By Aisha Jabbarova and Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has congratulated Azerbaijani people on liberation of Lachin district that had been under the Armenian occupation since 1992.
Aliyev made the remarks in a live televised address to the nation on December 1 after the Azerbaijani Army entered Lachin under a trilateral agreement signed between Baku, Moscow and Yerevan on November 10 to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lachin is the last of Azerbaijani regions liberated under the trilateral agreement signed between Baku, Moscow and Yerevan on November 10. Azerbaijan had already liberated four other territories that Armenian forces had occupied – Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, and Gubadli before the signing of the peace deal.
Congratulating Azerbaijani people and the population of Lachin district, the president reminded that Lachin district has been returned without firing a single shot.
“The bright victory won on the battlefield has led to this remarkable result – three of our districts, Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin, have been returned to us. We have returned these districts without firing a single shot and without a single martyr.”
Lachin district, which is one of biggest districts in Azerbaijan and covers an area of 1,800 square kilometers, had the population of 50,000 people when it was occupied. The president said that the population of Lachin district has reached 80,000 people today and their return to their homes is one of the government’s goals.
Furthermore, Aliyev spoke about Lachin’s destruction under the Armenian occupation and Azerbaijan’s plans to rebuild it.
“Everything is destroyed there – the infrastructure is destroyed, buildings are demolished, administrative buildings are demolished. There are currently no living conditions in these places. But we will restore these regions, all our districts, we will take all steps to create a normal life for our citizens… The construction of the Fuzuli-Shusha highway and the Barda-Aghdam railway has already begun,” Aliyev said.
The president also touched upon Lachin’s strategic importance and the Lachin corridor.
“The strategic importance of Lachin district lies in the fact that the Lachin corridor runs through the territory of the district and through the city of Lachin. As you know, this corridor has been transferred under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces. For many years, the corridor was under the control of the Armenian armed forces, the occupiers. I can say that the initial version of the joint statement signed on 10 November contained a provision on keeping this corridor under the control of the Armenian armed forces. I opposed this and as a result, control over this corridor was transferred to Russian peacekeepers. I think this is a great achievement.”
Aliyev said that the Lachin corridor has been cleared of Armenian occupying forces.
The president stressed that the initial version of the statement suggested that the width of the Lachin corridor should be 30 kilometers.
“I was categorically against this and said that these claims of the Armenian side were absolutely unfounded. There is no need for such a wide corridor to ensure security measures within the corridor. Therefore, I considered this proposal as being absolutely unacceptable and expressed my opinion. The second version envisaged the Lachin corridor as being 10 kilometers wide. I didn’t agree to that either, as a result of which agreement was reached on a corridor 5 kilometers wide. The 5km corridor is wide enough for us, for the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh and for ensuring security.”
Restoration of Karabakh
Aliyev praised the economic, agricultural and tourism potential of all the liberated regions, adding that the government must maximize this potential and turn the Karabakh region into one of the most beautiful regions not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the world.
Speaking about steps to create a normal life for Azerbaijani citizens on liberated territories, he added: “The construction of the Fuzuli-Shusha highway and the Barda-Aghdam railway has already begun. This shows that we plan this work as efficiently as possible and, at the same time, in a short time, so that to organize all these activities without wasting time. Relevant state bodies have already been set up and all this work will be carried out in a coordinated manner.”
The president pledged that Azerbaijan will only follow the path of development and progress.
Meanwhile, Aliyev warned against any interference by anyone in the trilateral agreement that ended the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“If someone wants to interfere with the statement signed on November 10, they will be faced with our tough position. There are such attempts. They pursue one goal – to violate this agreement because it is very annoying for some due to a new security format emerging here. The statement reaffirms the establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian centre. At the same time, some are annoyed by the security measures adopted here and the implementation of the provisions of the statement. However, no-one will be able to interfere in our affairs and the agreement reached. It is being fulfilled and must be fulfilled,” said Aliyev.
The head of state said that Azerbaijan had created a new reality and that everyone will have to accept it.
“We have created a new reality in international legal practices and in our region. We have fulfilled the resolutions of the UN Security Council. We have restored our territorial integrity. We have ended the occupation. I hope that we have organized a new format of security and cooperation in the region for the present and future. Life will show what this format will consist in,” Aliyev noted.
The head of state spoke about pressure exerted on Azerbaijan in the past 17 years to agree with the outcome of the first Karabakh war.
He noted that any agreement without Lachin, Kalbajar and Shusha was out of the question for Azerbaijan.
“I always said that if Lachin, Kalbajar and Shusha did not return to Azerbaijan, then there can be no agreement. My position irritated many in foreign countries. I was saying that our territorial integrity must be restored. I said that the military option is never ruled out.”
The president reiterated that Azerbaijan had created a new reality through mobilizing all its resources.
“If some were telling us to come to terms with reality a year ago, I say to them today that everyone should come to terms with the new reality,” the head of state noted.
Armenia sidelined from regional projects
The president stressed that due to its enmity, feelings of hatred for its neighbour, Armenia sidelined itself from all regional transport and energy projects.
“We have done all the work related to transport and energy. We have created not only an oil and gas, but also an electricity corridor. There is an energy corridor Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey today. There is an energy corridor Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran today. There is a transport corridor Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran today. This year, the volume of cargo transported along this corridor has increased by almost 30-40 percent. Armenia has been working on the North-South transport corridor for 20 years. And there are no results.”
The president said that Armenians and Azerbaijanis will co-exist in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh today and the Azerbaijanis who will definitely return there will live in the conditions of good-neighborliness again. There are logistical issues, transport issues, energy security. We will examine all of these issues. Unlike the Armenian leadership, we have a strategic vision and it has already been formed. We are moving towards our goal in a consistent manner,” he added.
Practical phase to hold Armenia accountable
Furthermore, the head of state noted that a practical phase to evaluate Armenia’s damages on Azerbaijan had already started.
“They committed war crimes and they will be held accountable for all their crimes. This work has already entered a practical phase. The assessment process will begin soon and the damage will be calculated. Steps have already been taken at the legal level. I can already tell the Azerbaijani people about this. I do not want to reveal details yet but this is no longer an intention, but practical steps. We will continue to expose them,” he said.
Aliyev spoke about consequences of the Armenians atrocities in Azerbaijani territories.
“Foreign journalists are being invited to the liberated lands. International media are covering the consequences of Armenian atrocities. They are covering what the Armenians have done to Kalbajar during this time. Like savages, they have demolished, burned, plundered everything and cut down the forests. They portray themselves as a people, so to speak, who have lived here for centuries. A people who has lived here for centuries would never have done this, would not have committed such barbarism. They lived there in the houses of the Azerbaijanis. They didn't build anything themselves, they did not lift a finger, they just exploited everything,” he said.
The president said that Armenia will answer for the exploitation of Azerbaijani lands.
“According to the information available to me, wheat was sown on tens of thousands of hectares there, in particular in Agdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan districts. I am told that Armenia collected 90,000 tons of wheat on the occupied lands every year. The total volume of Armenia’s wheat production, together with what was grown on these occupied lands, amounted to 190,000 tons. Half of this harvest came from our lands. This is illegal exploitation of our lands. They will answer for this, compensate for the damage caused,” he said.
Aliyev said that the destruction of historical sites, the creation of a false history and the publication of maps, “completely contradicts the traditions, rules, the rules of conduct in this region. This shows again that the Armenian people had nothing in common with our region. They have never been a Caucasian people. They are aliens”.
Armenian army’s destruction
Speaking about the destruction of the entire Armenian army, Aliyev named all destroyed military hardware and weapons.
“In a matter of 44 days, we destroyed the equipment they had been collecting for 30 years. There is no Armenian army now, there is none. They are citing falsified figures related to the destruction of their manpower. We have data. If necessary, we will disclose how much manpower the occupying state has lost. We have destroyed the Armenian army. That is why they had to surrender and sign an act of surrender. This should be a lesson for everyone,” he said.
Elaborating on details of the trilateral agreement signed on November 10, the president said that “a plan for the construction of a new route along the Lachin corridor would be determined in the next three years, providing for communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Thus, in order to protect this route, the Russian peacekeeping contingent is to be relocated in the future”.
Aliyev said that under the seventh paragraph of the document IDPs and refugees will return to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts under the control of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“This is also an important matter. The citizens of Azerbaijan must return to all places in Nagorno-Karabakh where they used to live. This issue will be monitored by the UN. It will take time, of course. This will be decided during regular contacts,” he said.
He said that the exchange of bodies and prisoners and hostages was ongoing under the eighth.
Restoration of transport links
The president commented on the ninth paragraph stipulating the restoration of all economic and transport links.
“To organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions, the Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Control over transport communications is carried out by the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia and, by agreement of the parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be ensured,” Aliyev said.
Aliyev pledged that this corridor will be absolutely safe.
He further spoke about the new transport communications connecting the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan, describing it has a historic achievement.
“We are taking Nakhchivan out of the encirclement and, at the same time, opening a new transport artery.”
The president said that all countries will benefit from this corridor.
“I can say that all countries will only benefit from this. Azerbaijan is establishing a connection with its integral part, Nakhchivan. Azerbaijan connects with Turkey. Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. Armenia, if it wants, may also join this corridor. Thus, a new five-sided cooperation platform can be created in the region.”
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