President Ilham Aliyev chairs meeting in video format on results of 2020
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan. 6
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has chaired a meeting in a video format on the results of 2020.
The head of state made an opening speech at the meeting.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- We will discuss the results of last year today and also talk about the work to be done in 2021. The main result of last year and not only of last year but of the last 30 years has been the liberation of our lands from occupation. Azerbaijan won its historic victory in 44 days, liberated its lands, dealt crushing blows to the enemy and defeated Armenia. As a result of this defeat, Armenia was forced to sign an act of capitulation and to surrender, and we returned our three districts by political means without a single shot being fired and without offering any more martyrs. Thus, Armenia's 30-year policy of aggression has come to an end. We have resolved the issue by military means. However, for many years, international mediators, almost all leading international organizations had been telling us that there was no military solution to the conflict. We also said that if this was the case, then the conflict should be resolved peacefully, and we were also in favor of that. During the war, I repeatedly appealed to the people of Azerbaijan and gave interviews to foreign media, saying that the Armenian side should provide us with a timetable of when they would withdraw their armed forces from our lands, and then we would stop. Otherwise, we will go to the end, as we did. Thus, our glorious victory demonstrated our strong resolve and the strong determination of our people to the whole world, demonstrated the strength of the Azerbaijani state, showed that there is no difference between our words and deeds. I have repeatedly stated that if this issue is not resolved peacefully, we will resolve this issue militarily, and this is exactly what happened – militarily. Afterwards, the issue was resolved politically and historical justice was restored.
Talking about the comprehensive development of our country in recent years, I was saying that the independent Azerbaijani state is experiencing its most glorious period. Because Azerbaijan has never been so strong in its entire history. Today, it has political force, economic power, a unity of the people and the government, military power and the positive role we play in the region. Using this strength, we have fulfilled our main task with dignity. The Armenian army has been smashed to smithereens in 44 days. There is almost no Armenian army any more. The post-war situation shows that the Armenian armed forces are virtually completely destroyed today. Armenia has been defeated and we have managed to achieve what we wanted in 44 days. We liberated Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli districts, Hadrut, the former Hadrut district, most of Khojavand district, Sugovushan settlement, the Murovdag range and Shusha city by military means. In total, more than 300 settlements were liberated by military means. As a result, Armenia virtually fell to its knees and was forced to sign an act of capitulation on 10 November. Thus, Aghdam, Lachin and Kalbajar districts were returned to us without a single bullet being fired and without a single martyr.
This victory will go down in history forever. This victory proved to the whole world – I want to emphasize this again – that there is no difference between our words and our deeds. I said that a second Armenian state would never be created on the lands of historical Azerbaijan. I said that Nagorno-Karabakh would never be granted independence. I said that the Azerbaijani people would never put up with this situation. I said that we would resolve this issue in any way, and we did despite all the pressure and threats and despite the strong Armenian lobby in the world. Many leading countries of the world support Armenia, and we clearly saw that during the war. Some countries could not conceal that. What did Armenia gain from this support? Nothing! In the face of our strength and resolve, this support was equal to zero. Everyone saw that no-one and nothing could stop us. I said we would go to the end and I kept my word. We stopped when Armenia acknowledged its humiliating defeat, fell to its knees, threw in the towel and surrendered. I think this was a historic lesson for Armenia. They once again saw the greatness of the Azerbaijani people. However, they committed acts of vandalism in all the occupied lands, destroyed and desecrated all our historical sites and mosques, destroyed all our residential buildings. There are no cities of Aghdam and Fuzuli, there are no villages, there are only a few buildings left in Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan, and this is where troops were stationed. Illegal settlement was widely conducted in Kalbajar and Lachin districts. However, during the time Armenia was allowed to leave those districts, they destroyed them and showed their savagery to the whole world yet again. Right before the eyes of the whole world, they set fire to houses, cut down trees and burned forests, committed acts of vandalism. The whole world could see what kind of evil forces we were able to erase from the conflict map of the Caucasus. The world saw who we were facing. This savagery and cruelty is probably unmatched in history. The occupying forces did not commit such atrocities even during World War II. They thought we would not return to these places, but we have returned, we are returning. We will talk about the Great Return today.
We have restored historical justice. We have shown our strength to the whole world. We have shown that no-one can confront our resolve. At the same time, we showed responsibility, we showed justice, we did not enter into the territory of Armenia even though dozens of civilians were killed as a result of war crimes committed against us from the territory of Armenia and our cities were bombed. We did not cross into the territory of Armenia. We showed respect for international law. There are no moral frames for the hated enemy. They have no moral values. And yet I said that we could not act like them, we are Azerbaijanis, we are a self-respecting people. We have defeated the enemy on the battlefield. We have taught the enemy a lesson on the battlefield and they are still struggling to recover from it. The crisis that has engulfed Armenia today is the result of their policy of aggression. They should have vacated our lands peacefully. We gave them a chance. They should have left our lands of their own free will, but we saw the exact opposite – illegal settlement, our cities being renamed, Azerbaijan's historical, cultural and religious heritage being destroyed. Unfortunately, some countries, some international organizations and companies have helped them in that. Illegal business activity was carried out on our lands. We will talk about that today and relevant instructions have already been issued. Those companies will be prosecuted. Let them know this and wait for this day. Representatives of the parliaments of different countries used to go there, but let’s see how they will go there now. A delegation went there from France, members of their parliament. Unfortunately, the peacekeepers gave them this permission. However, we had told the peacekeeping forces that no foreign citizens can go to Nagorno-Karabakh without our permission. As a result, the French Ambassador was invited to our Foreign Ministry and a note was handed to it. We will not remain silent.
I have just been informed that the Armenian foreign minister has gone to Khankandi. What in the world are you doing there? Let them not forget the war. let them remember that the iron fist is still there. These visits must stop. We warn them that if such provocative steps continue to be taken, Armenia will regret it even more. Steps are now being taken to normalize relations. Russia has offered its mediation opportunities to the parties. A delegation of Russian government officials recently visited Armenia and Azerbaijan and mainly discussed these issues.
After all, if relations normalize, then what is the need for such provocative “visits”? What are they trying to show? Are they trying to irritate us again? Let them not forget that such steps cost them dearly. Therefore, all visits must stop. No foreign citizen can enter that area without our permission. No international organization except for the Red Cross can go there. This is our territory. The whole world recognizes this territory as an integral part of Azerbaijan. Armenian foreign minister, who are you to go there? We warn you. If a similar step is repeated, our response will be very harsh. We first warned them through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Further warnings will be given differently. Their visits there must stop. Let them sit in their own country and thank God that they have a country of their own. No-one should have any business in our territory.
Peacekeeping forces. They have a certain function there. This function was established on 10 November. Although they are now engaged in humanitarian work there and although this function was not established in the statement signed on 10 November, we are turning a blind eye to that, so to speak. Why? Because we understand that people live there, we understand that winter has come and the weather is cold. Some work must be done there so that this winter does not create problems for the Armenians living there. This is why we have created this opportunity. Most of the cargo goes there through Azerbaijan now. We gave them this opportunity. Cargoes go to Barda by rail and then taken to Nagorno-Karabakh by automobiles. Of course, we could have denied them this opportunity.
Armenia cut off our water for 30 years and left 100,000 hectares of land without water even though both Sarsang and Sugovushan reservoirs were built on the initiative of great leader Heydar Aliyev and as a result of his activities back then. Armenia cut off our water. But let me repeat that we must never fall to their level. The people living in Nagorno-Karabakh today are our citizens. As I have said, they will see that they will live better under Azerbaijan’s leadership. This is why we have created these opportunities for them. Otherwise, it is very difficult to transport cargo there via the Lachin corridor. We have taken other steps to carry out humanitarian work there. Let me reiterate that although the document signed on 10 November does not stipulate this, we have created these opportunities. It shows how big our hearts are. I believe that the statement signed on 10 November should be the basis for future activities. No other document has been signed apart from this statement.
At the same time, we have allowed Armenian citizens to use the roads passing through our territory and the liberated lands – the roads passing through Gubadli and Zangilan districts. They should appreciate that. It is our land. We understand that the road passes through there. In Soviet times, borders were not very relevant and the Armenian population living there probably did not know that this is the territory of Azerbaijan. Who could have told them that this is the territory of Azerbaijan. They always thought that this was the territory of Armenia. And now when they realized that this is Azerbaijani territory and that Azerbaijani border guards have arrived and been deployed there, they have experienced some stress, of course. But again, I ordered that no-one should be hurt. Explain to them that this is our place, our land, and let them go. We gave them time. The Armenian side asked us to give them time until 2 January. And we did. We could have refused. I could have sent a military unit there and then see what would happen to them. Did we do that? No! But they would have done that. When they occupied Kalbajar, they did not give us any time at all. Our citizens had to cross the Murov and Omar gorges barefooted. Many froze to death there. Did they give us time?
They committed acts of genocide against the civilian population, the Khojaly genocide and other war crimes. We have captured those who were engaged in sabotage activities in our liberated territories. We did not kill them. I ordered to take them prisoner, the war is over and there is no need to shed more blood. This again shows our humane nature. These are already forces located in our territory and not leaving. They have committed provocations against us, military provocations. As a result, our servicemen died. We have shown humanism again. We have captured them, but they cannot be considered prisoners of war because the war is over. They are terrorists and saboteurs. They arrived in Khojavend District from Armenia, from Shirak region of Armenia, after 26 November. Let everyone know this. Why did they come? Who sent them? The war ended on 10 October and a statement was signed. Who is sending them there? If the Armenian leadership cannot control these illegal armed groups, it is their problem. Therefore, no-one can accuse us in this situation.
I want to say again that we have shown humanism in many cases, and the Armenian side must appreciate that. In return, the visit of the Armenian foreign minister to our lands is unacceptable. I have already said this and I hope they will draw the right conclusions. If they don't, they will have major problems and will regret it again.
So the war has ended. We have achieved what we wanted. A period of creation is now about to begin now. We will talk about that today. But before we do that, I would like to talk about other events that took place in 2020. Parliamentary elections were held in our country in February 2020. The parliamentary elections were another serious step towards democracy. Parliament leaders were renewed, new people came to the leadership. For the first time, a representative of an opposition party was elected deputy speaker of the parliament. At the same time, for the first time, representatives of the opposition were elected chairmen and deputy chairmen of parliamentary committees. This is a manifestation of a new political culture. This is a serious step towards cooperation between all political forces. Of course, this is very important for the democratic development of our country. We have a multi-party parliament, and this should be viewed as a very important step in strengthening our political system.
At the same time, the vast majority of parties last year responded positively to our initiative and joined the political dialogue. I can say that all political forces are currently involved in this dialogue. I cannot describe those not participating in the dialogue as a political force because the group that does not participate consists of treacherous and perfidious elements. Political dialogue began before the war and grew more intense during the war. During the war, with the exception of one anti-national group – I mean the anti-national council – all political parties and unions unequivocally supported our cause. The anti-national council carried out its treacherous mission during the war, poured water on the enemy's mill and launched an unsightly campaign against our army. They made provocative statements and took steps to tarnish our army and belittle our victory.
What else can one expect from them? The leaders of this anti-national council once referred to Pashinyan as an example for us, saying, “Pashinyan is a democrat, Pashinyan is an innovator, Pashinyan is a clean man”. These are their words. Ask the Armenian people what they think about this innovative democrat. One thing they have in common, of course, is the fact that the loss of lands happened in their times. The Popular Front of Azerbaijan and its remains that are concentrated in the anti-national council today actually deserted during the first Karabakh War. We have not forgotten this history. The younger generation should know this. As the war progressed, the president resigned and settled down in a mountain village. War is going on, people are dying, lands are being lost, but the country's president, the commander-in-chief flees to a mountain village of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. What is this if not desertion? Those leading this anti-national council, where were you during the war? They fled and went into hiding. They are hiding even now. One of them is sitting in America, lecturing and pouring water on the enemy's mill. Clearly, what else can you expect from someone who has lived in America for a year? Who finances him? Who gives him instructions? We know that. Who gives instructions to those here? Those forces. Pro-Armenian forces, those who took part in ugly deeds against us during the war, those who want to take away our victory, those who support the Armenians are the supporters of the anti-national council and they are fugitives, traitors, enemies. Our people must know this, the younger generation must know this. In some cases, the younger generation is not provided with sufficient information about this shameful history. It should be included in high school and university textbooks. This black page should be included in textbooks. The young generation must know those who sold Shusha, Lachin, Khojaly and Kalbajar, fled and allowed for the loss of our lands. To this day, the traitor who sold Shusha is hanging around idly. We must not forget this in order for this never to happen again! Such worthless people should not come to power. They brought about trouble, they brought about tragedy, they created conditions for the killing of innocent people, they did not defend our people. The Popular Front-Musavat government fled, went into hiding, surrendered and put to shame. Thirty years on, it seems as though it wasn’t them who sold these lands. It seems as though it wasn’t them who escaped from the battlefield, it wasn’t them who bombed Ganja during the war, it wasn’t them who took Azerbaijani soldiers prisoner. They are. The Azerbaijani people must never forget this.
But, of course, except for these, there is a very serious and active political dialogue under way in our country now. I would like to mention one more issue. I was informed a few months ago that some parties were not registered. Frankly speaking, this was something new to me. I did not know that. Nobody told me that there were such cases. Therefore, I immediately instructed that this issue should be resolved. The issue of registration of political parties is being resolved now. Actually I want to say again that a new political climate had emerged in our country before the war, a positive climate. Because all of us, all patriotic forces had one goal – to liberate our lands from occupation. We, the Azerbaijani government, have achieved this. Today, we have the task of solidifying this victory politically, preventing the rise of Armenian fascism, informing the international community about the past conflict and the current realities, including our destroyed territories. Some of our parties are members of international party organizations. This information should be provided to these organizations through such institutions. In other words, this should be the main direction of their future activities. Of course, we want to have a positive impact on the process of democratization in the country, to strengthen the dialogue between parties, to raise the issue of shortcomings and to conduct normal and sound competition. We have stated our intention, and I am glad that all political forces have joined this initiative.
Personnel reforms were carried out last year. I have already mentioned the parliament. The leadership of the Cabinet of Ministers has changed. The leadership of the Presidential Administration, ministries and local executive authorities has changed. This was also received in our society quite well. We are seeing positive results of these personnel changes.
The fight against corruption and bribery has become more serious. I think this is also associated with personnel reforms. Unfortunately, my instructions were not followed in many cases in previous years. Unpleasant situations were covered up by bureaucracy and in some cases I was not given accurate information. Relevant agencies did not fight corruption and bribery seriously enough and in some cases turned a blind eye to such crimes. All this is true. Personnel reforms have already put an end to this. Today, no-one can evade responsibility regardless of the position of the perpetrator. No-one is above the law. There is no special status and no privileges for anyone. Everyone should know this. I think the events of 2020 show that everyone is already aware of that.
The coronavirus, of course, has put the whole world to a huge test. I think that Azerbaijan is passing this test with dignity. The situation is under full control. As a result of prompt action taken, new hospitals were built and laboratories were acquired. Doctors were mobilized. The salaries of doctors looking after coronavirus patients have been increased, they receive three to five times more now. A very large social package has been introduced. The social package worth several billion manats was provided to help people suffering from coronavirus, including those working informally and the unemployed. We are waiting for the vaccine now. We hope that the vaccine will be delivered to Azerbaijan this month. At least all contracts have been signed. It is beyond our control that the vaccine is being delivered with a slight delay. After that, people will be vaccinated and we will be saved from this disease.
Although 2020 was a difficult year for all countries economically, Azerbaijan came out of this situation with fewer losses than other countries. Our economy shrunk by just over 4 percent. I think this is a good indicator. At the same time, I must say that our non-oil industry has grown by more than 11 percent. At the expense of what? Exactly at the expense of diversification. Because the policy of industrialization was carried out correctly. Oil production in our country is declining. At the same time, according to the OPEC+ agreement, we have reduced it ourselves. Oil prices have fallen. Were it not for the oil factor, our economy would probably have shrunk less. But the growth of the non-oil industry by more than 11 percent means the development of the real economy, the non-oil economy.
Agriculture has grown by 2 percent and will continue to grow. I have ordered that autumn sowing should now be carried out on liberated lands. We will talk about that. The average salary and average pension have increased by about 13-14 percent. The Oil Fund's resources have not decreased. They have actually increased. This may come as a surprise to many. Not much, but it has increased by about 0.5 percent. So we have been able to save our foreign exchange reserves. Although we have spent billions on the fight against coronavirus, waged war and paid other costs, benefits and social packages. Based on recent decisions, the allowance for the families of martyrs has been increased from 300 to 500 manats. So all this is a huge financial burden. But as a result of the stability of the state and the successful policy of our country, we have been able to achieve this.
At the end of the year, on 31 December, we received another piece of good news: the Southern Gas Corridor has been fully commissioned. Its last segment, TAP, has been commissioned. For the first time in history, Azerbaijani gas is already in Europe. This is our historic achievement. After all, we initiated the Southern Gas Corridor project. We have also borne the main financial burden. This project, which links many countries, lays the foundation for a new format of cooperation among the countries involved and other Eurasian countries in the future. This format of cooperation is already manifesting itself in the transport sector, trade and other sectors. We have redesigned the energy map of Eurasia. We have built three interconnected gas pipelines 3,500 kilometers in length. We have launched the Shah Deniz-2 project, and European consumers are already buying Azerbaijani gas. This is good for them and good for us. At the same time, successful work was done on other projects last year. I am confident that the development of these projects will bring us additional dividends – both economic and political.
I do not want to say anything ahead of time, but we will witness new wonderful events in the field of energy in the coming days. That will be announced in due course. The new project will significantly strengthen our potential.
At the end of my opening remarks, I would like to touch upon the assessment of international organizations of the work carried out in Azerbaijan. The World Bank's Doing Business report, as people may remember it, was inaccurate about several countries. The World Bank said a few months ago that the ratings of these countries would be reconsidered, including Azerbaijan, which was on the list. So it was reconsidered and our rating was increased. Because it had not been calculated correctly before. I do not know why and this is another matter. However, according to the new ranking, Azerbaijan ranks 28th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Doing Business program. This is something for those frowning at our work, those who have no idea about economy. The World Bank says this. The business climate, the investment climate, the reforms are acknowledged by the World Bank. In addition, Azerbaijan is among top 10 most reformist countries. So the so-called economists, the fake economists crowing abroad and here, open your eyes, have a look and put your tongue in your stomach. Some random people were trying to teach us a lesson: “the economy is not run properly, this and that”. Go and read, if you can read at all.
I would like to note some parameters of the report of the Davos World Economic Forum. The level of electricity supply to the population – Azerbaijan ranks second in the world. We are in second place in the world. In terms of the government's commitment to change, i.e. for the reform ratio, Azerbaijan ranks fifth in the world. The government's long-term strategy – Azerbaijan is in 10th place. The government’s political stability agenda – Azerbaijan ranks 11th in the world. In terms of infrastructure projects, the efficiency of railway services is in 11th place. Efficiency of airline services – we are 12th place. The quality of roads – we are in 24-27th places. This calculation was conducted among 74 developing countries. Azerbaijan ranks third for the Inclusive Development Index. These are the results of the reports of the World Bank, the world's leading and, I would say, the most influential international body, and the World Economic Forum, the world's number one forum.
Therefore, I want to say again that we are on the right path. We have achieved this despite all the difficulties, despite the occupation and despite the presence of a million refugees. Now the lands have been liberated and a great return must begin. Great development processes must begin. Therefore, of course, we must carry out all this work more actively and in a more focused manner, expand the capabilities of Azerbaijan and increase the dynamics of our country's development.
Now let's discuss the work to be done this year. First of all, I would like to hear from the Task Force. The Task Force was established on my instructions and is already active. Many instructions have been issued. I would request that the head of the Task Force provide some information. We are always in touch, but I would like our people citizens to hear this as well. Please.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. With regard to these more than 9,000 damaged houses – of course, the restoration of these houses should be one of our top priorities. Work has already begun. You have also mentioned that the restoration of lost property, the provision of funds to people – we have resolved all that. Of course, we are heavily involved in the construction and restoration of houses. We must try to resolve this issue as soon as possible. At the same time, funds have been allocated for the reconstruction of apartment buildings. Calculate that and, if we need additional funds, we should allocate as much as we need.
The fact that residential buildings in Ganja were destroyed by Armenian ballistic missiles and many people died as a result once again showed Armenian savagery to the whole world. These houses must be rebuilt. But I think they should not be built in the same places. Their former places should be turned into memorial complexes. I think we should also start cleaning work there. Those places remained destroyed for a while, so that foreign journalists, as well as representatives of diplomatic missions, could go there and see Armenian atrocities with their own eyes. Almost all of the world's leading media outlets have covered these horrific images in their video reports. It is now necessary to start clearing the rubble of the destroyed apartment buildings in Ganja. Provide assistance to local authorities and prepare projects. There should be memorial complexes in those places so that no-one forgets our martyrs. We should perpetuate them.
Work has already begun on the liberated lands – in the sense that relevant instructions have been given. First of all, mine clearance work is under way. Preliminary contacts have already been made in connection with urban development.
With regard to mine clearance, I think we need to significantly strengthen this area. After all, according to the information I have, the body dealing with this issue does not have a public status. ANAMA does not have a state status. It is an ordinary agency. It has virtually no agency-specific powers in the public administration structure. It is a body that was once part of a commission. Therefore, I have already issued the order to reorganize this body in the coming days. It is also possible to consider merging it with the Agency for the Rehabilitation of Territories. Because this body also has no agency status either. The staffing figures should be reviewed. According to my information, there are about 500 people working there. How many?
Prime Minister Ali Asadov: Five hundred sixty people.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, we cannot achieve what we want with this composition. This new agency to be established must be equipped with the latest technology. Make sure you take this into account in the Public Investment Program so that we do not waste any time on this issue. Some figures are being expressed now, statements are being made. I think these statements are irrelevant. It is simply irresponsible to try to calculate how many years it will take us to clear these lands of mines. No-one can say that. There can be no criteria or coefficients for that. Because the hated enemy planted booby traps everywhere and did not provide us with maps. Much as we demanded that there should be a map of those mines, they have not been given to us. Therefore, we need to prioritize our work, just as we have done. At the same time, I ordered the Ministry of Defense to establish at least two field engineering battalions at the initial stage. Yesterday, the Minister of Defense informed me that work in this area is under way. At the same time, as you know, a large delegation of 130 people has arrived from Turkey. They are training our sappers as instructors and, at the same time, do the mine clearance work themselves. Two days ago, a group of sappers arrived from Russia, and they have already started this work. We express our deep gratitude to all foreign partners because mine clearance is key to the restoration of these places. There should be a single concept for the restoration of all the territories and cities. There should be a single concept for each city. I will now give the floor to Samir Nuriyev. Preliminary contacts have already been established, and he will provide information about that. At the same time, there must be a unified approach to the rehabilitation of villages. Because before the occupation, the number of people living in some villages was very small – about 20 people, 30 people, 50 people. Of course, we should first deal with the restoration of large settlements.
I think that relevant agencies, the government and the Presidential Administration should determine the optimal composition of villages. In other words, there must be a reference point for us. Of course, the existence of these historic settlements and land plots must be taken into account so that the people who will settle there can provide for their families by working there. They should no longer need state support. Land parcels should be allocated to them so that they could cultivate them and earn a good income. Given that no land reform has been carried out on these lands, we must, of course, work out new criteria for this reform. Because in the 1990s, land reform was sometimes incomplete, which subsequently led to some problems. Land plots are not properly registered. This is why we are now faced with this situation. The information received from the satellite does not match the information available on the ground. Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture is now working to solve this problem. On the liberated lands, of course, these mistakes should not be committed. Therefore, we need to know exactly which lands will be given to the state land fund and which lands will be given to the forest fund. I must also say that most of our forests have been cut down. I have information about that. I will voice that information shortly. In general, the main areas of activity in the liberated lands should be agriculture, agricultural processing and tourism, so that we can preserve the natural qualities of this region. Hard as the Armenians tried, they could not settle there. Because they do not have human resources. I have visited the liberated lands where the Armenians used to live. I was horrified to see their living conditions. There was a well-known village of Shurnukh where the Armenians lived. They have now been evicted from there. Yesterday, the head of the Border Service informed me that it was a terrible sight. It looks more like a kennel. I told them to make video footage of that. Journalists have now been sent there. Record that and show what state they were living in. Because they had no resources, no desire and no human resources. Besides, they never treated these lands as their own. Otherwise, Shusha, a city where they lived the most, would not be in such a deplorable state now. If they tried to falsify history and present Shusha to the whole world as an Armenian city, they should have at least brought it to decent condition. The leaders of that separatist entity built mansions for themselves. Armenian oligarchs built mansions for themselves. But there are no other modern structures there. They destroyed our historical and architectural sites. Therefore, the rules on this and other issues, including urban planning, should be followed to determine the exact composition of cities to be restored. We have to set ourselves a goal – what we want a particular city to be like. Of course, things must go in a comprehensive manner. Mine clearance, urban planning, infrastructure projects and construction must meet the latest standards. Therefore, I would request that Samir Nuriyev provide information about the work already done and plans for the future. Please.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. Another important issue must be resolved before the start of the restoration work. It is the calculation of the damage caused. The instruction has already been given and the Ministry of Economy has established contacts with international partners on this issue. Of course, we have to do all the initial work ourselves. Video and photo footage of all the cities and villages must be prepared, approved and recorded.
At the same time, all destroyed and liberated lands must be surveyed by satellite. Every city and village should be documented and, if possible, certified using drones. We have to do it ourselves. When foreign experts and international companies come, these materials will be provided to them. Of course, they should be free to do all the research themselves. First of all, the destruction of historical sites should be reflected – the destruction of public buildings, government buildings, enterprises – all enterprises were state-owned at that time, the demolition of individual houses and apartment buildings. After all the paperwork has been prepared, the current value of these properties should be established in manat equivalent, i.e. in ruble equivalent and its current valuation. In other words, we have to do this work ourselves, and it will make the work of foreign companies a little easier. Based on this, they will prepare their reports independently. We definitely need that. Because in order to start a compensation lawsuit, we must have the opinion of well-known international companies.
When it comes to losses, we must also calculate lost income. In other words, what income could we get from these enterprises over 30 years? There were many enterprises and these enterprises had great potential. They have been destroyed and we have not received the income we could have received. This must also be calculated. The damage to our environment must also be calculated. I will cite a few figures. The destruction of forests. These forests were not just destroyed. The trees in them were cut down and sold. The market price of those felled forests and trees must be calculated. They were sold and became an illegal source of income. At the same time, our lands have been exploited illegally. According to Armenian media, most of those lands were occupied by the leaders of the criminal regime. Former Armenian presidents Kocharyan and Sargsyan had large estates of land there. At the same time, those who led the illegal regime had large land parcels there. They made a lot of money every year because those lands are very fertile and prolific. At the same time, pastures, meadows. The illegal exploitation of all this must be assessed and we must turn it into monetary equivalent.
Of course, the illegal exploitation of our natural resources is an undeniable fact. We have the names of companies. I must say that if the companies that illegally exploited our gold and other deposits do not pay compensation, this issue will go to court. If they do not pay this compensation, all the cases will go to international courts and they will be made embarrassed there. After that, their business activities will practically stop because there is no place in the modern world for companies and people who illegally exploit natural resources in another country and make a profit from that. Therefore, it has been put to them that they must calculate the value of the gold and other natural resources they illegally exploited, calculate the damage they have caused, the income gained, and returned those to us. In that case, we may not appeal to international courts.
By the way, one of the economic sectors in the liberated lands will be mining. We already have experience in this area, and we will continue to do so.
Therefore, the floor is given to the Minister of Economy. Please provide information on this and other issues.
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President Ilham Aliyev: We cannot start reconstruction work without making an assessment, as I said, without foreign partners and companies making an assessment. In other words, when I talk about reconstruction, I mean the restoration of houses and cities. Because the implementation of infrastructure projects has started and some of them are already being implemented. But we can start the restoration of houses, or rather, the construction of houses and cities in the place of the destroyed ones, only after an international assessment is made. Otherwise, the opposite party may make unreasonable claims and accuse us of falsifying some facts in court. Therefore, first of all, we must do all the paperwork ourselves, so that international companies can come and do their part. After that, we can start the process of rebuilding cities.
At the same time, when cities are rebuilt, I think we should leave some places as they are now, so that no-one ever forgets that. When urban development plan is being developed, you should identify such places and then report to me. For example, what part of the city of Aghdam, Fuzuli or another city will remain in a state of destruction, as an open-air museum of Armenian occupation. I think that museums of occupation should be established in all liberated cities. Along with memorial complexes and monuments reflecting our Victory, museums of occupation must also be established. You should develop a concept of such museums. These museums should reflect the general picture of Armenia's policy of aggression. At the same time, each city and each district should have its own presentation so that Azerbaijani citizens never forget this and foreign visitors see what savages we fought against and what evil forces we saved our lands and the South Caucasus from.
Another issue is associated with water resources. I would like Shahin Mustafayev to provide information about that. As you know, a special commission was set up some time ago to use water resources more efficiently. The commission is working hard and some shortcomings have already been revealed, including illegal tie-ins, the lack of water records and even the lack of records of water entering and leaving the Mingachevir reservoir, our biggest reservoir. So there was such an unpleasant picture. Some of the shortcomings were quickly eliminated. At the same time, there were illegal tie-ins, perhaps hundreds of illegal tie-ins. Therefore, some areas were given too much water, while others were not watered at all. Therefore, farmers and villagers rightly complained about the inadequate supply of water. Local administrative resources were used, local authorities provided water to farmers close to them, whereas other farmers were faced with problems, especially given the drought we experienced last year and 2019. In fact, the drought may continue this year too. Of course, we have huge water sources in our liberated lands, and the hated enemy deprived us of these sources. The source of the Tartar River, our largest river in these areas, is Kalbajar District. But we were deprived of the waters of the Tartar River because the Sarsang and Sugovushan reservoirs were in the hands of the Armenians. They cut off the water and we had to dig hundreds of artesian wells in these areas. This is also fraught with heavy financial costs – both on drilling and operation, because energy is consumed. After we liberated the Sugovushan settlement, the water started flowing, but there is a problem of canals now. Because these canals remained unused for many years.
Our other rivers originate there and pass through that area. The Hakari, the Bazarchay, the Okhchuchay, the Khachinchay rivers. Many of them flow into the Araz River, and the construction of reservoirs along the rivers should be considered. This must be included in this year's Public Investment Program and the program for work on liberated lands. I think we need to start designing and building them. I want to say again that the lands there are already very fertile. Once the water is supplied there, productivity will increase and we will be largely self-sufficient with food. Shahin Mustafayev has the floor now. What has been done and will be done in this regard?
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President Ilham Aliyev: Control over costs must be stepped up. In particular, there must be very strict control over goods purchased through the state. In some cases, figures are inflated. In some cases, government agencies buy a lot of unnecessary goods and materials for their own convenience. There are such cases. They buy cars, equipment and furniture from abroad. This must end. We must put an end to all these unnecessary costs. Therefore, control over expenditures should be stronger. See if some additional control mechanism can perhaps be applied. Secondly, the price of oil envisaged in our budget is $40. This is a very conservative approach. But now the price of oil on the world market is more than $50. Of course, it is difficult to predict, but given that the pandemic will end this year – vaccination campaigns are already under way in many countries – and economic activity and travel will increase, air transport and other sectors will open, there will be even greater demand for fuel. In other words, there is a high probability that the price of oil will not be less than $50. Given this, we may have a surplus, so you need to think already where this surplus can be channeled. We may reduce transfers from the Oil Fund if there will is no need for such funds. If the 2.2 billion manats allocated for the restoration of territories is not enough, then it is possible that these funds, i.e. if there is a surplus, can be spent on that. In any case, life will show. When we look at the results of the first quarter, we will see where the economy is going and what processes are going on in the world in general.
A lot was done in the social sphere last year. I have already mentioned this. If there are any additions now, the Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Population should mention that. At the same time, this year we must provide more houses to the families of martyrs. In total, more than 9,000 martyr families have been provided with houses and apartments by the state. Last year, houses were planned for 1,500 martyr families. The Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Population recently reported to me that these 1,500 families would be provided with housing by 15 January. This program should be continued this year. Homes will be given to the relatives of our heroic servicemen killed in the Patriotic War. I must also say that from now on, homes for the IDPs will be built only on liberated lands. Some projects are under way and some are nearing completion. Homes have been built in Fuzuli, Horadiz and other settlements, and these, of course, will be given to the IDPs. However, homes for the IDPs should no longer be built in Baku, Ganja, Sumgayit, Mingachevir and elsewhere. Homes for the IDPs, i.e. former IDPs, will be built only on liberated lands, and we will do this on the basis of a special program. Everyone should know this. I would like everyone to know this. This is a very fair approach.
During a recent meeting, I was informed that a total of 52 percent of former IDPs are settled in cities. The vast majority of these people were expelled from rural areas, but for some reason they were settled in cities. Of course, there must be a special program to return these people to rural areas. I recently instructed the Presidential Administration to conduct surveys among the IDPs and find out their intentions. Surveys should be conducted both among the IDPs who have been provided with housing and those still living in difficult conditions in dormitories or kindergartens so that we know the real situation. We must not deceive ourselves and should know the real situation. I ask the IDPs to answer honestly when asked if they intend to go to their ancestral land or not. They should tell us, so that we carry out our restoration work accordingly. I am sure that the vast majority of former IDPs will return to their native lands with great enthusiasm. The state will do its best to achieve this. At the same time, we must have official information. Therefore, I think that this survey will answer many questions. You have to think about what questions to include in the survey. Of course, family composition, place of work, whether they are pleased with the work, the financial situation of such families, salaries, income, whether they have entrepreneurial activity, how many are unemployed in the family – all these questions should be asked. The key question is whether they want to return to their lands. This is natural. But I want to say that the houses for the IDPs will be given to martyr families. I have made this decision. I have already ordered that the apartments on the balance of the State Committee for Refugees be transferred to the balance of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population. It is a fairly large program. Therefore, the martyr families that were in the line before the war should be placed in these houses. At the same time, relatives of our heroic soldiers killed in the Second Karabakh War should be provided with these homes. This is a fair decision. I think that the IDPs, I am sorry – former IDPs, will understand this correctly. I have always said everything as it is. I know that they have been waiting for these houses for many years, but the lands have been liberated now. Therefore, it does not make sense to place former IDPs in Baku, Ganja and Sumgayit. It is a very good decision to give the houses intended for them to the families of martyrs.
So please report on what is planned. I have already said in my opening remarks that the allowance for martyr families has been increased from 300 to 500 manats. There are other increases. Please report on that and the work to be done.
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President Ilham Aliyev: In my opening remarks, I provided information on the felling of forests and said that the damage must be calculated. I want all the people of Azerbaijan to know that in 1988, the forest fund in the liberated areas was 228,000 hectares, and in 2020 it is only 174,000 hectares. So 54,000 hectares of forest resources have been destroyed, which is yet another Armenian crime. Therefore, this issue should be inspected very seriously. As I said, the damage must be calculated, and relevant agencies, first of all, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Economy, must develop a special program to restore the forests destroyed by Armenians.
The liberated lands also contained state nature reserves and sanctuaries. I want to inform the people of Azerbaijan about this. The Garagol State Nature Reserve in Lachin district was established in 1987. It covered an area of 240 hectares. It has been completely destroyed, looted and all trees in it have been cut down. The Basitchay State Nature Reserve in Zangilan district was established on the initiative of great leader Heydar Aliyev in 1974. It is a unique forest in Europe and there were rare plane trees there. The reserve covered 107 hectares, but now there are only 42 hectares left. This is another manifestation of Armenian savagery. This shows that they understood and knew that they were living in these lands temporarily. They destroyed our homes, our historical sites, our mosques, our forests. Only 42 hectares are left of the rare plane tree forest. A group must be sent there, conduct an inspection on the spot, and the reserve must be restored.
The Gubadli State Nature Reserve was established in 1969. Its area was 8,500 hectares in 1988 and now it covers 6,923 hectares. So 1,577 hectares have been destroyed and looted.
The Dashalti State Nature Reserve was established by Heydar Aliyev in 1981. In 1988, it had an area of 400 hectares, now it is 350 hectares. Here, too, 50 hectares have been destroyed.
The Lachin State Nature Reserve was established in 1961. In 1988, it covered an area of 7,500 hectares. At present, 4,457 hectares remain, so 3,043 hectares have been destroyed by the Armenians.
The Arazboyu State Nature Reserve in Zangilan district was established in 1993 and covered an area of 1,700 hectares. At present, only 135 hectares remain. So 1,565 hectares have been destroyed. This information was obtained by “Azercosmos” using “Azersky” satellite and submitted to me. Therefore, I repeat that special groups must be sent there, examine the situation on the ground and document it, calculate the damage and register it as yet another act of environmental terror on the part of Armenia.
There are vast arable areas in the liberated lands. I have told the Ministry of Agriculture and the Presidential Administration to carry out some autumn sowing last year and this year without wasting much time. For this to happen though, we first had to clear those areas of mines, and some work has already been done. I would like to receive an update both on this issue and, in general, on the work done last year and to be done this year, including the liberated lands. Because we need to make most of the preparations before the spring season. Minister of Agriculture, please provide an update.
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President Ilham Aliyev: The development of agriculture in the liberated lands must be systematic and the government, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Economy must identify priorities from the very beginning. First of all, what crops should be planted to ensure food security. The liberated lands have great potential in both crop and livestock production. There are very large pastures in Kalbajar and Lachin districts. During the Soviet era, grain and cotton growing, viticulture, tobacco and cocoon growing, horticulture and animal husbandry were widespread in the liberated lands. We must take into account that we now have new technologies. For example, last year we achieved a record in cotton growing, especially if we take into account the fact that four to five 5 years ago, when the state seriously tackled cotton growing, the yield per hectare was about 14-15 quintals. We gradually increased the yield to 33.5 quintals. I can say that during the Soviet period, especially in the 1970s and early 1980s when cotton growing was developing rapidly, more than 30 quintals were harvested for two or three years. But this is not the limit. I looked at the list of districts engaged in cotton growing. Productivity is very low in several districts and the sown areas are very small. So you have to look again. For instance, in Samukh, Jalilabad and some other districts, the sown areas are less than 1,000 hectares, so perhaps we should not try to develop cotton growing there at all, because productivity is very low. We can use these lands for other agricultural purposes.
As for the liberated lands, we must do our work in a planned manner. First, food security. Second, we need to increase our export potential. We must diversify our export potential here as well because the recent ban on tomato exports to Russia was very unexpected for us, of course. I remember the Russian side appealing to us a few years ago – at that time, sanctions were imposed on Russia. They asked us to increase Azerbaijan's agricultural exports to Russia. It was after that that there was a very significant increase. If we compare the export of tomatoes to Russia from four to five years ago and last year, we will see a huge difference. If that ban had not been imposed – although a part of that ban has already been lifted – our exports would have reached 200,000 tons last year. But you and the government know these figures quite well. They were lower four to five years ago. In other words, we need to review our agricultural exports. We must look for new markets to avoid such unpleasant situations and increase the range of agricultural products. We must enter new markets, provided that traditional markets remain. I think that agriculture can develop very seriously in the liberated lands, especially in the field of horticulture. Fruits are accepted in any market. Given the climate of our traditional markets, of course, no other fruit can compete with ours.
As for vegetables, there are greenhouses now. However, we have a favorable climate here, and our vegetables are better and cheaper, of course. At the same time, local products can compete with our vegetables in traditional markets, but no-one can compete with us in horticulture and fruit production.
Viticulture has great potential. In Soviet times, there were large vineyards. I was informed by “Azercosmos” that only 1,200 hectares of vineyards were illegally harvested. There are large grain fields. About 100,000 hectares or 90,000 hectares were intended for grain growing. This creates great opportunities for us. You also need to see if we really need so much land for grain growing or we should use it for other purposes. I must also say that this is a great loss for Armenia because there were about 200,000 hectares under grain in Armenia, i.e. together with liberated lands. About 100,000 in Armenia and about 90,000 in the occupied territories. They have now lost it. Of course, they will have big problems and we will have a great advantage. Therefore, you should take these factors into account. Of course, we must prepare recommendations and advice for those who will return to the liberated lands. Of course, subsidies will be integrated into the overall system. But as long as people have not returned there yet, the state is doing and should do this. We must also prepare for the autumn and spring planting seasons. We have ample opportunities to reap a bountiful harvest from the liberated lands this season.
The liberated lands also have great energy potential. I want to say from the beginning that I would like to see the liberated areas as a green energy zone. There are ample opportunities for that. First, the hydropower plants to be built at the Khudafarin and Giz Galasi hydro junctions have great energy potential. Once these stations start operating, our energy capacity will be more than 100 megawatts. At the same time, the issue of establishing hydropower plants in Kalbajar and Lachin districts is on the agenda. When the hated enemy left these lands, they destroyed all our hydroelectric power plants. Armenians has destroyed 13 hydropower plants. They burned houses, cut down forests, destroyed hydroelectric power plants, acted like savages. But never mind, we will rebuild those stations. Therefore, funds should be allocated for this purpose in the program on rehabilitation of territories. Specialists should examine the situation on the spot and make suggestions. Of course, the sequence of when these stations will be launched must also be determined because there is no population there yet. The commissioning of these stations must go in parallel with the return of the population and the resumption of economic and industrial activity. But this work must be done now. All this region will serve as an example of a green energy zone for the whole world. We will show the world that we have not only restored these areas – I have no doubt about that – but also turned them into the most beautiful places in the world. At the same time, state-of-the-art technologies should be applied, the most economically viable technologies, energy-saving technologies and green energy – water, wind, solar. There is great interest in renewable energy now, and the projects discussed last year are already being implemented. The construction of a 240-megawatt wind farm is under way. A foreign investor will build the plant with his own money. Another project is a 200-megawatt solar power plant. With this in mind, we must attract foreign investors to the liberated lands. There are many large transnational companies interested in investing in this area now. About 10 companies are interested, and the main focus for them should be liberated lands. We are strengthening our energy potential. The Gobu power plant with a capacity of more than 300 megawatts is under construction now. It will also strengthen our energy potential. An energy system meeting most modern standards must be created in the liberated lands. The instruction has been issued and two lines are already being laid to Shusha – one by “AzerEnergy” and the other by “AzerIshig”. Of course, we must do it quickly because there are only generators in Shusha now. An interconnected energy system must be created in all the liberated lands, i.e. a system integrated into our energy system. The Minister of Energy now has the floor. Please provide information both on the work done and plans for the future.
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The head of state made a closing speech at the meeting.
Closing speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- We have a lot to do in 2021, both traditional work, which is set out in the public investment program, and the work to be done in the liberated areas. This is what I would like to talk mostly about. Because our traditional infrastructure projects are almost completed. If we exclude the liberated lands, the level of gasification has reached 96 percent. There is no problem with electricity. In fact, I have just brought the report of the Davos Forum to the attention of the Azerbaijani people, and it says that we are in second place in that respect. Most of the roads have already been built, while the remaining projects are going according to plan. Railway and other infrastructure projects, including irrigation, are proceeding according to plan and are nearing completion. Therefore, our main focus should be on the liberated lands, and the implementation of initial infrastructure projects in this area has already begun. The first project is a road project to Shusha. Because the traditional roads to Shusha are not quite acceptable for us now. True, we are using them, but we can use these roads accompanied by Russian peacekeeping forces – both the Lachin corridor and through the Girmizi Bazar area. In the future, of course, we will use these roads freely, including the Aghdam-Khankandi-Shusha road. The statement signed on 10 November states that all communications will be opened, so it will not be a problem to use these roads after some time. But today it is necessary to build a new road to Shusha, and we have already started doing that. It is a very difficult project, the terrain is very difficult, especially now that the weather has set in. However, the Ahmadbayli-Alkhanli-Fuzuli-Shusha road is under construction, and I think it will be built sooner than planned.
Another important project has already been launched. This is the Toganali-Kalbajar road, which also passes through complex terrain. In some places, the altitude is 3,500 meters, so it is very difficult to use this road in the winter. Therefore, the construction of tunnels is planned. Relevant instructions have been issued and this project is being implemented. At the same time, the order has been issued to build a road from Horadiz to Zangilan, then to Gubadli and further to Lachin district. Preparations are underway. I must add that the road from Toganali to Kalbajar will be extended to Lachin district. Thus, we will create the road and transport infrastructure on both sides – from the north and from the south to Lachin and Kalbajar districts. At the same time, on my instructions, a site is being sought for the construction of a modern international airport in the Lachin or Kalbajar districts. It is true that the terrain is very difficult there, as almost the entire territory is mountainous. It is difficult to find the right place there, but a research is under way now. I expect an update in the near future. Thus, a new international airport will be built in either Lachin or Kalbajar. There is little time left for the start of the construction of an international airport in Fuzuli. The order has been issued and the construction will begin in the near future. So the city of Fuzuli, there are actually no traces of a city there now, will have an international airport this year in. This is necessary for the development of the Karabakh region because all types of aircraft will be able to land both in Fuzuli and in the Kalbajar-Lachin zone. At the same time, foreigners interested in coming to Shusha will be able to land in Fuzuli and then drive to Shusha. In parallel with the construction of the airport, preliminary research should be conducted on the organization of international flights from Fuzuli. An international airport must organize international flights. First of all, our airline AZAL should work hard on this issue to provide an air link to some of our neighboring countries immediately after the opening of the airport.
I think that the two international airports will help us to restore the Karabakh region, transport cargo and develop tourism. At the same time, it will be important for the comfort of the people after they return there.
Plans related to electricity have been approved. I want to say again, as the minister has also just said, that both conventional and renewable energy will be widespread there, and the energy system will be fully integrated into our overall energy grid.
Instructions have been issued on railways and preparations are under way. The construction of the Horadiz-Fuzuli and then the Fuzuli-Shusha railway is also on the agenda. A schedule should be approved. After people return to Shusha, of course, this road will be put into operation. But in any case, the design work is already under way and funds must be allocated. A railway must be built to ensure easy access to Shusha. This project will be launched this year.
At the same time, the Horadiz-Aghband railway, a settlement in Zangilan district near the Armenian border, will be rebuilt. Because the hated enemy has destroyed this road and make it completely unusable. This road is of special importance for the opening of the Nakhchivan corridor. At present, specific work is under way to open the Nakhchivan corridor. I do not want to anticipate the events, but the opening of this corridor is stipulated in the statement signed on 10 November. Therefore, it will definitely open and usher new opportunities to the region. This road will be used by Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Iran. It is of special importance for future multilateral cooperation. We will begin the construction of the Horadiz-Aghband railway in our territory. At the same time, work will be done to restore and modernize the railway in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Given that the Armenian railways are owned by Russian railways, our counterpart is Russia, of course. The Armenian state has bearing to the Mehri railway project. We are discussing this issue with Russia because “Russian Railways” are the owners of Armenian railways. Preliminary discussions are positive. So far so good. Upcoming events will also be announced.
Irrigation must be accelerated to increase agricultural productivity on the liberated lands. We have already talked about that, so I do not want to repeat anything. The most modern irrigation systems must be arranged, especially since there are many sources of water.
Power supply has already been talked about here and all the instructions have been given. The Karabakh region will be an example for the world as a green energy zone.
Urgent work must be done to establish borders. Our border with Armenia is hundreds of kilometers long. This border is already under our control. The entire border infrastructure must be organized there. Relevant instructions have been given to the State Border Service. Currently, the State Border Service is guarding the Zangilan-Gubadli border. Troops of the Ministry of Defense serve in the direction of Kalbajar-Lachin. This issue will be considered in the future. In any case, border protection is of special importance because there are certain revengeful forces in Armenia and we cannot ignore their statements. But everyone should know that if our border is trespassed, those responsible will be punished and such provocations will cost such forces dearly.
At the same time, the Republic of Azerbaijan has completely restored its border with the Islamic Republic of Iran. A new border 132 kilometers in length has been created. When I went to the Khudafarin bridge, I said that this border is the border of friendship. Indeed it is. But a border is a border and the entire border infrastructure must be created. Funds should be allocated for these issues as well.
All instructions on the application of urban planning rules have already been issued. We must continue to invite foreign representatives, journalists, members of the diplomatic corps and delegations visiting Azerbaijan to the liberated territories. For example, an ICESCO delegation is expected to visit Azerbaijan this month. It would be good if some members of the delegation went to the liberated territories, visited the mosques destroyed by the Armenians and the Armenian leadership, looked at the remains of those mosques and informed Muslims of the world more about that. In fact, not only Muslims of the world but the whole world of how our historical and religious sites were destroyed by the enemy.
Of course, the Karabakh region has a great tourism potential. Therefore, tourist routes must be designed so that the tourism sector can develop without wasting any time after the return of life to this region. From now on, international tourism exhibitions – which will be restored after the pandemic – should show the tourism potential of the Karabakh region, tourist routes and historical sites, so that we can showcase this region as a very attractive travel destination for the rest of the world. Given that the Karabakh region has a very rich, charming, unique nature and historical sites, I am sure it will become one of the popular travel destinations in Azerbaijan.
In short, we have great plans. The war ended only two months ago, but notice how much work has already been done. Restoration work has already begun, and this shows again that there is no difference between our words and our deeds. We said that we would restore these lands soon after they are liberated from occupation. I recently said that we would create a paradise in the Karabakh region, and I am keeping my word. It is up to all of us to fulfill these words.
Therefore, 2021 should be very significant in this regard. It is in 2021 that the people of Azerbaijan and the whole world will see that our intentions are implemented and our plans come true.
The year has begun, and I wish all of us the best of luck, and good health and happiness to the people of Azerbaijan. I wish the former IDPs a speedy return to their native lands. In any case, the Azerbaijani state will do its best to bring that day closer. The united state of Azerbaijan will continue to develop successfully and confidently. Thank you.