President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has met with residents who returned to the city of Lachin and presented them with house keys.
The head of state addressed the meeting.
Remarks by President Ilham Aliyev
- It is Independence Day today. Dear people of Lachin, first of all, I would like to congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of Independence Day. It is a double holiday today because the natives of Lachin have returned to their hometown after a long break, and I want to congratulate you and the Azerbaijani people on this occasion.
The fact that we organized this meeting on May 28 carries excellent symbolic meaning. Today, the independent state of Azerbaijan has sufficiently strengthened its global standing. At the same time, the independent state of Azerbaijan is capable of achieving any objective today.
The new appearance of the city of Lachin today shows again how strong our independence is. Because in a matter of seven to eight months, most of the city has been completely rebuilt and is now at your disposal. The first 20 families have been in Lachin since yesterday, and many more will arrive by the end of June. About 4,000 people will live in Lachin, perhaps even more at the first stage.
In total, 700 buildings were built in seven to eight months, of which 620 were private homes, nine apartment buildings and a total of 144 apartments. Thus, a total of 764 families can settle in the city of Lachin. But this is not the end of our program yet. The Master Plan of the city of Lachin has been prepared and will be presented today. We have a very clear idea about the work to be done in the city of Lachin in the second phase, so I think that even more people will be able to live in Lachin by the end of the year.
In parallel with this, a medical center is being established. A school will be ready for the new school year. All other necessary conditions are being created. In the presentation shown to me yesterday, I saw that dozens of enterprises are to be established as well. Agricultural and industrial parks are already being established, and more than 1100 jobs will be created. In other words, all the conditions for both living and employment are being created, and as you can see, the city of Lachin has become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
After we liberated our native lands from the invaders, I said that we would turn Karabakh and East Zangezur into a paradise. If there is an image of paradise, then this is it. Spectacular nature, majestic mountains, beautiful buildings and houses – everything is being done with great taste so that both people can live comfortably here, and the modern appearance of the city of Lachin corresponds to Azerbaijan’s achievements.
I should also note that all our cities and villages being created in the liberated lands are at a similar level. Yesterday, I took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for newly created villages in Kalbadjar and Lachin districts. Extensive construction work is underway in all our liberated areas. In other words, this once again shows that we – the owners of these lands – have come here to build and create. The contemptible enemy kept destroying our cities and villages for 30 years, left them in ruins, did not live here and prevented us from living here either. In just two and a half years, we have settled the first group of former IDPs in the villages of Aghali and Talish, and the third place of residence for the former IDPs is the city of Lachin. By this September, we will have completely built the village of Zabukh and put it at the disposal of the residents of Zabukh. As you know, the villages of Zabukh and Sus were liberated from the invaders on the same day as the city of Lachin, and intensive work is underway there. We will provide our citizens with normal conditions by doing more and more every year in Lachin and all other districts.
The occupation of Lachin region was a great tragedy for all of us, first of all, for you, because you could no longer live in your native land, and also for the newly independent Azerbaijan. Because the occupation of Lachin created a geographical link between Armenia and the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Lachin district was occupied in May 1992, just 10 days after Shusha. It happened less than a year after the restoration of our independence. The loathsome enemy had already launched a flagrant aggression against us. It is a shame that neither the then leadership of Azerbaijan nor the opposition forces with their sights set on power could realize their responsibility. In many cases, both committed a betrayal. Insidious political motives were behind the handover of Lachin to the Armenians - the PFA-Musavat duo seeking power. To seize power by any means, they resorted to the ugliest acts and practically handed over Shusha and Lachin to the enemy. Pay attention to these dates, i.e., the liberation of Lachin and the timing of our meeting here today, also have a symbolic meaning. In May, Lachin was occupied, and the people of Lachin returned to Lachin also in May – although 31 years later, we are back.
In April 1993, Kalbadjar was occupied as a result of the treachery of the forces that were seeking power and had already seized it. In April, we fully restored our territorial integrity by establishing a border checkpoint on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in the direction of Lachin. So, there is a connection between these dates. At that time, Azerbaijan did live as an independent country but could not pursue an independent policy. Azerbaijan was weak and powerless, and the destructive processes unfolding in the country had called into question the newly-gained independence. There was an economic crisis, a political crisis and a military crisis in the country; there was a struggle for power, almost a war, and a civil war was raging - the cause of all that was the disgraceful efforts by the Popular Front and Musavat duo.
This month we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Great Leader Heydar Aliyev, and celebrations will be continued until the end of the year. It was after he had come to power in Azerbaijan and become its leader that Azerbaijan was able to rise. Azerbaijan was able to embark on the path of development, and the civil war was stopped. Since October 1993, after he was elected President, to the present day, Azerbaijan has been asserting itself as a place of stability and as an exemplary country in the world. At that time, the situation was completely different. Of course, after the occupation of Lachin, Kalbadjar and Shusha, the Armenian armed forces gained a great strategic and military advantage and were able to occupy our other lands as well.
You know very well that I was trying to end this occupation through negotiations for many years. The negotiations I conducted for almost 20 years are evidence of that. However, you, the people of Azerbaijan, and the entire international community knew and know very well that Armenia did not want to vacate our lands of its own free will. It did not want to leave the occupied lands. Simply for the sake of visibility and in order to deceive international mediators and mislead the international community, they made a proposal that they were ready to return five districts, but Lachin and Kalbajar would have remained in their hands forever. We could never agree to that. I have always said that our territorial integrity must be fully restored. Today, thanks to the heroism of the victorious Azerbaijani Army, we have achieved this. We have defeated the enemy on the battlefield. It would have been better if it had happened through negotiations, but I said that we should be ready for every option and that every single one of us should bring the day of liberation closer, and we brought it closer. While the negotiations were underway, we strengthened our economy, and today we are not dependent on anyone. We are one of a handful of countries in the world that are economically independent. We have boosted our political power. Azerbaijan is a country to be reckoned with today. At least in matters of regional security and development, no initiative can be implemented without Azerbaijan's approval. I am saying at least regionally, but Azerbaijan's position on many global issues is considered an important position today.
We have built a strong army. This army crushed the enemy in 44 days, brought them to their knees and expelled them from our lands. We have raised a wonderful young generation – a patriotic and well-educated young generation was brought up in the national spirit. These young people liberated our lands. Young people from these regions who had not seen Lachin, Kalbadjar and other lands under occupation were ready to die. They were facing death. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace. We will never forget their heroism. Thanks to their heroism and bravery, we are here, and life is reviving in these lands today.
The Second Karabakh War is our glorious history. The period that has passed since the Second Karabakh War is also very important for the future. Because when the war ended, one could say that the mediators who dealt with this issue at the time did not even know what they would be doing in the future. Armenia is in a completely helpless state. It is still unable to heal the pain and wounds of the bitter defeat. They have sustained great psychological damage, and this is natural. Therefore, Azerbaijan showed leadership here again. The reality we live in today emerged as the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. We said that the OSCE Minsk Group’s services were no longer needed. It was actually a shot in the eye. We said that a peace treaty should be signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia based on the principle of territorial integrity. By taking the necessary steps, we achieved what we wanted today in the territories under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Karabakh. On April 23, we settled the issue once and for all by setting up a border checkpoint on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. We have resolved the issue of territorial integrity once and for all. Our territorial integrity had already been restored as a result of the Second Karabakh War. However, the border checkpoint was the last location where there was still uncontrolled movement from Armenia to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and in the opposite direction. The movement is still there but now under full control.
We were the ones who created all these realities. As a result of this, after the Second Karabakh War, we created a new reality both on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border and in the territories under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping forces, and by establishing a border checkpoint, we forced Armenia to articulate what we said before. I said this after the Second Karabakh War – a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia is possible if they say: Karabakh is Azerbaijan! Only three to four years ago, they were saying that “Karabakh is Armenia” and believed that they could keep our lands under occupation forever. They believed that we, the Azerbaijanis, would come to terms with this situation. I said no, and we would never come to terms with that. I told them, their patrons and those who support them today that we would never come to terms with that. Life has once again shown that we do what we say. The statement made by the Armenian leadership a few days ago is actually a reiteration of what I said a few years ago: “Karabakh is Azerbaijan!”
Now, after Armenia has recognized our territorial integrity, there are practically no serious obstacles in the way of a peace treaty. I am sure that if Armenia does not cheat again and does not change its position, a peace treaty can be signed in the near future. If it is signed, it is very good, but even if it is not signed, I see no problems facing the state of Azerbaijan due to that. Because we are the stronger side, we are the ones who have a strong hand at the negotiating table. We are the ones who have a solid position on the border. Even if the peace treaty is not signed, we will live comfortably and safely.
I remember very well, and you probably recall as well, that on my birthday on December 24, 2011, I met the people of Lachin in the Takhtakorpu settlement of Aghjabadi district. I usually don't celebrate my birthdays, including birthdays that are considered jubilee. I celebrated my 60th birthday on Jidir Duzu plain and my 50th birthday with the people of Lachin in the Takhtakorpu settlement. At that time, a settlement consisting of more than 550 houses was built for the people of Lachin in the Takhtakorpu. In that meeting, I said that the day would come when we would build even more beautiful houses for you in Lachin, and this day has come. Only 11 years have passed since that day, and we are already meeting with you in the city of Lachin. There cannot be a greater joy. I am sure we are all happy today. We are filled with optimism. We live with pride because the Second Karabakh War is a source of eternal pride for us. This Victory will be with us forever, and the younger generation and children will live with pride in this Victory.
It is now time to build. I want to repeat today's face of the city of Lachin – although I do acknowledge that this is only the first stage – shows that we are a nation of creators. It shows that this land is ours. This has always been our land. The enemy, together with its foreign patrons, simply took advantage of our weakness, took advantage of the lack of leadership at the time, occupied these lands and sought to live here forever.
Let me also inform you that Armenians were illegally settled in Lachin and Kalbadjar districts. This is considered a war crime by international conventions. However, I saw their living conditions when I came here in September. The conditions they had created for themselves are beyond any comparison. Perhaps, only they knew how to live under such dire conditions.
Immediately after we returned to Lachin, we started the construction work. I came here in September, and in late September, we already got down to work.
You know perfectly well that when the Second Karabakh War ended, a large part of the Lachin, Kalbadjar and Aghdam districts was still under occupation. During the war, I repeatedly said that the Armenian leadership should specify a date when it would withdraw its troops from our lands, and only then can we stop the war. After Shusha was liberated from occupation along with many villages, Armenia signed the act of capitulation. According to the agreement reached, there should be a road connecting the Karabakh region where the Armenians live with Armenia, and Russian peacekeeping forces should exercise control over that road. So, the city of Lachin was still effectively under occupation. As a result of the negotiations held until November 10, I insisted that a new road be built, and after the new road was built, the city of Lachin should be returned to us. A period of three years was agreed to determine the route of the road. We not only agreed on this but also built this road in a year and a half, and at the beginning of August, we sent a notice to the Armenians living in Lachin and to the Russian peacekeeping forces that we were coming - please leave. After that, we were asked to wait a bit until August 25, after which they would vacate Lachin and the villages of Zabukh and Sus. I agreed because 20 days are not much of a difference, i.e., we did not want to shed blood again. So, on August 25, the last Armenian invader or illegal resident left Lachin, and we returned on August 26.
This shows again that every inch of this land is dear and native to us. Every city and every village is ours. Land cannot be given away. During the negotiations, there were different stages and different moments. There were pressures and threats. Some went to great lengths to make us come to terms with this occupation. However, our unbending position and resolve overpowered all those efforts. I was saying that there could be no compromise. “Five districts were supposed to be returned to us, and two should remain under Armenian control forever” – that was impossible. We were not going to compromise a single village, and we proved it. The border checkpoint established on the border on April 23 should be a lesson for the Armenians living in the Karabakh region today. Unfortunately, they are still relying on someone, thinking that someone will save them in the future, someone will fight a war with Azerbaijan in the future. This is all nonsense. During the Second Karabakh War, we showed a strong determination, and if no one ventured to intervene at that time, who will come and fight against us for the Armenians after we regained all these lands? First of all, it is illegal. We are in our native land, and the Karabakh region where Armenians live today is our ancestral and legitimate land. We simply think that they will understand everything and will come to live under the flag of Azerbaijan. We are anticipating that. Therefore, we are not taking any other steps, and I think that the events of the last two and a half years should wake them up from this dream.
For the past two and a half years, all our plans have been implemented in a consistent manner. We are to take the last step in our plans, and that step will be taken – I have no doubt about that. I am telling them again from here, from the land of Lachin, which they had been exploiting for many years and were engaged in an illegal settlement, that they have reached the end of the road. The book called “Miatsum” is closed, and so is the book of separatism. The dream of independence went straight behind the status. As for the status, we sent it to where it belonged during the Second Karabakh War. Therefore, there is only one option left – to abide by the laws of Azerbaijan, be a loyal and decent citizen of Azerbaijan, throw the false state attributes in the trash, and dissolve the “parliament.” As if there is a “parliament” there, as if there is a president or ministers; all this is funny. We are simply being patient. However, everyone knows perfectly well that we have all the means to carry out any operation in that region today. Therefore, the “parliament” should be dissolved, the element calling himself “president” should surrender, and all “ministers,” “deputies,” and others should give up their positions. Only in that case can a concession be made to them. Only in that case can we talk of an amnesty. I should also state that international organizations concur with our position of late. I already see this during various meetings. Why do they agree with us? Because we are right and because we don't deviate from our position. This is why no one talks about independence, autonomy or anything else these days. The latest messages we have been receiving are inquiries about the fate of the leadership there. Are they liable to an amnesty or not? I say it could be looked at.
First, we sent a delegation there. My representative went and held the first meeting with them, and then we invited them to Baku to talk. They refused. After that, we invited them to Baku for the second time, i.e., representatives of the Armenian minority living in Karabakh. They refused again. There will be no third invitation. Either they will bend their necks and come themselves, or things will develop differently now. Therefore, they can count on an amnesty only if they voluntarily abandon their fake, self-styled titles and positions and apply for Azerbaijani citizenship. We will look at that. My word is final, and everyone knows that both in Azerbaijan and the rest of the world, including Armenia. We do what we say. Not a single word of ours remained as empty, and it never will be in the future either. If I say that amnesty can be an option, they should not miss this opportunity. They have missed many opportunities, a number of opportunities, and each time, as they say, we had to knock them over to bring them to their senses.
Some time ago, two of our soldiers went astray and found themselves in the territory of Armenia, where they were tortured. I must inform you that after the Second Karabakh War, representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan reached an agreement that if someone goes astray – because this possibility is very high, especially in winter months, you know that the terrain and climate here are very harsh, there are mountains, valleys, and one can get lost – if such an incident occurs, those people should be returned within two days at most. We were doing exactly that. We detained them for a maximum of two days, interrogated and returned them – both civilians and soldiers. Look what they did. First of all, they brutally beat up, handcuffed, and humiliated our soldiers who had gone astray and actually filmed the whole ordeal. After that, they arrested and sentenced them. How can this be possible? At the trilateral meeting in Brussels on May 14, I stated that this was unacceptable. If you break this agreement, you will suffer the consequences. Release our soldiers immediately! But instead, they were sentenced to 11 years. There was no trial, no lawyer, no judge and no media coverage. What kind of court is that? This is illegal. This is why I am saying this today before it is too late. While Armenia has legal independence, albeit not de facto, and while the concept of Armenia's borders is still accepted in a certain sense - they must accept our terms. If they don't want delimitation, then there will be no delimitation. If anything happens there, the border will be where we say it should be. They know that we can do it. No one will help them, not the retired French policemen from Europe, not others, not anyone else.
Therefore, the delimitation should be conducted on our conditions, i.e., based on fair conditions. The peace treaty must be based on international norms, our road to Nakhchivan must be opened, and representatives of the Armenian army still stationed in Karabakh must be removed from there. These are our conditions. I am saying these conditions here in the city of Lachin so that everyone can see that we are here today and we will be here forever. Let them know that we can see Armenian villages from here. We can see those villages, so they shouldn’t forget about that.
Dear natives of Lachin, you lived in suffering for many years, both physically and morally, in difficult conditions, in campuses, train carriages and tent camps. Even worse than that was moral suffering. In other words, the pain of being unable to return to your native land is terrible. Everyone should and does understand this. Many times, when I met the displaced people from Lachin and other regions that were occupied at the time, I tried to encourage them and told them that we would return, that we would definitely return! I could see hopes fading, which was natural – after all, it was 30 years. This is understandable. But I could not tell when we would return. How could I say? I knew that we would return, and if you watch the video of the meeting 11 years ago, you will see that I said that we would return and more beautiful houses would be built in Lachin. And, so, it happened. Therefore, the conditions for you and for former IDPs like you should be the best, the most beautiful, so that you can live comfortably here after long, painful years. We will try to provide it in the future too.
I congratulate you both on your return and on the occasion of the holiday and wish you robust health and success. Thank you.
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Then, the head of state presented the keys to the residents returning to the city of Lachin.
Residents expressed their gratitude to the head of state.
Resident Elbrus Sadigov: Mr. President, we are glad to see you. I have been dreaming of embracing you. Thank Allah, my dream has come true. I am very happy. May Allah bless you! We are proud of you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Resident Isag Musayev: Mr. President, I also say, Thank you very much! I also congratulate you. I wish you good health, long life and strong good health to our soldiers, and may Allah have mercy on our martyrs. I wish the disabled and veterans a speedy recovery. Thank you for giving us this day.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Elbrus Sadivov: Mr. President, after 31 years of occupation, I am greeting you in the city of Lachin, which you have turned into a paradise, and I say, “Welcome!” We have lived with this longing for 31 years. Thank Allah, we have returned to our land. When I came here in the evening, I felt a sense of pride. Such a wonderful Lachin, construction work, and landscaping work was done quickly thanks to you, and we feel very proud. You have returned our lands. You have given us life. As an elder, I express my gratitude to you on behalf of the elders of Lachin and all the people of Lachin. May Allah bless you. Mr. President, during the 44-day war, we were watching all your speeches and information. We lost our martyrs. May Allah rest their souls in peace.
President Ilham Aliyev: Amen
Elbrus Sadigov: May Allah grant health and happiness to our veterans. In a short time, you liberated our lands, and you have restored the dignity of 50 million Azerbaijanis. May Allah bless you. I wish you good health and happiness. Today we have three wonderful holidays – Independence Day, the day of our return to Lachin and the day of the presidential election in Turkey. We pray to Allah to see our friend, our brother, our pillar, our support, and our beloved one as a president. May Allah bless him with good health.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Elbrus Sadigov: We look forward to hearing some good news. Inshallah, we will. I also had a wish. Thank Allah, I was lucky enough to see him. I always watched you on TV. When the war ended, I sent you a hug through TV and expressed my gratitude. May Allah always have you there for us. My dream came true today. My biggest dream has come true. We are back, yet we are both happy and sad. Some of our loved ones have passed away. Their souls will rejoice, thanks to you. May Allah bless you. May Allah always have you as our President. I want you to celebrate your 100th birthday here.
Resident Ajdar Ahmadov: Mr. President, we are welcoming you to our homeland. I sincerely congratulate you, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, on May 28. I want to note with great regret that our older generation, personally my father and mother, are not with us anymore. I am both happy and sad to be here today. Even if they don't participate here, we are like children in our Lachin, and I want to inform you that from today we will live and create in our native land. We will do our best to add to the splendor of our place. Mr. President, we express our deep gratitude to you for making this day possible for us. Thank you very much. May Allah bless you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Resident Gadir Valiyev: Dear President, Mr. Commander-in-Chief, you gave us the joy of Victory in the 44-day war. May Allah rest the souls of our martyrs in peace and grant good health to our ghazis. As a result of your wise policy, the 31-year longing of the people of Lachin has come to an end. I congratulate you and your family on this occasion on behalf of all the people of Lachin. I wish you a long life and good health.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you, and happy holidays again.
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Then, a commemorative photograph was taken.