BAKU, Azerbaijan, Oct. 15
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has given an interview to Director General of "Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency" media holding Dmitry Kiselev for the Russian RIA Novosti agency on October 15, 2020. Trend presents the interview.
- Mr. President, thank you very much for this opportunity to ask you questions at such a difficult time for Azerbaijan and for the whole world. How would you assess the results of military action since 27 September? What are the losses of the sides, according to your estimates, and are there many prisoners?
- On 27 September, Azerbaijan was subjected to yet another attack of the Armenian armed forces. This was not the first attack in the past three months. Something similar but on a smaller scale took place at the state border in July. That attack was repulsed. Then in August, a sabotage group was sent from the Armenian side to commit terrorist acts against the civilian population and against the military and the head of this group was detained and is now giving evidence. At the end of September, our settlements were also subjected to artillery fire, and in the very first hours we had casualties both among the civilian population and among the military. To date, we have 43 civilian deaths and more than 200 wounded, about 2,000 houses in villages and towns adjacent to the line of contact are either completely destroyed or damaged. Unfortunately, artillery shelling from Armenia have continued after the agreement on the parameters of a ceasefire was reached, including the barbaric bombing of the city of Ganja, as a result of which 10 civilians were killed and about 40 were wounded.
As for the losses on the battlefield, according to our data, the losses of the Armenian side are much higher than ours. We will announce our losses among servicemen after the active phase of the conflict. As for the results of the military action, they have been very successful for the Azerbaijani army. We have managed to break through the deeply echeloned defenses of the opposing side. In some areas, there were even four lines of defense. The mountainous terrain, of course, makes the defense much easier than the counteroffensive. To date, dozens of settlements have been liberated from the occupation, including the city of Jabrayil and most of the villages of Jabrayil district, the vast majority of villages in Fizuli district, and the settlement of Sugovushan, which is of strategic importance. We have driven the occupiers out of strategic heights on the Murovdag mountain range and continue our successful operation to restore the territorial integrity of our country.
- Mr. President, we have been hearing from different sources about the participation of mercenaries from Syria or Libya on the side of the Azerbaijani army. To what extent is this true?
- I have already spoken on this topic many times. There is no need for any foreign military participation in Azerbaijan. Our army consists of more than 100,000 fighters and, if necessary, with mobilization, this figure can be increased several times. Today, the armed formations available to us are fully capable of completing any task. Footage of the destruction of Armenian military equipment is available on the Internet. Of course, no mercenary possesses such qualifications and such technical capabilities. We have destroyed more than a billion dollars worth of the opposing side’s military equipment by means of unmanned attack aircraft alone, and this does not include other resources at our disposal. The potential of the Azerbaijani army is well known – what we have is no secret. Therefore, we have no need for additional military forces. Azerbaijan has always been a consistent fighter against international terrorism. We will never allow any terrorist organizations to build nests on our territory, even more so to pose a threat to our people and our neighbors. We will never allow this. No-one has provided us with any evidence of the presence of foreign armed formations on the territory of Azerbaijan in the current clashes. Our official position is that we have no foreign mercenaries.
- The Moscow agreements of 10 October mention the fundamental principles of the settlement. Can you please decipher these principles the way you understand them?
- These principles have been developed over many years, over more than 10 years, I would say. In the process of my work with the previous leadership of Armenia, we actively moved forward in the process of coordinating positions. It was very difficult. Negotiations are a difficult process in themselves, and even more so on such an important issue. Nevertheless, both sides showed a desire to follow the path of a political settlement. Unfortunately, after the current government of Armenia came to power, everything that had been accumulated before was simply thrown into the waste basket by the Armenian side. There was also an attempt to change the format of negotiations, to involve the authorities of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh republic" in the negotiations, which was rejected both by us and the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. As for the fundamental principles, everything is explicitly spelled out there. The liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani districts is to be carried out in a phased manner. At the first stage, it is the southeastern part of the occupied territories – five districts. At the second stage, it is the territories located between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia – Lachin and Kalbajar districts, the opening of all communications, including communications located in other parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of original residence, which implies the return of Azerbaijani refugees to Shusha and other parts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region. And then the negotiations on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh to be agreed by the parties. In a nutshell, these are the fundamental principles for which Azerbaijan has always expressed respect – we have developed them. But the new Armenian government has repeatedly stated that they were unacceptable, that they would not return a single centimeter of our lands. The prime minister said this. The Armenian defense minister said that Armenia was preparing for a new war for new territories. There were incessant threats and insults addressed to us, which resulted in such confrontation. I think that the Armenian side should soberly assess the current situation and be committed to the ceasefire, which it violated in a barbaric manner a few hours later by bombing the sleeping city of Ganja.
- Mr. President, if we talk about compromises, what kind of compromises would you still be ready for? Is there a red line you will not cross under any circumstances?
- Our position has always been very constructive and consistent. It also relies on the norms of international law in terms of the implementation of four UN Security Council resolutions, which demand complete, immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from our territories. Our position has always been based on a pragmatic approach, and I think that the developments that exist at the negotiating table clearly show this. As for the "red lines", we have stated this very clearly, and the Minsk Group co-chairs are well aware of this: under no circumstances can the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be violated, under no circumstances will Azerbaijan give its consent to the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, our proposal proceeded from the fact that in the future, the Armenian community and the Azerbaijani community should live peacefully and coexist on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. By the way, this is the case in other settlements of Azerbaijan, including Baku where there is an Armenian community of many thousands of people. It is also the case in Russia, in Georgia, in other countries where Armenians and Azerbaijanis sometimes live and work in the same village, and there are no contradictions between them. Why can't this be achieved here? We are committed to this but, of course, the consequences of ethnic cleansing must be eliminated and all our internally displaced persons must return to their own homes. In principle, I have explained a little more than the fundamental principles and our approach to possible compromises.
- Mr. President, the brutality of this war has already gone down in history, and you are already a part of the history of this war. How would you like to stay in history?
- You know, any war is about cruelty, sacrifices, human suffering and loss of loved ones. The difference is that for the Azerbaijani people it is a war of liberation, while for Armenia it is a war of aggression. It is no secret to anyone, and this is a fact the international mediators already know, that the so-called "army of Nagorno-Karabakh" does not exist. Today, the entity the Armenian side refers to consists of citizens of Armenia by 90 percent. They are called up for military service by Armenian military registration and enlistment offices and sent to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan: to Aghdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil, Kalbajar, Gubadli, Lachin, Zangilan. The question is: what are they doing there? Today, Armenian occupying forces sit on internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan. Nothing can justify this: neither from the point of view of international law nor from the point of view of human morality. It is impossible to pursue a policy of preventing Azerbaijanis from entering their ancestral lands for 30 years. These are the territories the Armenian population had never lived before. Another question is that everything there is destroyed, and it will take a lot of time and effort to return there. But this position cannot be justified in any way. Therefore, we and our servicemen are fighting and dying on Azerbaijani soil, while Armenian soldiers are dying on the land their government wants to keep under occupation.
As for the role in history, you know, I have never thought about that, especially now. My main goal is to justify the confidence of the Azerbaijani people, to keep the promises I have made throughout the years I have been in this position, lead the country along the path of development, and ensure its territorial integrity. The way my role will be assessed in the future will depend on the will of the Azerbaijani people and what we achieve. Therefore, I think that this issue should be left to those whose opinion has always been of primary importance for me in making certain decisions, including those related to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Mr. President, thank you! I have asked all the questions I wanted to ask. Perhaps you would like to add something from yourself?
- I would like to take this opportunity and, by the way, express my gratitude for this opportunity to address the multimillion Russian audience. I would just like a little more understanding of Azerbaijan's position. Because sometimes there are different opinions in connection with the conflict, its history and its current state. Based on facts, I want to bring to the attention of our viewers what actually happened and is happening. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Karabakh and Shusha Khan Ibrahim Khalil, his status was exactly that, signed an agreement with Tsarist Russia represented by General Tsitsianov on the entry of the Karabakh Khanate into Russia. The text of the agreement, called the Kurekchay agreement, is available on the Internet and everyone can familiarize themselves with it. So this agreement does not say a single word about the Armenian population of the Karabakh Khanate. Large-scale resettlement of the Armenian population to this region began after the two Russo-Persian wars of 1813 and 1828. Since then, a mass resettlement of Armenians to the Karabakh region began from the territory of modern Iran and partly Eastern Anatolia. This is about who this land belongs to historically.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the Armenian independent state were established. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established within all these territories. Moreover, the day after the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, it decided to transfer the city of Yerevan to Armenia as the capital. This is also a historical fact. In 1921, the Caucasian Bureau decided to leave Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, and not to transfer it to Azerbaijan as some pseudo-historians interpret it. This is the history of this region. Well, I think everyone knows what happened on the eve of the collapse of the USSR. After all, the collapse of the USSR also began with separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh. This became the trigger. Many people forget those rallies, who masterminded them, who was behind them. I often say that Pashinyan is a product of Soros. And I think everyone will agree with me. But Soros is no longer even a person, this is a concept. I do not rule out at all that even then, in order to destroy the great country, such instruments were put into operation: blow up from within, sow discord, set people against each other and destroy states. And this, by the way, is exactly what happened. Therefore, I would just like to bring these historical facts to the attention of the Russian public and say that Azerbaijan and Russia are linked by centuries-old bonds of friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding. I am sure that no force can influence this. Although we are seeing attempts from different directions to bring discord and some kind of mistrust. But thanks to the consistent policy of both the Russian and Azerbaijani leadership, not only do we not fall back, but we actually move forward. Today Russia and Azerbaijan call each other strategic partners. The level of interaction between our countries can serve as an example to any neighbors. And I am sure that after the military phase of the conflict ends and we move on to a political settlement – and we are ready to do this even tomorrow if the Armenian side abandons its attempts to forcefully return what it has lost and what does not belong to it – I am sure that Russia will continue to play a leading role in stabilizing our region. Therefore, I would like to convey my greetings and best wishes to all the Russians through your channel. Last year, one million Russians visited Azerbaijan. Hopefully, after the pandemic, this dynamic will be restored. We are always glad to see our guests from Russia. They also know that when they come to Azerbaijan, they feel at home.
- Mr. President, thank you very much for this sincere interview.
- Thank you.