By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijan, which liberated its internationally recognized territories from Armenia’s occupation in 2020, demonstrates to the world what seemed like a distant dream a year ago turns into a reality now.
In a chain of significant events over the past 10 months after the 44-day war, the country marked another historic day in early September. Along with a cargo plane, the Karabakh aircraft of Azerbaijan's major airline AZAL (Azerbaijan Airlines) landed at the newly-built Fuzuli International Airport, which will be commissioned soon.
This milestone event signals Azerbaijan’s strong determination to achieve its goals in Karabakh as soon as possible. Presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev recently stressed that Azerbaijan intends to ensure “a dignified and safe return” of internally displaced persons to their lands as soon as possible.
Another symbol of great return
The abovementioned landing at the new airport is seen as another symbol of the great return to Karabakh announced by President Ilham Aliyev in January 2021.
In January, while laying the foundation of the airport Aliyev said that it mainly aims to ensure the arrival of foreign guests in Shusha as the distance from Fuzuli to Shusha is not so great.
Armenians have carried out no construction work on the occupied territories for 30 years. On the contrary, they have completely destroyed the existing ones and demonstrated to the whole world that savagery is their characteristic. Today, the world not only can see the realities but also has to admit them. The whole world is already witnessing how the Azerbaijanis, who are the real owners of the land, carry out the construction work on its liberated territories with great enthusiasm and pride, former MP Vugar Rahimzade told the local media.
He stressed that the airport’s construction aims to ensure high-level access to Shusha, the crown of Karabakh.
“Along with local citizens, the visits of foreign tourists are also taken into account. The construction of high-quality road infrastructure will ensure the efficient use of the economic resources of these areas in general,” Rahimzade said.
Along with the Fuzuli International Airport, which the president described as the gateway to Karabakh, the construction of international airports in Lachin and Zangilan regions has begun.
The steps are seen as very important both socio-economically and strategically. It is believed that the infrastructure will be a great support to Azerbaijan’s sustainable development in the coming years.
The state will use all these opportunities and advantages to further increase its power. The scale of the huge construction and restoration in a short period is also a presentation of Azerbaijan's economic and financial opportunities, Rahimzade said.
Russian expert Yevgeniy Mikhaylov shared similar views. He said that modern transport interchanges, active restoration of Shusha, involvement of billions of investments in Karabakh - all this pleases the eyes of Azerbaijan's friends and surprises many experts who did not expect this from Baku.
"I'm not even talking about how they did not expect this in Yerevan, which always shouted that Karabakh would never return to Azerbaijan and after the war claimed that it would take tens of years to restore the liberated regions. But everything changes very quickly," the expert said.
Mikhaylov added that an obvious shock for the neighbors and a pleasant surprise for friends was the practical completion of the international airport in Fuzuli in a matter of months.
"The largest planes with cargo and passengers have already landed in Fuzuli, which I would call another great victory for Azerbaijan. And this is not the only airport in the liberated territories - others are next in line," he stressed.
Earlier, many experts portrayed as one of the important priorities for the great return the construction of new, modern facilities in Karabakh as this airport.
The airport's economic significance is seen as considerably great. It will play an important role in the region’s progress. As Karabakh is located far from the capital Baku, the airport will have a special role in ensuring transportations for the region’s rapid restoration.
The commissioning of the airport will facilitate the movement of foreign guests and tourists. The opening of new tourist centers in Karabakh will be beneficial for Azerbaijan, which has fairly high tourism potential. The areas rich in beautiful nature and ancient historical monuments will have an impact on the development of the tourism sector. Open-air museums will be established in the restored cities, consisting of the remains of destroyed cities that fell victim to Armenian vandalism.
The airport will also have a positive impact on the industrial and agricultural sectors’ development. Because importing equipment for the establishment of modern production facilities in these areas and exporting goods to foreign markets will be on the agenda. It will also ease international transportations.
Karabakh's road junction
On January 14, along with the airport, the president laid down the foundation of Karabakh's new road junction, an important element of the great return.
He founded the Fuzuli-Shusha road on the 27-km section of the Ahmadbayli-Fuzuli-Shusha highway.
The new design of the Fuzuli-Shusha road includes the construction of bridges and tunnels. In areas with difficult terrain, it’s planned to build bridges and tunnels instead of bypass roads. The new road will be connected to Fuzuli airport, and from this road, another new road will be laid to Isa spring in Shusha.
The Horadiz-Aghband railway, the foundation of which was laid down by President Aliyev on February 14, should be also mentioned. This railway, with a total length of 100 kilometers, has huge strategic importance because this transport infrastructure will play a significant role in ensuring the movement of Azerbaijani citizens to the liberated lands, and, most importantly, will greatly contribute to creating a direct railway transport link between the main part of Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
Besides, the foundations of the Fuzuli-Hadrut, Zangilan-Horadiz, as well as Barda-Aghdam highways have already been laid down, and a new alternative highway with nearly 80-km length is being built without entering the city of Lachin.
On August 29, the president reviewed the work to complete the Ahmadbayli-Fuzuli-Shusha Victory Road, being built to commemorate the path which was used by Azerbaijani troops to liberate Shusha city. The road's construction is nearing completion. The length of the two- or three-lane road is 101 kilometers. Asphalt-concrete pavement has already been laid on the 92-km section of the road. Work on other sections is ongoing. Bridges and underpasses have been built along the road.
The Victory Road is being built under the Karabakh development plan. Starting from the Hajigabul-Minjivan-Zangazur corridor, the road extends to Shusha.
The construction of four new road bridges along the new road has been completed under the project. Thus, easy access to the road will be provided.
Recently, the State Agency for Azerbaijan Automobile Roads has published a map of roads being built in the Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions. The map covers 10 major highways under construction with a total length of 665.4 km and also includes highways to be built, but the length of which isn’t specified.
Along with the construction of the 101-km Victory Road, the 81.6-km Ahmadbayli-Fuzuli-Shusha, the 80.7-km Toghanali-Kalbajar-Istisu, the 72.3-km Kalbajar-Lachin, the 123.8-km Ahmadbayli-Horadiz-Minjivan-Aghband roads continues.
Moreover, the 22-km Talish-Tapgaragoyunlu-Gashalti, the 83-km Khudafarin-Gubadli-Lachin, the 43-km Shukurbayli-Jabrayil-Hadrut, the 13-km Fuzuli-Hadrut, and the 45-km Barda-Aghdam highways are under construction.
IDPs' trips to liberated lands
Amid the ongoing huge restoration, Azerbaijanis displaced from their lands continue visiting native liberated regions from late August.
Commenting on the recent visit of Aghdam residents to the region, the president's special representative, Emin Huseynov, described it as a significant development.
"Unfortunately, Aghdam is full of numerous unexploded ordnance and mines. This creates a lot of difficulties in our activity. However, the work is being conducted very quickly. We see this trip as part of the great return. These trips will continue until the internally displaced people return to their native lands," Huseynov said.
Kalbajar, Lachin, and Shusha residents make similar visits to their native lands.
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