Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Italian Rai 1 TV channel
As reported earlier, on 26 October President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Italian Rai 1 TV channel.
Mr. President, good afternoon. Please tell us if this new truce, this new ceasefire will hold. If I am not mistaken, this is the third ceasefire.
– Everything will depend on how Armenia behaves because Armenia disrupted the first two ceasefires. After the first ceasefire, which was declared on humanitarian grounds, Armenia violated the ceasefire within 24 hours and barbarically launched a ballistic missile at the city of Ganja at night. As a result of the first shelling, ten people were killed, and many were wounded. Then they hit Ganja again, and also at night. There were even more victims. So we had to retaliate. As for the second truce, we have a chronology of Armenia’s violations of the ceasefire. They violated it literally two minutes after the agreed hour of the truce. Today, at 8 o’clock, a new ceasefire came into force. Now it is 10 a.m. in Baku. At about 3-4 minutes after the ceasefire entered into force around 8 o’clock, several artillery shells were fired at the city of Tartar again. We are not reacting to this. We hope this was an accident, but we will be forced to respond adequately if this continues.
– Mr. President, what actually caused the outbreak of hostilities at the end of September? Why did this happen?
– There was a series of events of political and military nature. Armenia’s main goal was to disrupt the process of negotiations in every possible way. Armenia’s new government has repeatedly stated that the fundamental principles are unacceptable. It will not return a single centimeter of the occupied territories – which contradicts the fundamental principles. The prime minister stated that we should negotiate not with Armenia but with the so-called leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is unacceptable both for the OSCE Minsk Group and for us. He also stated that ‘Karabakh is Armenia, full stop’, thereby completely undermining the negotiations. In the past year, there were practically no negotiations. To shift the blame on us, Armenia made three subversion attempts – in July on the border, in August when they sent a subversion group, and in September when they bombarded our cities. They probably thought that we would show restraint again, but that did not happen. We answered them in a manner that they are now regretting it.
– On what conditions you will agree to stop the hostilities then? You have repeatedly spoken about the need for a constructive approach on Armenia’s part. What should a constructive approach be like?
– A constructive approach should be that they must publicly declare, through the prime minister, that they accept the fundamental principles. The fundamental principles envisage the return of seven districts located around the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region to Azerbaijan and the return of Azerbaijani refugees to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha. These approaches are, in principle, based on four UN Security Council resolutions, which require practically the same. But when the Armenian prime minister says that not a single centimeter of land will be returned to us, the Armenian defense minister says that Armenia will start a new war for new territories and when aggression is carried out against us, this is not a constructive approach, of course. He must say that yes, the occupied territories will be returned to Azerbaijan, that the Azerbaijanis will return to Nagorno-Karabakh, including Shusha. Then, of course, we will agree very quickly.
-Mr. President, there is one very controversial issue. Some countries, not only Armenia but also France, have somehow accused you and Turkey of sending thousands of mercenaries, jihadists from Syria to Karabakh via Turkey. How will you respond to such accusations, and how will you respond to the allegations that speak of the presence of Turkish troops and Turkish military aircraft on the territory of Azerbaijan?
– I have already answered this question many times, and I will answer it again. First, such unfounded accusations were brought against us by only two countries – France and Russia. France said that through the President, Russia, through the Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service. These charges were brought against us immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. Although almost a month has already passed, not a single piece of evidence, no proof was presented to us. For the first time, I will say this: I asked the French side for the heads of relevant agencies to meet, discuss the issue, and provide us with evidence. Nothing was presented to us. Therefore, these are all insinuations. All this is an attempt to cast a shadow on Azerbaijan. I regret that such unfounded accusations come from the co-chair countries, which are supposed to be objective. We do not talk every day about how many weapons are supplied from Russia to Armenia. We do mention the fact that Armenia would not have lasted a day in the occupied territories without external assistance. Political support, military support, moral support – all this comes from countries that are supposed to stay neutral. Therefore, we strongly reject these insinuations. It is not necessary. We have 100,000 soldiers in the regular army. If necessary, we will announce general mobilization, which, by the way, we have not done, unlike Armenia. Therefore, this is all lies and slander. As for the participation of Turkish troops in operations, this is another lie. There is not a single piece of evidence. The Turkish F-16s are in Azerbaijan due to our joint military exercises on the eve of the conflict. We do not talk about the number of Russian MIG-29s and Su-30s are in Armenia. We do not talk about the fact that 5,000 Russian troops are stationed at the base in Armenia, in Gumry. According to our data, there are periodic weapons supplies of the Armenian armed forces from there. These are facts, in contrast to what is being said about us. Therefore, I suggest that those who want to accuse us should first deal with their matters before jumping to such hasty conclusions based on false information.
– Mr. President, my last question, more or less, also concerns our country, Italy. You probably know that there are many successful examples of a peaceful settlement of territorial disputes or separatism in Europe. We have one such model in Italy. It is the Alto Adige/Südtirol. Don’t you think that Italy could help you with its experience in resolving the status of Karabakh? Moreover, Italy has very good, close, and strong political and cultural relations with you and also with Armenia.
– Yes, I believe that Italy can play a significant role in settlement of the conflict. I must say that when the Minsk Group was formed, a very long time ago, almost 30 years ago, it was the Italian representative, the Italian diplomat who was the leader of this Minsk Group. That was before the institution of co-chairs was established. After the co-chairs’ institution was created, the Minsk Group as a group of countries did not produce any results because the co-chairs took this activity into their monopoly. We know what this has led to. For 28 years, there has been no progress, no results, only promises, only bureaucratic procedures. In essence, it seems to us today that the co-chairs’ performance was aimed at freezing the conflict, not at resolving it. As for the model that exists in Italy, we have studied it. We also studied the model of the Aland Islands and other successful autonomy experiences. Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is a multiethnic state. In Armenia, as you probably know, 99 percent of the population are Armenians. Therefore, this is a very positive experience of self-government, which could be applied in our case. As far as I know, such proposals were made in the mid-1990s. Even groups of representatives of non-governmental organizations and political scientists have visited your country, the region you are talking about, and the Aland Islands. But Armenia has always categorically rejected this. They believed that they would be able to occupy our territories forever, relying on military, political and economic support from leading countries of the world, but they made a gross miscalculation. We are proving our case on the battlefield today. We are implementing UN Security Council resolutions and are restoring international law.
– Mr. President, the very last question: at what level will we be in this conflict in one year? Or will it already be resolved by then?
– You know, I communicate with representatives of foreign media almost every day during this month, and in my addresses, to the Azerbaijani people, I always clearly state our position. We see the future of the Karabakh region – not only the highland part of it but also the midland because Karabakh is a large part of Azerbaijan – as a prosperous and peaceful territory. And Azerbaijanis that must return there and the Armenians who now live there will coexist in peace. Our position is this. I believe that this can be achieved with the mutual goodwill of the parties. After all, thousands of Armenians live in Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan today. The Azerbaijanis and Armenians have joint businesses in Russia and Georgia. There are mixed families. Therefore, I think that reconciliation is possible. The Armenian leadership should simply abandon its aggressive policy. And if this happens, with our investments and development experience, we can turn this region into one of the world’s most prosperous regions. But for this to happen, the consequences of the war must be eliminated. The consequences of the occupation must be eliminated. The Azerbaijanis must return to the lands they have lived for centuries and live in harmony with the Armenian population. It will not be easy, and it will take time. But we know how countries were reconciled after World War II when European countries were at war – the current neighbors, and many people were killed. But this should not sit in the memory all the time and produce hatred, which is what the Armenian ideologists are doing today. Goodwill must be shown. If that happens, what I am saying will happen. If not, we will return these lands under any circumstances. And the current state of affairs on the battlefield is showing that. We will return them at any cost. Either peacefully or through war, but we will get the lands back. Therefore, I think the Armenian leadership should seriously think about it and take the right step.
– Thank you very much, Mr. President, and as they say in Italian, Bono Fortuno!
– Thank you and all the best to you too. Thank you!