President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Al ArabiyaTV channel
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by Al Arabiya TV channel.
Host: So, what was a cold war in the past has become fierce burning all over Azerbaijan and Armenia, a struggle which comes back from the past and moves the sounds of the shelling. Nagorno-Karabakh is in the headlines again and the word expands outside it emits interventions from international parties and warning of the holistic war which could turn to a regional war. The means of the solution international preventions will be the topics of our discussion with the president of Azerbaijan, President Aliyev. So joining us from Baku, President Ilham Aliyev. Welcome, sir.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Host: President, we will start from these developments and the crisis between Azerbaijan and Armenia. So, what is the threshold of this escalation?
President Ilham Aliyev: On the 27th of September Armenia launched a military attack on our military positions and civilians, our civilians suffered from that. We have victims among civilians. Information this morning was that 22 civilians were killed and 73 were wounded. Unfortunately, today we have dozens of wounded and again killed people, our ordinary villagers. We had to respond, and our response was adequate. We launched a counter-attack and as a result of this counter-attack we managed to suppress the firing positions of Armenia, which are situated on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. We managed to liberate some of the territories, several villages and today we liberated the city of Jabrayil which has been under Armenian occupation for 27 years. Our successful military operation continues. And we are fully determined to liberate our land, and to restore our territorial integrity.
Host: President Aliyev, apparently things are getting out of hand, or out of control between you and Armenia. This expansion in the operations, military operations, is there a limit for it?
President Ilham Aliyev: Well, I don’t think that things are going out of control. It is under control of Azerbaijani army. We are now in the offensive operation, our goal is to liberate our territories. I made a proposal to mediators and also, I made an appeal to Armenian people, to make responsible their government for occupation and to stop occupation. If Armenia agrees on that, if they will start liberating occupied territories which they keep illegally under control for almost 30 years, the war will stop. We don’t need war. We were in the process of negotiations since 1992. And during this almost 30 years, there have been zero progress on negotiation table. Armenia did not want to implement resolutions of United Nations Security Council demanding full, immediate and unconditional withdrawal from our territories. On the contrary, their military political leadership was trying to occupy new lands. They were trying to launch, and they actually did in July, they launched a new military attack on Azerbaijan. So, we have to defend ourselves, defend our people and restore internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, which is recognized by all countries of world.
Host: President Aliyev, if Armenia does not respond to this initiative which you have presented, this escalation will continue and there are no fear of the lives of the civilians and the cost will be very high.
President Ilham Aliyev: Armenia is brutally violating the Geneva convention, not only by using heavy artillery to bomb our cities and villages, but also providing illegal resettlement of foreigners to the occupied territories. We want our territories to be liberated. We counted very much on the mediators. We have a mandate to facilitate finding a solution between the two countries. But instead of showing constructive approach on the negotiation table, Armenia launched a military attack on us in July. And we gave them adequate response. They sent the sabotage group which was planning to commit terror acts and the head of the sabotage group was detained and he gives evidence. And in September they launched artillery bombardment on our villages and cities, and more than 500 hundred houses of ordinary Azerbaijanis, who live close to the area of the conflict have been completely demolished or damaged. Therefore, Armenia must stop these aggressive actions they must commit to withdrawal of their troops from our territory. They must give us a time-table, or withdrawal from occupied territories. Their prime minister who said that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ should now say that ‘Karabakh is not Armenia’ and after that, of course, we will be ready to put an end to hostility and to restore the ceasefire regime.
Host: But President Aliyev, through Al Arabiya the Armenian president talked about negotiations. He said that the solution is through negotiations. What do you respond?
President Ilham Aliyev: I agree. I also think that the solution is through negotiations but negotiations must have the substance. Armenia saying that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’, their prime minister said that, actually they destroy the principles on which the solution should be found. Because OSCE Minsk Group, whose co-chairs are Russia, United States and France, have elaborated for years during the negotiations the principles of settlement. And the first step in order to achieve the sustainable peace in our region, is the liberation of occupied territories. And when Armenian prime minister who came to power as a result of the coup d’etat two years ago, as a result of the so-called revolution which was sponsored by George Soros when he said that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’, he destroys the negotiation substance. There is nothing to talk about. Therefore, prime minister who is in charge in Armenia, must think very seriously about his destructive behavior, about his actions which led to military clash. We have been in the process of negotiations for 28 years and I had an experience in negotiations with the two former presidents of Armenia, and we were working in a more or less acceptable manner in order to find solution. We were making small steps but we were making steps. We were elaborating jointly with mediators the principles which should be the basis for settlement. And two years ago a person from the street who had no experience in political life, who in his all life was not even the head of a small company, who has no idea about geopolitics, who has no idea about international relations, who comes and he starts to destroy his own country and now Armenia is in crisis. He puts to prison the head of the major political party. He launches criminal investigation against two former presidents with whom I in different periods worked on negotiation. He establishes completely despotic regime, and destroys negotiation table. And what should we do? He makes insulting statements against Azerbaijan. He makes provocative steps and actually the mediators themselves were very embarrassed with this strange, to put it mildly, behavior. He destroys negotiation process. Therefore, I say, to go back to negotiations, first, Armenian prime minister should say that ‘Karabakh is not Armenia’. Because ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ is lie. Karabakh is Azerbaijan. He should say that he is committed to the principles which have been elaborated for 20 years, which provide return of occupied territories of Azerbaijan to us, to those who is the owner of those lands. He should give us now, after he launched this dirty military attack. He should give us a time-table of withdrawal from our cities. And we are ready to stop fire. Otherwise, we will do it by force, we will restore our territorial integrity by force and we will show him his place.
President Aliyev, I cannot interrupt, because of the translation but there are three points which I’d like to comment on your answer. Number 1 – you were saying that Armenia is going through a crisis but we see that the Armenian people supporting their leadership and they salute how their leadership is trying to preserve them or protect them. The second point, is the only condition for Armenia to withdraw or retreat from saying that Karabakh is Armenian or are there any conditions or preconditions to go back at the negotiation table. And the third, who are the countries which the mediators spoke of who felt embarrassed?
President Ilham Aliyev: The countries I already said the OSCE Minsk Group, the chairman of the Minsk Group of OSCE, Russia, United States and France and during the last years of my interaction with the representatives of this group, we had opportunity to exchange views. And neither myself nor them actually know what can be done in order to move negotiation forward. Because you know, negotiation principles and negotiation format has been established. It was not established unilaterally by Azerbaijan. It was proposed by the mediators and accepted by two countries, by Azerbaijan and Armenia. The format of negotiations is Azerbaijan and Armenia. This is a conflict between two countries. Prime Minister of Armenia said that is not a format which is acceptable. Azerbaijan has to negotiate with the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh republic”, which no country in the world recognizes, including Armenia itself. So, that was a deliberate act in order to disrupt negotiations because he knew that neither we, no mediators will accept it. And mediators Russia, United States, and France rejected this. Then, he said that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ which none of his predecessors did before. None of them, because it means end of negotiations. Because the substance of negotiations is to return the territories to Azerbaijan by peaceful means, through negotiations. And then to provide the normal co-existence between Azerbaijani and Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh, because before the war, before Armenia occupied our territories, 25 percent of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh were Azerbaijanis. But today, not only Nagorno-Karabakh is occupied but seven districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh where Armenian population did not exist, but where there have been more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis. All of them were expelled. All their houses are destroyed. All our historical monuments, including our mosques are destroyed by Armenian barbarians and now when we were coming closer to making a progress there is a change in government in Armenia. The new people, the new team has absolutely nothing to do with politics, comes to power, makes this destructive statements and actions, launches military aggression on us. What we were supposed to do? We have to defend ourselves. That’s what we do and we will do it until our territorial integrity is restored.
Host: President Ilham Aliyev Russia and France also sent accusations to you in addition to for example Syrian mercenaries through Turkey. How do you respond to that?
President Ilham Aliyev: We reject it completely. I had received two phone calls from French president during this last ten days, or last week and I told him that give us evidence. There is not a single evidence of the so-called Syrian fighters on our territory. I asked him when he called me on 27 September, and since that time I don’t have any evidence. If they have this evidence why they didn’t provided to us. Then, when he called me couple of days ago, he raised this issue again. He said that they have intelligence information. I said share it with us. It’s not appropriate to accuse a country without providing any evidence and proof. Today I don’t have any single evidence from France about this unacceptable accusation. There is no foreign fighters on Azerbaijani soil and I told French president that our army is almost 100 thousand people. What we do now on the battle field is showed in internet, everybody can see how our modern drones destroy Armenian tanks and anti-air systems. Our army is liberating one village after another. Our flag is being raised on the territories which had been under occupation for so many years. So these accusations are absolutely groundless. Another thing which I can tell you that Armenians make another fake news as if Turkish F-16 shot down Armenian SU-25. And that was fake news. That fake news was introduced into the media, European politicians started to exploit this fake information, and now, when it is proven that it didn’t happen, no one even apologized. I demand apology from those who accuse us. I demand them to be responsible, to control what they say. We are not a country which will tolerate accusation. We are not a country which will tolerate insult. If we start saying what we think, I think there will be a lot of turbulence in those countries. They should leave Azerbaijan alone. They should leave the region alone. We here on our land, our land is occupied. If France wants self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh let them give city of Marseille which is almost half inhabited by Armenians and let them announce Nagorno-Karabakh republic. And let them give them independence. Let’s give independence to Corsica. Let give independence to Basques. Why they demand independence for Nagorno-Karabakh from us. What right do they have to demand it from us? They should stop these accusations, they should stop attacking Azerbaijan and damaging our image. And if we will start to talk about mercenaries and terrorists, I think those who accuse us, will find themselves in very embarrassing position. They better look to the mirror first, before accusing us.
Host: In any case, some consider that if this crisis expands then your lands could turn into a battlefield for struggles where you have no benefit from, like a proxy war on your land. Don’t you hear that? It could become a struggle of the region
President Ilham Aliyev: No. There is no proxy war. Azerbaijan is an independent country. Our independence is recognized by the all international community. Azerbaijan has a very strong position on international arena. I can only give you two examples of our achievements. Several years ago with the support of 155 countries Azerbaijan was elected to United Nations Security Council. That’s because of our independent policy and because of our country being very responsible member of international community. Last year we had a Summit of Non-Alignment Movement in Baku with the participation of 120 countries. And Azerbaijan assumed chairmanship in Non-Aligned Movement. Unanimous decision of 120 countries were to award Azerbaijan with this honorable duty. Can proxy country get this support? Proxy countries are miserable. No one respects them. No one pays attention to them. Today Azerbaijani word is important for the world. Today without Azerbaijan no project in the region, political, economic, energy, transportation can be achieved. And those who tell us proxy, they are proxy themselves. Let them look at the mirror. They are used to look to the countries from top to the down. We are not in that position. We defend our dignity, we defend our independence. No country in the world has a right to interfere into our affairs as they should understand it. It is in the interests of Azerbaijan to restore its territorial integrity, millions people of Azerbaijanis are waiting for their time to go back to their native land, and we the government will provide it. We will return our people to their homeland, we will restore our cities, restore our villages. We will raise the flag of Azerbaijan on all the occupied territories.
Host: President Aliyev, Europe says that there is no solution for this crisis between you and Armenia, no military solution. How do you respond to that, for this European position?
President Ilham Aliyev: I hear a lot about there is no military solution to the conflict. First, I do not agree with that. Second, okay, if there is no military solution, give us non-military solution. Give us diplomatic solution, comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. They were adopted by the highest international body of the world. And those resolutions demand, withdrawal of Armenian troops without any conditions from occupied territories. And we have been in negotiations since 1992, and during these 28 years had there been any diplomatic solution? Did mediators or other international organizations provide us with the political solution? No. They made this conflict frozen but it is not frozen. So, how long we are going to wait? Another 30 years? How long Armenians will continue to sit on our land and not allow our people to go back to their homes. If international community cannot provide implementation of international resolutions, Azerbaijan will do it itself. That’s what is happening. And once again, I tell all those who want to facilitate, and also, Armenian leadership until it’s too late, stop occupation now. Make a statement, that you accept principles of the settlement. You accept territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, you give us a time-table for withdrawal from all occupied territories, and prime minister of Armenia, who on Azerbaijani territories said that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ should apologize in front of Azerbaijani people and he should say ‘Karabakh is not Armenia’ and then, we will stop.
Host: President Aliyev, one last word, after all which you have mentioned to Armenia, is there anything else would you like to say through our news channel to the Armenian people and all those officials in Armenia.
President Ilham Aliyev: You know, a couple of days ago, I visited the wounded Azerbaijani soldiers who suffered from Armenian attack. Speaking to them, I made an appeal to Armenian people. And I understood that for them what I was saying was not something very common. That’s not probably the only thing which they wanted to hear. Because they were almost killed by Armenians. Sitting in front of them and expressing my gratitude to them, to their parents that they grew such heroes for us, I said, my appeal is also to Armenian people. Make responsible your government for what it has done. Don’t send your children to Azerbaijan, don’t send your children to occupied territories. Today, 90 percent of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh army, consists of Armenian citizens. Stop this occupation. Leave Azerbaijani territory. Live on your own land and we will then have peace. We will try again to restore normal relations which Azerbaijani and Armenian people had before. We will try. It will be not easy. But we will try to be neighbors, to live side by side. That is my, how to say, word to Armenian people. To Armenian government, I have nothing to say. I just already said what they have to do. If they want ceasefire, I already said apologize in front of us, give us a time-table of withdrawal. Not just words that we will stop it and we will negotiate. It will not work. Time-table day one, day two, day three, when they liberate which territory, and prime minister of Armenia who insulted the feelings of Azerbaijanis dancing on our sacred land of Shusha with his gang and saying that ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ should apologize and say that ‘Karabakh is not Armenia’. That’s my word.
Host: President of Azerbaijan, thank you very much for joining us from Baku. Thank you very much, President.
President Ilham Aliyev Thank you.