President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Masim Mammadov due to his appointment as Special Representative of the President in Lachin district, which is included in East Zangezur economic region.
The head of state made a speech at the meeting.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev
- You are being appointed as special representative of the President in Lachin district. Great trust is being placed in you. I am sure you will live up to this trust.
Lachin district is one of the largest districts of our country. The district has tremendous potential. Of course, former IDPs who will return to Lachin district should live comfortably in Lachin, and the state of Azerbaijan will make sure this is the case.
Lachin district was under occupation for 28 years, and during this period, almost the entire infrastructure of the district was destroyed by Armenia. Great damage was caused to the environment. In general, as a result of illegal exploitation of our forest fund, 60,000 hectares of our forests were destroyed, cut, looted and sold by the Armenians. A large part of that is made up of the forests of Lachin district.
During the occupation, Armenians conducted a policy of illegal settlement in Lachin. Armenians were brought to the city of Lachin and several villages from foreign countries and settled there. This is considered a war crime according to all international conventions. Unfortunately, the Armenian state has not yet been brought to justice for this war crime.
Lachin district was occupied a few days after the occupation of Shusha. It was a great tragedy for our country, it was a great tragedy for the people of Lachin, and it was yet another act of betrayal on the part of the PFPA-Musavat treacherous duo. The PFPA-Musavat duo aspired to power, tried to seize it by all means, and the transfer and sale of land to Armenia was actually an opportunity for them to achieve this ugly goal of theirs. This is how they evaluated it – they believed that if the people of Azerbaijan were exposed to major suffering, this would provide them with additional opportunities. Unfortunately, this is what happened. The occupation of Shusha and then Lachin caused a very serious political crisis in Azerbaijan. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the PFPA-Musavat treacherous duo seized power illegally one month after the occupation of Lachin, and this opened the way for even greater tragedies. Less than a year later, in April 1993, Kalbajar was occupied, and thus a geographical connection was established between the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and the territory of Armenia. This, of course, was the key contributor to the defeat in the first Karabakh war.
We regained Lachin both on the battlefield and by political means. During the Second Karabakh War, the liberation of Lachin district from occupation was one of the priority tasks. We actually liberated the southern part of Lachin district by fighting, on the battlefield. Gulabird and a number of other villages were liberated on the battlefield, and we accessed the Lachin-Khankendi road. This operation, as well as the liberation of the city of Shusha from the Armenian invaders, actually led to the capitulation of the Armenian state. The Armenian leadership, which once said “Karabakh is Armenia”, was forced to accept its defeat and sign an act of capitulation on November 10, 2020. The other part of Lachin district, the bigger part, was liberated by political means. This is our great and historic victory.
I have to emphasize that during the many years of negotiations, the mediators always showed a special approach to Lachin district. On the whole, Armenia considered the return of Lachin district to Azerbaijan to be unacceptable. They did not intend to vacate other districts either. Now, two and a half years after the war, it has become obvious to everyone. International mediators, the former Minsk Group of the OSCE, actually tried to solidify this occupation by conducting negotiations. Everything has become clear now – France's unfair and prejudiced attitude towards Azerbaijan is not accidental. They simply tried to cover it up to some extent during the occupation. They simply wanted to misguide us. But notice the ugly acts that have been committed against us in the two and a half years since the war, since the Second Karabakh War. Notice the baseless accusations that have been made against us. In other words, all this is obvious, including a series of resolutions adopted by the European Parliament against Azerbaijan, which are still the products of the pro-Armenian, corrupt anti-Azerbaijani group, and French deputies are playing the leading part here. Of course, we felt this during the occupation too, but not to such an obvious extent. We could not even imagine that countries can be so hypocritical and deceitful. They can look into your eyes and say one thing, but do the exact opposite behind your back.
So the whole world could see everything again over the past two and a half years. At the same time, the anti-Azerbaijani forces could see our unbending resolve. No-one can influence our resolve. No-one can speak to us in the language of ultimatums. We proved this to Armenia in the Second Karabakh War, and we also proved it to Armenia's patrons during the two and a half years after the war. We defeated them and showed the whole world again that we can and we will achieve what we want.
Therefore, the history of Lachin district should certainly serve as a lesson in many cases. From now on, ensuring the security of Lachin district and returning the displaced people there as soon as possible are priority tasks for us. All engineering and fortification work in Lachin district along the border with Armenia has almost been completed. Roads that never existed there have been built. 100 kilometers of local roads in Lachin and Kalbajar districts, as well as the roads leading to military positions, have been built. So we have acquired very favorable positions in the direction of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, we are reinforcing ourselves in these positions, and we will remain in these positions. Of course, other steps and measures are being taken for the security of Lachin district. These measures will allow our returning compatriots the opportunity to live there comfortably and safely.
Although the district came under our control when the Second Karabakh War ended, the city of Lachin was not in our hands. There were objective reasons for that. Because the road from Armenia to Karabakh passed through the center of the city of Lachin. As a result of many hours of phone conversations with the President of Russia on November 9, 2020, we managed to incorporate the return of the city of Lachin to Azerbaijan as a precondition. For this purpose, the construction of an alternative road was included in the final statement at my insistence and a deadline was indicated. However, it was indicated in somewhat vague terms that discussions on this issue would be held within three years. But as soon as the Second Karabakh War ended, I immediately ordered that the route and all technical parameters of the new road be determined. We quickly started this work and finished it in a year and a half. So a new road bypassing the city of Lachin was built and the road was ready for operation at the beginning of August last year, or rather on August 2. We sent a message to the command of the Russian peacekeeping forces that they should move their posts from the current route to a new one, and by August 5, we should be able to enter the city of Lachin, the villages of Zabukh and Sus. Representatives of Karabakh Armenians who were in contact with our representatives at the time asked us to give them some time, said that they would resolve those issues themselves by August 25, that they would evict the illegally settled Armenians from the city of Lachin and the villages of Zabukh and Sus, and thus the issue would be resolved comfortably. I didn't mind that. After all, 20 days doesn't make that much of a difference. So all Armenians illegally settled in the city of Lachin and the villages of Zabukh and Sus were removed from there by August 25. On August 26, we returned to the villages of Zabukh, Sus and the city of Lachin. After that, I visited the city of Lachin, raised the Azerbaijani flag in the center of the city and declared that we would live in our native land forever.
Immediately after that, the instruction was issued to start the process of rebuilding the city of Lachin without wasting any time. It has been more than two years since the restoration of Lachin district started. A lot of work has been done. As you know, an international airport is being built in Lachin district. There has never been an airport in that region before and we faced tremendous difficulties in finding a location for the airport. Because it was not possible to find a flat place for the construction of a runway there. We are building an international airport in mountainous areas, in places surrounded by mountains. We cut through mountains and carry out extensive ground disturbance work. The airport will probably be put into operation at the end of next year or at the beginning of 2025.
The process of rebuilding the Kalbajar-Lachin road has started. I personally drove from Kalbajar to Lachin, and although the distance is not very large, the road is extremely difficult and dangerous. It is almost impossible to use the current road. People who lived in those regions during the Soviet era might remember quite well that the road was very difficult. In many cases, it was a winding road, and it was very dangerous. This is why we are rebuilding this road. Many tunnels will be built. In general, most of our tunnels are located in Kalbajar and Lachin districts, and the length of the tunnel passing under Mount Murov will be about 12 kilometers. So we are opening a road from Goygol district to Eastern Zangezur. At the same time, the construction of the Gubadli-Lachin road is in full swing.
So as soon as the war ended, work on the reconstruction of Lachin district started. But the reconstruction of the city of Lachin has been underway since August 26 of last year. I want to inform you and the people of Azerbaijan that about 500 private houses are being built in the city of Lachin or the houses destroyed by the Armenians are being rebuilt as part of the first phase. Eight high-rise residential buildings are being rebuilt or overhauled. More than 30 public buildings are under construction. On my instruction, we should finish all this work by the end of this year. This will only be the first phase. The number of these houses shows that thousands of people will live in the city of Lachin by the end of this year. The people of Lachin will return to their homeland this year.
At the same time, a mosque will be built in the city of Lachin by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. I personally laid the foundation of the mosque while I was in Lachin, and our religious temple will be built in a beautiful location in the near future.
In parallel with this, we have started the process of completely rebuilding the villages of Zabukh and Sus. More than 1,000 people will be settled in the village of Zabukh and more than 300 in the village of Sus. The Armenians living abroad built a village and houses in the village of Zabukh. This did that together with the Armenian state, which committed that crime. Our military personnel are now based in those houses. However, a completely new village is being built for the residents of Zabukh village.
Along with this, I must state that I have approved the master plan of Gulabird and Gorchu villages. At the first stage, 2,400 people will be settled in the village of Gulabird and 1,300 in Gorchu village. So taking into account all these figures, everyone can see that we will settle about 10,000 people, perhaps even more former displaced people in Lachin district in the near future – this year and in 2024.
I should also note that the entire infrastructure of the city of Lachin is being rebuilt – water lines, sewage lines, electricity lines, roads, all internal roads of the city of Lachin are being rebuilt. The length of internal roads is more than 50 kilometers. The architectural style of the city of Lachin is also pleasing to the eye. So it will become one of the most beautiful cities not only in Azerbaijan but also in the world. Considering that Lachin has a very charming nature, forests, mountains and rivers, it will be a paradise. So we are doing this work, and this is just a part of the major work being done. We are now carrying out large-scale construction work on all the liberated lands. We are doing it and will continue to do this work at our own expense.
As my special representative, should start work immediately. You should take charge of all these activities. Infrastructure projects are, of course, being implemented by central executive bodies. At the same time, you should make additional proposals regarding the future development of Lachin district, the creation of jobs and comfortable living standards for local residents. Because we are trying to work in parallel in all our liberated regions. Therefore, for example, three to four villages are to be built in each district in the first stage. At the same time, of course, cities also need to be built. However, if we are talking about Lachin district, the names of all the villages to be established in Lachin district at the first stage have been confirmed. We will concentrate the residents of several villages in some places in the first stage. Because this would be more convenient for the people and, at the same time, from the point of view of logistics. As a whole, villages were located far from each other in mountainous regions not only of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur, but also other districts, and this was often inconvenient for people. This is how traditional placement of villages was done in the past. Of course, every village on our liberated lands will be restored – now and in the future, but the state of Azerbaijan sees its responsibility in gathering the residents of nearby villages to one place and creating good conditions for them. We will build urban-type villages, and I have approved master plans of all the villages to be built. At the same time, the external appearance of the villages has been confirmed. Let me say again that they will be beautiful – both from comfort and architecture perspectives.
Of course, environmental protection should be top priority in Lachin district from now on. We will return the former displaced people, we will create infrastructure and there will be jobs. Great opportunities will be created. However, you as my representative and every former IDP who will return to our lands should know that we must protect the environment. Because in some parts of our country, great damage is being caused to the environment. Illegal work is carried out, lands are occupied, trees are cut down, houses are built instead, facilities unrelated to agriculture are built. So you as my representative and all our citizens should know that there are rules and regulations. No-one can do anything on their own. Whatever the rules say, whatever the laws require, everyone must follow. There should be no encroachment of land, destruction of forests and other unpleasant situations. There should be zero tolerance to such situations. I am sure that all the former IDPs who will return to their ancestral lands will live in accordance with that. State bodies should help them and exercise control so that everything is settled and regulated according to the law.
We will create a large energy capacity using the water resources of Lachin and Kalbajar districts. Now the construction of hydropower plants is going fast in Lachin, Kalbajar, Zangilan and several other districts. We are receiving more than 50 megawatts of energy. The first station was built in the village of Gulabird. This project has been implemented. On the whole, the goal has been set that the hydropower plants in the liberated areas should provide a capacity of 200 megawatts by the end of this year. It should reach 500 megawatts in the future. Lachin and Kalbajar districts have immense wind energy potential.
So all this work will be done. Let me say again that the state is doing its job. It is possible to say that after this appointment, my special representatives will be working in most of the liberated districts. One hasn’t been appointed for Kalbajar district yet, but this will also be done. At the same time, a new governance method should and is already being applied to these territories. In the future, this new governance model should be applied to all other parts of our country. So this is both major construction work and a new governance method. I am sure that this will greatly contribute to the comprehensive development not only of the liberated areas, but also of our country as a whole. So these are my instructions and you should justify my trust.
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Special Representative of the President in Lachin district Masim Mammadov said: Honorable Mr. President, let me express my gratitude for the high confidence being placed in me. I would like to note that, going to the liberated territories and seeing the great devastation caused by Armenian barbarians, one cannot help but be deeply shaken as an Azerbaijani. Nevertheless, I witnessed the extensive construction work under way in that region. I also saw that there was great determination. Under your leadership, the people of Azerbaijan are determined to quickly restore these territories, move there and develop them again.
I want to assure you that I will spare no effort and strength to carry out all the tasks set before me with determination and on time. The main thing is that it is a great honor for me to serve the state of Azerbaijan and you, Mr. President, honestly and conscientiously. Thank you.