BAKU, Azerbaijan, Sept. 29
On September 29, the Rossiya-1 TV channel broadcast the "60 minutes" program dedicated to the latest events on the Azerbaijani-Armenian line of contact.
Trend reports that, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan responded to questions from the hosts on the program.
The hosts first asked questions of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
Host: Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to this interview. What is happening at the front right now? Information about the use of aviation is already coming in.
President Ilham Aliyev: The situation at the front is tense. As a result of the Armenian military provocation, which began on the morning of 27 September, Azerbaijani settlements and our combat positions were subjected to massive artillery fire. As a result of this aggression, 11 Azerbaijani civilians, including two children, were killed. There are also casualties among the military. We were forced to give an adequate response to the aggressor and thus protect our people and our land. So fierce battles have been going on for three days now, as a result of which the Azerbaijani Army has liberated a number of settlements from occupation and also seized strategic heights in different directions. Today the situation is such that active hostilities are underway.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, please clarify to us the role of Turkey. Ankara has officially, through its President and leaders of the Foreign Ministry, announced that it will help you on the battlefield.
President Ilham Aliyev: I believe that Turkey is playing a stabilizing role in the region. Turkey is our brotherly country and our ally. From the very first hour the world community learned that Armenia attacked Azerbaijan, Turkey spoke out unequivocally at the level of the head of state and other leaders in support of Azerbaijan, in support of international law. Armenia has grossly violated international law by occupying the territory of Azerbaijan for about 30 years. So the role of Turkey consists in that, nothing else. Turkey provides us with moral support, and we are grateful to the Turkish leadership, the President and the Turkish people for their solidarity and support. Turkey does not participate in this conflict in any other capacity. All the rumors that Turkey is participating as a party to the conflict being circulated by the Armenian side are of provocative nature. As they say now, this is fake news. There is no evidence of Turkey's involvement in the conflict and neither is that necessary. The Azerbaijani Army is sufficiently prepared to protect its people and territory.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, so you do not confirm, moreover, you refute the information that Turkish Air Force shot down a plane of the Armenian Air Force literally an hour ago. It was about the F-16 and Su-25.
President Ilham Aliyev: We do not have this information. Just recently, I was informed that such news appeared in the information space. It is not confirmed by anything. The F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force do not participate in hostilities in any way. You know, taking into account modern technologies, it is very difficult to conceal anything today, because there are objective forms of observation. There are satellite observations, and therefore it is very easy to verify that this is another provocation. We understand the goal of the Armenian side – by creating such false news, they first want to belittle the combat capability of the Azerbaijani Army, which is now fulfilling the task of restoring its territorial integrity with dignity, and also to create the impression that the conflict is growing, that third countries are joining it. They are trying to attract as many countries as possible in order to justify their provocation. Therefore, I declare to you with full responsibility: Turkey is not a party to the conflict, does not participate in it in any way, and there is no need for this.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, is your country ready to move towards the Kazan formula, within the framework of which Armenia must liberate several districts, or any other formula? What can be done in principle now? How can the situation be reversed if the conflict in Karabakh and Karabakh proper has been burning or at least smoldering for as many as 30 years? What to do?
President Ilham Aliyev: You know, Azerbaijan has always shown constructiveness on the negotiation track. And the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, who are responsible for the mediation mission, can confirm this. In particular, over the past two years, we have repeatedly stated, both myself and other officials, that we are committed to the principles of settlement that have been developed over the years and which the Minsk Group and its co-chairs consider the basis for the negotiating process. Moreover, we have stated repeatedly in the past two years and before that we are committed to the format of the negotiations. Negotiations are underway between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are only two sides to the conflict. Sometimes, when talking about the conflict, there is a mention of all sides. This is an incorrect definition. Not all sides. There are only two sides – Armenia and Azerbaijan. But what has been happening in recent years, after the Soros coup which was carried out by the current government in Armenia? The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is Armenia, full stop. In this case, what kind of negotiations can we talk about? After all, the essence of the principles developed by the OSCE Minsk Group is that the territories around the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region should be transferred to Azerbaijan. And if he says that Karabakh is Armenia and, in addition, that we have to negotiate with the so-called puppet regime of Nagorno-Karabakh, thereby trying to undermine the format of negotiations that has already existed for 20 years, it means that Armenia deliberately disrupts the negotiations and puts forward unacceptable demands. When the Minsk Group recently began to speak more actively about who is still an obstacle to the settlement, they resorted to provocations like the one on 27 September. Before that, on 12 July, our positions at the state border were attacked. After that, on 23 August, when an Armenian sabotage group was captured, its leader was captured on the line of contact. Everything is being done to disrupt the negotiations, then accuse Azerbaijan, then involve third parties and thereby disrupt the negotiations. Because the Armenian side wants to maintain the status quo. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group represented by the presidents of Russia, France and the United States have repeatedly made statements that the status quo is unacceptable. And this means that the territories under occupation must be returned to Azerbaijan. We are committed to negotiations, but we see completely opposite actions from the Armenian side.
Host: Please tell us, Mr. President, what happened on Sunday, what provoked such a large-scale and bloody confrontation?
President Ilham Aliyev: You know, Armenia had been moving towards this Sunday, towards what happened on Sunday for several months. If you trace the chronology of their actions and statements, you will clearly see that they deliberately went for this provocation. Not so long ago, speaking at the UN General Assembly, I openly said that Armenia was preparing for war and it must be stopped. In July, they launched an armed attack on our settlements at the state border. This is far from the conflict zone. One civilian and several servicemen were killed then. The clashes lasted four days, and since we did not have and do not have any military targets on the territory of Armenia, as soon as the Armenian armed forces were driven back from our territory, the fire was ceased by mutual agreement. Then, as I said, a sabotage group infiltrated our territory and was neutralized. Then the Armenian side publicly and defiantly announced the resettlement of Armenians from Lebanon to the occupied territories and to our ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha, which is a war crime. This is a violation of the Geneva Convention. This is done demonstratively. Prior to that, they held the so-called swearing-in ceremony for the so-called leader of the criminal Nagorno-Karabakh regime in Shusha, an ancient pearl of Azerbaijani culture. All these are deliberate provocations against us, attempts to drag us into conflict and provoke retaliatory actions. We showed restraint, constructiveness and common sense, but when they failed, they made this attempt. Moreover, another reason is the internal political crisis that exists in Armenia. After all, there is a Soros regime in Armenia today. The coup that failed in Belarus was successful in Yerevan two years ago. Today the Armenian leader in the person of Pashinyan is Soros' henchman, a man who made a lot of promises and who cannot fulfill them, and the country is in crisis.
So he needed an external factor, some kind of a mess, so to speak, in order to divert the attention of the population, which he succeeded in doing. Moreover, literally two days before they attacked us, the leader of the main opposition party in Armenia was arrested again. So, the dictatorial and despotic regime of Pashinyan eliminated the entire opposition in his country and is now demonstrating aggression against the Azerbaijani people again.
Host: Your position is clear. Many thanks! Can you please say quite briefly: yes or no. Are there fighters from Syria on the front right now?
President Ilham Aliyev: No! This is more fake news. There are no fighters from Syria. There is no evidence, no proof. This has been introduced by Armenian propaganda and circulates through different websites and different media. There is no need for this. Azerbaijan has a trained army and a very large mobilization reserve. Just yesterday, I announced partial mobilization, we are calling tens of thousands of reservists under arms, and with a population of 10 million versus 2 million in Armenia we have no need for human resources. Therefore, we are able to stand up for ourselves and punish the aggressor so that he doesn’t venture even to look in our direction.
Host: Thank you very much! Ilham Aliyev was on the line with us from Baku. Peace to you. Good bye!
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you! Good bye!
Host: Now we are being joined by Yerevan. The Armenian leader, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is on the line. Nikol Vovayevich, hello. First of all, we would like to ask you to comment on what is happening right now. There is some very disturbing news coming in.
Nikol Pashinyan: This morning the news is that Azerbaijan bombed villages directly on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. And before that, on 27 September, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan launched a full-scale military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. For three days, they have been bombing the settlements of Nagorno-Karabakh using artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. Unfortunately, we have casualties not only among the military, but also among the civilian population. A very important nuance is that Turkey is actually involved in this process. According to our reliable information, military instructors and high-ranking military personnel are now in the command posts of Azerbaijan and in some places they even direct military operations. Another very important nuance – there have already been many publications in international media outlets that Turkey is recruiting mercenaries in Syria and transporting them to Azerbaijan to participate in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. By the way, there is information that right in Azerbaijani settlements there were some clashes between these mercenaries and local residents, because these mercenaries are trying to impose Sharia law in these villages. They go into shops and demand that these shops stop selling alcoholic products, etc.
Host: Mr. Pashinyan, the news has just come in that a Turkish F-16 shot down a Su-25 of the Armenian Air Force. Moreover, the news came in with reference to the Armenian Ministry of Defense. The pilot died. Are you aware of this? What can this mean if planes of Armenia and Turkey are already colliding in the sky?
Nikol Pashinyan: This is a fact that has already taken place and is yet another proof of what I was talking about. You know, it is obvious that both Armenia and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are under the direct threat of Turkey now. Turkey, according to our information, is looking for a reason for wider involvement in this conflict. According to our information, they are looking for an excuse to bring their troops to Nakhchivan. It is an Azerbaijani enclave bordering Turkey, Armenia and Iran. Although we have information here that some units of the Turkish army are already present there. In general, this is no secret. Turkish troops have already been in Azerbaijan since August. They began joint military exercises, and this war began as a continuation of these military exercises.
Host: Nikolay Vovayevich, many experts these days are formulating and explaining everything that is now happening in Nagorno-Karabakh quite rigidly. The word war is floating around. To what extent is it correct and appropriate to use this word and is it possible to do at least something in order to stop the bloodshed and stop the fire?
Nikol Pashinyan: Well, of course, this is the correct wording. Because there is a war going on. There is a lot of destruction, casualties and a huge number of military personnel involved, and this is a very important nuance for us. As you know, at the beginning of the 20th century, the first genocide of the 20th century took place. This happened in the Ottoman Empire, and the Armenian people fell victim to that genocide. Therefore, we all perceive this as an existential threat to our people. In fact, we perceive it as a war that was declared to the Armenian people. Our people are now simply forced to exercise their right to self-defense. What can we do? The international community must resolutely condemn the aggressive actions and aggression of Azerbaijan, condemn the actions of Turkey, demand that Turkey withdraw from this region altogether, because Turkey's military presence in the South Caucasus does not promise anything good. This can lead to further escalation and an increase in the scale of this military action, this war. The international community must take specific steps to force Turkey to withdraw from the South Caucasus and force Azerbaijan to stop aggression and aggressive actions, military operations.
Host: Prime Minister, we will not detain you any longer. We know that you need to run to a meeting with the military. A very short question: what negotiation formats can work now? Or have all the previous agreements already been thrown into the past – relatively speaking, the Kazan format, according to which you must liberate several districts? Have all these agreements been erased or is it still possible to move along them?
Nikol Pashinyan: You know, as far as the format of negotiations is concerned, we believe that the negotiations should continue where they were started – with the co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group. As for specific negotiations, negotiations need to have an appropriate atmosphere. It is very difficult to talk about negotiations, especially about their content, when military action is taking place. First of all, violence must be stopped, and it must be stated. Azerbaijan must accept the formula that there is no military solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. After all, this war did not start from scratch. For a long time, the Azerbaijani government has been developing a rhetoric of hatred against Armenians and has been threatening for a long time, contrary to international appeals, that it is going to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue by military means. I hope that at least these events and the situation we now have will convince Azerbaijan that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Because the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan have failed to fulfill their task. I think the military-political leadership could not achieve any success in the military sense at the front. That is, they could not resolve their problem. I hope this will convince Azerbaijan that there is no military solution to this conflict. There is only a peaceful and negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and any solution must be acceptable not only to Azerbaijan, but also to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. After all, I want to state that when I became prime minister, I proposed and continued to offer a specific formula for resolving this conflict that any solution should be acceptable to Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The names of the countries doesn’t matter. I mean that this solution should be equally acceptable. Unfortunately, the government of Azerbaijan, the President of Azerbaijan want to reach a solution that will be acceptable only to Azerbaijan. That is impossible. A compromise is needed, and an atmosphere is needed for a compromise, and to do that Azerbaijan must immediately stop its aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia because Azerbaijan started it. By the way, and it was a pre-planned operation, and there is no doubt that this operation was planned during the military exercises in conjunction with the Turkish armed forces. Thank you.
Host: Thank you very much! Let's proceed from the fact that the option should be really acceptable both for Armenia and, of course, for Azerbaijan. There is no military solution to this conflict. Only politics and the diplomatic path. Thank you!
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Political and military experts then joined the discussions.
Igor Korotchenko, Editor-in-Chief of the "Natsionalnaya oborona" magazine:
- I listened to the speeches of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia very attentively. Undoubtedly, it was an absolutely clear, logical, precise and consistent speech by Ilham Aliyev. This is the MGIMO school. MGIMO trains great personnel! Now to the essence of what has been said. President Ilham Aliyev is right when he said absolutely correctly that with the current level of development of intelligence technologies – satellite, electronic, undercover – it is impossible to conceal the fact that if Turkish fighters were really deployed to the territory of Azerbaijan, this would be exposed quite easily by any country that has satellite intelligence... Today the Nagorno-Karabakh region is closely monitored by all the leading countries of the world. I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to the following. We are all adherents of international law. From the point of view of the norms of international law, military action today is taking place on the territory of Azerbaijan, between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenian military formations.