Ilham Aliyev attended CIS Heads of State Council's session in video conference format

18 december 2020, 14:00

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has attended a session of the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States held in the format of a video conference.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasized that due to the coronavirus, the meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States was being held in the format of a videoconference. He also spoke about the measures his country had taken during its presidency of the CIS.

Then the Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, Sergey Lebedev, informed the meeting participants about the agenda of the Council meeting.

The President of Azerbaijan made a speech at the meeting.

Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- Dear Shavkat Miromonovich, dear heads of state!

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the initiator of the summit, of this meeting, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev, and thank him for his hard work as chairman of the Council of the CIS Heads of State.

The main topic of the outgoing year in the world was the fight against the pandemic. In our region, it was the military action in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, I would like to share with my colleagues information and my visions of what is happening and what we plan to do in the future.

With regard to the fight against the pandemic, Azerbaijan, both domestically and in the international arena, took prompt action to combat this common misfortune. The number of laboratories has been increased – almost eight times in a short time. More than 10 new modern hospitals were built in a short time, including modular ones. Thus, we have provided more than 10,000 beds for COVID patients. Also, a general problem was the problem of a shortage of doctors, because no healthcare system was designed for such a high number of patients. We, having promptly conducted negotiations with our colleagues, invited doctors from five countries – Italy, China, Cuba, Russia and Turkey. This helped us a lot in treating our patients. An amount of almost $2.5 billion was allocated from the state budget to combat the pandemic and to provide financial support to the categories of our citizens affected as a result of the fact that many sectors of the economy were excluded from economic activity. Financial support measures have covered about 5 million citizens of Azerbaijan, which is half of our population. Now, when the vaccination process begins in the world, we are also involved in these activities. For many of the past months, negotiations were held with leading vaccine manufacturers such as Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech. I also want to note that Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to join the international COVAX initiative on equitable access of countries to vaccines with the participation of WHO.

As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan has always kept this topic in the spotlight as a country chairing the Non-Aligned Movement. We have always said in all international forums that countries that do not have sufficient financial resources should have exactly the same access to vaccines as developed countries so that there is no discrimination in this area. We have also developed a vaccination strategy, which implies a multi-platform approach. And regardless of what technologies are used, the main criterion for us will be the scientifically based safety of these vaccines. There are plans that the vaccination program will begin early next year, will be voluntary and carried out at the expense of the state.

Azerbaijan has actively advocated and is in favor of broad international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. Several international events have been held on our initiative, among them the Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States dedicated to the fight against the pandemic. It was held in April this year. Azerbaijan chairs the Council. In May, the Non-Aligned Movement Summit also dedicated to this topic was held on our initiative. Azerbaijan chairs the Non-Aligned Movement. As a country chairing the Non-Aligned Movement, I put forward the initiative to convene special sessions of the UN General Assembly at the level of heads of government and heads of state to discuss this topic. This proposal was supported by more than 150 states and, thus, the 31st Special Session of the UN General Assembly was held on 3 and 4 December at the initiative of Azerbaijan and attended by more than 70 heads of state and government. We also actively participated in the program on the provision of humanitarian financial assistance to many countries and international organizations. We have made a voluntary contribution of $10 million to the World Health Organization. We have been in close contact with this organization from the very first day of the pandemic. Azerbaijan has also provided financial and humanitarian assistance to more than 30 countries. Thus, heading the second largest international institution after the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan has made a significant contribution to the fight against the pandemic on a global scale.

The second topic I would like to talk about is the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This war was widely covered in the world media – unfortunately, not always objectively. Regarding the nature of the conflict, the history of the conflict and the essence of the problem, unfortunately, we often came across distorted, inaccurate or biased information. Nevertheless, thanks to our efforts, including those related to information support of the situation, we managed to reverse the negative background that had developed over the years in relation to Azerbaijan and convey the truth to the world community.

I would like to briefly inform my colleagues about what happened. The results of the war are known. Azerbaijan has won a victory over the occupying country, which had kept large territories of our land, our internationally recognized territories under occupation for many years. As a result of the war, according to our data, over 80 percent of the potential of the Armenian armed forces has been destroyed. For Azerbaijan it was a Patriotic and liberation war, while for Armenia it is a war of aggression and occupation. In the early 1990s, taking advantage of the chaos, confusion and anarchy in Azerbaijan, Armenia committed an act of aggression, as a result of which about 20 percent of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other districts of Azerbaijan, was occupied. Ethnic cleansing was carried out against the Azerbaijani population in Nagorno-Karabakh, outside of Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia proper. As a result, in 1993 we had one of the highest percentages of refugees per capita – one million out of the then 8 million population of Azerbaijan. The occupied lands were completely cleared and destroyed. Ethnic cleansing was carried out. When foreign diplomats and journalists visit Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil and other previously occupied territories today, they see with their own eyes what has been done there and what vandalism has been perpetrated on our lands. Cities, villages, historical and religious sites of our people have been destroyed. We put an end to the occupation ourselves – by force of arms and the valor and heroism of our sons. In fact, we have implemented the UN Security Council resolutions adopted 27 years ago, demanding a withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces from the occupied territories. For 28 years, since 1992, when the OSCE Minsk Group was set up, Armenia had been doing everything possible to ensure that the status quo remained unchanged. All attempts aimed at maintaining the status quo were also disguised in imitation of negotiations on the part of Armenian leadership. In essence, they deceived not only us, but also international mediators. And as it turns out, taking into account the new information that has now been revealed, and especially taking into account the engineering and fortification work that was carried out in the occupied territories, Armenia was never going to give up a centimeter of the occupied territories. Thus, for all 28 years, the Armenian leadership, represented by its top officials, had been misleading the international community.

Whereas the negotiations, albeit an imitation of them, as it turns out, continued until 2019, it essentially stopped in 2019. My numerous meetings with representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group essentially demonstrated that the mediators did not have particularly new ideas on how to move the process forward either, because the Armenian leadership did everything to disrupt the process of negotiations and essentially leave everything as it is, the status quo, especially since they were actively involved in the illegal settlement of the occupied territories, which is a war crime under Geneva Conventions. So starting in 2019, the Armenian leadership began to resort to new tactics – in essence, it was a refusal to imitate talks and a disruption of the process of negotiations. Confirmation of my words can be found both in the official statements of Armenia’s top military and political leaders and their provocative actions. I will cite just a few of them, which, I think, will be very illustrative for everyone in terms of confirming my words. Thus, the Armenian Minister of Defense, the former minister now, publicly stated during a visit to the United States of America that Armenia was preparing for a new war for new territories. In essence, this statement of Armenia’s highest military leader fully reveals the essence of his country’s aggressive policy. Apparently, it was not enough for them that they caused suffering to millions of Azerbaijanis, so they needed more territories, which is unacceptable both from the point of view of international law or from the point of view of human morality. It is noteworthy that this statement was made in the United States. It was a single statement, there were no more such statements, but it was made. As for the Armenian prime minister, he publicly said while visiting the occupied territories in 2019 that “Karabakh is Armenia and full stop”. Naturally, this provocative thesis aimed at disrupting the negotiations could not remain unanswered. I said in response that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and an exclamation mark.” History has shown who eventually turned out to be right. Such demonstrative defiance of Azerbaijan, and not only Azerbaijan but also the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, such disrespect for their activities demonstrated that Armenia was deliberately and demonstratively undermining the process of negotiations and essentially did that. Because if we were to proceed from that logic, from the fact that Karabakh, as he said, is Armenia, then what is there to negotiate? Because there were Madrid principles on the table, which had been developed by co-chairs of the Minsk Group and which the previous Armenian leadership had accepted as a basis for negotiations. They clearly stated that all the occupied territories must be returned to Azerbaijan. Therefore, these statements, and many others – I just don’t want to take up a lot of my colleagues' time – said that Armenia is deliberately disrupting the negotiations.

Further, we knew that for many years the Armenian leadership had been trying to carry out illegal settlement in the occupied territories, which is a war crime, but due to the lack of human and financial resources, they did not succeed in full. As for the current Armenian leadership, relying to a large extent, including the implementation of its policy in all directions, on the help the Armenian diaspora in the West, a plan was developed for a forced settlement of the occupied territories, primarily the ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha. All this was done in a demonstrative manner, publicly and was shown on TV. Other actions that overwhelmed the patience of the Azerbaijani people included the decision to transfer the parliament of the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh republic” from Khankandi to Shusha, which cannot be perceived otherwise than an insult to the feelings of Azerbaijanis. And also the so-called inauguration of the leader of the criminal regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Shusha, which had happened for the first time since the occupation of the ancient Azerbaijani city. Thus, the actions and steps of the Armenian leadership were aimed at exacerbating the situation, provoking the Azerbaijani side to retaliate and disrupt the process of negotiations in order to say afterwards that, as you can see, there are clashes again and this issue must be put on the back burner ... Among the statements of the Armenian military and political leadership there was one in which they tried to intimidate us by saying that if Azerbaijan continues to persist, so to speak, in its position on the settlement of the conflict, then Armenian tanks will be on the streets of Baku very soon. Well, as a result, it turned out to be right, but Armenian tanks appeared on our streets at the military parade dedicated to the victory of Azerbaijan in the war as spoils of war on 10 December.

In one of my appeals to the Azerbaijani people, I spoke in detail about the military equipment that the Azerbaijani army has destroyed as a result of the war, so this information is available. If anyone is interested, they can get this information from open sources. As for a military provocations, this year, first of all, there was the July provocation, which was committed not in the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh, but at the state border, when Armenian troops attacked the positions of the Azerbaijani army in Tovuz district. It was a completely unmotivated provocation. It was an attempt to seize posts and new territories within the framework of the so-called military concept of the Armenian leadership to seize new territories. We had casualties among the civilian population and among our servicemen. We gave a fitting rebuff and drove the Armenian troops back to their starting positions. The justification the Armenian side provided for this incident was simply ridiculous. Let me just remind you, some of you may have forgotten this – Azerbaijani servicemen, three servicemen in a UAZ, allegedly attacked Armenian posts. People who are completely alien to issues related to army building don’t realize that wars do not start like this, on a UAZ. So our people, unfortunately, became victims of the Armenian aggression. I must say that those clashes lasted for several days, and then I stated that we did not and do not have any plans to invade the territory of the Armenian state. If we did, then it would be very easy to do this in the Tovuz direction because there were opportunities for this. Thus, without going any further than providing a response, we stopped.

Then there was a September provocation, when a sabotage group consisting of many Armenian servicemen made an attempt to penetrate into Goranboy district, on the contact line of the troops. The leader of the group was detained and gave evidence that it was a deliberate provocation aimed at carrying out acts of terror in the depths of Azerbaijani territory. And finally, on 27 September, the Armenian armed forces, using heavy artillery, attacked settlements in Tartar, Aghdam and Fuzuli districts. In the very first hours of the attack, we had casualties among the civilian population and among our military personnel. Over the 44 days of the conflict, 94 Azerbaijani civilians were killed, including 11 children, more than 400 civilians were injured, more than 5,000 houses were either completely destroyed or seriously damaged. The Armenian armed forces attacked cities that are far from the conflict zone, in particular, the city of Ganja, and there were ballistic missile strikes causing heavy human losses, the cities of Gabala, Siyazan, Khizi, which is almost 100 kilometers from Baku. In other words, there were deliberate actions aimed at destroying the civilian population and thus creating panic, killing innocent people, attempts, as it were, to compensate for the losses they had suffered on the battlefield.

On 27 September, after the treacherous attack, as the Commander-in-Chief, I gave the order to “Go forward!” We had to protect our people and country. And as a result of our actions, 44 days later, the enemy surrendered. During this time, we liberated more than 300 settlements, strategic heights, the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, urban-type settlements Sugovushan, Hadrut, a part of Khojavand district, the Murovdag ridge, and a part of Lachin and Kalbajar districts. And on 8 November, we liberated the ancient Azerbaijani city Shusha, which is rightfully considered the pearl of the Caucasus and the soul of the Azerbaijani people, from Armenian occupation. This essentially put an end to the hostilities, because after the capture and liberation of the city of Shusha, any resistance by the Armenian army became completely meaningless and a continuation of hostilities could have led to huge human casualties. The Armenian army was defeated and demoralized and a part of it was encircled.

On 9 November, with the active participation of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the text of the trilateral statement of the President of Russia, the President of Azerbaijan, and the prime minister of Armenia was agreed and signed in the early hours of 10 November. The text of the statement has been published, of course, and I am sure that my colleagues have read it. There are many important points in it, including the liberation of parts of Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin districts by 1 December. The points of the agreement have been fulfilled. I must also say that during the phase of active hostilities, I was constantly in contact with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and also with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. I think that the President of Russia has played a huge role in the political settlement. He was in constant contact, especially on 9 November, very effectively and actively worked on stopping the hostilities.

Since the beginning of the conflict, I said in numerous interviews to foreign journalists and appeals to the people that we were ready to stop at any moment as soon as the Armenian side announces the date of withdrawal from our territories. And I said it publicly. And so it happened. As soon as the statement indicated the date for the transfer of the three districts to us on the basis of a schedule, hostilities stopped. Therefore, I would like to once again take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin for such attention to this issue, for his active participation in resolving the conflict, including political methods. Therefore, if we take the period from 27 September to 10 November, we can say that the conflict was resolved by military and political methods. Vladimir Vladimirovich indicated in his interview with the media again yesterday that Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan. This is not the first such statement. I think this is a very important statement. And it is important for the political forces in Armenia that are trying to revise the conditions of the 10 November statement. Unfortunately, there are such forces, and this is a very important signal to all those who are trying to prevent the implementation of this statement. We saw such attempts both during the war and after the signing of the statement. I do not want to go into too much detail. We saw attempts of certain foreign circles, which were dissatisfied with the fact that they remained aloof from this issue. They are unhappy that Russia played the leading role in the ceasefire. They did their utmost and, unfortunately, are still trying to bring some confusion, especially with regard to the situation in Armenia, to use various levers, various infrastructure that was created in Armenia, including the Soros infrastructure, to create unrest in Armenian society and essentially derail this statement. Vladimir Vladimirovich also said in one of his interviews how disastrous it can be for the Armenian side in the first place. When asked what would happen if Armenia did not fulfill the statement, he said that it would be tantamount to suicide. This is actually the case. Therefore, I would like to once again express my gratitude to Vladimir Vladimirovich for such an active participation and a huge contribution to resolving the conflict. I also fully agree with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin that, speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we should only talk about what happened in the past. This is already history. And I believe that the future of the region will largely depend on how correctly the Armenian leadership is able to assess the situation and take the right steps to ensure that peace is long-term and sustainable.

I would also like to say a few words about the peacekeeping mission of the Russian Federation, which is also part of the statement. It is being implemented very successfully and is in constant contact with relevant agencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan. For almost a month and a half since the signing of the statement, there was only one incident of ceasefire violation, and, according to our information, this was provoked by groups of the so-called militia, essentially militants, who were not under the control of the Armenian authorities, who dug themselves in the rear of the Azerbaijani army. And the incident was settled literally within one day, the ceasefire continues, and I think that it will become stronger and stronger with every passing day. I would also like to note that work is under way to create a Russian-Turkish monitoring center in Aghdam district. The establishment of the monitoring center is also part of the joint statement. It will monitor the situation.

I apologize to my colleagues, I am a little out of schedule, but the topic is important enough for me to say a few more words. Regarding what is happening there now. There is no city of Aghdam. It is destroyed. Only one dilapidated mosque remains in the city of Aghdam. When we began to wonder why it was not destroyed like all the other mosques, it was said that it was a kind of reference point, so that if the Azerbaijani army launched an attack in this direction, they could give the artillery precise guidance on where to hit. Foreign journalists who have visited the former city of Aghdam, or rather what is left of it, called it the Hiroshima of the Caucasus. I think it is worse than Hiroshima because Hiroshima is a nuclear tragedy, an atomic strike, but crowds of vandals and barbarians did not walk through it. In our case, the city of Aghdam was destroyed after the occupation – consciously and deliberately, just like the city of Fuzuli. When we liberated it, I ordered to raise the Azerbaijani flag on one of the buildings, but they told me that there was not a single building left, not a single building in a huge city where thousands, tens of thousands of people used to live. Everything has been razed to the ground. This is a war crime. Not only cities, but also all the villages have been razed to the ground. This is a situation the world has probably not seen over the past centuries. The same applied to the city of Jabrayil. It is not there either. In the cities where illegal settlements were carried out, some buildings remained, especially in Kalbajar district, the city of Kalbajar. But they were burned and destroyed by Armenian representatives in the 20- or 15-day period during which they were supposed to leave - from 10 November to 1 December. They destroyed houses, the houses they didn’t build. They had moved into the houses of the Azerbaijanis. They burned them, took out everything, cut down trees, the trees they could not take away to sell, they left them on the road. They burned forests. Therefore, this vandalism, unfortunately, continued to this day.

The situation in Armenia is very tense now. I will not comment on anything further, taking into account the fact that the prime minister of Armenia does not participate in our meeting. I only mentioned bare facts, and that is a very small percentage of what happened there. The only thing I would like to say, having absolutely no intention of somehow interfering in the internal political processes in Armenia, is that the army that was defeated is not Pashinyan's army, it is the army Kocharyan and Sargsyan had been creating for 20 years. Our cities of Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli and others were not destroyed by Pashinyan's army, he did not give such instructions. First, there was nothing more to destroy. This was all done by the regime of Kocharyan and Sargsyan, our so-called former colleagues in the CIS, people who participated in our meetings for 20 years, people who had negotiated with me for many years. We knew that there was blood of the Azerbaijani people on their hands, but when we got to these territories, when we got there, we saw all the horror, all the tragedy of what they had done. Therefore, those who are now trying to use the situation for their own political purposes and attack Pashinyan must understand that this is not his army. He would not have had time to create it and practically, perhaps he did not do what had to be done, but this army was created by Kocharyan and Sargsyan for 20 years, and we defeated their army.

Now, after the end of the war, we are assessing the damage caused. Restoration work will begin in the near future. It has almost begun. But first, with the participation of international experts, we will assess the damage caused to the housing infrastructure, historical and cultural sites, the environment, etc. In parallel with this, infrastructure projects have already begun. The first contracts on road construction and contracts related to other infrastructure have already been signed. And in one of my statements I said that we were attracting and would continue to attract countries friendly to Azerbaijan to this process. The first contract was signed with a Turkish company, and the second contract is planned to be signed with a company from Italy. I would like to take this opportunity to address the heads of state of the countries with which Azerbaijan maintains friendly relations, so that their companies could also actively participate in these projects as contractors. We will finance the restoration work ourselves and at our own expense. But we want companies from friendly countries to be involved in the restoration of our cities and villages, and so that they can carry out these projects and demonstrate solidarity, because we will certainly restore all cities. We will revive Karabakh and make it one of the most developed regions in the world.

I apologize again for going beyond the timetable. Thank you for your attention.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev: Thank you, Ilham Heydar oglu, for the kind words and appreciation of our chairmanship.

Indeed, the pandemic, as you just noted, has become a serious test for our countries. I agree with you about the need for close cooperation in this area. Of course, you spoke in great detail about the issues of peaceful cooperation and further interaction. Of course, we also observe everything and see everything, and many of your words are confirmed because we ourselves also witnessed that. I would like to specifically note that we are ready to continue supporting all efforts aimed at ensuring long-term peace, strengthening good-neighborliness and sustainable development in the South Caucasus region.