President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Turkish Haber Global TV channel
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by Turkish Haber Global TV channel.
- Welcome to Haber Global TV channel. We have an extremely important guest. As you know, Azerbaijan is waging a patriotic war. There is a rapid but sustained advancement of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan on the battlefield. A ceasefire, tense diplomatic processes, especially after the attacks Armenia committed yesterday, immediately after the announcement of the ceasefire, activity on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. All, of course, is closely watched by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev who has agreed to talk to us today despite the tensions. Welcome, Mr. President.
- Thank you.
- First of all, I would like to start with yesterday's attack, the latest situation on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. On the one hand, we know that you are carrying out intense diplomatic activities. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to us despite such a busy schedule. Yesterday we saw the reaction to the attack on your civilian population. However, a completely different approach is observed in foreign media, a kind of propaganda war of the diaspora. First of all, what is the current situation like?
- Of course, we have been facing black propaganda for many years. There are several reasons for this, one of which is the activity of Armenian diaspora organizations in some countries. Azerbaijan is the target of this activity. Their agenda always includes such goals as denigrating Azerbaijan, spreading lies about Azerbaijan and, thus, undermining the image of our country.
Armenian diaspora organizations and their patrons, Armenians of the world have unleashed an information war against Azerbaijan in connection with the recent battles. As a result of that, distorted information is often published in world media these days. Therefore, we must make great effort to communicate Azerbaijani realities to the world community. In this regard, I want to express my special gratitude to representatives of the Turkish media, because leading TV channels and other media outlets in Turkey circulate the truth about this conflict to the world every day, day and night.
It is possible to say that immediately after the introduction of the ceasefire, Armenia continued its vile actions. We paused for a while because we are true to our word. Since a ceasefire was announced, we were hoping that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue would be resolved politically because we thought that the military stage was over, the aggressor had learned its lesson on the battlefield and would now take into account the realities and show a positive approach at the diplomatic level. Unfortunately, we did not see that and the ceasefire, which came into force at 12 o'clock, was violated by Armenia.
As you know, a horrific crime was committed against civilians on the following night. The city of Ganja was bombed. The city came under fire with “Tochka-U” missiles, as a result of which civilians were killed and injured. This is another manifestation of the ugly face of Armenian fascism.
Armenians of the world, Armenia's supporters, their benefactors and Islamophobic circles will no longer be able to conceal this crime because everything is already obvious. There were statement for the press at the scene yesterday and representatives of foreign embassies who are visiting the site today see everything with their own eyes. Once again, they see who is causing this conflict, who pursues an aggressive policy, who is committing crimes against the civilian population. The Armenian state is a state of terror, a fascist state, and this crime against humanity has shown this once again.
- The factor you have just mentioned is very important. We have worked in many areas where Turkey is fighting terrorism. For example, the PKK subjected our cities to rocket and artillery fire. We knew that this was the work of a terrorist organization. I said this in our broadcast yesterday – an action that is incompatible with humanity, conscience and logic. Earlier in your address to the people, you said that you were receiving calls, in particular, from Russia, asking for a ceasefire. The ceasefire has been reached, but then with what logic and why is this attack being carried out? How would you answer this question?
- First of all, we must take into account the terrorist nature of Armenia because they are being defeated, they are losing on the battlefield. The victorious Azerbaijani Army achieves new military successes every day. Either a city or a village is liberated from occupation almost every day, or the territory of these villages is taken under control. Today I can say that several settlements are now fully under our control. We simply haven't entered these settlements yet because there is no need for that from a military point of view. But we will make further announcements after some time. Therefore, Armenia is being defeated in all directions of the front, and this being the case, it wants to avenge its pain and defeat on civilians. This is their nature. The perpetrators of the Khojaly genocide have now carried out an attack on Ganja.
The military-political leadership of Armenia is guilty of the attack on Ganja. According to the information we have, this decision was made personally by Pashinyan. We have accurate information that Pashinyan is currently experiencing very severe psychological upheavals. His moral and psychological state is very tense and he makes inappropriate decisions. For example, they have made several attempts to re-occupy Hadrut. This morning, I was informed that last night a large group of commandos who arrived from Armenia tried to re-occupy Hadrut although from a strategic point of view, this is not particularly important for Armenia – just to take a selfie there and report to its population. The Azerbaijani Army neutralized this unit, and the losses Armenia suffered there that night are exclusively victims of Pashinyan's irresponsible and predatory policies.
This is their tactic, as they are accustomed to the fact that they will always be supported on the world stage. Unfortunately, the world's Armenians, their patrons, Islamophobic circles have the most powerful positions in the world. They have always supported Armenia and their aggressive policy against us, defended them. They spread utter lies about Azerbaijan, tried to portray Azerbaijanis as aggressors. But today, in the age of the Internet, it is very difficult for them to do this because there are already non-traditional media outlets, there is the Internet, and communicating information is not very difficult. Therefore, they no longer have the same positions in the information war now. We are on the right track. We are right in terms of both international law and historical justice. We are on our own land, we are fighting on our own land. If Armenian soldiers leave our lands, then this conflict will also end.
- You have mentioned the international community. The West did not express a particular reaction to this attack. Did you expect a protest? During the meeting held by Mr. Hajiyev with the attachés yesterday, we also witnessed such a picture. He said three times: ask questions and we will answer and explain to you the real state of affairs. No answer.
- We didn't really expect anything, and there is no need for that because over the years we have seen that they do not want to hear the truth or try to disguise it, distort information and real facts. There are many reasons for that. Therefore, our main goal was to resolve this issue, restore historical justice and our territorial integrity. We have enough strength to do this.
Of course, the support provided from the very first days, from the very first hours by fraternal Turkey, the clear statements of my brother, esteemed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as statements of other high-ranking officials provided Azerbaijan with moral support and also showed the whole world that Turkey is next to Azerbaijan. Otherwise, this conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan could cover a wider geography.
- Do you expect a sustainable ceasefire? It is constantly violated although it was reached after 11 and a half hours of negotiations in Moscow. Yesterday, we, journalists, witnessed that Baku is showing great patience.
- Yes, we are showing patience. Of course, after such a barbaric shelling of Ganja, every Azerbaijani is outraged and an adequate response is required. But we are giving an answer on the battlefield. We avenged yesterday's victims on the battlefield. Our attitude is this: we have never fought and are not fighting civilians. This is one of the qualities that distinguish Azerbaijan from Armenia. Therefore, in order to ensure a sustainable ceasefire, Armenia must, first of all, understand that they will no longer see the lands liberated from occupation and will not return there. For them, this is completely impossible. Whatever they say and whatever support they have, this will not happen. We came to these lands, these are the lands of our ancestors. No force can drive us out of there. The sooner they understand this, the better for them because for a lasting ceasefire to be reached, both sides must be committed to it. We are committed to it. We observed the ceasefire, which came into force at noon, but when we saw that Armenia was violating it, naturally, we could not but react. We have to protect ourselves. Thus, it is possible to say that the ceasefire entered into force but did not happen in real life.
- Are you receiving signals to retreat, at least at this point, from your lands?
- No, we are not receiving such signals and no-one can give us such signals. This is contrary to international law and historical justice. There were no such signals. There have been signals to stop. There have been signals not to move forward anymore. There have been signals to ensure a ceasefire. And we say: well, let there be a ceasefire, but in parallel it is necessary to resolve the issue peacefully.
I believe that the agreements reached in Moscow fully meet our interests, because, first of all, it provides for the exchange of bodies of those killed in the action and prisoners on a humanitarian basis. We wanted this from day one. But Armenia did not go for it. There are also other very important political moments. One of them is the restoration of negotiations, discussions, continuation of substantive negotiations based on fundamental principles. And the fundamental principles meet our interests, because they provide for a withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied lands. It is stated in them that the Armenian armed forces will withdraw from five districts at the first stage and from two more at the second stage. After that, of course, all internally displaced persons will return to the places where they lived before. This means that our internally displaced persons will return to both Shusha and Khankandi, after which a political solution to this issue can be provided.
Another issue – Armenia has always had a negative attitude to this – is that the format of the negotiations remains unchanged. The Armenian leadership and prime minister Pashinyan have always said that Azerbaijan should negotiate with the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”. But we were opposed to this. The inclusion of such an item there is also in our interests.
Therefore, there are already all the possibilities and all the grounds for the transition from a military stage to the diplomatic and political stage. As for the issue of Armenia's observance of the ceasefire, I hope that the new successful operations of the victorious Azerbaijani Army yesterday and this night will force them to do so.
- Since 27 September, when this patriotic war began, you have been talking about the possibility of resolving this issue within the framework of a new format, with more active participation of Turkey, that this issue can be resolved jointly by Russia and Turkey. But Lavrov's statement did not mention Turkey. It followed from his statement that the negotiations would again be continued within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group in the future. In what way and when will Turkey be at the negotiating table? Has this been spoken about?
- Of course, this is our position. I have said this many times. I want to reiterate that Turkey must definitely play an active role in the political settlement of this issue. I also know that some Turkish media outlets are wondering why Turkey was not in Moscow. Naturally, this was not envisaged at the current stage. Neither was Turkey faced with such a task. This is not a process of negotiations. This is just a ceasefire on a humanitarian basis. In other words, it was not an event organized for negotiations. So far, negotiations have been conducted within the framework of the Minsk Group. However, these negotiations have been ineffective and have yielded no result. For nearly 30 years, we have not received a single centimeter of our lands back through negotiations. Therefore, I also said quite correctly that the Minsk Group was established in 1992, and we have no information about the basis on which it was established. If you look at the composition of the Minsk Group, you can see that it also includes countries located far from this region, which have no connection with it and have never been interested in the conflict. Their presence here a formality. Well, if we want to resolve this conflict – and we do want this – then there must be countries that would have both strength and influence and this composition should not be one-sided. Notice the activities of Armenian diasporas in the countries that are now co-chairs of the Minsk Group now. In all three countries, Armenian diaspora organizations have great political influence. Thanks to these political opportunities, they influence the officials of these countries. So how fair is it? Why shouldn't Turkey also be a co-chair? It is already a member of the Minsk Group. Therefore, our policy is quite logical and we have a result-oriented approach.
Geopolitical realities have changed. The situation in 1992 cannot be compared to the current situation. Turkey today is a powerhouse not only in the region but also on a global scale. Many in the West do not want to accept this. This annoys them. They are used to the fact that, unfortunately, their words sometimes had a high value in Turkish politics last century. But Turkey is pursuing an absolutely independent policy today and has turned into a force to reckon with on a global scale. What issue can be resolved in our region without Turkey? Look, Turkey has its say in Syria, Libya, the Middle East, our region, and this is a reality. It must be reckoned with.
I cannot say when the negotiations will begin, but since Armenia is violating the current ceasefire, I do not believe that it will be sincere in the negotiations. In any case, de jure or de facto, Turkey must definitely participate in the settlement of this problem. It is already participating because it is no secret that we hold regular consultations with Turkey. Since the beginning of these processes, since 27 September to the present, we have been in constant contact. High-ranking representatives of Turkey are in close contact with the heads of state and government of many countries. Therefore, it is already a reality. We just have to turn de facto reality into de jure reality.
- You have said, “why shouldn't Turkey be in the system of co-chairmanship, it should be”. I will ask for more clarity but quote you. Earlier, in your address to the people, you used such expressions, “we have changed the status quo, the line of contact is no longer there, we have broken it”. Could you please dwell in detail both on Turkey's participation in the new negotiations and on these words of yours, what did you mean? What status quo will be created by Baku from now on?
- You know, for many years, we made great effort to get a statement from co-chairs in this regard. Finally, about seven to eight years ago, several statements were made at the level of the presidents of America, Russia and France that the status quo is unacceptable and must be changed. We welcomed that. I have also stated several times in this regard that this is a very positive approach. In other words, it means that Armenian armed forces must leave our lands. Armenia should change the status quo because we have not occupied Armenian lands. How can we change the status quo? This became a kind of message, a signal to Armenia. Unfortunately, this and other statements – there have been several – hung in the air. What did we hear after that? Recently, the co-chairs backed down from these words. What are they saying now? They are saying that the status quo is not sustainable. But there is a big difference here. The status quo must be changed, i.e. Armenia must leave our lands. The status quo is not sustainable, i.e. it is unstable, which means that they simply state this as a fact. This being the case, Azerbaijan changed the status quo itself, on the battlefield. The status quo is gone. The settlements and villages of Aghdara, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Hadrut have already been liberated. What status quo can we talk about now? None. Line of contact? It is gone. It is clear that the existing line of contact was created on the basis of deep military knowledge. Armenia did not have any military knowledge at that time. This must be admitted openly. The low authority of Armenia creates a very serious problem for them. For them, the line of contact had to be very short and straight. And this was done. They are smart enough for that. This was done by their advisers. If you look at the old line of contact, you will see that it has a horizontal-vertical shape. Like this, a smooth one. In other words, it is very easy to defend it. Their positions were mainly based on the hills. It was very difficult to take them, to destroy fortifications. Now there is no line of contact. We broke through it from several directions – from the north, from the south and then from the east. What line of contact can we talk about now? It is gone! The salvation mission of the Azerbaijani Army continues. We liberate new positions every day. It doesn't matter if these positions are a village or a city. Let there be a hill, a mountain – they are more important than a village or a city. We will return to the cities anyway. The main task for us is to occupy strategic heights. Today, all the neighborhoods of Hadrut are under our control. The city is also ours. A completely different question is whether to enter the city or not. At present, we are not faced with the political task of declaring the liberation of one place today and another tomorrow. No! In some cases, we liberate villages and towns and announce that after a day or two. This tactic also exists.
Let me say again: there is no status quo and there is no line of contact. There is no myth about an invincible army the Armenians had been inventing over the years. We showed who is who. Therefore, these realities must be taken into account by Armenia, its patrons and the whole world. Those who tell us to “stop” should know: well, we can stop, we do not want bloodshed either, but after that a political process must begin. If the political process does not start, we will not stop. I said that we would go all the way. To the end. But how? In military or political ways? This is another question. We want the military stage to end, so that no blood is shed, there are no martyrs and we liberate our lands peacefully.
- The political and military side of the issue is one thing. Today, more precisely from the moment we arrived in Baku, we have met with people who were forced to leave these places. Among them were people from both Khojaly and Jabrayil. We visited the villages built by the Azerbaijani state, by you. Everyone we met is filled with a sense of gratitude to you and to the state. They say, “we live here, we do not need anything, but we want to return to our lands.” The people of Jabrayil, answering the question, “What will you do on the lands liberated from the occupation?”, told us, “Just let there be a roof over our heads and that would be enough for us.” What will you do for these people? Will there be new construction work on these lands?
- We will build not only roofs there, we will build entire cities, we will return life to those places. We will restore all the destroyed places. Today they are under the control of our army. Some of the liberated lands are already being visited by representatives of our media. In others, our servicemen shoot videos themselves. We can see that there is not a single building there. In other words, these are the actions of the fascists. The world must and will see this. Look at the state of Aghdam and Fuzuli today. They have destroyed all our villages. They thought the Azerbaijanis would never return there. But they have no idea about the determination of the Azerbaijani people. We have rebuilt Jojug Marjanly in just about eight months. The village, which we liberated from occupation in 2016, was rebuilt in six to eight months. People live there today, there is gas, water, electricity, a mosque, a hospital, a school, houses – everything. In addition, we provided them with agricultural equipment and this village has revived. We must turn all this land into paradise. The nature there is already like paradise, and even though these lands were under the heel of the Armenians for many years, they will be reborn. Life, children's laughter and people's smiles will return there. The citizens of Azerbaijan will live on these lands with dignity.
Our internally displaced persons know that their problem is the number one problem for me, for the President. You, too, know how much help we provide. This year, we will provide 7,000 families with new apartments. About 35,000 people receive free housing from the state every year. The state pays them a monthly allowance. Therefore, of course, they are satisfied with the care of the state. In our meetings, they always express their gratitude and say: everything is fine here, we live in new houses, we have not seen such conditions, but please take us back there, we want to go there. And they will go.
Therefore, we must work on plans for the development of these regions now. Relevant instructions have already been given. Planning will be carried out for the population of Azerbaijan to return to these regions and settle there as soon as possible.
- Mr. President, thank you very much for meeting with us despite such a tight schedule and diplomatic tensions.