Address by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

01 january 2021, 00:02

My fellow countrymen,

The year 2020 becomes a history. 2020 will be remembered in history as the year of our glorious Victory. In 44 days, Azerbaijan defeated Armenia and liberated its native lands from occupation. This historic Victory will be perpetuated in the memory of the Azerbaijani people! This is historic Victory. We have restored historical justice.

As you know, the negotiations had been held under the auspices of the Minsk Group for nearly 30 years. Yet, they yielded no results. In fact, in those talks, Armenia simply aimed to win more time. It was an imitation of the negotiations process. As I was first elected President in 2003, I stated that the liberation of our lands was my primary mission as a President. During the first years of my Presidency there were certain hopes that this matter could be resolved peacefully because I thought that the norms and principles of the international law constitute an excellent foundation, and I knew that the historical justice was on our side. In the meantime, the UN Security Council resolutions created a legal basis for the problem’s resolution.

But as the years past I saw that our hopes were diminishing and the reason for that was Armenia’s behavior, its policy and its actions. As years went by, it became obvious that Armenia was unwilling to resolve this issue. Armenia wanted to perpetuate the occupation of our lands and create an illusion of ongoing negotiations process and the international mediators being part of the process. Our hopes were diminishing year on year. I was saying throughout these 17 years, during every international event, in my statements I stressed that the resolution of this problem was a priority for us. I said that Azerbaijan would never reconcile with the occupation. I said that Azerbaijan would never allow for a second Armenian state to be established on Azerbaijan’s historical and ancestral lands. I said that we would never grant independence to this so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. I said that there would never be any voting held there. I was the one saying all this and that position had only solidified overtime.

In the meantime, I clearly saw that if we were not strong enough we would never be able to solve this issue. Why had we lost our lands during the first Karabakh War? Because Azerbaijan‘s leadership at the time had failed to discharge its duties. Occupation of Shusha and Lachin in 1992, and Kalbajar in 1993 created a geographic link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and this made the occupation of the remaining territories inevitable. Our troops were disorganized, regular army was never established and our courageous and heroic sons were fighting and becoming martyrs, while our lands were being lost. We lacked prowess. Therefore the factor of force had come to the forefront. Today, in this changing world, the factor of force has officially come to the forefront. I have predicted that 10 years ago, and therefore we have mobilized all our resources to harness power. Economy is power. Without a strong economy there can be no military or political strength. We needed to forge economic independence and we did just that. For so many years, Azerbaijan has remained an economically independent country; dependent on no country, no individual or any international financial institution. Economic independence has solidified our political independence, enabling brave and independent policy - the one that would serve the interests of the Azerbaijani people only. If we look at the world map today, there aren’t that many countries that pursue a genuinely independent policy. Azerbaijan is one of those countries and the Patriotic War has demonstrated that once again.

Despite all the challenges and pressure, we have achieved our goal. We have driven the enemy out of our lands, resolved the matter militarily and then cemented our victory through political means. Proper policy is required to consolidate strength. In the past 17 years, my primary objective has been to strengthen our country, solidify our positions on the international arena, and channel the domestic processes in correct direction. I was driven by one mission - to build strong Azerbaijan and liberate our territories from occupation. Throughout these years, we have implemented enormous projects. Thanks to those projects we are now holding leading positions in the world in terms of economic development. Azerbaijan has held a top position in the world in terms of the pace of economic growth in the last 17 years. In the meantime, we had to wear Armenia down through our policy and we never made the secret of that. It is not just today that I talk about it. 10 years ago, I stated that as long as our lands remain under occupation, we must isolate Armenia from all projects and deprive them of all regional initiatives, and we accomplished that. Take a look at all the energy, transportation and communication maps of Eurasia. You can see that all the projects of great benefit for different countries have bypassed Armenia.

Who accomplished that? It was us, despite the pressure. I have once said and want to repeat it that even during the construction of Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline we encountered groundless accusations. Allegedly, we were damaging the environment and undermining the ecological balance. Why, because we were either to stop the construction or build that project through Armenia. In that event our hands would be tied as Armenia would have controlled all of our oil and then gas exports. Would I ever agree to that? Absolutely not! That is why I faced constant pressure I dismissed requests by certain countries because those requests contradicted our national interests.

The war that lasted for 44 days demonstrated who was who. The people of Azerbaijan now see that clearly and are well aware. I have known that for a long time. Therefore, I was prepared for all the slander, pressure and threats. I have pursued one mission only - to build a strong country, to liberate our lands from occupation, and restore justice! We have used different ways of wearing Armenia down and all of those methods were made public. We have never undertaken anything in secret. I said we would isolate them and we did just that. Oil pipelines, gas pipelines, transportation routes, telecommunication lines, and power and energy projects have all bypassed Armenia. Armenia has been deprived of all possible benefits. On the other hand, another significant mission of ours has been to expose Armenia on the international arena, to inform the international community of their policy of occupation, and we have succeeded. Throughout the 17 years, almost all the leading international organizations had passed decisions and resolutions that supported our position. The UN General Assembly and even such permanently anti-Azerbaijani organizations as the Council of Europe and the European Parliament were compelled to adopt resolutions reflecting the truth about the conflict. We have joined the Non-Aligned Movement. I remember that at the time, some deemed this move as erroneous. I knew that it was the right step. Immediately after we became a member, we have secured the adoption of resolution on the conflict with the support of 120 countries - a resolution that served our interest. Today, in the capacity of a Chair to the Non-Aligned Movement, we make our voice heard worldwide. I want to repeat that during the conflict the Non-Aligned Movement member states stood up for us and prevented the biased and anti-Azerbaijani initiatives with respect to the conflict, launched within the UN Security Council. Thus, that initiative had failed.

We have forged close ties with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. These relations are at their highest in history. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has adopted relevant resolutions that reflect truth and international law. In our interactions with the Muslim countries we inform them of Armenians’ atrocities. I have shown photos of devastated and desecrated mosques and asked my colleagues - how can you establish contacts with such a country? How can you agree to meet them and shake their hands after seeing these photos? It is not just a savagery against us but a crime against the entire Muslim world.

We have established close relations with the neighboring countries in the region. For some reason there was a view that in the region there were Azerbaijan’s traditional allies and those of Armenia. We have shattered that concept. Today all of our neighbors are our friends. We enjoy excellent cooperation with all our neighbors, both bilaterally and in a trilateral format. There are such trilateral formats as Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey and Azerbaijan-Iran-Russia. Does Armenia have such a format with any country? No. This is a vivid testimony to the accuracy of our policy. We have deprived Armenia of its fulcrums it enjoyed for years, due to the fact that we have pursued our policy correctly. Our policy has always been overt. We have never been a part of an adventure or reckless scheme against any country. I have said that Azerbaijan’s territory would never be used against any country, particularly its neighbors, for launching a provocative action or initiative. And that is how we have gained esteem worldwide, in the region and among our neighbors, and strengthened our country. We have begun to be reckoned with. Our statements matter. I have always said that my word is as valid as my signature.

Therefore, all of those factors have played their part. We have shattered Armenia’s fake history and used international rostrums to provide the world with extensive information on the Kurekchay Peace Treaty. Everyone has come to realize that the Armenian people have lived in Karabakh region for the past 200 years only. They were resettled there. We have presented the world the truth about Khojaly. Was there anyone talking about Khojaly for the past 17 years? It was like such crime was never committed. As if such genocide never took place. Because Armenia attempted to cover it up. And even accuse Azerbaijan of perpetrating that war crime. Just like when they tried to put the blame on Azerbaijan for Armenia’s use of ballistic missiles against Ganja and other cities during the Patriotic War. How can any country be so impudent? How can anyone be so shameless? Well, apparently they can be. This refers to Armenia. That is why both our government and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation have spared no effort to bring the truth about Khojaly to the attention of the international community. Today, 13 countries of the world have officially recognized the Khojaly Genocide.

We present the world the truth about the war, our devastated cities and villages. We were deprived of opportunity to visit our cities and villages before. No international organization has ever gone there. Take UNESCO that is trying to accuse us of our inability to allegedly protect Armenian religious sites in the future. This is a blatant lie. All the religious sites are protected in Azerbaijan. Has UNESCO ever visited those sites? Has it even once visited the Shusha mosque? Has it been to the destroyed mosque in Zengilan? What about Agdam mosque? The Armenians used them as barns for pigs and cows. And now some are trying to criticize us. Armenia had not allowed anyone to visit those places. Not even the ambassadors of the Minsk Group co-chair countries. We went out of your way to organize just the two of such fact-finding missions by the Minsk Group in the occupied territories. The last such took visit place 10 years ago. Every year I asked them why they didn’t visit those places. You should go and visit - there was an illegal settlement underway. The names of our cities and villages were being changed. Our historical monuments were either devastated or misappropriated by Armenians. They failed to go because Armenia would allow them. Who was Armenia to stop them from visiting?

That is why we took all those efforts and brought our victory day closer. Look up my previous statements and remarks and you will see that I stated that we were to bring that sacred moment closer through our deeds every day and we did just that. Our sacred victory day has arrived. For several years, different experts engaged with the affairs of this region kept saying that the war was inevitable. In the meantime, throughout these years we were sent messages where such a thesis prevailed that there was no military solution to the conflict. Someone came up with that thesis and I pretty much know the author. All other organizations, relevant or not, whether dealing with the regional matters or not, all of them insisted that there was no military solution to the conflict. I have paid official visits to many countries in the past years, both regional countries and other nations. The media had covered all of those visits. In most cases some of my colleagues that had nothing to do with our region stated that there was no military solution to the conflict. How would you know? They were told by certain circles that that was to be your message to Ilham Aliyev. Those countries who played an active role in in world governance, those circles were instructing them to tell us that, to thwart us and prevent that from ever happening. To maintain the status-quo unchanged forever. Sometimes, they used to say that status quo was unacceptable. Then they changed their mind so to speak. They started claiming that status-quo was unsustainable, i.e. acceptable. But it was unacceptable for us. We stood before Armenia, its patrons, benefactors and pro-Armenian forces by ourselves. Alone! No one could force us to accept the peace treaty that was detrimental to us, although there had been several such attempts. Few times, there were even attempts to commit fraud in the documents, alleging there were errors in their drafting, trying to compel us to sign them. Yet, they failed as they were doomed to failure. We had unwavering will and we continue to have that resolve. Interests of the people of Azerbaijan stand above all. Liberation of our lands from occupation had been our ultimate goal and we were moving towards that objective with determination. In recent years, the situation had begun to escalate. And Armenia had been unable to conceal its true intentions. The negotiations became meaningless and not just in the last two years but nearly the past 5-6 years. Armenia had held regular military exercises in the occupied territories. Those exercises were taking place in the Aghdam district. According to Armenian authorities, some 10,000 soldiers were taking part. Our positions were being attacked. Once a military helicopter attempted to attack our positions and was shot down. Armenia used it as a pretext to say look Azerbaijan had shut down our helicopter, so negotiations cannot proceed. Every time when there was a window of opportunity they would resort to such provocations.

The April 2016 clashes had failed to teach Armenia a lesson. The April clashes, albeit small in scale, ended with our victory. Armenia was shown its place. We had liberated a part of our occupied territories and showed that no one and nothing can force us off our path or restrain us. However, they did not learn their lesson. After the April clashes the then Armenian leadership had promised to vacate the occupied territories. That is true. But then, whether orchestrated or not, a police precinct takeover happened. Armenia’s leaders used that terrorist act to claim that the situation was intense and that they could not go ahead with their promises. So we were deceived. Another successful operation of ours was the Gunnut Operation in Nakhchivan. We have liberated from occupation a large area and captured a strategic elevation. Again that lesson was not learned. We later gave them another chance. A change had occurred in Armenia in 2018. Some referred to as a revolution, others call it coup d’état. Regardless, certain hopes arose and they were not at all baseless. I do not want to go into details here. We were hoping that a new leadership will rid itself of the past mistakes and the matter would be resolved. But that never happened. A year later unacceptable actions were taken against us. We were deceived again. They simply had won time to deal with their internal problems, and arrest and crash the opposition. The people of Azerbaijan know well what happened next - unacceptable statements, insulting of Azerbaijani people, inappropriate actions, disgraceful steps, and declarations and provocative military actions in July, August and finally on September 27.

That is when I said enough is enough! Charge! The enemy army was annihilated in 44 days. Armenian army today is virtually non-existent. During the war I regularly informed my dear people of the state of affairs. The war unfolded before our people’s eyes. After the war some details of certain operations and decisions were made public, and I do not wish to belabor those subjects. Yet, armed forces of Azerbaijan have crushed Armenia’s military in 44 days. Our heroic soldiers and officers had demonstrated Azerbaijan’s might. Thanks to properly planned and executed operations, using our technical capabilities, we managed to do almost the impossible. Due to heroism and valor of our heroic sons the enemy was defeated and brought to its knees, waving the white flag. The enemy was forced to surrender completely, to sign the capitulation act and vacate our other occupied territories after we liberated over 300 cities and villages and Azerbaijan’s ancient city of Shusha that is so dear to all of us.

The war is behind us. We demonstrated our prowess, our unwavering will and unity. The symbol of the war and our victory - the Iron Fist - showed its strength. This is both unity and power. There is unity in our society, our country has the strength and it will always be the case. If anyone in Armenia today cherishes the revanchist sentiments they are gravely mistaken. Let them never forget the 44 day war. From now on, if anyone attempts to insult the people of Azerbaijan, they would be taught a lesson not even comparable to the 44 day war. Azerbaijan had defeated Armenia. The entire world witnessed that as it unfolded before their eyes. No one was able to stop us. I said we would go until the end. I demanded that they give us a date when the occupying Armenian state would vacate our lands. We halted our military operations once we had received such a date.

Today is the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day. Every year as I address the Azerbaijani people, I congratulate Azerbaijanis of the world on that occasion and with the arrival of the New Year. This year’s congratulations are special. I know that during the war Azerbaijanis across the world followed the processes in Azerbaijan and the course of the war closely. They had expressed their support. Among the thousands of letters that I received there were quite a few from Azerbaijanis living abroad. They demonstrated moral support and solidarity. I turn to them today and tell them - you should be proud that you are sons and daughters of a heroic Azerbaijani people. Every Azerbaijani citizen and our fellow countrymen worldwide can rightfully be proud that they are sons and daughters of a victorious nation. I congratulate all of our fellow countrymen on the occasion of this holiday. I congratulate the people of Azerbaijan, first and foremost on the occasion of our historic Victory. The future holds great things for us. A new era begins for our country, and era of development and growth, and of restoration of our lands. This will be the glorious era. Although the enemy had devastated everything across our now liberated lands, we will restore all of our cities and villages, and turn the Karabakh region into a paradise. Our people deserve that. The Victory suits our people and the Victory will be ours forever!

My dear brothers and sisters I cordially congratulate you on the occasion of the New Year and the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day. I congratulate the people of Azerbaijan on the grand Victory. I want all of us, on the eve of the New Year, to chant together the slogan that took us to the Victory - Karabakh is Azerbaijan!