Pres. Ilham Aliyev held an international conference titled, “South Caucasus: Development and Cooperation,” on April 29, 2022 in Baku, Azerbaijan, with 40 participants from 23 countries. The conference lasted over three hours, with a short introductory speech by Pres. Aliyev, followed by lengthy replies to a dozen questions from the fawning foreign guests.
The welcoming remarks were made by Hafiz Pashayev, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan and Rector of the ADA University, which hosted the conference. He said that the conference was “dedicated to the Great Victory and liberation of Azerbaijani lands.” The day before the conference, the participants were taken on a tour of Fizuli and Shushi. Pashayev said: “our guests were also able to see some parts of the barbarian destruction which have been left after the Armenian occupation.”
Aliyev stated in his remarks that after “capitulating” in the 2020 war, Armenia recently accepted the “five basic principles for peace that Azerbaijan put forward.” He said that Azerbaijan lost the opportunity for peace “for thirty years because of separatism, and because of Armenian aggression…. Personally, I will never forget the atrocities and barbarism.”
Aliyev urged Armenians to “put an end to their territorial claims from Azerbaijan and Turkey…. It is important that the Armenian government and the country’s political spectrum fully understand this and stop trying to take revenge once and for all…. It is unproductive, because it will be more painful for Armenia than before…. It is absolutely irrational to put territorial claims to Turkey, which is one of the leading economies and one of the very few leading armies in the world.” Armenians must “put down all illusions.”
Aliyev even dared to warn Armenians to “put down all attempts to rebuild the army, become stronger, to have five million population which they announced as their state program, and then to take back their territories. That would be the end of their statehood officially.”
Aliyev accused Armenia of destroying “Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage and renaming all our cities, including Aghdam and Shusha.”
Aliyev disclosed how Azerbaijan blocked the delivery of weapons to Armenia during the 2020 war: “We publicly said many times that arms during the 44-day war regularly — they have several a day cargo planes carrying weapons from Russia to Armenia. We traced all the routes from Rostov and Mozdok. We asked our Georgian friends to block the airspace, and they did. Also, we asked our Georgian friends to block the land route from Russia to Georgia to transport weapons to Armenia, and they did it also, and we are grateful. We sent letters to all Caspian littoral states not to allow Russian cargo planes carrying weapons to Armenia. We sent [letters] to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. But unfortunately, these planes were using the territory of these countries entering Armenia.”
Aliyev also ridiculed Armenia and the Diaspora for thinking “that the whole world owes them everything, and someone will come and defend them, someone will come and fight for them, someone will come and give them money and everything, and they will sit and exploit their questionable and doubtful so-called tragedy.”
Pres. Aliyev accused Armenians of planting mines right before evacuating the territories they had lost to Azerbaijan in the war, after Armenia “signed the act of capitulation” on Nov. 10, 2020: “We gave them 10-20 days to leave the territories they had to leave based on the agreement signed on November 10. But, they used it to plant mines, burn houses they did not build but settled in, cut trees, and [cause] other ecological disasters.” He said that during that same period, Armenians “destroyed 30 hydroelectric power plants.”
Aliyev falsely claimed that Azerbaijan is a tolerant, multicultural country. He cited as an example the existence of an Armenian Church in the center of Baku. “There are five thousand Armenian books” in the Church, he said, hiding the fact that the Church no longer functions as a house of worship, but a library.
Aliyev assured his guests that “Armenians who live in Karabagh, we consider them our citizens. We hope that they will also soon understand that living as citizens of Azerbaijan, they will have all rights, and their security will be protected. Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is a multi-ethnic country. All ethnic groups who live here, including Armenians, live in peace and dignity. We have an Armenian minority and they never had any issue in that respect.” Aliyev is hoping that everyone forgot about the repeated massacres of thousands of Armenians in Azerbaijan.
Aliyev claimed that Azerbaijan “is already getting some messages from Armenians in Karabagh — very positive messages. We already started some preliminary contacts on different levels. Don’t want to go into much details, but it already started, and this once again demonstrates our intention. They can be part of the rapid economic development, they can feel themselves much more safe, secure and comfortable within the unified Azerbaijani state, but they need to put down their separatist trends and separatist aspirations.”
Regarding the upcoming negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to delimit and demarcate their mutual border, Aliyev claimed that there are maps that show Yerevan and Zangezur were “part of Azerbaijan.”
During his remarks, Aliyev also antagonized Russia when responding to a question about Ukraine. “We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine…. The most important [thing] is never agree to the occupation,” he said.
Finally, taking a dig at Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Aliyev recalled him saying, “‘Karabagh is Armenia.’ Now what [do] they say? Now they say that ‘Karabagh is Azerbaijan.’ And who says that? The same people who said ‘Karabagh is Armenia’ in 2019.”
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier