Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Baku representative of the Turkish television channel TRT, Yuksel Degercan
29 february 2012, 17:10
President Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by the Baku representative of the Turkish television channel TRT, Yuksel Degercan.
- Dear viewers, we are in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and the guest of TRT Haber is President Ilham Aliyev.
Mr. President, first of all, I am very grateful to you for opening your door to us, the TRT family.
I want to start our interview with the topic of France. The theme of France has often been on the agenda recently. In particular, the bill recognizing the denial of the far-fetched “Armenian genocide” as a crime, passed by the Senate and the French parliament, was sent to the Constitutional Council which said “Stop!” and rejected it. Azerbaijan and Turkey have contributed a lot to its abolition. What is your assessment of the decision by the Constitutional Council? What sentiments has it aroused?
- First of all, I want to sincerely congratulate the entire Turkish nation and the people of Azerbaijan, all champions of justice in the world on the abolition of the law. I believe that the Constitutional Court of France has restored justice.
Because, as you know, this law was based on lies, did not have any historical footing and distorted the truth. The Turkish public and the public and state bodies of Azerbaijan immediately began to apply effort. I am very pleased that these efforts proved successful and the Constitutional Court of France has demonstrated again that claims built on lies will never enter into force. At the same time, the abolition of the law is a great contribution to the freedom of speech. Just imagine that if this law had come into force, it would be impossible to talk of the freedom of speech and freedom of thought in general. I am very pleased that thanks to our joint efforts and international support, this law did not enter into force and justice has been done.
- The brotherhood between Turkey and Azerbaijan manifested itself again recently, in particular through the work carried out to inform the world about the Khojaly tragedy. Large-scale marches and rallies were conducted in Baku and in Taksim Square. All Turkish cities commemorated the victims of the Khojaly genocide, while major events were held in 70 countries around the world. What is your assessment of the marches and demonstrations in Taksim Square and in Baku which were joined by thousands of people? Is it an indicator of the force generated by our unity?
- Of course it is. First of all, I want to say that the Khojaly tragedy is our great sorrow, a great tragedy, a heinous crime committed by Armenian fascists in the late 20th century. The Khojaly tragedy has exposed the ugly face of Armenian atrocities and Armenian fascism. Such violence against civilians and cruelty, possibly unseen on a global scale, cause great sorrow and anger. The Armenians killed 613 innocent people, including 106 women and 63 children.
This year we marked the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy in both Turkey and Azerbaijan. These demonstrations and marches, the common position of the Turkish and Azerbaijani people primarily show how strong our brotherhood is. Our hearts beat together. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in both Taksim Square and in Baku to express their protest and reverence for the memory of the fallen martyrs. This is a manifestation of great unity and justice. I am absolutely sure that the blood of the victims of Khojaly will be avenged.
The solidarity and protest demonstrated in Turkey and Azerbaijan are natural because our peoples are fraternal. We are always together. Turkey and Azerbaijan act together on all matters. I am sure that this unity will become even stronger in the coming years.
In your first question you touched upon the law passed in France. I can say that the people of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani government and parliament started to take action as soon as this unfair law was adopted. The Administration of the President issued a statement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a very serious statement. The French Ambassador to Azerbaijan was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where a protest was voiced to him. The Azerbaijani parliament has expressed its position on the issue twice. A statement and an appeal to the French parliament were passed. We were in close contact with our friends in France. The visit by a group of French senators to Azerbaijan and the wide-ranging discussion conducted during the visit were all part of our fraternal duty.
Our relations with France have a history of 20 years. We have friends in France. We have tried to use all the opportunities so that justice is not compromised, so that justice is done. As you know, according to French law, senators are to vote for sending a bill to the Constitutional Court. If they hadn’t collected the votes, the Constitutional Court would not even have bothered to examine the issue and this unjust law would have automatically entered into force. But the senators showed great wisdom, and thanks to our joint efforts this law did not enter in force. I also want to note that our Embassy in France, together with the Turkish Embassy, did a great job and tried to prove, within their capabilities, that this law is unjust, that it represents a blow to the freedom of speech and if it comes into force, it can have a negative impact on bilateral relations. I am very pleased and want to say again that justice has been restored. At the same time, the Turkish-Azerbaijani unity has demonstrated its strength, this time on a global scale.
I have repeatedly said this and want to say again that the main source of our success is our unity. Today, Turkey and Azerbaijan, as two brotherly countries, enjoy great authority in the region and this authority is having an impact outside the region. The more united we are, the more our strength will grow. There are those who are trying to set us against each other. We know them, we condemn and win against them. But we must always keep this issue in the spotlight. Our unity must be strong, it mustn’t have any gaps for the evil and malevolent forces to capitalize on to achieve their goals. They have never achieved them and never will. The Turkish-Azerbaijani unity manifested itself on the anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, in the events around France. It is evident in all other issues.
- Mr. President, the first meeting of the strategic high-level cooperation council was held in Izmir last year. Numerous decisions were made and agreements signed within the meeting framework. Starting from energy contracts, agreements began to be gradually implemented in many other areas. A contract on the Trans-Anatolian pipeline was signed. In this context, how can you assess the current state of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations in the economic and energy spheres and the future of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations?
- I am very pleased that for the entire period of independence Turkish-Azerbaijani relations have been on the rise and I think are at the peak now. Our best friend and ally in the world is Turkey. I am sure that Azerbaijan is also Turkey's number one friend, brother and ally in the world. This is a great asset, a huge achievement. We must preserve and protect this asset. We are close nations. We are very close to each other. Our languages, history and roots are very similar. Most importantly, our interests are also the same.
I believe that last year’s meeting of the strategic high-level cooperation council in Izmir was the tool that revealed the essence of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. The council is a very important body and its first meeting was very successful. As you have said, numerous documents and agreements were signed to lead Turkish-Azerbaijani relations forward. Our cooperation is only 20 years old. From now on, our cooperation will continue forever.
While strengthening our political ties, we are also creating excellent economic opportunities. As for the energy issue, Turkish-Azerbaijani energy cooperation is important not only for the region, but also for the world. Our joint initiatives, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian gas project – all this will make our unity even more cohesive and further enhance our opportunities in the region and beyond.
Azerbaijan has ample reserves of oil and gas. Turkey possesses tremendous economic power. Azerbaijani oil and gas passing through Turkey will contribute to the energy security of Turkey. At the same time, our resources will be transported to other countries via Turkey. By combining these sources, transit opportunities and economic power, we can defend our positions on any issue, because energy security is in the forefront for the world and Europe today. We know that in the future, the sources located in the Caspian Sea will play a major role, and Azerbaijan is again in the front row in this matter.
Our strategic energy projects are having an impact on other areas too. We are building the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad together. I do hope that we will open it in a year. Thus, we will connect the world. Turkey and Azerbaijan will connect continents. Such is our geography. Our strength is growing, we have both the energy and the political will. In the future, we must only strengthen this cooperation.
As for the future, I have no doubt that the wisdom of the peoples of Turkey and Azerbaijan will not allow us to take even one step back from this strategic cooperation. Because our policies rest on the will of our peoples. Our peoples are fraternal, they are connected with each other, and the events surrounding France and the Khojaly genocide have demonstrated this to us and the world again. Like it or not, everyone has to reckon with this unity.
I hope that in the coming years we will further strengthen our strategic bilateral cooperation. There is a lot in store for us. We always keep in touch and try to coordinate our policies on the international plane. If you remember, the beautiful ceremonies and the historic days in Izmir coincided with Azerbaijan’s election to the UN Security Council.
- Yes, that is correct …
- Addressing the ceremony in Izmir then, I said that this is both our seat and yours, it is our common seat. We support Turkey in all international organizations and Turkey supports Azerbaijan in all international organizations.
So when I say that this cooperation and alliance are of unique nature, I mean just that. I want to say again that this is a great asset. Our peoples have lived together for centuries and told us to carry on living like that, so we must be faithful to this covenant.
- Mr. President, as you said, we are indeed “one nation in two states”, and in the future this will be very important parameters. The governments of the two countries will raise these relations to a very good, the best level.
Mr. President, one of Azerbaijan’s most important problems is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Just as this is a bleeding wound for Azerbaijan, it is a bleeding wound for Turkey too. Mr. President, what is the current situation in the settlement of the Karabakh problem? How would you briefly, through TRT Haber, address the world?
- I can say that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and Azerbaijan are regularly in touch over this issue. We are discussing these issues. Therefore, the Turkish government is aware of the current situation in the conflict settlement.
With regard to the public, I want to reiterate that the solution to this issue lies in the plane of international law. No agreement is possible outside the framework of international law. First, Nagorno-Karabakh is historically native Azerbaijani land. The word "Karabakh" is our word and doesn’t have a meaning in the Armenian language. We know how the Armenians came there, who settled them there and when. In 1923, Nagorno-Karabakh was given the status of an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. This is the historical aspect of the issue.
As for the legal side, the whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. No country, including Armenia proper, has recognized the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. And this is natural, as Nagorno-Karabakh is located within and right in the middle of Azerbaijan. Even during the Soviet era the administrative boundaries of Nagorno-Karabakh did not contact those of the Republic of Armenia. So it was a small area located within Azerbaijan.
International law requires that our lands be freed from occupiers and refugees return to their native lands. The Armenians have conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing against us. More than one million Azerbaijanis have become refugees in their own land, about 20 per cent of our land is still under occupation. The UN Security Council has passed four resolutions demanding an unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts. But these resolutions remain unfulfilled. And this is the biggest injustice. In some cases, the UN Security Council passes a resolution and starts to execute it in a few hours. As for us, this injustice has been ongoing for 20 years.
Therefore, international law must be restored. All our refugees must return to their native lands. As for the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, they may continue living there. We don’t mind that. This is a wonderful experience existing in the world. Any country, except for Armenia of course, is home to different ethnicities – Turkey, Azerbaijan and most countries of the world. Armenia is a mono-ethnic state. There is no-one other than Armenians in Armenia. No other ethnicity can live there, they can’t tolerate that.
So Azerbaijan, as a multiethnic state, will certainly create conditions, help the Armenians living there and in the future, as citizens of Azerbaijan, they will enjoy all the rights.
If Armenia takes into account the reality and the situation changing in favor of Azerbaijan, then it will make the right decision to withdraw from occupied lands. Then peace will be restored, the roads opened and all the countries, especially those located in the Caucasus and in our region, will become closer to each other. That is our wish. We have no claims to Armenian land even though those places are also historically Azerbaijani. The Erivan khanate, the Zangezur and Geycha regions are our lands on which the Armenians have created a state. We will never tolerate a second Armenian state on Azerbaijani territory. Again, if Armenia takes into account the current realities and the growing political clout and economic power of Azerbaijan, takes the right steps and vacates the occupied lands, it will also benefit the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. But if it doesn’t realize this and continues its aggressive policies, then the consequences for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh can be very bitter.
- When do you think the conflict will be resolved? In what ways? You mentioned earlier, “We want to do this in the legal way”, but can any other ways be used?
- In other words, we do not see a solution outside international law. The Azerbaijani government and the people of Azerbaijan will never give Nagorno-Karabakh independence. The sooner Armenia realizes this, the better. Armenia should really back down from its position. Their position is to see Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country. But this is impossible. Because it can’t happen without Azerbaijan’s consent. And we can never agree to that. So if Armenia backs down from its position, we can reach a solution soon. Then it will be possible for the Armenians to live in Nagorno-Karabakh, i.e. live normally, in safety. Now they live in fear. We know that. People can’t always live in fear. They are also well aware that the Azerbaijani army can easily restore Azerbaijan’s sovereignty in Nagorno-Karabakh. Easily! We simply don’t want to shed blood again, we don’t want to resume war. We want to do it peacefully, through talks. Who wants to restart the war? But we can’t accept this situation. In general, this situation can’t last long.
If you have noticed, the presidents and foreign ministers of Minsk Group co-chair countries have been making statements that the status quo is unacceptable and must be changed. They started making such statements only last year. Why? Because everyone is well aware that the status quo can’t remain forever. There is Azerbaijan, a country growing with each passing day, and Armenia, which is weakening and growing poorer by the day. How can our lands remain under occupation? It is impossible! Every day, every month, every year the population of Azerbaijan is growing, while the population of Armenia is shrinking. So let me repeat that the Armenian government should approach this issue through the prism of reality. It should at least make a forecast for five or 10 years ahead to see what the balance of forces will be like! The Azerbaijani government will never tolerate this situation. The Azerbaijani youth will not accept this situation.
In some cases, it is wrongly believed in Armenia that generations will change, a young generation will grow up without ever visiting Karabakh and will not want to go back there. This is an absolutely erroneous approach. This feature may be inherent in the Armenians, but Azerbaijanis have a historical memory. Anyone from Karabakh, who was born in Baku, in a tent camp, lives with the dream of returning to Karabakh. Karabakh can never be forgotten, never! Therefore, sooner or later we will restore our territorial integrity. I have no doubt about that. I simply want this to happen as soon as possible and, if possible, without bloodshed.
- Thank you, Mr. President. Dear viewers, today’s guest of TRT Haber was President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. He has shared his sincere feelings with TRT Haber. I wish you success and happy days.