Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended opening ceremony of first stage of “Smart Village” project in Zangilan district
An opening ceremony of the first phase of the "Smart Village" project has been held in Aghali village, Zangilan district.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehrıban Aliyeva attended the ceremony and viewed the conditions.
The President and the First Lady then met with the Aghali village residents.
The President of Azerbaijan made a speech at the meeting.
Remarks by the President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear friends, first of all, I congratulate you on the upcoming Independence Day. I wish you and all the people of Azerbaijan lasting prosperity and happiness. On the eve of Independence Day, we are meeting in the village of Aghali, the revived village of Aghali. It has significant symbolic meaning because the reconstruction of Aghali village and its revival into such a modern state depended on strengthening our independence. Today, every citizen of Azerbaijan, and I am sure that everyone in general, can see that the state independence of Azerbaijan is strong, well-founded and a key factor for the happiness of our people.
The situation was different when the first Democratic Republic was established. Of course, as a result of the collapse of the Russian Empire, the people of Azerbaijan gained independence 104 years ago. However, the first republic did not last long and fell apart only about two years later. Many essential steps were indeed taken, and we always respect the memory of the founding father of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. But at the same time, we must know that independence lasted only two years. After that, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic collapsed, failed to preserve its independence, and the Azerbaijani people were deprived of their freedom. At the same time, we all know well that Armenian nationalists unleashed aggression against our people and the young Democratic Republic at that time. As a result, the Azerbaijani people suffered greatly.
It is already known not only in Azerbaijan but also in the whole world that a day after the declaration of our state independence, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic handed over our ancient city of Iravan to Armenia, and this was an unforgivable crime. Thus, our ancient land fell apart from us.
Just a few months after the collapse of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Zangazur was severed from us as well. Everyone should know this history. In November 1920, by a decision of the Soviet government, our historical land of Western Zangazur was separated from Azerbaijan and annexed to Armenia without any grounds whatsoever. That was another act of enmity and injustice against our people. The Azerbaijani people lived for centuries in the east and the west of Zangazur. And all the toponyms of West Zangazur in present-day Armenia, the national composition of all the villages belonged to the Azerbaijani people.
The situation was almost the same after modern Azerbaijan regained independence. Because in two years, from October 1991 to 1993, Armenia carried out yet another act of aggression against Azerbaijan. Four months after the declaration of independence, the Armenian state committed the Khojaly genocide against our people. Three months later, Shusha was occupied, Lachin was occupied, and in April 1993, Kalbajar was occupied. Thus, a connection was established between Armenia and Karabakh.
We could have faced the same situation in 1993. In other words, our independence was, in fact, in great jeopardy; it was there only on paper, not de facto, because Azerbaijan could not pursue an independent policy. Independence, true independence is about whether you can pursue an independent policy or not. Otherwise, it is only conditional.
Our truly independent life began in 1993 when the people appealed to the National Leader and invited him to return to office. Our presence here today and our participation in opening the village of Aghali are associated with strengthening our independence. Our independence was strong neither at the beginning nor the end of the 20th century. That is why our people were faced with great tragedies. Both East Zangazur and Karabakh were occupied, and the incumbent government could not protect our lands. But our independence is strong now, and as a result, we have won the Second Karabakh War and a historic Victory. As a result, we brought the enemy to its knees and are here today.
We have done a lot to strengthen our independence. We are fully independent politically. No country can influence our will, and everyone knows Azerbaijan must be reckoned with. Azerbaijan's position must be taken into account. Azerbaijan is a self-respecting state and demands and receives this respect from everyone.
We are economically independent. Today, the number of economically independent countries is few, and recent history has shown this. But we are entirely independent. We do not depend on anyone, building our own lives without needing help or loans.
On the contrary, we are lending money to some countries. As a result of economic independence, I can say that this village of Aghali has become one of the most progressive villages in the world now. We have done this. We are carrying out restoration work on our own, and we are doing that in all other liberated lands on our own. Massive projects are being implemented now. The people of Azerbaijan are regularly informed about this.
Political and economic independence has allowed us to build our lives how we want, build a state based on the ancient traditions and values of the Azerbaijani people, and live comfortably in this state. Of course, the processes unfolding in the world today are before our eyes. Azerbaijan is a land of stability and security. I can say that it is an island of stability and security. The whole world already sees and knows this. Of course, if we were not independent, i.e., if we were not truly independent, we would not be able to end the Armenian occupation because there were external factors that had led to this occupation. Armenia cannot be considered a military, political, economic power, or even a mediocre state. The situation in Armenia is obvious. Of course, we must take into account these external factors. But at the same time, they could not have stopped us. From the first to the last days of the war, I said that no one and nothing could stop us. But the Armenian leadership had to give us a timetable of when our lands would be vacated, and then we were ready to stop the war and kept our word. Therefore, if we did not pursue an independent policy, it is possible that these external factors, the foreign patrons of Armenia, and some of them threatened us, could deter us from this. But they did not. Because we have shown a strong will, our people united, which is, of course, based on solidarity, national pride, dignity and power.
Today, the power factor is in the foreground. I said this ten years ago. All my speeches are available in the media. I said that international law does not work. We must not deceive ourselves. We must be more robust. We must gather strength. If necessary, we must force the enemy out of our lands. I said it, and I did it.
The power factor will continue to dominate the world. Recent history shows this too. Therefore, we must continue to be strong and get stronger. Today, our economic indicators are very positive. I can say that Azerbaijan is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. We are also increasing our military strength. After the war, new armed forces are being created, new equipment is being purchased, and we will continue to do so. Because if we are not strong, we cannot live the way we want. We want to live freely. We want no one to interfere in our work from now on. There is no need for that. We have built such a beautiful state that many are jealous of it today. Let no one come and teach us; try to advise or guide us. There is no need for that.
As President, every time I repel these attempts, I rely on the people, on the strength of our state, including its military, economic and political strength. The 44-day Patriotic War showed our people's strength and moral qualities. Unlike the Armenians, we did not wage war against the civilian population. Unlike the Armenians, we did not carry out ethnic cleansing. Unlike Armenia, we did not destroy their cities and villages. We are Azerbaijanis; it is unbecoming of us. Our thinking, traditions and our ancestors' legacy do not allow it. The whole world saw how the Azerbaijanis fought skillfully, professionally, selflessly and with dignity, fulfilled their duties and resolved the Karabakh conflict politically after the war. We have resolved this issue, and the whole world accepts it, whether Armenia wants it or not. We have resolved the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved. As for the administrative territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, this name does not exist in the territory of Azerbaijan. Therefore, the word Nagorno-Karabakh is not in the lexicon of international organizations, and the recent meeting in Brussels showed it again. Indeed, Armenia has once again raised the issue, and, as they say, they are banging their head against the wall, but this is a reality, and they have to come to terms with it.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved, and the Minsk Group has completed its activities. I have expressed my views on the Minsk Group, there is no need to repeat it, and we are in a post-conflict period now. We are living in this period, in the post-conflict period, we are dictating the agenda, and we have achieved what we wanted in the year and a half that has passed since the war. As I said, we have achieved or are achieving it. First, the world, leading countries, and international organizations have accepted new realities. This was very important because it could have been otherwise. This is our great political success. Secondly, our agenda is already taken as a basis by leading international organizations. I said that we must define the borders with Armenia. Armenia refused to do that, and it refused for a year and a half. But what was the result? The first meeting of the commissions was held on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on 24 May. This means a lot – also from the point of view that we will define these boundaries, which is very important.
Because the Armenians had also occupied those borders, on the other hand, it automatically puts an end to the territorial claims made against Azerbaijan by revanchist and fascist forces in Armenia. Because if we define the borders, what kind of status for "Nagorno-Karabakh" can we talk about? There is the Karabakh zone, there is the land of Karabakh, and this is the territory of Azerbaijan, and the whole world accepts it this way. Therefore, the first meeting of the commissions on the delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border is of great importance.
Another issue is that we said a peace agreement should be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia was trying to avoid this because a peace agreement means mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of countries. But as a result, we have achieved this, and Azerbaijan has already defined its working group. Another critical issue is the opening of the Zangezur corridor. Armenia has always tried to prevent this from happening. But again, look at the official statement of the Brussels meeting. It has already been determined that both the railway and the highway will pass through Mehri and Zangazur. So we are achieving this, as I said we would. So we are dictating the agenda. How? Of course, at the expense of the consequences of the war. Because we are a victorious state and Armenia is a defeated state. Everyone must accept this reality, and it is. Of course, this factor is at the forefront during Azerbaijani-Armenian contacts.
What is another reason? Our strength. Armenia cannot get on its feet without foreign support, and they know this perfectly well. But what about us? We fought the war despite all the pressures and threats and achieved what we wanted. We said, "We would rather die than retreat," and we did just that, and now, as victorious people, we hold our heads high.
Of course, Azerbaijan has a say in shaping the post-conflict agenda today, and this say is decisive. But at the same time, we are not making any unrealistic demands. We are saying that they should recognize our territorial integrity. Let's define borders, let everyone live in their own country and not interfere in each other's affairs. We are saying this, and this is the essence of the five basic principles for the peace agreement put forward by me. In particular, the principle of renunciation of territorial claims against each other is of great importance, and the Armenian leadership has adopted these five principles. They want to add something, but these are the basic principles. As for the fact that Armenians live in Azerbaijan – be it in the Karabakh region or elsewhere – there is no problem with that. Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country. Representatives of all nations live comfortably in Azerbaijan and enjoy all rights. There has never been and will never be discrimination in Azerbaijan on national and religious grounds. Therefore, the rights and security of Armenians living in Azerbaijan are as important as the security and rights of other peoples living in Azerbaijan.
There are no special privileges here. There is also experience in the world, in Europe. There are now various conventions in Europe. Both the Council of Europe countries have acceded to these conventions, and there are rules and official documents within the European Union. Everything is shown there, and we are following this universal trend. If Armenia makes any special demands, it should know that we can also have many demands. Our ancient land of West Zangazur is not far from here. Are we making a territorial claim against Armenia? We are not. But if they will make a territorial claim against us, why shouldn't we? There is history. Let everyone look up the books and encyclopedias: when did they separate Western Zangazur from us and give it to Armenia? In November 1920.
As for the Armenians living in Azerbaijan, everyone knows this history well. After the Russo-Iranian war, Armenians were deported en masse from Iran and Eastern Anatolia in the early 19th century and settled in Azerbaijan and Karabakh. We all know this perfectly well. As for the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region in 1923, it had no basis. It was an illegal step simply aimed at planting a ticking bomb in the soul of Azerbaijan, blowing it up at any moment and destroying our people. There was no reason for creating an autonomous region there. And they even included Shusha in it.
Why am I saying this? Because the Nazis in Armenia are still trying to revolt, and they think that if they were in power, the war's outcome would have been different. Absolutely not! They think that if they come to power, they can get something. Absolutely not!
On the contrary, they should sit down and not look our way if they do not want their heads to be crushed again. We are still patiently watching these developments. But let the Armenian fascists – the fascists trying to discredit us – know that we are ready to teach them a lesson at any time, as was the case in the Second Karabakh War. Who is revolting in Armenia now? The Sargsyan-Kocharyan duo that fled Karabakh like rabbits during the Second Karabakh war. If they are such heroes, why did they run away? Why didn't they stay on and fight? Both were in Khankendi, including their former defense minister. Now they are trying to threaten us. Why did you run away like a rabbit? After all, they should not forget that. Let them see our strength at all times and take adequate steps. From now on, we will live as a victorious nation. In 44 days, we restored our territorial integrity, restored justice and restored our national dignity. Today, we live in this beautiful land of Zangilan.
Look, life is returning here – to Zangilan, other places, and Shusha. You know very well that a lot is being done to develop this region. Everyone who comes along the road sees the railway, the highway, and a six- and four-lane highway. An airport is under construction in Zangilan, which will be commissioned this year. A large agro-park has already been built, and the first crop will be harvested this year.
Yesterday I got acquainted with the master plan of Zangilan. I think we have chosen the best option. An international company with experience in this field submitted the master plan, and I said that Zangilan should become a park city. In other words, the nature of Zangilan is so beautiful that we should not harm it in the slightest but rather enrich it, especially considering that the Armenians also destroyed the Basitchay Nature Reserve. They also cut down those famous oak trees and poisoned the Okhchuchay. In Vejnali, they did not follow any environmental norms while operating our gold deposits. We must protect nature, and construction will begin after the submission of the master plan of Zangilan yesterday.
Of course, everyone knows this now, the first pilot project was implemented in Zangilan, in the village of Aghali. Construction began a year ago, and now a beautiful village of 200 houses has been built - a "smart village." Today, when you get acquainted with this village – as you know, I have been here many times – I see that we have taken a really big, as they say, progressive step.
I know that the number of families living in Aghali village is more than 200. Therefore, a new project has been submitted. We plan to expand the village and build 150 houses, including two- and three-story apartment houses. Everything is here: employment, a school, a kindergarten, a medical center, all services, including ASAN and DOST, and support for small and medium businesses. All that is left is for people who have been longing for nearly 30 years to come live here peacefully and live forever as victorious people. It will be the case. After that, construction work will be accelerated in Zangilan and other districts and the districts where master plans have now been approved.
I congratulate you on this historic event. I wish you good health and happiness.
Residents: Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: If anyone wants to speak, please go ahead.
Resident of Aghali village Farmayil Ismayilov: Mr. President. We are very proud that this is the day in my life as a resident of Aghali village. Because I am sitting at a table together with you, this is a historic day in my life. Thank you for this. Thank you very much for coming to meet us as President, who has won a historic victory. This is a matter of pride for us, and I personally appreciate it very much. Because for these 28 years – I am speaking for myself – we could not visit the graves of our parents, we saw them only in our dreams day and night. There was a stone in our village, and I always saw it in my dreams. I was telling my friends and relatives that I had such a dream, that I always wanted to go and see that stone. I could not visit our neighborhood. But you gave us this joy.
Let me say on behalf of the residents of our village that everyone would like to come and meet you. We express our deep gratitude to you. May Allah always be with you, may Allah always have you above our heads. We, the residents of Aghali village, have always supported your policy and will continue to do so. We are ready to do our best in your creative work.
Thank you very much, always be there for us, may Allah protect you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much.
Aghali village resident Garay Huseynov: Mr. President. You are very welcome to our Zangilan, one of the most beautiful corners of the ancient Zangazur region. Mr. President, you have laid the foundation of this Aghali village about a year ago. Today, thanks to you, the Aghali village has been beautifully built, constructed and created. I would like to express my deep gratitude to you and wish you good health. You have created such wonderful conditions for the people of Aghali. Let me assure you that Aghali residents are looking forward to the day when they will soon move to this village. Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Resident of Aghali village Gulush Samadli: Dear Supreme Commander-in-Chief, dear First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva. It is a great honor for me to greet you in our ancient land, in Zangilan. This is not my first visit to Zangilan, it is actually my third time. My first visit was with you at the groundbreaking ceremony. We are really proud to see the revival in Zangilan in such a short time. There have been significant changes in a short time. At the same time, as the people of Azerbaijan and residents of Zangilan, we always support your policy and are united around you like a fist.
The laying of the foundation of the Smart Village in Zangilan and the creation of the Smart Village today is not only the first in the Republic of Azerbaijan, but also in the CIS. We have proved to the whole world that we have created it from scratch. In other words, we have made a significant revival in a short time. Personally, as the youngest resident of Zangilan district, as well as a lawyer, I want to come and live here and serve my people. I look forward to those days. Because I know that there are a lot of jobs here for both young and elderly residents. I am confident that I will be employed in accordance with my legal profession and will serve my people honestly.
Thank you again. God bless you. We are always with you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. I am delighted that young people are also very eager to return to their ancestral homeland. I welcome that. After the Second Karabakh War, I ordered a survey among former IDPs to find out who wanted to return and who did not. Because, you know, life is such that anything can happen. Thirty years, 27 years is a long time. For example, Zangilan was under occupation for 27 years, other cities and districts were under occupation for a little more and a little less. Some people have already built a life and business elsewhere, they are satisfied with life and do not want to go anywhere, live in the city, in Baku, Sumgayit. It is not so easy to return from a big city to a small town or village. Everyone should understand this.
Given that the return must be voluntary, we must create conditions for everyone to be able to return. This is why I said we should conduct a survey and look at the results. Because now we are starting major work, houses, schools, hospitals – all this must be calculated for the people who will live here because this involves significant costs. I was told that the vast majority of IDPs want to return. This made me very happy. I actually thought that this would be the case. This once again showed how much our people are attached to the land of their ancestors. Even those who have not seen Zangilan want to come and live in Zangilan. Just like those who never saw Karabakh in the patriotic war were ready to die for Karabakh, and they did. The memory of about three thousand martyrs will live forever in our hearts. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace.
But there must be conditions for people to return. We implemented the first project and presented it to the residents of the Aghali village and all of Azerbaijan. Such are our future plans. Now, at the first stage, many villages have been selected in each district where work will be carried out in the first place. After that, when people return, of course, we will restore all the remaining places. Of course, first of all, the master plans of large cities had to be approved. For example, the master plans of Aghdam, Fuzuli and Shusha have been approved. Yesterday the master plan of Zangilan city was approved, and work has already begun. Currently, residential buildings are being built in Aghdam, preparations are underway in Fuzuli, and this will also be the case in Zangilan. In other words, it is a significant process, and I must say that we are doing this at the state's expense. We have not received any help from anywhere, we have not received any loans, we have not received any donations or gifts, we rely on our own strength, as we have always done, and we have achieved this all ourselves.
The investment program has been approved for this year and will be supplemented. I want to state this today. We need to add to the state budget because economic indicators are better, and our revenues are higher than expected. Therefore, we must mobilize these additional revenues and economic opportunities to work more on the liberated lands without wasting time. The government has been instructed, and the Milli Majlis will consider the issue of allocating more funds probably soon. I said that the faster our economy develops, the sooner we will restore all the liberated territories.
But everyone should know that this is not an easy task. The scale of the liberated territories is four times the size of Luxembourg, equal to Lebanon, i.e., just imagine how much work is planned. We all need to know that demining is still going on, and of course, everything here, all areas have been cleared of mines. Of course, the people who will live here should remember that they can only go to demined areas. Because this danger still exists. During the occupation and after the war, when they were given time to leave our lands, the Armenians committed these ugly deeds again and planted many mines.
Today we are meeting on the eve of Independence Day. I must also say that last year, on Independence Day, I was in Aghdam, met with the residents of Aghdam and approved the master plan of Aghdam. This year I also planned to be here on Independence Day. But as you know, the President of brotherly Turkiye will come to Azerbaijan tomorrow and we will celebrate Independence Day together. This is why I came the day before, but still on the eve of Independence Day. Because it has a great symbolic meaning. This is independence, this is freedom. Our people have been living as free people for 30 years, and all the results achieved, including our glorious victory, are based on this. This is the basis of independence. Therefore, independence is our greatest asset, our wealth, and we are protecting and will protect it forever. Today, the process we call the Great Return has begun. The first small step of the Great Return is being taken today. I congratulate you.
Photos then were taken.