Ilham Aliyev: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is gone

Ilham Aliyev: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is gone

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has addressed the nation to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan on the liberation of Lachin district. "It is with great joy that I inform you that Lachin district has been liberated from occupation. I cordially congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion. The liberation of Lachin district from occupation is a historic event," he said in the first place, noting that they returned Lachin district without firing a single shot, forcing Armenia to peace, just like in the case of Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin.

"Lachin district is one of our biggest districts. It covers an area of 1,800 square kilometers. The rich nature of Lachin district, its historical sites and underground riches are our national treasure. Lachin district will play an important part in the future economic development of Azerbaijan. First of all, we will return Lachin to the people of Lachin. I sincerely congratulate dear residents of Lachin on this wonderful event. When Lachin was occupied, just over 50,000 people lived in it. Today the population of Lachin district has reached 80,000 people. Of course, one of our main goals will be to return the residents of Lachin there as soon as possible," Ilham Aliyev stressed, adding that all internally displaced persons will be able return to districts liberated from the occupation as soon as possible.

"In Lachin district, we have large forest areas – 22,000 hectares of its territory is covered by forest. This is also our great asset. Kalbajar district has 24,000 hectares of forest. In Zangilan and Gubadli districts, there are 12,000 hectares. At the same time, Hadrut district and a part of Khojavand district liberated from occupation have large forest areas too. Forests are the lungs of our planet. The hated and savage enemy had been cutting down and plundering our forests for 30 years, and recently set them on fire. Despite this, most of our forests remain intact because the enemy could not get into these forests, as they are located in remote mountain ranges," the Azerbaijani president noted.

"I must also say that our great river, the Hakari, which is more than 100 kilometers long, originates in Lachin district. This is an issue of great strategic importance. I can say that more than 10 of our large and small rivers originate in the lands liberated from occupation. I would like to highlight four of them because the length of these rivers exceeds 100 kilometers. The Tartarchay, which is 200 kilometers long, the Bazarchay, which is about 180 kilometers long, the Khachinchay, which is about 120 kilometers long – these three rivers are located in Kalbajar district. The Hakari river is also one of our largest rivers, with a length of over 100 kilometers. This is very important because the sources of the main rivers passing through the territory of Azerbaijan are located in other countries. The sources of three of our main rivers, the Kur, the Araz and the Samur, are located in other countries. Of course, our water resources will be of great importance in restoring the lands liberated from occupation and for future life there. Relevant instructions have already been given and there are plans to build reservoirs there. This in itself is one of the factors that will have a great impact on the development of agriculture and building an environmental equilibrium," he said.

"At the same time, the strategic importance of Lachin district lies in the fact that the Lachin corridor runs through the territory of the district and through the city of Lachin. As you know, this corridor has been transferred under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces. For many years, the corridor was under the control of the Armenian armed forces, the occupiers. I can say that the initial version of the joint statement signed on 10 November contained a provision on keeping this corridor under the control of the Armenian armed forces. I opposed this and as a result, control over this corridor was transferred to Russian peacekeepers. I think this is a great achievement. The Lachin corridor has been cleared of Armenian occupying forces," Ilham Aliyev said.

"I must also say that a lot of work was done on the initial version of the statement, especially after the liberation of the city of Shusha from the occupation. The initial version of the statement suggested that the width of the Lachin corridor should be 30 kilometers. I was categorically against this and said that these claims of the Armenian side were absolutely unfounded. There is no need for such a wide corridor to ensure security measures within the corridor. Therefore, I considered this proposal as being absolutely unacceptable and expressed my opinion. The second version envisaged the Lachin corridor as being 10 kilometers wide. I didn’t agree to that either, as a result of which agreement was reached on a corridor 5 kilometers wide. The 5km corridor is wide enough for us, for the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh and for ensuring security," the Azerbaijani leader stated.

Ilham Aliyev said that a very serious policy of settlement was carried out in Lachin district. "Illegal settlement was also carried out in other places liberated from occupation, but not to the same extent, not in the same volume. For example, if we look at Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan and Gubadli districts, there were more military units there. All the houses and buildings there were destroyed by the hated enemy. Servicemen, members of their families and a small number of civilians used to live there. The Armenians brought from abroad were not sent there. Lachin district was very seriously taken under Armenian control and a very large settlement program was implemented there. Thousands of people lived there. According to some sources, about 10,000 people may have lived there. In other words, the Armenian leadership had no intention of returning Lachin district to Azerbaijan. When topics related to the Lachin corridor were raised during the negotiations, both Armenia and its patrons always noted that, no, Lachin district is a separate topic. Although we were not told this directly, there was always an opinion that Lachin district should be retained by Armenia in some form," he noted.

The Azerbaijani leader said that over the past 17 years Baku has received repeated signals from various places, from outside circles that we should take five districts now and be content with it. "We were told that we had been defeated in the war, that Armenia had won – the implication was the first Karabakh war. We were told to come to terms with this reality. The five districts we were being given were described as a big deal, while Lachin and Kalbajar were supposed to be left for later. We were also told that when we granted independence to Nagorno-Karabakh, then part of these districts could be transferred to us. I always said that if Lachin, Kalbajar and Shusha did not return to Azerbaijan, then there can be no agreement. My position irritated many in foreign countries. I was saying that our territorial integrity must be restored. I said that the military option is never ruled out," Ilham Aliyev recalled.

"For all these years, having mobilized our resources, we strengthened the country, gathered strength – gathered strength at the international level, within the country, in resolving economic issues, in strengthening the solidarity and unity in the country, and in army building. We have turned this strength into an iron fist, broken the enemy’s back and created a new reality. If some were telling us to come to terms with reality a year ago, I say to them today that everyone should come to terms with the new reality. If someone wants to interfere with the statement signed on 10 November, they will be faced with our tough position. There are such attempts. They pursue one goal – to violate this agreement because it is very annoying for some due to a new security format emerging here. The statement reaffirms the establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian center. At the same time, some are annoyed by the security measures adopted here and the implementation of the provisions of the statement. However, no-one will be able to interfere in our affairs and the agreement reached. It is being fulfilled and must be fulfilled," the Azerbaijani president explained.

"We have driven the enemy out of our lands. We have fulfilled the resolutions of the UN Security Council. These resolutions have remained on paper for 27 years. For 27 years, these resolutions have been a piece of paper for many – not only for Armenia but also for others. We said that international law is on our side and that resolutions of the UN Security Council require a withdrawal of the occupying forces from our lands. However, this had no result. We have created a new reality in international legal practices and in our region. We have fulfilled the resolutions of the UN Security Council. We have restored our territorial integrity. We have ended the occupation. I hope that we have organized a new format of security and cooperation in the region for the present and future. Life will show what this format will consist in. In any case, we have done everything necessary to create this new format of cooperation and expelled the enemy from our lands. If issues specified in the statement of 10 November are resolved, then a new cooperation framework will be created in our region," he stressed.

"Our victory is a historic victory. We have liberated several districts from the enemy on the battlefield, returned three districts and forced the enemy, thus resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is gone. If someone thinks that this conflict is still exists, they are wrong. People living in Nagorno-Karabakh today are citizens of Azerbaijan. I want to say again that they will live better within a united Azerbaijani state. They will get rid of this poverty. Notice that we are currently building a railway from Barda to Agdam. The distance from Agdam to Khankandi is around 20-30 kilometers. How long will a trip from the capital of Armenia to Khankandi take – perhaps ten hours by truck. Moreover, this route lies through mountain roads. From Agdam to Khankandi, it will take half an hour. This will precondition our future prospects. Therefore, we must be ready for this and build our strategy," Ilham Aliyev said.

"The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh today and the Azerbaijanis who will definitely return there will live in the conditions of good-neighborliness again. There are logistical issues, transport issues, energy security. We will examine all of these issues. Unlike the Armenian leadership, we have a strategic vision and it has already been formed. We are moving towards our goal in a consistent manner. The leadership of Armenia had no vision even in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They did not know what they wanted themselves. They used to say that Nagorno-Karabakh was an “independent state”. They used to say that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia”. How can these conflicting ideas be combined in one? What does this mean? It means that the leadership of Armenia consists of incompetent people who do not understand politics," he noted, saying that their goal is to prevent Armenian fascism from raising its head in South Caucasus.

The President of Azerbaijan commented on the implementation of the trilateral statement. "The issues mentioned in the first paragraph have already been provided. A ceasefire has been in place since 10 November. There have been cases of violation of the ceasefire by Armenia. We provide an adequate response. There were no cases of ceasefire violation by the Azerbaijani side. In general, the ceasefire is being followed. The second paragraph states that Agdam district will be returned to the Republic of Azerbaijan on 20 November. This has been done. The third paragraph indicates that a peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation consisting of 1,960 military personnel armed with firearms, 90 armored vehicles, 380 vehicles and special equipment will be deployed on the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor.  This has been done," he said.

"The fourth paragraph states that the term of the statement is five years. If the parties do not raise any objection six months before the expiration of the term, the statement and this agreement will be extended. This is clear. In order to increase the effectiveness of control over compliance with the agreements reached by the parties to the conflict, a peacekeeping center is being established to exercise control over the ceasefire. When this statement was being signed, this paragraph was not elaborated in detail. However, when we were signing it, we agreed that it would be a Turkish-Russian center, and this has also already been resolved. Further, paragraph 6 indicates that the Republic of Armenia returns Kalbajar district to the Republic of Azerbaijan on 15 November and Lachin district before 1 December. As you know, the Russian side turned to us and asked for some time. The return of Kalbajar district to us was ensured not on 15, but on 25 November. This part of paragraph 6 has already been fulfilled. Lachin district has been returned to Azerbaijan. The 5km-wide Lachin corridor will not affect the city of Shusha and will remain under the control of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. I have already commented on this point," Ilham Aliyev continued.

"It was indicated that on the basis of the consent of the parties, a plan for the construction of a new route along the Lachin corridor would be determined in the next three years, providing for communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Thus, in order to protect this route, the Russian peacekeeping contingent is to be relocated in the future. I would like to comment on this issue as well. What is indicated there? Everyone knows that the Lachin corridor passes through the city of Lachin. So Lachin will remain in the middle of this corridor. During my conversations with the President of Russia, I said that the city of Lachin should also be returned to us. Therefore, we propose to build a new corridor, to develop a route for a new corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and build it. The deadline is also indicated here – within three years. But I believe we can do it sooner. After the parameters of the new corridor have been determined, the city of Lachin will also be returned to us. This issue deserves special attention because if I had not included it in the statement, the Lachin corridor would always have covered the city of Lachin," he said.

"The seventh paragraph states that internally displaced persons and refugees will return to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts under the control of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This is also an important matter. The citizens of Azerbaijan must return to all places in Nagorno-Karabakh where they used to live. This issue will be monitored by the UN. It will take time, of course. This will be decided during regular contacts. The eighth paragraph states that there is an exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees, as well as bodies. This process is already going on – both the exchange of bodies and prisoners and hostages," the Azerbaijani leader added.

"The ninth paragraph states that all economic and transport links are being restored in the region. In order to organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions, the Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Control over transport communications is carried out by the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia and, by agreement of the parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be ensured. This ninth paragraph was included in the statement precisely as a result of my persistence. Because when the peace plan was discussed for many years, the situation was not as clear and specific. In other words, the plan was that all communications would be opened, but there was no talk of a corridor that would link the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the rest of Azerbaijan. It was believed that this general expression covers this as well, but here it explicitly states that a corridor is being created between the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the main part of Azerbaijan, and the security of this corridor will be provided not by Armenia, but by the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia. So this corridor will be absolutely safe. At the same time, the second issue is the construction, by agreement of the parties, of new transport communications connecting the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan. For a complete and future-oriented solution of this issue, an additional paragraph was included. So what does this mean? It means that there should be two corridors. If necessary, there should be two corridors," he explained.

"We want long-term peace to be established in the region. To achieve this, cooperation needs to develop alongside security measures. We are ready to cooperate. Among the issues mentioned in the ninth paragraph, the priority for us is the issue of connecting Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and, at the same time, creating a new transport corridor between Azerbaijan and Turkey. As you know, we put the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway into operation several years ago. This is a railway link between Turkey and Azerbaijan. If this project is also implemented – and I am sure it will be – it will be a new link, and each of the five countries can benefit from it," Ilham Aliyev said.

"From the first day of the war to the present – from 27 September to 1 December – I have repeatedly addressed the Azerbaijani people, shared the joy of victory and reported on our liberated cities. I consider myself a very lucky person because this Victory demonstrates our spirit, our unbending spirit. It shows that the Azerbaijani people never intended to put up with such a situation, and the entire nation, the smallest children, the elderly, those who left these lands and lived with the dream of returning, representatives of the younger generation who have never been to these lands but are originally from there lived with one dream. We all lived with one dream and have realized it. All our dreams have come true today. This is a truly great happiness for each of us. The war is already in the past," the Azerbaijani leader stressed.

"A new era begins for our country. A new era of creation, an era of development, an era of restoration of our liberated territories. I am absolutely sure that during this period the Azerbaijani people will show unity and solidarity and demonstrate a strong resolve. Having united again, the Azerbaijani people will do everything possible to restore the destroyed cities and villages. From now on, we will live as a great and proud people. We have said our word in the international arena, we have said it in the region, achieved what we wanted, and I am sure that from now on our people will live happily and in safety.

I am concluding my addresses related to this topic. Of course, I am sure that I will continue to express my opinion to my native people. But I want to conclude my addresses related to this period with the words that all citizens of Azerbaijan have been dreaming about: Jabrayil is ours, Fuzuli is ours, Zangilan is ours, Gubadli is ours, Agdam is ours, Kalbajar is ours, Lachin is ours, Shusha is ours, Karabakh is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan! Glory to the Azerbaijani people! Long live Azerbaijan!" Ilham Aliyev concluded.