By Aynur Jafarova
Army building is the most important and priority issue for Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said addressing a military parade held in Baku on June 26 on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the establishment of Azerbaijan's Armed Forces.
President Aliyev congratulated servicemen and the people of Azerbaijan on Armed Forces Day, and wished success to the whole personnel of the Armed Forces.
The president stressed the importance of Azerbaijan's possessing a powerful military.
"Today's military parade is dedicated to the 95th anniversary of our army. At today's parade the Azerbaijani state will demonstrate its military power. Army building is the most important and priority issue for us. That is the way it should be for each country because each country must defend itself. This is an issue of great importance, especially for countries living in the state of war. Azerbaijan lives in such conditions. The war is not over. The first stage of the war has finished, and at any moment, our army must be ready to restore the country's territorial integrity by any means," the commander-in-chief said.
President Aliyev emphasized that the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been unresolved for many years.
"The injustice continues for years. Internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan are under occupation. Ethnic cleansing policy has been pursued against the Azerbaijanis. Khojaly genocide was committed against our nation. All international organizations defend Azerbaijan's position," the president said.
He added that all credible international organizations have made their decisions and resolutions on the issue.
"However, Armenia ignores the norms of international law and the occupation continues. Unfortunately, the negotiations are not yielding any result. In that case, of course, there is a great need for army building. Nagorno-Karabakh is historically a native land of Azerbaijan. For centuries, our people have lived on these lands," Aliyev said.
"The Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan today and the entire world community recognizes and supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," the president said.
He went on to say that not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also present-day Armenia was established on the territory of Azerbaijan.
"The Erivan khanate, Goycha mahal and Zangazur are our historic areas. Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani people will never allow establishing a second Armenian state on the territory of Azerbaijan. We will strive for the problem to be resolved in the near future. Of course, solution of the problem lies in politics. The negotiation process continues for the time being. However, a strong army and a strong potential strengthen our position, which is based on historical justice."
The president said Nagorno-Karabakh is and will remain Azerbaijani land.
"Our position is supported by the norms of international law. There are four UN Security Council resolutions urging an unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian invading forces from the occupied lands. Our position is complemented by a strong army, and for this purpose great attention has been paid to army building in recent years. Our army is developing. This is an ongoing process," President Aliyev said.
The president said he often visits military units, gets acquainted with the situation on the ground and witnesses that the combat readiness of the Azerbaijani army and its professionalism are increasing.
"There is a high spirit of patriotism in the army, as well as in the whole society. The majority of servicemen in the army are young people. I am very happy that Azerbaijani youth is being brought up in a patriotic spirit. Those who serve in the army are attached to their homeland, their people, they love their homeland. These factors further strengthen our army," President Aliyev said.
The president noted that at the same time, considerable development has been recently achieved in technical equipment of the army, saying that the most modern equipment and weapons have been purchased.
"Part of the military hardware, purchased and produced in Azerbaijan recently, will be demonstrated during today's parade," he said, adding that only a small part of the available equipment will be shown here. Azerbaijan has spent huge funds on military purposes in recent years.
"For comparison, I can say that our military budget was $163 million in 2003, while it reached $3.6 billion last year. This year, it reached $3.7 billion. This shows that army building is a priority issue. The biggest spending of our budget falls to the army and it is natural. We have purchased the most modern equipment in past years."
President Aliyev said that technologies and knowledge will be of key importance during wars in the 21st century.
"This is a requirement of time. The arms that Azerbaijan has purchased in recent years are up-to-date weaponry. It has high accuracy and very high destructive power. Over the last few years about 100 combat and transportation helicopters, dozens of combat aircraft, the most up-to-date air defense installations, armored equipment, modern tanks, the most up-to-date artillery, which can destroy any enemy target, have been purchased," Aliyev said.
The president said this process continues, and in the coming years the military expenditure will prevail in the country's overall budget.
"For comparison, I can say that the entire budget of Armenia is about $2 billion. What it means is that Azerbaijan's spending on military purposes is twice as big as all of Armenia's expenditure. Strong Azerbaijan can speak with weak Armenia in any language. We give preference to negotiations just to maintain stability in the region," he said.
The president noted that the reason for that is Azerbaijan's being a stabilizing country in the region.
He said Azerbaijan is a country that has great influence in the region, and no initiative can be realized without its consent.
"Therefore, we give preference to the political ways to maintain stability and resolve the problem peacefully. But it is not a secret that Azerbaijan is strengthening day by day, while Armenia is weakening."
President Aliyev said further that Azerbaijan's economic power has incomparably increased.
"Azerbaijan surpasses the opponent several times in any sphere, and in some fields more than 10 times," he said. "This difference will increase over time because the country has a bright future, prospects and ways of development."
The president noted that on the global scale, Azerbaijan is the fastest growing country, and in terms of economic development, in 10 years, there is no other developing country in the world like Azerbaijan.
"I want to reiterate that these are the historical factors," Aliyev said. He said the international rule of law, political factors, Azerbaijan's economic and military power will play a role in a fair settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. An Azerbaijani flag will flutter in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories, in Khankendi, Shusha."
The military parade held in Baku on June 26 is the fourth one since Azerbaijan gained independence in 1991.
Over 5,000 personnel of various military units of armed forces, more than 300 units of military equipment and weapons systems, more than 100 combat aircraft and helicopters and over 40 warships were involved in the military parade.
The military equipment produced in Azerbaijan was demonstrated at this parade for the first time.
Ships of the Naval Forces of Azerbaijan, as well as MI-17 military helicopters, L-39, MIQ-29, SU-25 attack aircraft, MI-24 and KA-32 helicopter groups and MI-35M attack helicopters were used in the parade.
The solemn military parade ended with the flight of SU-25 aircraft that left colored smoke traces symbolizing Azerbaijan's flag.
The parade was watched by government officials, MPs, foreign ambassadors based in Baku, heads of religious communities, employees of international organizations, war veterans and members of the general public.
Defense Minister, Colonel-General Safar Abiyev reported to President Aliyev on the readiness of the troops. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief saluted the troops.
Azerbaijan celebrates the Day of the Armed Forces on June 26. The Azerbaijani armed forces are highly disciplined, powerful, equipped with modern military machinery, always ready to defend the country and capable of resolving any problem. The Azerbaijani army is the most powerful army in the South Caucasus region.
The skills and combat readiness of the Azerbaijani army are growing year on year. The army building process in Azerbaijan is progressing as well.
A strong country should have strong armed forces. Azerbaijan is a powerful state and therefore has a formidable army.