By Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has warned the Armenian authorities and foreign citizens against making illegal visits to Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized territories, describing such visits as a provocation.
Addressing an online government meeting on the results of 2020 that was held on January 6, Aliyev said that the Armenian foreign minister’s recent visit to Khankandi was in contradiction to the trilateral peace deal signed by the Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian leaders on November 10.
“These visits must stop. We warn them if such provocative steps continue to be taken, Armenia will regret it even more… If a similar step is repeated, our response will be very harsh. We first warned them through the Foreign Ministry. Further warnings will be given differently," he added.
Aliyev questioned such provocative visits against the background of steps that are now being taken to normalize relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“Russia has offered its mediation opportunities to the parties. A delegation of Russian government officials recently visited Armenia and Azerbaijan and mainly discussed these issues. After all, if relations normalize, then what is the need for such provocative ‘visits’? What are they trying to show? Are they trying to irritate us again? Let them not forget that such steps cost them dearly. Therefore, all visits must stop,” he said.
The president added that no foreign citizen can enter that area without Azerbaijan's permission.
“No international organization except for the Red Cross can go there. This is our territory. The whole world recognizes this territory as an integral part of Azerbaijan... No one should have any business in our territory,” he said.
Aliyev underlined that Azerbaijan previously conveyed its concern to Russian peacekeepers deployed in the region that no foreign citizen could visit Nagorno-Karabakh without Baku's permission.
“Representatives of the parliaments of different countries used to go there, but let’s see how they will go there now. A delegation went there from France, members of their parliament. Unfortunately, the peacekeepers gave them this permission. However, we had told the peacekeeping forces that no foreign citizens can go to Nagorno-Karabakh without our permission. As a result, the French ambassador was invited to our Foreign Ministry and a note was handed to him. We will not remain silent,” the president said.
Aliyev noted that Russian peacekeepers stationed in the Nagorno-Karabakh are involved in humanitarian activities, although the trilateral peace deal established no humanitarian function for the Russian peacekeepers in the region.
“We are turning a blind eye to that, so to speak. Why? Because we understand that people live there, we understand that winter has come and the weather is cold. Some work must be done there so that this winter does not create problems for the Armenians living there. This is why we have created this opportunity. Most of the cargo goes there through Azerbaijan now. We gave them this opportunity. Cargoes go to Barda by rail and then are taken to Nagorno-Karabakh by automobiles.”
Armenia's ecological terror
The president spoke about vandalism and destruction carried out in Azerbaijan’s lands that used to under the Armenian occupation for three decades.
Aliyev stressed that despite the fact that Armenia cut off Azerbaijan’s water for 30 years and left 100,000 hectares of land without water even though both Sarsang and Sugovushan reservoirs were built at national leader Heydar Aliyev’s initiative, Baku will not take the path of Yerevan.
“The people living in Nagorno-Karabakh today are our citizens. As I have said, they will see that they will live better under Azerbaijan’s leadership. This is why we have created these opportunities for them. Otherwise, it is very difficult to transport cargo there via the Lachin corridor. We have taken other steps to carry out humanitarian work there. Let me reiterate that although the document signed on November 10 does not stipulate this, we have created these opportunities,” he said.
Aliyev noted that the trilateral statement should be the basis for future activities as no other document had been signed apart from that.
He underlined that Azerbaijan will sue international companies working on its Armenian-occupied territories.
“Illegal business activity was carried out on our lands... Those companies will be prosecuted. Let them know this and wait for this day.”
Transport infrastructure in liberated lands
Furthermore, the president urged government officials to mainly focus on the implementation of initial infrastructure projects on the liberated territories.
“The first project is a road project to Shusha. Because the traditional roads to Shusha are not quite acceptable for us now. True, we are using them, but we can use these roads accompanied by Russian peacekeeping forces – both the Lachin corridor and through the Girmizi Bazar area. In the future, of course, we will use these roads freely, including the Aghdam-Khankandi-Shusha road,” he said, adding that under the trilateral statement all communications will be opened, so it will not be a problem to use the roads in question after some time.
Aliyev said that the Ahmadbayli-Alkhanli-Fuzuli-Shusha road is under construction and it will be built sooner than planned. He also spoke about another important project that has been launched.
“This is the Toganali-Kalbajar road, which also passes through complex terrain. In some places, the altitude is 3,500 meters, so it is very difficult to use this road in the winter. Therefore, the construction of the tunnels is planned. Relevant instructions have been issued and this project is being implemented,” Aliyev said.
The head of state noted that he had also issued an order on the construction of a road from Fuzuli district’s Horadiz settlement to Zangilan, then to Gubadli and further to Lachin district.
“Preparations are underway. I must add that the road from Toganali to Kalbajar will be extended to Lachin district. Thus, we will create the road and transport infrastructure on both sides – from the north and from the south to Lachin and Kalbajar districts,” he said.
President Aliyev said that Azerbaijan plans to build a modern international airport in Lachin or Kalbajar districts.
“At the same time, on my instructions, a site is being sought for the construction of a modern international airport in the Lachin or Kalbajar districts... I expect an update in the near future. Thus, a new international airport will be built in either Lachin or Kalbajar. There is little time left for the start of the construction of an international airport in Fuzuli. The order has been issued and the construction will begin in the near future. So the city of Fuzuli, there are actually no traces of a city there now, will have an international airport this year in,” he noted.
Aliyev explained the importance of international airports to be built in liberated lands.
“This is necessary for the development of the Karabakh region because all types of aircraft will be able to land both in Fuzuli and in the Kalbajar-Lachin zone. At the same time, foreigners interested in coming to Shusha will be able to land in Fuzuli and then drive to Shusha. In parallel with the construction of the airport, preliminary research should be conducted on the organization of international flights from Fuzuli. An international airport must organize international flights. First of all, our airline AZAL should work hard on this issue to provide an air link to some of our neighbouring countries immediately after the opening of the airport,” he said.
The head of state noted that the two international airports will help Azerbaijan “restore the Karabakh region, transport cargo and develop tourism. At the same time, it will be important for the comfort of the people after they return there”.
Aliyev said that the construction of the Horadiz-Fuzuli and then the Fuzuli-Shusha railway is also on the agenda.
“A schedule should be approved. After people return to Shusha, of course, this road will be put into operation... A railway must be built to ensure easy access to Shusha. This project will be launched this year,” he said.
He stressed that the Horadiz-Aghband railway, a settlement in Zangilan district near the Armenian border, will be rebuilt as Armenians had completely destroyed it.
“This road is of special importance for the opening of the Nakhchivan corridor. At present, specific work is underway to open the Nakhchivan corridor. I do not want to anticipate the events, but the opening of this corridor is stipulated in the statement signed on November 10. Therefore, it will definitely open and usher new opportunities to the region. This road will be used by Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Iran. It is of special importance for future multilateral cooperation. We will begin the construction of the Horadiz-Aghband railway in our territory,” the president added.
He noted that at the same time, the railway in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic will be restored and modernized.
“Given that the Armenian railways are owned by the Russian Railways, our counterpart is Russia, of course. The Armenian state has bearing to the Mehri railway project. We are discussing this issue with Russia because the ‘Russian Railways’ are the owners of Armenian railways. Preliminary discussions are positive. So far so good. Upcoming events will also be announced,” he said.
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