Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony of the Top Level Military School named after Heydar Aliyev dedicated to the 2012 graduation of special purpose military educational institutions

25 june 2012, 14:10

- Dear servicemen, dear ceremony participants!

I sincerely congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the forthcoming Day of the Armed Forces.

I wish all the Azerbaijani army personnel further achievements in the name of the country. It is also another graduation day in military schools. I congratulate all the graduates on this occasion. I am confident that graduates will serve in the Azerbaijani army properly.

Today I have also examined the repair and construction work ongoing at the Top Level Military School named after Heydar Aliyev. I am very pleased that the school is doing great creative work, all the buildings are being renovated and good conditions created for cadets. At the same time, new exercise equipment has been purchased to enable trainees to improve their combat effectiveness.

We need trained soldiers. Great attention is paid to educating young specialists in all areas. Azerbaijan is developing successfully. All the spheres are developing in our country.

The training of young professionals is a factor for our future. Each area, including the military, has a need for young professionals. Great leader Heydar Aliyev dealt with these issues back in the 1970s. The establishment on his initiative of the military school named Nakhchivansky was one of the most important events of our history of the time. Back then the great leader was well aware that we need to train our own military personnel – there will come a time when Azerbaijan will become an independent state and all independent states should have a strong army. This process continues today. A lot of attention is paid to the training of military personnel in Azerbaijan. I am very pleased that the professionalism and combat readiness of our troops are growing from year to year, the morale is high. Our young people are brought up in a patriotic spirit. So we must be prepared and ready for facing the country's main problem – liberation of our lands from occupiers.

The process of army building in Azerbaijan is also associated with the great leader. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan did not have a regular army until 1993. Because of this our lands are under occupation.

The process of army building began in 1993. This process continues today. Over these years, a regular army was established and reinforced in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani army is one of the strongest armies not only in the region but also globally. The material and technical logistics of our army has substantially improved. Our military expenses are growing every year. Military expenditure is our biggest budget item. And this is natural. So it should be because we are still at war. The war is not over yet. Only its first stage is. There is a ceasefire. But a peace treaty has yet to be signed. A country at war should first of all pay attention to army matters. This is the case in Azerbaijan. Over the past few years our military spending has increased more than 20 times. Currently, they stand at $3.6 billion. This is 50 per cent more than Armenia’s total expenditure. Of course, these realities have been created by our successful economic policies and economic reforms. Military expenditure will continue to grow. This, of course, is of tremendous support for our army. But at the same time, I am very pleased that the combat readiness of our army is growing. The patriotic feelings of those serving in the army are at a very high level. We are creating a professional army. I am sure that the logistics, our economic strength, military training and the education of our youth in a patriotic spirit will lead us to our sacred goal.

Our lands are under occupation. This occupation continues. This occupation must and will end.

Over the past period we have greatly enhanced the military capacity of our army. Large quantities of weapons, equipment and ammunition are delivered from abroad. Warplanes, helicopter gunships, artillery and air defense installations are brought to the country. Azerbaijan also has a local production. The establishment on my order of the Ministry of Defence Industry seven years ago has brought about a turnaround in this area. Over these seven years 20 military factories and production units have been established in Azerbaijan. At present, Azerbaijan produces 665 military items. In the future we will further expand our activities in this area. The basic needs of the Azerbaijani army should be addressed domestically.

In general, this is one of the main directions of our policy.

We are pursuing a policy of strengthening and expanding domestic production. This manifests itself in all spheres. We are largely providing ourselves with food and construction materials. At the same time, we should produce more military products.

Attention to the army is not limited to these factors. The Azerbaijani government is taking necessary steps to address everyday problems of servicemen. Last year the salaries of military personnel were raised by 25 per cent. Several days ago two residential buildings of 312 apartments were provided to the military personnel. Hundreds of new apartments are built now. I signed an order late last year to provide apartments to the servicemen with 20 years of excellent service record. The process of application has already begun. It is also a testament to the attention the Azerbaijani state is paying to its army and servicemen.

In short, attention to the army is a priority for the Azerbaijani state. I am very pleased that our society welcomes these initiatives. Our army is our pride. Our army is a factor crucial to our independence. We will continue to increase attention to the army, army building and military personnel, provide them with attention.

The main challenge facing us is the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. As you know, the Azerbaijani government has been working in this direction for many years. But, unfortunately, the issue remains unresolved. As I noted earlier, the aggression and injustice committed against Azerbaijan in the early years of our independence are, unfortunately, still on the agenda. I am absolutely convinced, have repeatedly expressed my thoughts about it and want to say it again – if great Heydar Aliyev had been the leader of our country at decisive moments in our history, in the early years of our independence, not an inch of our land would have been given to the invaders. But in 1987, Soviet leaders removed Heydar Aliyev from political power. Less than two weeks after that Armenian nationalists and their supporters began to make claims on the separation of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and its annexation to Armenia. In the last months of the Soviet Union, an expansionist policy against Azerbaijan began. In the first months of our independence this expansion led to great tragedies. The Khojaly genocide was perpetrated, Shusha, Lachin and Kalbajar were occupied.

We are currently building up our strength and taking part in negotiations. I am absolutely convinced that the stronger our army, the stronger our position in the negotiations. There is a direct connection between these two factors. We are demonstrating a principled stance in the talks. We will not step back from it. Besides, we have become much stronger in recent years. Several years ago there was a parity in military and economic terms between Armenia and Azerbaijan, now we have eliminated this parity. From an economic point of view, Azerbaijan is 10 times stronger than Armenia. Our state budget is 10 times bigger. Our military spending is 10 times higher. There is positive demographics in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a country living at its own expense. We have great reserves, human resources. We have a strong industry and a strong army. We determine our own policies, pursue an independent policy and rely on the will of the Azerbaijani people. Gradually, the gap between the two countries is deepening and will continue to do so. I am sure that thanks to all these factors we will achieve what we want, restore justice and the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. To do this, we must become even stronger.

Unfortunately, international law is often violated in the world. We have always relied on international law. And today international law is the basis for the settlement of this conflict. International law supports the position of Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan, a historical part of Azerbaijan. From a legal point of view, it is a part of Azerbaijan. The whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. No-one has recognized the far-fetched independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, from the standpoint of international law, Azerbaijan's position is very strong. Four UN Security Council resolutions demand an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from our lands. There are similar decisions and resolutions of other international organizations. So from a legal point of view, the issue is quite clear. But, unfortunately, international law is violated in today's world. We see this happening.

These violations are gradually becoming more widespread. Under such circumstances, of course, we also see that if you are not strong, then your rights will be violated. We have successfully conducted this strengthening process for several years, including the strengthening of our military capabilities. Sometimes we hear statements such as, “Why is Azerbaijan strengthening its military capabilities? This may pose a threat to the region.” Even some comments are provided. But I am absolutely convinced that Azerbaijan is a stabilizing factor in the region. Azerbaijan's strong army is the guardian of stability in the region. Our strong army is our sovereign cause. No-one can give us any advice. Our military spending does not form a huge percentage of the gross domestic product. But our overall economic development is very rapid. This is unparalleled development in the world. In recent years, Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing economy in the world. Thus, as is the case with all other areas, military matters are also given attention.

So I want to say again that we will not deviate from this policy. And we will continue to step up the power of the Azerbaijani army. Logistical support will be even stronger. Even more weapons, ammunition and equipment will be procured. The professionalism of our army will rise even more. Our demographic situation is very positive. We can consider gradually increasing the ranks of our army. So I am sure that the Azerbaijani army will develop and strengthen in the coming years.

International law has been violated for 20 years. We must become even stronger. Our strength is the primary means of a fair settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. From a political point of view Azerbaijan's positions are strong enough. Not a single initiative or project can be implemented in the region without our participation.

We have won the support of the world. Our election to the UN Security Council in October last year demonstrates the world's attitude towards Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s candidacy was supported by 155 countries. Last month Azerbaijan presided over the Security Council for the first time in its history. I also want to note that our election to the Security Council was not easy at all. We earned this place in a tense struggle. We deserved it. We have demonstrated a principled position from the very first days, first months.

Our position is based on international law and justice. I can also say that at the initial stage Armenia also wanted to become a member of this authoritative structure together with us and put forward its candidacy. But when it saw that it was powerless to Azerbaijan and that it would suffer a bitter defeat, it quietly withdrew from the political battlefield and recognized its political defeat. This was a very symbolic step. It is no secret that the international attention to Azerbaijan is at a very high level. I have no doubt that if the active phase of the war starts, Armenia will flee from the battlefield just as it did from the political arena. We have every opportunity to restore our territorial integrity. This has been further demonstrated by the latest developments on the front line. All Armenian provocations were thwarted. The occupying forces have received an adequate response.

Azerbaijani soldiers and officers have displayed heroism and set the occupier in its place again.

I am sure that the international community and the countries involved in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh are increasingly aware that Armenia cannot resist Azerbaijan.

Our growing political clout, economic potential, military power, the role in the region and growing population will lead us to a fair solution of the problem. We simply hope that this issue will be resolved through negotiations. We hope that there will come a time when sober-minded people are represented in the Armenian leadership who will realize that a further protraction of the conflict is to the detriment of Armenia. Armenia will not gain anything by marking time. Occupied lands are “dead” lands. There is no life there. Occupation can never be accepted by the international community. The Azerbaijani government and people will never come to terms with this occupation. We will never put up with it. For us, both the state and the people, the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the return of Azerbaijani citizens to occupied lands is issue number one. As solution delays, the balance of forces between Armenia and Azerbaijan changes in our favor. I want to repeat that 10 years ago there was a certain balance. Now this balance is gone. In the coming years Azerbaijan will only grow stronger because we know our prospects. We are creating our own future. Our future is created by the hard work of the Azerbaijani people. We know very well that in terms of the strength Armenia can never resist us. We simply strive to resolve the issue peacefully through talks. But the solution is based on international law. Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan's native land and is perceived by the world community as an integral part of Azerbaijan from a legal standpoint. The territorial integrity of our country must be restored.

The occupying forces must withdraw from all occupied lands. Azerbaijani citizens must return to their native lands.

I often visit military units. I often visit the front line, meet and talk to soldiers in the trenches.

I see that Azerbaijani soldiers are truly attached to the homeland. Love of the country and the patriotic spirit are very high. I am sure that all the factors I mentioned – our political strength, economic development, military power, love of the country – will lead us to a solution of the issue, Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity and our flag will fly in Shusha, Khankandi, Nagorno-Karabakh.

Dear friends, let me congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the upcoming Day of the Armed Forces again and wish each one of you good health and happiness. Thank you.