By Aisha Jabbarova
President Ilham Aliyev today attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the first residential building to be built in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam city following the city’s complete destruction during 27 years of Armenian occupation, Azertag reported.
Aliyev visited Aghdam on May 28 that is celebrated as Republic Day in Azerbaijan. The president was presented the general plan of Aghdam city and met with representatives of the public in Aghdam.
He took part in laying the foundation of the restored city and planted a tree.
During the same trip, Aliyev visited the Imaret complex in Agdam, where the palace of Karabakh khanate's founder Panahali Khan was located.
He also took part in the ceremony of laying the foundation of the Aghdam Industrial Park, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Barda-Agdam highway and a secondary school, visited the Shahbulag fortress and Giyasli mosque in Aghdam city.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan will open Victory and Open Air Occupation Museums in Aghdam, Azertag reported.
Occupied by Armenian forces in 1993, Aghdam is known as the Hiroshima of the Caucasus for the level of destruction during three decades of occupation.
Azerbaijan returned Aghdam, along with Kalbajar and Lachin regions in line with the November 10 trilateral statement that ended the 44-day-war with Armenia in 2020.
Below is Aliyev's speech during the meeting with Aghdam residents on May 28:
President Ilham Aliyev: We are celebrating the Republic Day in Aghdam, the city of Aghdam. This is very symbolic. The master plan of the city of Aghdam will be approved today. It has been submitted to me. We have been working on this plan for some time, and I would like prominent people from Aghdam district to get acquainted with it and express their opinion, so that we can hold this wonderful ceremony with your participation today.
We could have chosen a different time for this ceremony, for this meeting. But I thought that the most correct date would be our national holiday – the Republic Day, the Independence Day. the fact that we are here today shows again how strong our independence is. If we had not built a strong independent state, we would not have been able to liberate our historical lands from the occupiers. Only a strong Azerbaijan, an independent Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan pursuing an independent policy in the true sense of the word fulfilled this historic mission with dignity. The restoration of the city of Aghdam begins today, on the Republic Day. I am sure that all our plans will be implemented on the basis of the Master Plan and the city of Aghdam will be rebuilt.
During the occupation, I visited Aghdam district nine times. As you know, the city was under occupation, so we chose the village of Guzanli as the district center. I have been to Guzanli and other villages many times. Numerous events have been held in relation to this area. As a result of the implementation of state programs on the socioeconomic development of the regions, plans for the development of Aghdam district were approved. Numerous social projects, projects on the construction of schools, a mugham center, a children's hospital, a central district hospital, an Olympic center and infrastructure projects have been implemented here. I can say that performance indicators here are higher than elsewhere in the country. Gas supply is almost at the level of 100 percent, there is electricity and water supply, more than 150 artesian wells have been drilled because the loathsome enemy deprived this region even of water. In other words, during the occupation we took serious steps related to the development of the part of Aghdam district that was under our control. During repeated meetings with the IDPs from Aghdam, I have said that after our lands are liberated, even better conditions would be created in the city of Aghdam and the entire district. The master plan of the city of Aghdam, which will be disclosed to you today, is evidence of my words. We will create a city, we will create Aghdam which will become an example for the whole world.
During the occupation, I repeatedly saw through binoculars the ruins of the city of Aghdam, a part of this city, while visiting the line of contact. While visiting the line of contact and looking at these ruins from afar, I told myself every time that we would definitely return there. We will return at any cost, restore historical justice, expel the enemy from our lands, and we have achieved this.
We tried to resolve this issue peacefully. But the people of Azerbaijan are well aware that peace negotiations were aimed simply at maintaining the status quo forever. Unfortunately, the mediators dealing with this issue did not put pressure on the aggressor and occupier over the course of 30 years of negotiations, did not force them, did not apply any sanctions against them, did not openly say that the occupying forces should vacate Azerbaijani lands. Naturally, the aggressor grew even more impudent and wanted to keep these lands under occupation forever, which is no secret.
Whereas initially I had certain hopes as President, at the final stage these hopes melted away. Because the Armenian leadership openly declared that the return these lands to us was impossible. Under such circumstances, the negotiations were actually stopped. I was openly stating that. Throughout the negotiations – from 2003 to the latest events – I have always told the Azerbaijani people the truth. I have always said that we will never allow the creation of a second Armenian state on our lands. I was saying that the solution to the issue should not be incomplete, which was why our position was often perceived ambiguously by the mediators. Certain pro-Armenian forces tried to accuse us – as if it was us who was the aggressor and occupier. Therefore, looking at Aghdam district through binoculars, I foresaw this day and knew that if the issue was not resolved through negotiations, then war was inevitable. The events that took place as a result of the military provocations of the Armenian state against us made the war inevitable.
The 44-day war has demonstrated our strength, shown the courage and heroism of our Armed Forces and the unity of our people. Uniting into a single fist, we inflicted crushing blows on the enemy and drove it out of our lands. Each of these 44 days is a heroic epic, each of these days is dear to us because we went forward every day, every single day. We did not retreat a single day. Towards the end of the war, the enemy began to panic, fell into hysteria and began to acknowledge its defeat. They were further convinced that they would not be able to cope with Azerbaijan.
During the war, we also acted with dignity by observing all the rules of warfare. That is why the losses among the civilian population on the Armenian side are very insignificant. We fought and waged the war only against the occupying army. We have never fought with civilians. Unlike Armenians, we did not commit acts of genocide or other war crimes. However, the crimes committed by the Armenians are already known to the whole world: the Khojaly genocide, the murder of the inhabitants of our other villages, the destruction of our cities. Notice that there is no such city as Aghdam. There is not. There is not a single building left. Only the ruins of the Juma mosque remain. And even that, as I said, was done it for two purposes. The first goal was it was used as a sign associated with this land. In other words, this point, this site was intended to adjust artillery fire. The second goal was an observation point. They conducted observations from the minarets of the mosque. After the war, I have been visiting Aghdam for the second time. The first time I came here from the Aghjabadi direction, but this time I came from the Barda direction. There are several lines of defense and fortifications in both directions. Apart from the ruins of the Juma mosque, there is not a single sound building. This was not done by some aliens. This was done by the Armenians – our neighbors who ate our bread, settled on our land, but always harbored a feeling of hatred towards us. These destructions took place after the first Karabakh war. This destruction was not committed during the second war. All of our material wealth has been deliberately destroyed and plundered. Our historical and religious sites have been ravaged. This also pursued several goals. First, there was hatred for us. Secondly, the goal was to erase the cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people from these lands and, of course, create a situation in the future for the people of Azerbaijan not to be able to return to these lands.
But they were wrong. They could not understand that the liberation of our lands from occupation was a national issue for us, for our people. They could not understand that we would never come to terms with such a situation and were openly declaring that. The second Karabakh war once again demonstrated to the whole world the determination, the resolve of the Azerbaijani people, and this glorious Victory will forever remain in history. From now on, the Azerbaijani state will develop as a winner state. The people of Azerbaijan will be proud as a victorious nation. Armenia, in turn, is a defeated state, and the atrocities they committed in our occupied lands put an end to the myths created by Armenian lobbying organizations about their people. Because the one who committed this destruction is a barbarian. There is no other name for it. This picture is observed not only here, but also in all the liberated lands. Having driven hundreds of kilometers, I saw that everything on the left and right was destroyed and plundered. It looked as if a wild tribe had swept through these lands. I have said this before and I want to say it again here, in the city of Aghdam, on the Republic Day: we waged war was not only against the fascist Armenian state but also against fascism. Our victory proves that all fascists will face the same end as the Armenians.
As for the war, we can talk a lot about it, of course. But we need to talk more about the future now. War is history, our glorious history. This history will remain forever. It should be deeply studied, and it is already being studied. The 44-day war and the innovations demonstrated by Azerbaijan are being studied on a global scale, in higher military schools of leading countries of the world. Of course, our technical capabilities seriously influenced the outcome of the war, but it was Azerbaijani soldiers and officers who hoisted the banner, raised it, walked forward in the face of death. We owe this Victory to our heroic servicemen, to our martyrs. There may be any equipment and material possibilities, but where there is no love of the Motherland and where there is no national spirit, if you are not ready to go to death for the Motherland, you will never secure a victory. The “brave” Armenian soldiers seeing our soldiers at the second stage of the war put down their weapons and fled. They are fleeing even today.
Unfortunately, the Armenian side has yet to give up provocative actions. I already spoke about this a few days ago when I was in Nakhchivan on May 10. If we see that there is a slightest threat to the security of our people and state, we will immediately destroy the enemy on the spot. They also know our strength and see it. Therefore, the provocation committed by the Armenian army on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border in recent days should not have remained unanswered and did not. They were disgraced yet again. Look, the whole world is laughing at them now. The prime minister puts forward one theory of events and the deputy chief of the general staff quite another – and it happens on the same day. These theories are also false. In other words, in 30 years the Armenians failed to build a state. This means that this people cannot build a state. This means that this people can only live within other large states. Using the capabilities of these large states, they can build life for themselves there. In 30 years, they had a unique chance – if it had not been for this occupation and hostility, if the Armenians had not committed these atrocities against our people, then Armenia, too, could possibly live as an independent state today. Look at the disgraceful state they are in now. They openly admit that they cannot defend their state and their borders. They are playing the blame game – the current government blames the previous one and the previous government blames the current one. In fact, they are all guilty because they made a big mistake. They did not think that they would find themselves in such a helpless state, and they themselves are the culprits of all their troubles.
We will strengthen our borders after this and gain a foothold on the state border. No-one can put pressure on us. No-one can influence us. Certain pro-Armenian countries and circles are making some statements these days. Let them make them, it is their own business. The European Parliament has once again adopted a resolution on the basis of falsified facts. I don't even pay attention to that. And I recommend that not either. I do not advise the Azerbaijani people to pay any attention to it either. None of this makes any difference. What matters is that we are here today, we sit here, we stand here and we will live here forever. The 44-day war and the post-war period – six months have already passed – show again who is who and who is capable of what. We have also clarified many issues for ourselves, in particular, on the international plane. This will help us make the right decisions in the future.
I believe that it is a historic day today because the first master plan is being approved on the liberated lands today. At present, the master plan of the city of Shusha is being prepared, and it will be approved after some time. Work is underway on master plans of Fuzuli, Jabrayil and other cities. But the first master plan will be approved right here. Several events have already taken place. The foundation has been laid for school No. 1, which is very important for the city of Aghdam. You are well aware that this school has a very long history – 140 years long. To create jobs here in the future, the foundation of the Aghdam Industrial Park has been laid. The park covers an area of about 200 hectares, and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people will be provided with jobs here in the future. The foundation of the Barda-Aghdam highway has been laid and it will be commissioned in the near future. At the same time, on my instructions, there are plans to build the Barda-Aghdam railway station. Work has already begun on the restoration of the Imaret complex. I have been shown the concept of the Museum of Occupation and the Museum of Victory in Aghdam. The location has been chosen – the Victory Museum and the Museum of the Occupation will be magnificent. There are other facilities and events, the foundation of a large forest has been laid. Inside the city, there will be a large green belt covering an area of 125 hectares. An artificial lake, canals and bridges will be created. The development plan of the city has already been fully developed, and it meets modern standards and requirements. The entire Karabakh zone will become a “green energy” zone. All cities will be built on the basis of a “smart city” concept. After this meeting today, we will be shown this presentation.
I am sure that everything planned will be implemented and we will often meet with you in the city of Aghdam, in Aghdam district. I want to return to my words again. Over these 17 years – from 2003 to 2020 – I held many meetings with the then internally displaced persons and each time I told them that we would return to these lands, that they would return to these lands. But I saw in recent years that hope in their eyes was fading. I saw it, and it was natural because about 30 years have passed. However, I was always confident that this would happen. I simply couldn't say that. I couldn't say when and how it would happen. But I knew what was going to happen.
I want to touch upon another issue. I know that our people were looking forward to my tweets and speeches during the war. In all my speeches and tweets, I always spoke and wrote the truth. Once I thought that the people of Aghdam are probably thinking why Jabrayil was liberated, Khojavand was liberated, Hadrut, Sugovushan, Murovdag, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli were liberated. Look how far we went. But why aren’t the villages of Aghdam not being liberated? I thought that you, the people of Aghdam, were probably wondering why. But I restrained myself. I could not say why. Now everyone knows the answer now because if we had gone on the offensive in this direction, we would have had many martyrs. They had built such fortifications and mined the area so badly that if we had gone on the offensive from here, it would have been a huge mistake, of course. But we kept a fairly large military contingent in this direction to make sure that a significant part of the Armenian army remained here. Thus, we significantly limited their ability to maneuver. We would have liberated Aghdam anyway. After the capture of the impregnable fortress of Shusha, Aghdam was the next direction on my order. I can say that now. Coming from behind, we were supposed to surround the Armenian group and completely destroy it.
It is quite likely that the Armenian side also realized this and was forced to wave the white flag and surrender. The enemy, who had been challenging us for 30 years, playing on our nerves, insulting our people and inventing some fake heroes, fell to its knees before us, waved the white flag, surrendered and signed an act of capitulation. We liberated Aghdam without a single shot and without a single martyr. We are here today and from now on, we will be here forever.
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