positive signals to us to try to build these connections," President Ilham Aliyev said.

The head of state said bsolutely unacceptable and strange that such a small and impoverished and weak country as Armenia has territorial claims against such a great and powerful country as Turkey. "They were so much under their ideological dogmas and this Turkophobia became a national policy that they even lost the feeling of reality. As far as I know, the Turkish government is planning their steps in a very constructive way. But of course, they need to have an adequate response. First, what Armenia should do? They should refrain from territorial claims against Turkey. They should rewrite their constitution. They should adopt a new constitution, they are planning to do it. But that's for political agenda of the government. The government wants to strengthen their political position. But at the same time, I think I can give them a good advice - to remove from their constitution territorial claims against Turkey," President said.

President Ilham Aliyev said they were discussing the unblocking of communications and particularly Zangazur corridor, Zangazur corridor could not be unblocked without Turkey's agreement and their participation. "Though, Turkey is not present in a trilateral working group on the level of deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia but Turkey is informed by us about what we discuss and if Armenia wants to put an end to difficulties with communications. Though, Turkey is not present in a trilateral working group on the level of deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia but Turkey is informed by us about what we discuss and if Armenia wants to put an end to difficulties with communications. And as far as I know, Turkish government is ready. So, again the ball is on Armenian side."

Noting that Karabakh would hold one of the important places in our economy, non-energy sector, as well as transport sphere, the head of state said three airports were already in the process. Zangilan can become an important transportation and logistical hub taking into account its location and close proximity to the neighbors. There are opportunities to attract more investors to the non-energy sector and business opportunities.

Saying that Azerbaijan's rating had improved in the World Bank Doing Business report the head of state said: "We are number 28. So, business climate is improving and we have very educated people and young generation which now is generating ideas and its hope for the future. As I said during the war, the biggest burden of war was on the shoulders of those who were children when I came to power. So, we managed to help young generation to develop. Taking into account, energy resources and completion of all major oil and gas pipelines that will feed our economy with additional sources of supply. We do not depend on foreign aid, our foreign debt is something around 18 percent of GDP, and I put a target to reduce it to 10 percent of GDP which will be then one of the best results in the world. We have very low rate of poverty around 5 percent, when I came to this position it was 49 percent. So, we actually feel that we will be able to implement all our plans, which is with a strategic vision. But for that we need stability not only inside Azerbaijan, which we have for already 28 years, but we need stability beyond our borders. And one of the main concerns will be our steps in order to minimize risks. We have taken obligation of the chair of Non-Aligned Movement with a great success. Our international efforts in the region led to the creation of new formats of cooperation or a trilateral cooperation with Turkey-Iran, Georgia-Turkey, Russia-Iran. So this is also contribution to stability and predictability. Of course, there should be zero risk of revenge attempts from Armenian side. If they do it, I said we want peace, but we will destroy them completely. Destroy them completely and let them not forget what I say now."

 

 

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