Baku, October 9, AZERTAC
Sky News TV channel has broadcast an interview with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
AZERTAC presents the interview.
-Thank you very much President Aliyev for agreeing to do his interview with Sky News. The French President seems confident that the truce will be agreed in the coming days and that you will be able to resume negotiations. How likely is that and on what terms?
-It depends on the position of Armenia. Azerbaijan has always been very supportive to negotiation table, and frankly speaking for 28 years since the OSCE Minsk Group was established we are involved in negotiations. We had hopes and still have hopes that negotiations will lead to progress, and will lead to political settlement. But unfortunately Armenia’s position was opposite. They used negotiation only as a pretext in order to make this process endless. In other words, they wanted always to seal the status quo, to keep status quo unchanged, and not to return the territories back which they have to according to the UN Security Council resolutions and according to the basic principles which are on the table, which were elaborated by the OSCE Minsk Group. Therefore, I hope that after this bitter defeat which Armenia is suffering on the battlefield, they will be more reasonable, and they will listen to the advises of the mediators, and will be sincere on negotiations table. Negotiations should leave to the political settlement, and to the liberation of the occupied territories.
-But what territories exactly are we talking about? Are we simply talking about Nagorno-Karabakh or we talking about the seven occupied Azerbaijani territories that they call their security zone? Because clearly you are not getting all of it back.
-Our territorial integrity is recognized by the whole world. All the countries recognize territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which includes Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians’ position, actually was also a pretext that we are using these seven regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as an excuse to occupy a security zone. But today’s clash shows that there is no security zone in modern world. Modern military equipment does not provide security even for long distance. The security must be provided by political means. Therefore, we were always saying that political settlement will provide security guarantees for all-for Azerbaijanis, for Armenians, for other nationalities who live in the area. And the basic principles which Armenia rejected to support and clearly says how the territories are going to be returned back. In the first stage five regions of Azerbaijan which are situated on the south eastern part of Nagorno-Karabakh. Then two regions of Azerbaijan which are situated between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Then Azerbaijanis return to Nagorno-Karabakh. There have been 25 percent of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh their rights must also be provided. And they go back to where they lived in the ancient city of Shusha and other places and we restore normal communications, we restore people-to-people contact, and slowly and slowly I am sure people will reconcile. That’s the plan of the mediators and we support it.
-Would you recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence if you’re allowed to have 25 percent Azerbaijani population there?
-No, no, never. And that has never been the issue on negotiation table. Our position was very clear, that Azerbaijan will never recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence, because it’s our ancient land. The history of Nagorno-Karabakh is now well-known. Second, it is an integral part of Azerbaijan and why should we give independence to small number of people? Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic country as almost all the countries in the world. National minorities live in peace and dignity in Azerbaijan and in many countries in the world. Being national minority does not mean that you have a right for secession, have a right for separatism. Separatism is a big threat to international community and all the countries in the world condemn separatism. What has been done against us was separatism of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and military aggression of Armenia’s state against Azerbaijan which led to the situation which we are facing now. Occupation, a million of Azerbaijani refugees, ethnic-cleansing against Azerbaijanis, destroyed cities and villages. Now when we are liberating our territories, there are video about what happened there. Everything is destroyed, it’s as if like Stalingrad. It’s even worth than Stalingrad after World War II.
-But that is exactly what you are doing now to the regional capital Stepanakert. That is what you are doing to Shusha which yesterday was targeted not once but twice. A double hit on the cathedral there when it was very clear that civilians and journalists were sheltering inside.
-That was first of all a provocation from the Armenian side. We never did that in the past, we have Armenian church in the center of Baku. You can send someone, or when you come…
-It’s not that the Armenians targeted their own cathedral. How can that be?
-That’s probably their provocation in order to present us in such a way but I can tell you that they are shelling our cities. Do you know that we have 31 killed civilians as a result of Armenian bombardment? 170 wounded people and more than 1 thousand houses totally demolished or damaged because of Armenian attack on our civilians. And they use ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles!
-With all due respect, that is also what you are doing with your shells on Nagorno-Karabakh and you have very sophisticated drone technology which should allow you to see precisely what you are targeting. So, why the civilian structures are getting hit?
-No, no. We never attack civilians. What we did in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, we attacked their tanks, we attacked their guns, we attacked their artillery systems, and also we attacked their military infrastructure. It is not our fault that these military infrastructures sometimes is situated in the city center. But we never on purpose, we never attack civilians. Yes, we have sophisticated weapons but not all of them are sophisticated. There could be some mistakes. Therefore, there was never a deliberate attack on civilians on our side. On the contrary, every day the city of Tartar which is very close to the line of contact is being bombed. We have 2 thousand shells a day on the city. It is almost destroyed and nobody talks about them. So, please let’s be fair about that, we didn’t start it, and we don’t need to attack civilians. We need our territories. Why should we attack civilians with whom we plan to live side by side after the war is over. People of Armenian origin in Nagorno-Karabakh are hostages of a criminal regime which is there. They will, I am sure, live side by side with us in peace and dignity after the war is over.
-You have said that you would like to see Armenia withdraw its troops. But you have also said that you are not prepared to accept peacekeepers there. How else can you reassure your counterparts, the Armenians, that you will not then retake the whole lands?
-If you can tell me when I said that I don’t want to see peacekeepers, I will answer you, but I never said that. That’s wrong information I am sorry, I never said…
-But you won’t accept peacekeepers on that territory.
-Peacekeepers is one of the elements which is provided in the basic principles for the settlement, which was elaborated by the OSCE Minsk Group and there is an item about peacekeepers. But we did not come to this item to discuss it properly. Because it’s premature. Because first, we need to resolve the core issue-the occupation, liberation of territories and then, when Azerbaijanis will return, then of course peacekeepers should come. It is in the framework of agreement, if it is signed by both sides. Then both sides will select who these peacekeepers will be. So we are not against it, but we actually were not in active phase of negotiations on this item.
-It doesn’t sound as though your terms of negotiations have changed since before this latest vast outbreak of hostilities. So, I am just wondering, why weapons should be placed down now if negotiations have never succeeded before?
-You know, negotiations are taking place since 1992. Since that time there have been zero progress on the ground, zero progress. Armenia always was using some manipulation tools in order to disrupt negotiations. This year, starting from July they launched three times a military attack on us. On July, they attacked our civilians and our military positions on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan far away from Karabakh region. That lasted for four days, we pushed back, they could not occupy territories, and we stopped because we don’t have any military purpose on Armenian side. On August 23, they send a sabotage group to commit a terror act which was detained and the head of the group gives evidence. At the end of September, they launched the artillery bombardment of our cities and killed immediately innocent people. We had to respond, we had to push back, that’s what we did. Therefore, we are in favor of negotiations. I can give you two examples, Armenian prime minister last year announced that “Karabakh is Armenia”. What does it mean? It means the end of…
-I asked him what he meant.
-What he meant?
-He said that he meant that ever since the 4th century there have been Armenian churches, there has been an Armenian population and there has ever since the beginning of the Soviet Union much larger Armenian population, ethnic Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh than Azerbaijani.
-You know, he is telling, mildly speaking, not truth. The Armenians’ settlement in that area started in the late 18th and early 19th centuries after the treaty of Kurekchay was signed by Azerbaijani Ibrahim Khan, and Russian general. As a result of that treaty Karabakh khanate became part of Russia, and Russia started…
-I am sorry.
-That’s how it was. That’s how Armenians came to Nagorno-Karabakh. It’s only two centuries, less. He is telling about 4th century.
-You have been in power since the beginning of this century. And yet, there has been no progress made on this issue. It is all very well to blame the Armenians. But do you take some personal responsibility for the fact that your soldiers are now dying on the frontline because you politically have not been able to resolve this?
-Our soldiers are dying for our land. Our soldiers are dying on Azerbaijani soil, historical and internationally recognized. On which soil now Armenian soldiers are dying? They are dying now in Fuzuli, they are dying in Jabrayil, they are dying in other Azerbaijani territories. What they are doing there? You should ask Pashinyan what his soldiers is doing there? 90 percent of the so-called “army of Nagorno-Karabakh” consists of Armenian citizens. They are on our land. It is just enough to look at the map. For us it is a patriotic war. We are defending ourselves. We want to restore our territorial integrity to allow one million refugees to go back. That’s what we are doing. For 28 years we were patient to believe that negotiations will lead to progress. As a result, we got what we have got now. When we pushed back and punished the aggressor, you know we are attacked politically. I accepted the basic principles, Pashinyan rejected it. I accept the format of negotiations which is between Armenia-Azerbaijan, Pashinyan says no, Azerbaijan should negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh. This is acceptable not only by me, but also by Minsk Group. So, he is to blame for what is happening now.
-The French and the Russian say that they have intelligence that Syrian mercenaries are being used on your frontlines. Do you categorically deny that?
-Absolutely, categorically. So far I haven’t been provided with a single document which testified this intelligence. Let them show this intelligence to me. Our intelligence representatives had contacts after these accusations have been made. During this contacts with their counterpart no evidence was provided. If there is evidence why is it not on the newspapers? Why is it not on your channel? Where is this evidence? Show it to me. There is no evidence. We don’t need mercenaries we have 100 thousand fighters, well-prepared, well-trained. We have modern equipment, we have all the necessary military components in order to liberate our land and that’s what we are doing. This is fake news.
-One final question, what gesture of good will could you put on the table to try and start negotiation at this stage?
-We already did that. By the way, I can tell you one more thing about who is against negotiations. Foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia were invited, even before this outbreak, to Geneva to meet Minsk Group co-chairs. Armenian foreign minister was supposed to go in the beginning of October, our foreign minister was supposed to go on the 8th of October. So, Armenian foreign minister ignored that, he didn’t go. Our foreign minister yesterday was in Geneva, met with the co-chairs. And when we received the proposal from Russia to organize the meeting between foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Russia, we agreed. So our foreign minister just an hour ago landed in Moscow, and he will be meeting with his Russian counterpart. And I don’t know what will be the program. Will he meet Armenian minister or not? But he is there. We want peaceful settlement, but settlement. We want solution, not imitation, not another 30 years of etceteras, practical steps, time-table. When our people are going back home? What will be the security guarantees for them? And how we will reconcile? Two nations must reconcile. We are neighbors, we cannot live in hostility forever. This must be stopped, but stopped on the basis of historical truth and international law.
-And a question about journalists operating in Nagorno-Karabakh. Your presidential spokesman has said that because they are there illegally on what you consider to be Azerbaijani territories, they are effectively fair game. Is that something that you believe also?
-Our position is very fair, clear. Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan and our position is that, if any foreign citizen, any-not only journalists- if he wants or she wants to visit Nagorno-Karabakh, please, let us know. We do not expect some kind of special attitude, just inform us that such and such person wants to visit and when we have this information, when we have this sign of respect to our territorial integrity we never object. So, those who go there without this, how to say, procedure, they are being put in the black list of our foreign ministry and the entrance for them to Azerbaijan is forbidden. But if those people write a letter to our foreign minister that we made a mistake, or next time we will inform you, we remove them from the black list. This is fair, the only thing we need is just respect. Therefore, for those journalists who want to go there and cover events, I’d like to use this opportunity to deliver messages to them. Please, inform our foreign ministry by e-mail and go there. No problem.
-And you will not target them.
-We never do it. We never do it. Why should we? We are interested that journalists are coming. I am everyday on TV, everyday I give interviews, because we want to deliver our point. We want to deliver our case, we are not aggressors. We are victims. It is Armenia who is an aggressor. We want the territories back. That’s all.
-President Aliyev, thank you so much for talking to us today.
-Thank you very much.
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