By Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has congratulated the Azerbaijani people on Kalbajar region’s liberation from Armenian occupation on 25 November.
Aliyev made the remarks in an address to the nation on 25 November. On November 10, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered peace agreement. Under the agreement, the Armenians left Kalbajar region on November 25, Aghdam region on November 20. They will vacate Lachin region by 1 December.
“Dear fellow countrymen. Kalbajar region has been liberated from occupation today. I cordially congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion,” he said.
The president said that the Azerbaijanis have been looking forward to this day for years.
“Kalbajar district was occupied on 2 April 1993. Innocent people were savagely expelled from their ancestral lands. The historical sites and nature of Kalbajar have been severely damaged,” the president said.
Meanwhile, he added that the war with Armenia showed who is who.
“Armenia is a defeated country. Azerbaijan is a victorious country. Kalbajar is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!” the president said.
Aliyev reiterated that after the occupation of Shusha and Lachin in May 1992, the occupation of Kalbajar created a geographical link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Everyone knows that the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region did not have a border with the Republic of Armenia. Armenia was separated from Nagorno-Karabakh by Lachin region and the Lachin corridor. The occupation of Lachin, Shusha and then Kalbajar regions created a geographical connection between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh over a large area, and this was the enemy's goal. After the occupation of Kalbajar, it is possible to say that communication was established between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in many ways. First of all, weapons, equipment and manpower were sent there from Armenia. At the same time, it provided great advantages for Armenia's subsequent policy of aggression,” he added.
Aliyev stressed that churches on Kalbajar’s territory belong to Azerbaijan.
“Kalbajar is our ancient land. It is the land of ancient Azerbaijan. Kalbajar is one of our largest regions in terms of territory. The historical sites of Kalbajar are our great asset. Both mosques and churches are our historical treasures. The people of Azerbaijan know this well, and the whole world should know that churches in Kalbajar belong to the ancient state of Caucasian Albania. There are many historical documents confirming this. This is no secret,” he said.
He noted that Armenian “historians” and fraudsters had simply Armenianized ancient Albanian churches, added their own inscriptions on them and appropriated these churches.
“Suffice it to look at history and anyone can see that in the 1830s, Tsarist Russia abolished the Albanian Church, gave all the property of the Albanian Church to the Armenian Gregorian Church, and Armenian priests and their patrons began to appropriate these churches,” the head of state added.
Aliyev stated that Armenia’s main task was to erase the history of Caucasian Albania.
“But we did not allow that to happen. Azerbaijan has a broad scientific base on this issue. There are research works available. These works are and should be shared not only with the scientific community but also with the world community as a whole. Caucasian Albania was a great state. Gabala was its capital. Historical sites and churches belonging to Caucasian Albania are our historical and cultural heritage. We are protecting these churches. I have visited these churches many times – in the city of Shaki, in Gabala district, the Udi church,” Aliyev added.
Protection of churches
He noted that Azerbaijan protects Albanian churches as its cultural heritage.
“Therefore, no-one should be worried. These churches will continue to be protected by the state. Azerbaijan's policy on multiculturalism and inter-religious relations is praised by the whole world and world leaders,” the president added.
Aliyev questioned the lack of any statements from the West expressing concern about the destruction of mosques in liberated lands.
“Let certain Western circles who want to express their concern look at our destroyed mosques, the Aghdam, Shusha, Zangilan, Jabrayil, Fuzuli and other mosques. These mosques have either been destroyed or desecrated – pigs were kept in them. Why isn’t this causing concern? Why has no-one raised this issue for 30 years except for us? I have repeatedly raised this issue from international forums and in contacts with my foreign colleagues. Why wasn’t anyone worried about that? Why didn't anyone want to send an international delegation on this issue? The Azerbaijani people want answers to these questions. We know the answer. Therefore, I want to say again that those who want to interfere in our work or to accuse us of something should first of all look in the mirror,” he said.
The president underlined Armenia’s environmental terror against Azerbaijan.
“There was also environmental terror against us. Armenia is a terrorist state, and there are many signs of this terror. There are signs of the destruction of our historical sites, the genocide against our civilian population, deforestation, changing the course of our rivers and other signs,” he said.
Aliyev said that Azerbaijan managed to get water from the Sarsang water reservoir after the Azerbaijani army liberated Suqovushan settlement
“The water of the Tartar River, which originated from Kalbajar, was first collected in the Sarsang water reservoir and then in the Sugovushan water reservoir, thus serving the interests of the occupier, whereas we did not get water at all. After we took over the Sugovushan settlement, the water supply was resumed and is now expected to provide water to 100,000 hectares,” he said.
Speaking about Kalbajar region’s forest areas, he said that there are 24,000 hectares of forest in the region.
“This is our great asset. The hated enemy cut down, looted and sold these trees. Look at the ugly things they have been doing in recent days, burning forests to create an environmental catastrophe. These thieves cut down forests and take them to Armenia for sale. They burn down houses they did not build. They entered the houses of the people of Kalbajar, broke into them and lived there. They burn down schools and kill pets they can't take with them. See who we were facing, what savages we were facing! I repeat, and I will say this every time that our victory is not only a victory over the Armenian state. We have also destroyed Armenian fascism,” the president added.
The president added that Azerbaijan will restore Kalbajar.
“Agriculture will develop in Kalbajar, especially livestock breeding. We have large pastures there. Kalbajar has ample natural resources. The enemy has brutally exploited these resources. In Soviet times, Istisu water, which was popular throughout the Soviet Union, was produced in Kalbajar. Istisu is under our control again now. It used to be a big resort. The hated enemy has destroyed everything. There are images of that and everyone can see them. We will restore all of that, we will rebuild Kalbajar, the villages, the city of Kalbajar,” he said.
Aliyev added that he had ordered the preparation of a master plan for the reconstruction of Kalbajar along with all other liberated cities.
The head of state said that Azerbaijan will sue Armenia for illegal settlements in Kalbajar.
“In Kalbajar, the hated enemy committed another crime and conducted illegal settlement. People from Armenia and foreign countries have settled there illegally. This is a war crime, a war crime under the Geneva Convention. We will hold the enemy accountable. They will answer for all the war crimes, for all this destruction,” he said.
The president stressed the measures that Azerbaijan is going to take in a planned manner.
“I want to say again: first of all, all the damage will be calculated with the participation of international experts. Then lawsuits will be filed. Then comes the reconstruction of our cities and villages on the basis of master plans. The necessary measures related to agriculture, other infrastructure projects, water and electricity will be taken. Then come roads,” he said.
Aliyev said that Azerbaijan will restore railways.
“In particular, preliminary instructions have already been given in connection with the restoration of the railway to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Tangible steps have already been taken to restore the Barda-Aghdam railway. This road is a must for the restoration of Aghdam district and for the comfort of the people who will live there in the future. So all this work will be carried out in a planned manner and the people of Azerbaijan will be regularly updated about the work to be done,” he said.
Karabakh to further remain on agenda
The head of state said that Nagorno-Karabakh should continue to remain on the country’s agenda at the international level.
“As President, I have been doing my best over the years to ensure that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is always on the agenda, it is always at the centre of the agenda. Let the feelings of patriotism, national pride and solidarity rise to a higher level within the country. And this issue should always be on the agenda at the international level. Let everyone know what the truth is, let everyone know who is the aggressor and who is the victim, and we have achieved this,” he said.
Aliyev stressed despite the prevailing “biased, Islamophobic, anti-Azerbaijani, pro-Armenian articles” reports in the foreign media during the Patriotic War, “many objective and truthful reports and articles were published” later.
“I can say that we have won the information war. We have won the war on the battlefield, we have won the war in the information space, we have won the war in the political arena,” he added.
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