President Ilham Aliyev attends groundbreaking ceremony of Absheron field offshore operations (PHOTO)

President Ilham Aliyev attends groundbreaking ceremony of Absheron field offshore operations (PHOTO)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Sept. 19


President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has attended a groundbreaking ceremony of the offshore operations of the Absheron field at the Heydar Aliyev Baku Deep Water Jackets Plant.

Following the ceremony, President Ilham Aliyev gave an interview to Azerbaijan Television, Ictimai Television and Real Television.

- Mr. President, today we witnessed another important event in the development of the oil and gas sector of our country – the groundbreaking ceremony for offshore operations at the Absheron field. How would you assess the significance of this project?

- This is a very important event indeed because a new stage is actually beginning for the Absheron gas condensate field. I am confident that this stage will be successful too, and thus Azerbaijan will mark an important event and make an important step in its oil and gas strategy.

The history of the Absheron field is somewhat different because the first contract on the Absheron gas field was signed with foreign partners in the late 1990s. I remember those days quite vividly because we had high hopes for the Absheron field. Our geologists, especially Khoshbakht Yusifzade, were convinced that there were fairly large gas reserves in this field. In addition, the contract on the Absheron field was signed after the contract on the gas condensate field of Shah Deniz, which was evidence that Azerbaijan was already transitioning from an oil-producing country to a gas producing one.

Unfortunately, after some time the first contract was terminated. The reason was that the exploration well came out dry. I remember our prominent geologist Khoshbakht Yusifzade saying at the time that the location of the well was not chosen correctly and trying to convince foreign partners to make some adjustments to their work program. Unfortunately, they did not listen to him even though there is no-one else in the world who would know the Caspian Sea as much as Khoshbakht Yusifzade does. But no result was achieved and a foreign company left the field. But let me say again that we had full confidence that there are huge gas reserves here. I am glad that Total came to the same conclusion and relevant documents were signed with SOCAR. Then specific work was done and a large gas condensate field was discovered. I can say that the news about the discovery of the field, about this important event was shared with me by Khoshbakht Yusifzade. So a great resource has been obtained for the development of our oil and gas potential.

This field has gas reserves of 350-360 billion cubic meters. But I believe there will be even more. Our experience already shows that there are more resources than expected, and 100 million tons of condensate is a product equal to crude oil. So Azerbaijan will continue to be a reliable supplier of gas. I must also say that the gas produced from Absheron at the first stage will be supplied to domestic needs because there is a need for that. The growing population and the growing industry require that. The gas to be extracted at the second stage will be exported to world markets. The full-field development of this field will be solved in stages.

At the same time, this field is of great importance in terms of keeping our oil production stable, because 100 million tons of condensate will also be delivered to world markets via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline. In this way, the Absheron field will partially compensate for the natural decline in production that is observed and still continues on Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli.

So this is yet another major event. All these installations have been made in Azerbaijan. Last month, I attended the sail-away of the “Karabakh” jacket here. This jacket is already here, in front of us, offshore, and the sail-away of more jackets today is a very important event, of course. I am sure that first gas and condensate will be produced at the Absheron field on schedule, in two years.

- Mr. President, the professional holiday of oil workers is approaching. Could you please share your wishes on this occasion?

- I would like to congratulate the oil workers on the upcoming professional holiday and wish them continued success. Oil workers have always enjoyed great respect in Azerbaijan. It is still the case today, and the work of oil workers is true heroism. The profession of an oil worker is both respectable and risky, and I want to say again that their work is a real heroism.

At the same time, oil workers have contributed a great deal to the successful development of our country. Today, the key part of the country's economy is associated with the oil and gas sector, and this will continue to be the case for many years to come. I am not saying that other sectors are not developing, but no matter how much they may develop, they will not be able to catch up with oil and gas revenues in the near future. At the same time, our new projects such as Absheron today, “Karabakh” a month ago and the implementation of other projects will further reinforce the important role of the oil and gas factor.

Therefore, the successful future of our country will largely depend on the profession of oil workers, on their achievements. I am very glad that I spent nine years of my life working in the State Oil Company. The experience gained in those years is very valuable for me, I have wonderful memories. This experience and knowledge are still helping me today. As vice president of the company, I was in charge of external contacts and played an active role in the preparation and signing of key contracts. It was a great pleasure to work alongside our outstanding oil workers. The legendary Oil Worker Gurban – Gurban Abbasov. This giant derrick barge carries his name. I worked with him. He was a very competent, professional and courageous man who had a principled position. It has been a great experience simply to be in contact with such a person and work with him. We regularly met at the board of the State Oil Company to discuss issues. In fact, I think that Oil Worker Gurban should be considered the number one oil worker in the world.

At the same time, I worked together with Khoshbakht Yusifzade, our legendary oil worker and geologist. In the old building of the State Oil Company, our offices were located next to each other and we had one reception. This is why we met every day and still meet today. I am glad that Khoshbakht Yusifzade is taking part in today's ceremony, that we pressed the button together, because he has a huge role in the development of the Absheron field.

Today, oil workers are seeing that their work serves the interests of the Azerbaijani people, which is very important for them. They know that both today and in the future, political and economic achievements of our country will continue to be underpinned by the oil and gas factor. This inspires them even more. I would like to say again that I have always been proud of the fact that I spent nine years of my life in the State Oil Company. As a colleague of oil workers, I sincerely congratulate them and wish them continued success.

- Mr. President, Azerbaijan is an ancient oil region. Oil has been extracted in our country for a long time – during the reign of Tsarist Russia, in the Soviet period and in current years of independence. How would you characterize the role of the oil factor in that period and in the years of independence?

- Yes, Azerbaijan is a country where oil was industrially produced for the first time in the middle of the 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, for the first time in history, oil was produced from an offshore field in Azerbaijan. But if we look at history, we will see that the oil produced in Azerbaijan at that time did not serve the interests of the Azerbaijani people because during the reign of Tsarist Russia the rich were becoming even richer and the poor were finding themselves in an even more difficult situation. People worked extremely hard. Let me say again: oil produced in Azerbaijan did not serve the interests of the Azerbaijani people.

If we had been an independent country then, I am sure that Azerbaijan could have become the richest country in the world. But we were not independent. It is true that wealthy oil tycoons spent a part of their income on charity at the time, especially Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, Mukhtarov, Asadullayev. As you know, Taghiyev laid the Shollar water pipeline to Baku. At the same time, he attached great importance to education, as he saw that the Azerbaijani youth was left on the sidelines of education and, as such, its development and advancement to higher positions in the future could be a problem. Therefore, I believe that among the oil magnates of Azerbaijan he has a special role. He helped our family as well. My grandfather Aziz Aliyev was born into a poor family in the ancient Azerbaijani land of Iravan Khanate and wanted to study. But he did not have the money to do so. At that time, he wrote a letter to Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, asking him to provide him with financial assistance. He wanted to be a doctor. Of course, Taghiyev did not know him but as a patriot and a kind person, he sent him money, and with that money Aziz Aliyev entered St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy where he studied, became a great doctor and a prominent statesman.

I would also like to note that during World War II, he was sent to Dagestan to take up the post of First Secretary and led Dagestan during the war. At that time, secret plans were being cherished on the deportation of Dagestanis and other peoples of the Caucasus. This decision was practically adopted by Soviet leadership. It is thanks to the activities of Aziz Aliyev, his very courageous actions that the Dagestanis were able to save themselves from this tragedy. The memory of him is still alive in Dagestan and there is a statue of him there. In other words, our wealthy oil magnates were all this at that time. But, of course, they could not help everyone. In addition, there were many Armenians among Baku's oil magnates at the time. In many cases, they spent the money they had earned in Azerbaijan against the interests of the Azerbaijani people. Thus, during Tsarist Russia, the income of the Azerbaijani people from oil was zero.

In the Soviet times, I believe that if Azerbaijan had not lost its state independence in 1920, I think it could have become one of the richest countries. Because the oil produced in Azerbaijan at that time made up the majority in the world oil market. However, in 1920 the independence was lost and Azerbaijani oil did not help the Azerbaijani people. At that time, especially during the war, people working in the oil fields lived in very difficult conditions and worked day and night. I can cite a figure that during the war, Azerbaijan produced a record level of oil – 23 million tons. So oil production was increased almost twice in just two years. Modern technologies did not exist at the time, and this growth occurred for the most part due to the exploitation of human labor. I can say that this also affected our family, because my other grandfather Alirza Aliyev came to Baku from Nakhchivan to earn money and worked in the oil industry for months. This had a very negative impact on his health, which is why he died at a young age.

In other words, Azerbaijani oil was fully being exploited at the time. Azerbaijani oil workers have made an exceptional contribution to the victory of the Soviet army in World War II. Because at that time, 80 percent of the Soviet Union's fuel was provided by Azerbaijan. also, 90 percent of lubricants were provided by Azerbaijan. Military equipment was produced in Azerbaijan, more than 300,000 Azerbaijanis were killed in this war. But look at the situation we were faced with when the Soviet Union collapsed: rundown oil infrastructure. Today's presentation shown to me stated that Oil Rocks will be given a new life because the Absheron field will be linked to the Oil Rocks. But what state were the Oil Rocks in back then? I remember first visiting Oil Rocks as President in 2004. The situation was difficult. All the platforms had eroded and fallen apart. Working there was very difficult and dangerous. Oil production declined and gas production did not meet the needs of our country. Half of Baku was left without gas. As far as the regions are concerned, there was no such thing as gas there at all. So the economic situation was difficult.

In the last years of the Soviet Union, great injustices were committed against Azerbaijan. In particular, the executioner of the Azerbaijani people Gorbachev and his gang hated Azerbaijan – in fact, not only Azerbaijanis but also all the Muslims. I know for sure that they had a strong feeling of hatred. As a result, the Armenians revolted and demanded that Nagorno-Karabakh be separated from Azerbaijan and joined to Armenia. This happened just two weeks after Heydar Aliyev was removed from the Politburo. The Heydar Aliyev factor did not allow them to raise their head. However, Gorbachev's immediate entourage consisted of Armenians and no action was taken against this baseless claim. On the contrary, at that time Gorbachev's government sided with the Armenians by 100 percent and first steps were taken to separate Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan. Of course, some people in Azerbaijan may not remember or know this, but this history musty be remembered. At that time, the Soviet government decided to establish a special committee in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Gorbachev's aide Volsky was appointed to that committee. Volsky was a staunch pro-Armenian, and while he was working there, he did his best to erase Azerbaijan's historical heritage from Nagorno-Karabakh. First signs of the policy of ethnic cleansing appeared in Khankandi. The Azerbaijanis were practically driven out of Khankandi while Volsky was there. In this way, the opportunity was created for the alienation of Nagorno-Karabakh from the rest of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani leadership at that time treated these processes only as an observer, did not raise its voice and did not speak up. They acted very cowardly and did not want to spoil relations with the center. The people who governed Azerbaijan at the time betrayed the Azerbaijani people.

This was followed by the bloody January tragedy. Executioner Gorbachev committed a massacre against peaceful citizens. The blood of the Azerbaijani people was shed. Then came the Khojaly genocide. Together with ruthless Armenian detachments, the Khojaly genocide was perpetrated by the 366th Regiment of the Soviet Union. Yes, the Armenians made up the overwhelming majority of servicemen in this regiment, but it was a regiment of the Soviet Union that played a decisive role in ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijanis, the Khojaly genocide and the occupation of our lands. Otherwise, the Armenians could not have occupied our lands on their own.

So we have witnessed all this. Azerbaijan has made an invaluable contribution to the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II – both here in the rear and at the front. A ceremony to liberate the Sambek Heights was recently held in the Rostov Region of Russia. I am very grateful to the governor of Rostov where the heroic work and selflessness of Azerbaijanis have been recognized. At the same time, Russia's state television, Rossiya-1, interviewed me on this issue. Because it was the Azerbaijanis, the 416th Taganrog Division, who cleared the Sambek Heights and the Rostov Region from the Nazis. About 12,000 people served in this division. But the absolute majority of them, more than 11,000 people, were Azerbaijanis. The division was reorganized three times because there were extremely many casualties. They cleared Rostov from the Nazis, did not allow the Nazis in Mozdok to cross into Baku. We did that, the heroic people of Azerbaijan did. Azerbaijani officer Majidov planted the Victory flag on the Brandenburg Gate. But is this in the history books? No! Whoever you ask, most people don't know. Why? Because this history was erased. The heroism of the Azerbaijanis was erased from history.

At that time, those sitting in Moscow – Mikoyans and similar anti-Azerbaijani elements – bent over backwards to conceal the heroism of the Azerbaijanis. Mehdi Huseynzade is a legendary partisan who was given the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union at the insistence of the Azerbaijani side years after the war. While in Slovenia, I visited his grave. We held a big ceremony there. There I saw Slovenians fighting with him. They were crying. I talked to them because their impressions were very interesting. They were saying that there was no such hero elsewhere in the world. In other words, this was concealed and deliberately hushed up.

So we saw all this during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Notice that we have been independent for less than 30 years, but look at what we are doing. Today, Azerbaijani oil fully serves the interests of the Azerbaijani people, and not only our major oil and gas projects, but also all other areas. Azerbaijan is in the forefront of all rankings. The infrastructure policy pursued in Azerbaijan and the implementation of infrastructure projects are referred to as examples. In Soviet times, there were no gas pipelines in our mountain regions. We have extended first gas lines to Dashkasan, Gadabay and Lerik. At that time, Azerbaijani gas was transported to other republics, but there was no gas in some parts of the republic. Now gasification has reached 96 percent. Today, we are in leading places globally in terms of infrastructure projects. The Davos Forum ranks Azerbaijan 11th and 12th in terms of air and rail transport. We are ranked 27th in the world for the quality of the road infrastructure. Look at other infrastructure and social infrastructure projects – 3,700 schools have been built and renovated in the years of independence. More than 700 hospitals have been built and provided with the latest equipment. We have become a space-faring nation, we are implementing huge oil and gas projects. Not only in the economic and industrial spheres, but also in sports – we finished 14th for the number of medals at the Olympic Games. Was this possible to imagine in the Soviet era? If someone had said at the time that one of these was possible, people would probably laugh at them. This is the advantage of independence.

We live in a free and independent country, we have our own destiny. Our natural resources serve the interests of our people. We have invested oil revenues very efficiently. We are protecting them and strengthening our army. Therefore, the advantages of independence are obvious. If someone remembers the past with such nostalgia, we must give these people an appropriate answer. Every individual who opposes independence and tries to humiliate it betrays our state. Independence is our core value, and the stronger we are, the stronger our independence.

- Mr. President, oil production in our country has caused serious environmental problems. At present, on your instructions, large-scale work is being carried out to improve the environmental situation, to protect the environment. What can you say about this?

- Yes, you are absolutely right. This is a very serious issue because Baku, the Absheron Peninsula and Sumgayit were presented as zones of ecological disaster at that time. And in fact they were an ecological disaster. Many things have been forgotten now but our most oil-polluted area was the Bibi-Heybat Bay. The Bibi-Heybat Bay has now turned into a zone of beautiful parks and recreation. The Bibi-Heybat settlement has actually been rebuilt. In other words, the Bibi-Heybat Bay was a zone of ecological disaster and many probably remember that picture. Another area of ecological disaster was Balakhani and its oil fields. But look at Balakhani now! It has turned into a beautiful settlement, and work is already being completed there. I will go there myself and see how my instructions are being fulfilled. And this applied not only to Balakhani, but to all the settlements. I said that all suburban settlements of Baku should be improved, better conditions should be created there for people, all the issues of concern to them should be resolved and the aesthetic appearance of these settlements should correspond to the modern level. All historical sites in the settlements need to be restored, and we will give them a new life. Let us recall the Balakhani dump. Poisonous smoke from there enveloped the whole city – it was poison. When I started working on this issue, some said that it was impossible to extinguish it because it burns from within, that gases are formed down below, this is a very dangerous place and we cannot approach it. Some even suggested building a sarcophagus over it. There were such ridiculous proposals too. But we found a way out and completely cleaned the place. Today a beautiful park has been built there, an incineration plant has begun to operate. Next to it is another zone of ecological disaster – Lake Boyukshor. Part of it has been cleared. This was also an ecological disaster zone because it was an open oil reservoir. At the same time, all sewage water was discharged there. Currently, a boulevard has been created there and birds sit on the lake.

Other projects. Let's recall the Black City. This concept no longer exists and the White City has been built in its place. When we were implementing the White City urban development project, at least two meters of the ground layer were removed. All these were oil deposits, tar, poison. The “AzerNeftYag” oil refinery is located nearby. Its activity is also coming to an end, as in two years from now the reconstruction at the oil refinery named after Heydar Aliyev will be completed and Euro-5 gasoline will be produced. So vehicles that pollute the air the most will be provided with clean gasoline and the “AzerNeftYag” refinery will be dismantled. All tanks and installations will be dismantled and there will be a large park there. There was also the iodine-bromine plant. Some may not know this but it was also located on the airport road. It was also poisonous. We disposed of it and transported the sediment to a landfill. Or look at the environmental situation in Sumgayit. Earlier, when driving past Sumgayit, people rolled up their car windows so that the stench and poisons would not penetrate into the car. Today Sumgayit resembles a resort city. As the industrial potential of it strengthened, modern treatment plants were built there and industrial estates were created. Sumgayit was considered possibly the most polluted city in the Soviet Union, but today it is one of the cleanest cities. We did all this because it is the life of our people, the health of our children and the coming generation. Did they pay any attention to this during the times of Tsarist Russia or in the Soviet period? No! They only cared about a plan, about production, exploitation – give us oil, give us gas. But what about people's lives, their way of life and health? Therefore, these issues are in the foreground for us.

After being elected president, I said, and this was one of my first statements, that we must turn “black gold” into human capital and serve our people. In this area, we must first of all take into account the human factor because oil is not an end in itself for us, it is a means for creating a better life, better conditions, building a better country, and we are doing exactly that.

Environmental projects are not over yet, there is still much to be done. At present, oil dams on the Absheron Peninsula are being cleaned. I ordered to carry out cleaning work at all oil fields, plant trees there, as was the case here in Bibi-Heybat. We must turn the zones of ecological disaster into zones of ecological paradise. We are doing and will continue to do this.

- Mr. President, what is the status of projects carried out in the country’s oil and gas sector?

- Projects are well underway. Our main source of income is Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli fields. Work there is going according to plan. A new project, called “Azeri Central East”, is being implemented there now. The cost of this project is about $7 billion. As a result of the implementation of this project, production from new sources will increase, which will compensate for the decline, of course.

There are currently more than 120 wells operating at the Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli fields. At the same time, these fields have ample gas reserves. It is conditionally called “deep gas”, and now the State Oil Company, together with partners, is carrying out relevant work to develop the “deep gas”. The Shah Deniz-2 project is being implemented. The volume of gas supplied to Turkey via the TANAP pipeline is increasing every year. Whereas a year ago, Azerbaijani gas was in fourth or fifth place on the Turkish market, we are in first place now, which is very important for us and for Turkey, because gas ensures the energy security of any country. Today gas is supplied to Turkey from a brotherly country, and additional steps will be taken to increase its volumes. Gas produced in the second phase of the Absheron field development will also be supplied to Turkey via the TANAP pipeline. It may also be supplied to other markets. At the same time, work to develop the “Karabakh” field is progressing on schedule. The jacket we see here now will be sailed away offshore. I hope that first oil will be produced at the “Karabakh” field in a year or two. The peculiarity of this field is that there are more oil reserves there, and this is of great importance for maintaining production at a stable level. Another very promising project is called “Shallow Water Absheron”. This project also has great prospects. Drilling operations will begin at these fields in a few months. I do hope that we will discover large oil reserves there as well. Work is going according to plan in the “Umid” and “Babak” projects, in which SOCAR is the sole operator. These are also very promising projects, and we plan to increase the investment capacity of these projects because, I repeat, we always need energy resources for domestic needs. At the same time, our export potential will be secured. There are other promising projects as well. In general, I can say that although the “Contract of the Century” was signed in 1994 and many contracts have been signed since that time, 26 years have passed, the interest in Azerbaijan’s oil potential in the world is not decreasing. On the contrary, it is growing.

- Mr. President, my question is related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. How would you assess the current state of negotiations?

- I have a negative assessment of the current state of negotiations. I think the Azerbaijani people fully agree with me. As you know, I have always told the truth to the people of Azerbaijan. I think this is the only right policy. The people must know what is happening, where we are and what our policy is. In my speeches and meetings with the media, I clarify topical issues, and I think this is very important. Citizens must know this, and they need to get the right information to do the right analysis.

Negotiations are virtually non-existent. I have said that we will not participate in negotiations for the sake of their imitation. This does not mean that we are refusing to negotiate. It means that we do not want to join Armenia's cunning policy. Our participation in an imitation of negotiations would correspond to the essence of this imitation. In fact, the Armenian leader has disrupted the process of negotiations. He is not disrupting it, but has already disrupted it. Because their nonsensical statements and provocative steps make the talks meaningless. Unfortunately, the current leadership of Armenia does not realize this responsibility. They also fail to properly analyze the consequences of their actions. However, there are rationally thinking people and politicians in Armenia, and these politicians are already raising this issue and telling the Armenian public that the incumbent Armenian leadership is leading Armenia into the abyss.

As you know, two years ago, when a coup took place in Armenia, Azerbaijan remained neutral. In other words, we did not attempt to take advantage of the situation. We thought it was inevitable because the previous Armenian government only aroused hatred among the Armenian people. This military-criminal regime had brought Armenia to an appalling state, especially since the new government began to make very encouraging statements that they wanted to resolve this issue. They criticized the previous government and sent us positive signals through unofficial channels, asking us for some time. We also lived with the hope that the new government would innovate all areas, including this area, and would correct the previously wrong policy. This idea became even stronger after my meetings with the prime minister of Armenia in Dushanbe. At that time, I was asked to give them some time, because the domestic situation in Armenia was difficult, representatives of the previous government wanted to take revenge and this would have a very negative impact on the negotiations. They claimed to be inclined to negotiations and wanted to resolve the issue. The request was made to strengthen the ceasefire. My word was that we must hold serious talks and, of course, the ceasefire would be even stronger.

After that meeting, both sides made separate statements on the basis of agreement, and the main essence of the statements was that we met, held an informal and unofficial meeting, agreed to speed up the negotiations and strengthen the ceasefire. Because these two positions must always correspond to each other. Otherwise, it would mean a strengthening of the status quo, and we can never agree to that. For some time, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group also lived with hopes and occasionally, during meetings, put forward theories that were full of hope.

However, the nonsensical thoughts voiced by the Armenian prime minister last year dealt a serious blow to the negotiations. By saying ‘Karabakh is Armenia’, he not only spread lie all over the world and this continues to this day, but also made the negotiations meaningless. If he thinks that Karabakh is Armenia, then what can we talk about? If he thinks that Karabakh is Armenia although the whole world rejected this nonsense – then what kind of peace agreement can we talk about? In other words, it was a political provocation.

The second political provocation was that Azerbaijan should hold negotiations with Nagorno-Karabakh, not Armenia. This also means changing the format, and, of course, we can never agree to that. Because we have no contact with this puppet regime of criminal junta. At the same time, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, of course, could never agree to that. True, they are diplomats and try to use the diplomatic vocabulary, but I think that the Armenian side has already been told about the harmfulness of such statements, which create problems for themselves.

In fact, these statements give grounds to say that Armenia has withdrawn from the talks – not us but Armenia. This being the case, if we say that let's start negotiations or continue them, it will just be irresponsible and we should not deceive ourselves, we should not deceive our people. Negotiations are not going on, and this is not due to the pandemic. Of course, the pandemic has intervened, but negotiations are not taking place without the pandemic. These politically flawed and harmful statements do not leave room for negotiations. But look at their other actions. Armenia is conducting illegal settlement. This contradicts all international conventions. They are not smart enough, they don't have experience, they don't have knowledge to show it so demonstratively. This is completely contrary to the Geneva Convention. It is a crime. It is a crime to bring people to the occupied territories and settle them there illegally. The Pashinyan regime is doing this consciously. This is a provocation. We are being provoked, they show it on the Internet – some Lebanese Armenian family has come and is doing something there. After that, the so-called leader of the so-called regime is allegedly sworn in our ancient historical city of Shusha. This is another provocation. This is an open insult to us. Do they think we can tolerate that? Who is doing this provocation? They are! We do not commit any provocations. We have stood our ground.

The prime minister of Armenia puts forward seven conditions to us. First of all, who are you to speak to us in the language of conditions? If we wanted to talk to him in the language of conditions, his political life would not last long. I have said that we are rejecting these nonsensical conditions. We have one condition – they must leave our lands unconditionally and completely. This is reflected in UN Security Council resolutions. There are staging some comedy-like trainings there. In other words, every single step is an open provocation against us.

The July provocation is already an armed provocation, and it is no secret to anyone that it was instigated by Armenia. A high-ranking official of one of the Minsk Group co-chairs has openly confirmed that. I said back then and am saying today that we have no military targets in Armenia. If we wanted to, we could have moved into Armenia and had full military capabilities to do that. We did not do that. Because this is not part of our military concept – unless we are seriously provoked. If they do, then there will be no limits for us. Let everyone know that there will be no limits. If they are flouting international law, why should we abide by it?! We will flout it too, but the end will be bitter for them.

After the July provocation came the August provocation. Acts of terror against our civilians, a sabotage group was sent to commit military provocations against our servicemen, and the leader of that sabotage group was arrested. He gave evidence, made a confession, mentioned names of those who sent them and how. In other words, he is not a shepherd or a child who lost his way. Otherwise, they call all their spies herders and madmen. We already have five or six of them. Are they all herders or madmen? It turns out that the majority of people in Armenia are either herders or madmen. They wanted to call this one a herder too, but they can no longer do that. Who committed this provocation? Did we send a sabotage group? No, they did! Did we commit the July events? They did! Did we kill their citizens? No, they did! There were no civilian casualties on the Armenian side but our 76-year-old elder was killed and many homes were destroyed. Therefore, these provocations are in fact the logical result of that policy. The goal is to disrupt the talks, then blame us and make the status quo unchanged. This is their goal. This is why they think they can do it. I think they are wrong. The sooner they understand this, the better it will be for them.

- Mr. President, in July Armenia committed a military provocation on the state border and received a worthy response from the Azerbaijani army. The provocations of the occupier continue to this day. In your opinion, what is the goal Armenia pursues by doing all this?

- I believe I have already expressed my thoughts in sufficient detail about one of the goals of this provocation. Another goal was that a month after Pashinyan came to power as a result of a coup, a successful Gunnut operation was carried out. The Gunnut operation was yet another defeat for them. To be honest, at that time, shortly after the operation, I ordered not to disclose detailed information about it because, in contrast to the Armenian leadership, we are working not for PR but for the sake of the essence of the matter. We need the very essence. We carried out this operation. The Nakhchivan Standalone Combined Arms unit occupied important strategic heights very skillfully, professionally and without a single casualty. We strengthened our positions. The Armenians woke up and saw that we were already there. They did not dare and were afraid to push us out of there. The road leading from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh is already under our control. Let them not forget this. We see what cars are passing by and how. They were concealing that because Pashinyan had just come to power and immediately there was such a bitter and humiliating defeat. So they were concealing that. I thought that they were hiding this, and we will too. First of all, why was that necessary? We achieved our goal. Secondly, let me repeat that we did not want to give the previous Armenian government ammunition in this way, because the situation in Armenia was very difficult at that time. In fact, it is unstable even now. If that had immediately become clear, then, perhaps, there may have been some internal revanchist sentiments. But journalists of the former government did go there and saw that Azerbaijani soldiers were sitting at the top of their village. They gradually began to exploit this subject. Then, when it was already publicized, I ordered to reveal our actions, so that everyone knew. A film crew went there and did some shooting. You were there too and saw it all.

So the second goal was for Pashinyan to achieve at least some kind of a victory. This is how they planned the July events, because they knew that we have border troops stationed on a significant part of our state border. This speaks volumes of our intentions. It shows that on a significant part of this border we already deploy border guards, not an army. They believed that they could easily cross into our territory, seize some lands, then report that they have occupied Azerbaijani lands – just like their defense minister said there would be a new war over new territories. This is also one of the manifestations of their provocation. But that didn't work either. They could not seize an inch of our land. We dealt them crushing blows. Some of these strikes were shown on the Internet. Their strongholds were destroyed by precise fire. I want to reiterate: we no longer have any military obstacles in our way to move into the territory of Armenia. I was informed several times throughout the day. On my orders, the Azerbaijani army could have entered the territory of Armenia. But we didn't do that. We are a responsible country. This is first. Secondly, we do not yet have any goals on the territory of Armenia. But if the provocations continue, then, of course, we will reconsider our policy.

So that didn't work either. Now they are trying to portray this defeat as a victory. But the question is where is this victory? What is it? This is first. Secondly, if this is a victory, then why are you applying to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)? Why are you raising a hue and cry? Why are you trying to involve the Collective Security Treaty Organization? I believe that one of the reasons for their provocation was to see what the reaction of their allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be. Because they are preparing for another large-scale war. We have operational intelligence. We know what is happening around us. We know and we should know. Our intelligence bodies work very efficiently. I can say that much, no more. Therefore, probing is carried out in order to involve the Collective Security Treaty Organization and its allies in this matter. But that didn't work out either. The Collective Security Treaty Organization did not make any statement, only made a comment. Seeing that their attempts had failed, they retreated. Today they are re-inventing the myths that they allegedly won a big victory. But the reality is this.

This shows again that Armenia is an aggressive state. Their hatred for Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis is reflected in their ugly policies. I want to say again and warn them that if they do not give up their ugly plans, they will face very serious consequences. They are preparing for a new war. They are concentrating their forces near the line of contact. We see everything and we watch everything. We follow all their actions. Of course, we will defend ourselves. Just as we defended ourselves in Tovuz, we will defend ourselves in all other directions. The events in Tovuz were yet another lesson for them. If they want to learn a new lesson, we are ready for it.

- Mr. President, during the provocation in July and afterwards, the local and foreign media circulated reports about the supply of weapons from Russia and Serbia to Armenia. What is your take on that?

- First of all, I want to say again that Armenia is a constant source of threat for us. Therefore, we must monitor and be aware of all the events related to Armenia. The question may arise: how did we learn about the supply of weapons to them from Serbia and Russia? Especially from Serbia. Of course, we learned about this from reliable sources. Signals on this issue were sent to these countries through diplomatic channels. At the same time, I had a telephone conversation with the presidents of both countries and expressed my concern. I noted that this raises many questions in Azerbaijani society, especially the fact that the delivery of these goods became very frequent, occurred immediately after the end of the collisions and lasted from July to September. This is already a fact. Therefore, I thought that as a responsible country we must definitely clarify this issue. In general, I think that if there is any problem, question or concern, then why should we conceal it? We have to talk about it, and we did. The press service of the President published relevant statements related to the telephone conversations. I believe that the information they contain is sufficient.

Of course, this worries us very much because Armenia has unleashed an armed aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia is a country sponsoring terrorism. The intensive nature of the supply of weapons, of course, seriously worries us because they are being used against us. These weapons are used to kill our children and other citizens. Therefore, this issue, like any other, is in the spotlight. We will continue to monitor the situation.

By the way, I must say that I highly appreciate the actions of the Georgian government in these events. As you know, Georgia did not allow the transportation of weapons to Armenia through its territory. That is why transport planes deliver weapons to Armenia through the territories of the Caspian countries and by air. Georgia acted like a very reliable partner. I would like to express my gratitude to the Georgian government for this. I can say that we see the Georgian government as a reliable partner and friend. Intergovernmental ties are strengthening every day. Many important projects are being implemented. In the near future, our Foreign Minister will pay an official visit to Georgia. This will be his first visit to Georgia as foreign minister. The program of the visit is being prepared now. There are many issues on the agenda. We are bound by both historical ties and common interests. Today, the relations and developing cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan serve the interests of both countries. I want to reiterate that the governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan are in close contact with each other, and this will continue to be the case.

But it is also true that the Armenians living in Armenia and Georgia, as well as ethnic Armenians disguised under Georgian names, are doing their utmost to strike a blow at the Georgian-Azerbaijani ties. The source of some provocative events that took place in Georgia last year is also the Armenians of the world. Their main goal is to disrupt Georgian-Azerbaijani relations. But they will not achieve this, because, let me say again, we are reliable partners and openly discuss all issues. Azerbaijan has always been close to Georgia. I don’t want to list these historical facts now but Azerbaijan has always stood for the development, prosperity and stability in Georgia. But look at how Armenia is acting. Some local Armenians living in Georgia, at the instigation of the Armenian leadership, are engaged in provocative actions there. They display separatist tendencies. They secretly do provocative work there, ideological work. Is Armenia sincere towards Georgia? No! They are putting forward unfounded claims against Georgian churches. Historical sites in the region where Armenians live are being Armenianized. They do not show due respect for the state symbols of Georgia. At the same time, Armenia has always voted against Georgia in the UN and other international organizations. In matters of territorial integrity, it has always opposed Georgia. How is this possible that you do not recognize the territorial integrity of this country? At the same time, I am sure that the Georgian people have not forgotten what atrocities the Armenian battalion of Baghramyan committed during the war in Abkhazia, on whose side it fought and on whose side it is today. The Armenians living in Abkhazia have already seized a significant part of power there. Azerbaijan has always been close to Georgia. In all international organizations, we have demonstrated and will demonstrate an unambiguous position in connection with the territorial integrity of Georgia. The difference is this. Of course, I think that the Georgian people know very well who is their friend and who is their enemy.

- As you know, Armenia is taking actions aimed at establishing close contacts with a number of Muslim countries, which is causing a legitimately sharp reaction from the Azerbaijani public. Recently, the Egyptian leadership received the Armenian foreign minister who was on a visit to this country. To what extent does all this affect Muslim solidarity?

- It has a very negative impact. The Azerbaijani public quite rightly expresses its concern. We also express concern at the state level. As you know, Azerbaijan has always been very active in the way of Islamic solidarity. Many events have been held in our country. We have always tried to help Muslim countries. We have always defended the interests of Muslim countries in international organizations. At the same time, if a Muslim country nominated its candidacy for an international organization, we have always supported it during the voting. That is, this solidarity should be in deed, not in words. We are one of the countries that have always attached great importance to Islamic solidarity in our foreign policy. You can see this in my speeches on foreign policy. One of our main priorities is relations with Muslim countries. Because we are part of the Muslim world. The countries that support us the most at the UN are also Muslim countries. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has always taken the right position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Many resolutions have been adopted, including one related to the Tovuz provocation. This is why we are always very sensitive to any rapprochement of Muslim countries with Armenia. Because Armenia has occupied our lands. At the same time, Muslim countries should know that Armenia has committed genocide against Muslim religious sites and cultural genocide in the occupied territories. Look at the state of our mosques! Don't people in Muslim countries know that Armenians keep animals, pigs and cows in our half-destroyed mosques? Isn't this an insult to the Muslim world? Therefore, officials of all Muslim countries should revive these images when shaking hands with an Armenian official whose hands are stained with the blood of the Azerbaijani people. At the same time, I am told that the Armenian foreign minister met with some religious leader in Egypt. Didn't anyone tell this religious leader that these people have desecrated Muslim mosques, insulted the entire Muslim world? We know for sure that the official representatives of Armenia, while in Europe to win a positive attitude of Europeans towards them, cite as the main argument the fact that they allegedly live in Muslim surroundings. Our three neighbors are Muslim countries. We are a people who have preserved Christianity in this region. The Muslim countries in our environment are enemies. Yes, Armenia considers Turkey and Azerbaijan its enemies. But in its relations with Iran it always hypocritically speaks of friendship. How is this possible? What kind of friendship is this? You destroy, demolish, desecrate Muslim mosques, keep cows and pigs there, offend the dignity of Muslims, and then you say let's be friends. I don’t understand such friendship. Both bilaterally and multilaterally, in official speeches, I have repeatedly addressed the leaders of Muslim countries, urging them to take this issue into account.

Let me say again that Armenia is not an ordinary country. Armenia is a country where Islamophobia is a state policy. They raise their children in the spirit of hatred for the Muslims. They want to instill this ideology in their children.

Therefore, we will stick to our principled position. We will always pay attention to this issue. I want to say to the leaders of all Muslim countries again: Armenia is not your friend. Secondly, what interests can there be in Armenia? It is a failed state. It has only one international name – a failed state. An unsuccessful country. The economy has collapsed, the market is limited, the population is shrinking, and it is not attractive for any investment. It doesn't invest in any country either. This country is a transport dead end. What interests can there be? If such steps are taken in connection with a certain situation, in spite of someone, then this is only regrettable.

- In connection with the provocation Armenia committed against Azerbaijan in July, Turkey unequivocally supported our fair position and, as always, declared that it was next to Azerbaijan. Following this, Azerbaijani-Turkish joint exercises were held, causing great fear in Armenia and concern in some countries. What can you say about this?

- First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to my dear brother, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again. His unequivocal, open and harsh statements after the Tovuz events made us, the Azerbaijani people, happy. They showed once again that Turkey always stands by Azerbaijan. This was another manifestation of the Turkish-Azerbaijani unity and brotherhood. At the same time, other officials, the chairman of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and other brothers have repeatedly demonstrated solidarity with Azerbaijan and expressed support for it. This shows again that Turkey is on the side of justice, truth and is with its brothers. We, too, are always close to Turkey in all matters – this is already known in Turkey, in Azerbaijan and all over the world. We will be next to each other and we will be together. Our unity is our greatest asset. We share a common history, common ethnic roots, religion, language and culture with Turkey. This is a great asset. On the basis of this heritage, we have built strong ties in all spheres – political, economic, energy, transport, cultural, military. This is why the turnover between us has been growing rapidly lately. Among foreign countries, Azerbaijan has made the largest investments in Turkey and Turkey has made the largest foreign investments in Azerbaijan, and this process continues. The ties between our peoples are at the highest level. Therefore, these events once again demonstrated this reality to the world. We already knew this – both in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. Our ties are strengthening every year and new topics are regularly included in this bilateral format every year. There is no area where we would not interact and provide support to each other today.

As for the exercises, I must say that they are held on a regular basis. A plan of exercises to be conducted by Azerbaijani servicemen jointly with foreign countries is approved annually. All these exercises are carried out according to plan. I must say that in recent years, on the instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and on my orders, the number of exercises has significantly increased. Last year, more than 10 joint exercises were held both in Turkey and Azerbaijan, including the “TurAz Qartalı” exercise held several times now. Every time during “TurAz Qartalı”, F-16s fighters arrive in Azerbaijan from Turkey to conduct joint exercises with our aircraft and pilots. Exercises were held in Nakhchivan, and one of them was attended by the Turkish Defense Minister. In other words, there is nothing extraordinary here. Yes, they coincided with the events in Tovuz. Whether it is accidental or not, let Armenia figure it out on its own. But these exercises demonstrate our unity yet again. Of course, the Armenian leader is also well aware that the distance from the Nakhchivan direction of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border to Iravan is approximately 70-80 kilometers. They know it, and this makes them afraid. I believe that they are experiencing psychological stress because of this fear, because, according to our information, there are no doors left they haven’t knocked on. They are worried and say that these exercises are being held. What will happen to us? So they are demonstrating their helplessness, as they say, their own powerlessness.

In principle, the main idea of their policy is about self-humiliation, giving themselves the image of a long-suffering and unhappy people, crying and snatching some privileges, a donation, a grant or some assistance. This has already taken root in the people’s psychology. This shows that this country is not independent, cannot pursue a dignified policy and is in a dependent position. It doesn’t befit anyone to scratch someone else’s back. Independence in Armenia is formal in nature. What kind of an independent country is it if it cannot make decisions on its own? What kind of an independent country is it if it is ruled by Soros? Pashinyan is a product of the Soros regime. Today, the right to vote in Armenia belongs to Soros. Look at the biographies of members of Pashinyan's ruling team. All of them come from Soros, Transparency or another human rights organization. They turn a blind eye to the despotic actions that have taken place in Armenia. One of the journalists in Armenia went on a hunger strike and died in prison, but no organization ever raised this issue. At present, two former presidents have been brought to justice in Armenia, a criminal case has been initiated – two former presidents and solely because of their political activities. Everyone knows this, but they are turning a blind eye to that. The leader of the main opposition party is deprived of parliamentary immunity, but no-one reacts to this. Why is the Council of Europe tight-lipped? Why are the rapporteurs on Armenia silent? Why are Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International silent? Because of Soros! Soros is the head of Armenia, Soros is the sponsor of these “human rights organizations”. They have one sponsor.

So going back to these exercises, I want to say once again that they are being held and will be held as long as necessary. We need these exercises, Turkey needs these exercises, regional stability needs them. Because Armenia poses a threat to regional stability. Armenia has put forward territorial claims against Turkey. This is reflected and enshrined in their constitution. Today Armenia is trying to “revive” the Treaty of Sevres. No clever historian or politician will ever allow this to happen because it will be their end. How can a small country living in poverty, having built a state on someone else’s lands, put forward claims against a country such as Turkey? How can you blame it? Just look at your potential and then at the potential of Turkey. However, their hatred for Azerbaijan and Turkey, for our people drives this irrational thinking, as they say, in a dangerous direction.

So our close ties with Turkey will continue to develop, as great leader Heydar Aliyev said, on the basis of the principle “One nation, two states”. We are together in all matters, next to each other in every matter.

- Mr. President, at the ceremony marking the sail-away of the jacket to the “Karabakh” field, you noted that “just as we are returning to the abandoned “Karabakh” field today, we will return to our native Karabakh lands in the same manner”. We are sure that this day is not far off.

- Yes, we will definitely return to our lands. Nagorno-Karabakh is the ancestral and historical Azerbaijani land. In the early 1990s, as a result of betrayal and treachery of the people who were in power in Azerbaijan at the time, we temporarily lost Nagorno-Karabakh. In today's conversation, I mentioned some moments before our independence, so that the Azerbaijani public does not forget these events, so that the younger generation knows about that. Nagorno-Karabakh is our ancient and historical land, and we will definitely return to these lands. We will restore all destroyed historical sites and houses. We will give the streets Azerbaijani names and return the renamed villages their real names. We will definitely do that because the truth is on our side. We do not lay claim to the lands of other countries, but we will not give our lands to anyone either. The present-day Armenia was established on historically Azerbaijani lands. There are sufficient historical documents to confirm this. We will never allow for the creation of a second Armenian state. Karabakh is ours, Karabakh is Azerbaijan! Thank you!

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