President Ilham Aliyev gave an interview to Azerbaijan Television and Radio Broadcasting AZTV during his trip to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on May 10.
Journalist: Hello Mr. President, it is a pleasure to see you. Mr. President, you visited the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic today and inaugurated a number of socioeconomic facilities. Could you please share your impressions.
President Ilham Aliyev: My impressions are very positive. I am always happy to visit Nakhchivan and see development here. This is my 15th visit to Nakhchivan and I every time attend the opening of many facilities.
Nakhchivan is developing fast. Work in all areas is moving in a positive direction. Today, I attended the opening of several infrastructure projects, including the commissioning of a drinking water and sewage project in Ordubad. I am very pleased with the work that has been done in the Autonomous Republic in all areas related to roads, electricity and gas supply. Suffice it to say that the level of gas supply has already reached 100 percent. Electricity supply has reached 100 percent and Nakhchivan has a huge energy potential. In the past, there was no electricity in Nakhchivan. There was no energy, no local sources, and the lines from Azerbaijan were cut off by Armenia. Now Nakhchivan is fully self-sufficient in terms of electricity and uses a renewable source. This is very important because it should be viewed as a contribution to the beautiful nature and environmental situation of Nakhchivan.
All cities are already linked to each other with highways and everyone visiting Nakhchivan can see this. Roads are built with high quality. I attended the opening of these roads in the past, and although some roads were put into operation a long time ago, the quality is still there. Drinking water projects cover all cities. These projects will now be implemented in three cities, so this issue will be completely resolved.
Industrial potential is developing and growing. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is a record-breaking region in terms of economic growth over the past 20 years. Gross domestic product has increased more than 10 times. The work done in the field of agriculture is yielding fruit. We attended the opening of the Artificial Insemination Center today. I must say that there are only two such centers in our country – one in Goygol and the other in Nakhchivan. I am confident that as a result of the operation of this center, all work in the field of dairy production in Nakhchivan will be completed in the next four to five years, and Nakhchivan will provide itself with milk, as well as other basic food products. In other words, all this is evidence of development.
I was also familiarized with the construction of the “ASAN xidmət” Center. This is a very important institution in the field of public services, and seven centers are currently under construction in our country, including Nakhchivan. After they are commissioned, the number of “ASAN xidmət” centers will reach 27. DOST centers are being established in our country as well. I have already ordered to establish a DOST Center in Nakhchivan. This is another successful step of ours in the field of social security and pensions. It is our national brand.
Nakhchivan has a great tourism potential. We attended the opening of a new runway today and should encourage tourists to come to Nakhchivan. Of course, due to the pandemic, the tourism sector as a whole has declined. But I am sure that after the pandemic, the number of foreigners interested in visiting Nakhchivan will increase.
In short, the Autonomous Republic is developing comprehensively and is one of the most developed regions of our country today. I am confident that Nakhchivan will continue to be in the lead.
- Mr. President, there was also the opening of a military airfield and a military hospital today. In general, how would you assess the launch of these two facilities from the standpoint of the security of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic?
- Of course, these facilities are of great importance in ensuring the security of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and improving the service and living conditions of our servicemen. The service conditions of our servicemen are improving and new military units are being built. In recent years, almost all military units in Nakhchivan have been reconstructed and many new units have been established. The opening of the Nakhchivan Garrison Central Hospital is also a significant event. It is the largest medical institution in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is larger than the Central Hospital in terms of the number of beds. At the same time, the opening of the military airfield holds a special place in the security of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
In general, I can say that great attention has always been paid to building up the defense potential of Nakhchivan. It is no coincidence that a Special Combined Arms Unit has been established in Nakhchivan on my instructions and provided with the latest weapons and equipment. I can say that the military equipment available to the Nakhchivan army today is probably superior to the equipment of some advanced countries. The most sophisticated equipment based on the latest technologies is brought to Nakhchivan. In general, I can say that the vast majority of the military equipment imported for the needs of the Azerbaijani Army is available in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Of course, the combat capability of the Nakhchivan Special Forces is also high, and the successful Gunnut operation, an operation conducted three years ago, is a graphic example of this. That operation occurred during the government change in Armenia, so the new government attempted to hush it up. We didn’t push too hard either because we need real work, not propaganda. We cleared very important strategic heights from the Armenian army and established our positions there. These heights allowed us the opportunity to have full control over strategic communications and the road from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. During the second Karabakh war, our capacity to exercise control over this road was of great help to us in obtaining a lot of information. The opposite side is well aware that these communications being under our control can be cut off at any time and should, therefore, act accordingly, of course.
As far as the Gunnut operation is concerned, as I said, we did not want to pedal the topic too much. But soon after that, journalists from the already overthrown Armenian government
photographed our new posts, posted them on the Internet, shared them, which caused an outrage in Armenia. And then I said – why should we hide it? I told the Chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic to publish this information and send a film crew there. The film crew went and saw those heights. In other words, the Gunnut operation showed the potential of the Nakhchivan Army, the potential of the Azerbaijani Army. The servicemen of the Nakhchivan Army, both special forces and other units, took an active part in the second Karabakh war, gave martyrs and demonstrated tremendous self-sacrifice. You know that special groups were brought to Baku from Nakhchivan. At the same time, I have to say, or rather I can already say this, that some of the weapons and ammunition of the Nakhchivan Army were brought to Baku and dispatched to the frontline. We are now replenishing the stocks of those weapons, but it happened. Therefore, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic has contributed a great deal to defending the borders of our country and strengthening the military capacity of Azerbaijan in general. So Nakhchivan will always be adequately protected.
- Mr. President, you also got acquainted with the Ordubad railway station today. What role will this station play in the implementation of what you named as the Zangazur corridor? In general, what can you say about the course of events?
- I did not come to the Ordubad railway station by chance. This visit has a great symbolic significance. I recently visited the railway station the Armenians destroyed in Minjivan settlement about 50-60 kilometers away from here. There is no railway there now. The contemptible enemy has destroyed and looted the entire railway infrastructure. There will be a center there and a center here. There is only a 40-kilometer Zangazur corridor separating Zangilan from Nakhchivan, which must and will be opened.
As you know, this is reflected in the joint declaration signed on 10 November. Since then, very serious steps have been taken in this regard at the meetings of the working group at the level of deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. I can say with full confidence that the railway corridor will be opened. Let no-one have any doubts about that. Of course, Azerbaijan will fulfill its responsibilities. As you know, I laid the foundation stone of the Horadiz-Aghband railway. The missing 15-16-kilometersection will be built here – from Ordubad to the Armenian border. The Nakhchivan railway is in operation, as both passenger and cargo transportation is carried out. In other words, the entire infrastructure on the territory of Azerbaijan will be created after the construction of the Horadiz-Aghband railway.
As for the section of the railway in the territory of Armenia, as you know, there is no such thing as Armenian railways. Armenian railways are owned by Russian railways. This means that Armenian railways belong to them. Therefore, we are discussing this issue mainly with the Russian side. Our next historic achievement will be to connect Zangilan, located in the Eastern Zangazur region, with our ancient lands of Western Zangazur and then with Nakhchivan and Turkey through Ordubad. I am sure that this will happen – I have no doubt about that. I want to say again that Azerbaijan will fulfill its responsibilities and do its best to ensure that there are no problems with the implementation of this project.
- Mr. President, it is a historic and significant day in the life of our country today. It is the birthday of the Great Leader. You visited the grave of the Great Leader this morning. Here in Nakhchivan, you visited your grandfather's grave. Could you please share your feelings?
- You know, this is my father's first birthday after the historic Victory. Therefore, I decided to come to his homeland, Nakhchivan, after visiting his grave. I think this visit has a great symbolic meaning. As I mentioned, this is my 15th visit to Nakhchivan but I am in Nakhchivan for the first time on 10 May. I had to be here on this birthday.
I visited the grave of my grandfather Alirza Aliyev. Alirza Aliyev and my grandmother Izzat gave the Azerbaijani people a genius personality such as Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev is a person who has gained great respect and has exceptional services not only within the borders of Azerbaijan, but also around the world. What Heydar Aliyev achieved in his life was the result of his knowledge, skills, intelligence and self-sacrifice. He served our people with dignity at all times. It was under his leadership that Azerbaijan rose to prominence in the 1970s, ascending from the status of the most backward Soviet republic to the most advanced one. It was under his leadership that the people of Nakhchivan were able to prevent Armenian occupation here in Nakhchivan. Both the intentions and policies of the loathsome enemy were focused on occupying Nakhchivan. This was a part of their next occupation plan. There was this danger and this danger was quite imminent. No-one helped Azerbaijan at the time. Azerbaijan had no army, no armed forces. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic lost contact with the main part of Azerbaijan. Armenians kept Nakhchivan in a blockade. Nakhchivan is surrounded by Armenia on three sides. Under such circumstances, the fact that Nakhchivan was protected and defended and the enemy was put in its place is one of the great leader's exceptional achievements.
In addition, the ruling PFPA-Musavat duo mobilized all their resources to overthrow Heydar Aliyev in Nakhchivan, bring their puppets here and then donate Nakhchivan to the Armenians. They were ready even for that only to remove the Heydar Aliyev factor from Azerbaijan’s political firmament.
However, the determination, courage, political wisdom and self-sacrifice of the people of Nakhchivan thwarted all these plans, the plans of the Armenians and the PFPA-Musavat duo. Heydar Aliyev defended Nakhchivan, just as he subsequently saved Azerbaijan from great troubles. In 1993, our country was almost divided, a civil war was going on, and it was because of Heydar Aliyev's activities that we were able to pass that difficult ordeal. The foundation of today's Victory was laid back then.
Today’s visit has a special symbolic meaning. Nakhchivan is our dear land, the homeland of Heydar Aliyev. It is dear and native to every Azerbaijani, and the development and prosperity of Nakhchivan is already a reality. We have created this reality ourselves. The tribute being paid to the Great Leader today is the embodiment of this development.
- Mr. President, my next question is about Nagorno-Karabakh. Some countries and foreign circles are saying that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved. You have repeatedly stated that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has already been resolved. It would be interesting to find out your attitude to such statements.
- I want to say this again. After the war ended, I have repeatedly said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved. Azerbaijan has resolved this conflict alone, both on the battlefield and then at the table. Victory on the battlefield forced the enemy to throw in the towel, surrender and sign an act of capitulation. The document signed on 10 November is an act of capitulation on the part of Armenia.
There is no territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The conflict has been resolved, and I think that there is no point in returning to this issue. In any case, we showed it during the post-war period. First of all, if someone thinks that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved, it is their own problem. Secondly, this is a very dangerous approach. If this conflict is not resolved, then how should this conflict be resolved? Does this mean that the Statement signed on 10 November has lost its force? This is how I can understand this. On 10 November, a document was signed on the de facto settlement of the conflict. This is not just a ceasefire document – some people want to put it this way. Let them open their eyes and see how many items there are in the statement. A ceasefire document contains only one article – a ceasefire and that is all. There are many items here. There are items that cover many issues, including the opening of communications. If the conflict has not been resolved, can there be any talk of the opening of communications? If the conflict has not been resolved, then why do the deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia meet and agree on something?
The conflict has been resolved, this is one thing. I believe that the parties involved in this issue and the countries that want to deal with this issue – I do not know for what reason – should take this into account. Because sometimes countries located at the other end of the world make statements about this conflict or the processes taking place in Azerbaijan. This is unacceptable. I can refer to Canada as an example. I was recently informed that the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had made a statement on Azerbaijan and our internal affairs. What right does it have to do that? Who gave it such a right? What does Canada consider itself to be? Is it perhaps a superpower we didn’t know of. It is probably a second Luxembourg, a second superpower we didn’t know of. Let them mind their own business.
I also reject the statement of the French Foreign Ministry. It is unacceptable. We have repeatedly expressed our objection to the French side to leave us alone. They should mind their own business. The chairman of the French Senate comes to Yerevan where he declares that the French Senate will recognize Nagorno-Karabakh. When we appeal to the French government over this issue, when we express our protest, we are told not to pay attention to that because it is a legislative body and its statements do not reflect the position of the French government. But what about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Doesn’t it reflect the position of the government? What kind of statements are these? Let them go and mind their own business. This ugly campaign against Azerbaijan over this Military Trophy Park must be stopped. A French museum displays the skulls of slain leaders of the Algerian National Resistance Movement. Go and look in the mirror-how many more times do I have to say that? I have to say this to journalists, foreign journalists, foreign politicians. And I will keep saying that. I will not remain tight-lipped. But they should mind their own business. They are up to their neck in problems. They have thousands of problems.
All processes in Azerbaijan are moving in a positive direction. Therefore, I want to say again that if all countries mind their own business and not try to interfere in our work, things will go well and there will be no problems in our relations.
Regarding certain politicians talking about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, a non-existent entity –I have also said that if someone wants to give the Armenians living in our territory a status, I don’t mind that, but let them choose a good place for that in their own country. Those places have long been occupied by the Armenian diaspora. Let them give them an autonomy or independence there, not in Azerbaijan. This will not happen in Azerbaijan. Let them say whatever they want. Therefore, I would advise them not to make any statements about the status or conflict so as not to irritate us and strain our relations. If such statements are made, they will receive responses.
- Mr. President, on 8 May, the day of the occupation of Shusha, some government and opposition forces in Armenia made statements on the return of Shusha and voiced some revanchist views. You have repeatedly said that if they ever think of any revanchist steps, they will be destroyed. We would like to find out your attitude to this statement.
- My attitude remains the same. If they ever move from making such statements to any practical action, they will be destroyed immediately. No-one can defend them. Let them not count on anyone either. For many years, they had been bragging about their “victorious and strong” army. There is no power, resolve or moral right in Armenia to keep such revanchist ideas alive. This would be tantamount to suicide for them. I want to say again that we are following these statements for the time being. Both the government and the opposition in Armenia, almost all elements involved in politics are voicing their views on the return of Shusha, on the return of Hadrut. We are still showing restraint. But they shouldn’t play with fire. They have experienced our fist. Our fist is still in place. No-one can stand in front of us. If we see the slightest danger, the slightest danger, we will destroy them immediately. We will destroy them on the spot. And they know this too. We have the strength, we have the determination and we have the courage. The fist is also in place.
- Mr. President, thank you very much for answering our questions.
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