President Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Japan’s Nikkei newspaper - UPDATED
- 22 October 2020
As reported, on October 21, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Japan’s Nikkei newspaper.
APA presents the interview.
- About the Karabakh conflict. Now foreign ministers from both Azerbaijan and Armenia are to visit Washington DC on Friday. What do you expect from that meeting. Are you ready for trilateral talk with some conditions?
-Actually, as you know, the United States, Russia and France are three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group which has a mandate to facilitate, to find a solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Therefore, it’s natural that our ministers meet in these three capitals. These kind of meetings happened before, many times. And you know that there have been a visit to Moscow and meeting in Moscow. So, it is a continuation of the discussions on the peaceful settlement of the conflict. Of course, now situation on the ground have changed. The status quo no longer exists, the line of contact does not exist either. Therefore, of course, I think that now Armenian leadership must be more reasonable, and to commit itself to liberation of the occupied territories. So, our main objective at these discussions will be to find out whether the Armenian leadership is ready to liberate our territories or not, and if ready, then when?
-Are you also invited to Moscow by President Putin?
-If invited are you ready to go?
-I have been many times invited by President Putin. And I visited Moscow many times some years even several times a year. Therefore, it is obvious, between partner countries and neighbors these high level contacts are common. And President Putin also visited Azerbaijan many times.
-If there is any progress on Friday between the ministers, is it possible to have a trilateral meeting in Moscow with Armenian prime minister also joining?
-Well, of course it is possible. Because this kind of meetings happened before. It depends on what will be the agenda if this kind of meeting is going to take place. Because with this Armenian government unfortunately, the prospects for peaceful settlement are very remote. Because very counter-productive and provocative statements and actions on behalf of Armenian leadership made actual negotiations senseless. Because the main topic on negotiation table always has been liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. And when Armenian prime minister declares that “Karabakh is Armenia”, when he declares that “Azerbaijan must negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh’s so-called authorities”, and when he orders ballistic missile strike on a peaceful city of Ganja and daily attacks on other cities of Azerbaijan, there is not much room for negotiations. Therefore, we had to prove Armenian government that they cannot afford any longer to make these aggressive steps without any punishment. We are punishing them on the ground. We are liberating our territories.
Every day almost I announce new cities and villages which have been liberated from Armenian occupation. Armenia is suffering very bitter defeat on the battlefield. Therefore, of course, they must be more reasonable, and definitely, the matter of liberation of the territories is happening. We wanted to achieve it through peaceful talks. But due to Armenian unconstructive position and provocative steps it was not possible. Therefore, we are now liberating our territories on the battlefield.
-Would you say the second ceasefire has already failed or ended? Would you say the battles are still going on?
-Second attempts to achieve ceasefire failed because two minutes after the time when ceasefire had to be efficient they violated the ceasefire. They again, attacked our peaceful cities, this morning from 6 am until 8 am they launched more than 100 times their shells on peaceful city of Tartar which suffered mostly and they attack our military position. They wanted to regain the territories which have already been liberated. As you know, after the first attempt of ceasefire in less than 24 hours, they attacked from the territory of Armenia with ballistic missile, second largest city of Azerbaijan – Ganja, which is a war crime. And the Armenian government will be responsible for that. So, they violate the ceasefire. I always say that ceasefire cannot be achieved unilaterally. If we are attacked, we must not only defend ourselves, but also launch a counter-attack. And I can tell you after they violated ceasefire second time, we liberated the city of Zangilan, and many villages. So, the more time passes on the battlefield, the more territories we liberate. Therefore, Armenian government should think seriously about their behavior and make a strong commitment if they want the ceasefire to be efficient. First, not to violate it, second, not to attempt to regain the territories which we already liberated, and make a commitment about liberation of occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
-The ceasefires so far had been for humanitarian purposes, including exchange of captives and bodies. So, do you think that means ceasefire, maybe there will be another one, but it will be over once exchange of captives are done?
Is there a substantial ceasefire that will hold or is it just a temporary one, if there is any?
-It was announced on humanitarian grounds, and also as you know in Moscow declaration there was a reference to substantive negotiations. And the fact that the format of negotiations is unchanged, which means that there will be no more attempts from Armenian side to try to integrate the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh authorities” on negotiation table. This was rejected by us, and by the Minsk Group. Therefore, of course, if Armenia commits to negotiations and with a strong commitment to liberate the territories which they so far did not announce then, this ceasefire will be a long-termed. Because we want to resolve this problem peacefully. But if, they will try to use ceasefire in order to mobilize their resources, in order to get additional foreign military assistance and to launch a new attack on us, of course, this ceasefire will not last long. It depends on them.
-So, in order to get on the table of negotiations would you demand Armenia to agree to withdraw at least some of maybe the seven regions in advance, before any negotiation?
-They must make a strong commitment that they will liberate these territories. Because, this is the part of the basic principles which have been agreed between two countries with the facilitation of the Minsk Group. Basic principles say that the occupied territories must be returned to Azerbaijan and our refugees and internally displaced persons must return to all the occupied territories, including territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and including territory of ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha. Therefore, the Armenian government must clearly declare that they are committed to this principles, they will liberate these territories, and then of course, negotiations will start. We do not put a pre-condition now that territories must be liberated first and then negotiations started. We, at this moment demand from Armenian side, from prime minister personally, the person who is responsible for this violence and is responsible for war crimes against peaceful Azerbaijanis, we demand from him personally saying Armenia will liberate the occupied territories. After that of course, the resolution of the conflict will be transformed from the battlefield to the negotiation table.
-Would you be ready for negotiation maybe if Armenia says they are ready to withdraw or liberate five regions first?
-All the regions of Azerbaijan must be liberated. All of them. Of course we can talk about the timing and in the basic principles there were certain ideas about timing on which stage the first regions on which stage the second part of the regions. So, this can be discussed. But it is obvious that all the occupied territories must be returned.
-And this has to be announced before.
-And all Azerbaijanis must return to their ancient lands.
-What would you say to Russia’s proposal of sending monitoring teams, or what about international monitors?
-International monitors, our peace-keeping forces is part of the basic principles. But it is the last part, one of the last issues, which had to be addressed and definitely both sides Azerbaijan and Armenia should agree on who will be those international observers, or peacekeepers. Therefore, we did not seriously discuss this issue in the framework of negotiations. I think that the Minsk Group co-chairs, three countries will definitely make proposal on their behalf about what composition, the number of so-called observers, when and where they are going to be deployed? Because it is also important from technical point of view. Because now it is an active phase of combat operations. Where these observers or peacekeepers will be deployed? Their life can be under risk. And what will be their mandate? Who will give the mandate to them? And it is clear that when we talk about that we talk about the territory of Azerbaijan. It is not territory of Armenia. Therefore, of course, we must have a decisive say about that. Therefore, of course, all these issues must be addressed. In principle, we are not rejecting it. But of course, we will put our conditions when time will come.
-Speaking of Minsk Group, Turkey criticizes Minsk Group as brain dead. Would you agree?
-I said recently that the Minsk Group did not produce any result for 30 years. At the same time, I said that with the facilitation of the Minsk Group, with the previous Armenian governments we managed to make progress, not a big progress but still progress. But if one group of countries for 30 years cannot produce results, it speaks for itself. And also, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group are permanent members of the UN Security Council. And the UN security Council with participation of these countries and with the voting of these countries adopted four resolutions demanding complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories. That’s a question why these resolutions are not implemented because the Minsk Group co-chairs and permanent members are the same countries. It is an open question.
-Among the Minsk Group co-chairs, what would you say to Russia? What would you say to Russia’s role as a leading mediator? How would you say has Russia been fair?
-Three co-chairs of the Minsk Group have the same rights, and the same mandate. Therefore, as far as I know among these countries they did not choose a leader. They are all equal and we look at them as mediators. If any country assumes the role of mediator, this country must be neutral. And, if it is not neutral, it cannot be a mediator. The level of neutrality is another question, which of course, will be addressed at the proper time. But, I think the Minsk group co-chairs will play their role, especially now, when Armenia is almost defeated on the battlefield in order to stop violence, and to implement mandate which was for 28 years not implemented.
-Do you want Turkey to have more say in the Caucasus affairs and be much more active in this negotiation process?
-It depends of course on the political agenda of Turkey. I cannot speak on behalf of Turkey. What I want to say is that of course, we always, strongly support Turkish active involvement in the regional issues and actually, this involvement is obvious. Turkey plays important role now not only in our region, not only in the Caucasus, but in a broader region and in the world. It is a reality, and it is a very good reality for us. Because for us Turkey is a brotherly country, our closest ally and friend. And de facto, Turkey is already involved of course, from the legal point of view also as a member of the Minsk Group. I said once in one of the interviews that Turkey could have been even a co-chair. If today, we would have been selecting the co-chairs definitely, Azerbaijan would have supported the Turkish candidacy and I am sure Turkey would have insisted on being a co-chair. In 1992, unfortunately it didn’t happen. So, this is a legal part. And then, a practical part, as you know presidents of Turkey and Russia, their foreign ministers, defense ministers talked, met, discussed this issue. Therefore, if somebody says that Turkey should not be there, as Armenia says, it’s none of Armenian business, Turkey is already there and must be involved, because it will bring stability. And also, Turkey I think is the only country which has a border with three Caucasian countries. No other country has a border with three of them. Then, of course, Turkey must be actively involved, Turkey is involved and we strongly support it.
-Karabakh is by international law Azerbaijan’s territory. But at the same time there are many Armenian inhabitants. Can you guarantee once Azerbaijan gets back its control, Armenian inhabitants can live safely with equal rights?
-Yes, definitely. And I already many times during this active phase of the conflict made statements in this regard that those Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabakh are our citizens and their security, their rights will be totally provided as long as the rights of all other people of Azerbaijan. And I can tell you that today, in Azerbaijan we have thousands of people of Armenian origin, unlike Armenia, where there is no Azerbaijanis and 99% of Armenia are ethnic Armenians. So, no national minority, can live and survive there. So, they expelled all the nationalities which used to live on the territory of today’s Armenian Republic. The biggest community were Azerbaijanis. In the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Yerevan was 70 percent inhabited by Azerbaijanis. They destroyed all our historical, religious monuments. They destroyed the traces of Azerbaijani culture, not only in Yerevan but also in many other regions of today’s Armenia. And by the way, Azerbaijani Democratic Republic which was established on May 28, 1918, on May 29th decided unfortunately, that was a big mistake which cannot be justified, to give Yerevan to Armenia as a capital. So, they destroyed all our religious and cultural heritage, they destroyed our mosques, they destroyed our monuments, but here in the center of Baku there is an Armenian church with many Armenian books. And many Armenians, thousands of them live today in Baku and in other parts of Azerbaijan. With respect to the point that you said that many Armenians who lived there, according to our information, the real population of territory which is occupied, including former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous District is around 65 thousand people. It is not a big community. But before the war in the beginning of 1990s there have been more than 40 thousand Azerbaijanis, who lived in Nagorno-Karabakh, mainly in Shusha, but also in Khankandi, in Khojaly, the city which suffered Armenian genocide, genocide committed by Armenians, and many other cities. So, they committed ethnic cleansing against us. We never did it. And even during these clashes, we did not respond the same way. We did not attack with ballistic missiles, neither the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, nor territory of Armenia. And I said that we will take revenge but we will take revenge on the battlefield. So, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh can be absolutely sure that their security will be provided. And after the criminal junta in Nagorno-Karabakh is thrown away, they, as Azerbaijani citizens will live better. They will live in dignity, they will live in peace, and we will provide all the social and economic advantages for them, as we do for any other people in our country.
-When you get back Nagorno-Karabakh would you respect their rights of self-determination as stated in Madrid principles. Do you agree to referendum?
No, of course not. There will be no referendum, in Nagorno-Karabakh we will never agree on that. We did not agree on that during the time of negotiations and now, when we regained big part of the territory, it is out of question. With respect to self-determination, Armenian people have already self-determinated themselves. They have an independent Armenian state. Imagine what will happen if Armenians will self-determinate themselves anywhere where they live. How many small Armenias will be in the world? This is a counter-productive approach. Self-determination is an important factor of international law. But it should not violate the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. There are different types of self-determination. There are different types of communities. And they could be cultural autonomy for instance. We see these examples in developed countries of Europe. Where there are certain rights of people in their municipalities, in their communities, as in any part of Azerbaijan of course, Armenians who live in Azerbaijan can have this form of communication. But never we will allow the creation of the second Armenian state on the territory of Azerbaijan. This is out of question. In other words, there will be no referendum, never.
-Reportedly, Armenia is recruiting Lebanese, Syrian Armenians. At the same time, NGO namely, Syrian observatory for human rights claims that many ethnic Turkmen fighters from Syria are now in the battlefield alongside with your forces, would you say that is true?
-No, this is not true. First, I would like to say the fact that Armenia recruited mercenaries and fighters from the Middle East is not a secret. And even Armenian prime Minister admitted it. But he said that they are native Armenians. First, nobody knows whether they are native Armenians or not, and we have information that representatives of different nationalities are now fighting on Armenian side. And second, if the person is ethnic Armenian but citizen of other country does not mean that he is not a mercenary. Among those who have been eliminated on the battlefield, there are people with Lebanese passport, with Canadian passport. We have evidence about citizens of France, United States of Armenian origin. But citizens of these countries and citizens of some countries of former Soviet Union are fighting against us together with citizens of the countries of the Middle East. Armenia used mercenaries during the first Karabakh War. This is not a secret. Some of them have been eliminated by Azerbaijan and they erased a big monument in their honor, monuments in the honor of international terrorists. This shows that Armenia is a terrorist state. With respect to Azerbaijan, first this so-called Syrian observatory NGO is not a credible organization. We know about many fakes which they spread over with respect to the war in Syria. So, there is no credibility, trust to this politically motivated so-called NGO. First we need to check who is financing and then understand who is behind these rumors. Second, not a single evidence have been presented to us by any country. Only rumors, only unjustified statements, and I demanded proof. I said okay, now it’s more than twenty days that we are in the active phase of the conflict. Where are there proofs? Give us the proofs. No proofs. Therefore, these rumors must be stopped. Azerbaijan is fighting itself. We don’t need any foreign fighters. We have enough people, enough soldiers and officers in our regular army. We have ten million population. If we need additional fighters we will announce mobilization, we will recruit. So, there is no need for that and it is absolutely false information.
-So, as you said repeatedly, no jihadists and even no Turkmen?
No, there can be people of Azerbaijani origin coming from other countries. We do not exclude it. Because we have many volunteers, people who voluntarily want to defend their country. We cannot exclude that people of Azerbaijani origin from other countries come but it is not the way how it is presented that Azerbaijan invited terrorists in order to fight. This is false information.
-Are you aware of those volunteers with Azerbaijani origin?
-There can be, I said, I do not exclude. There can be. But we receive many requests, many letters from Azerbaijanis who live outside to come and to fight for their historical motherland. But our position is – we don’t need it. We have enough people on the battlefield.
-Japanese companies joined oil and pipe line projects of Azerbaijan. They are investors here. Do you have concerns over the security of five pipelines? Is there any risk of postponement of the TAP pipeline which is going to be opened very soon within this year?
-No, with Tap pipeline everything is on the schedule, it is already done. It’s a matter of maybe some additional weeks, not months for official opening of TAP. Everything is ready, the historical pipeline from Baku to Europe have been completed. With respect to other pipelines which we have and particular oil and gas pipelines on the territory of Azerbaijan during all these years since 2006, when Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan was commissioned, we didn’t have any accident. Our pipelines on our territory are duly protected. But of course we heard threats from official Armenian representatives that they will attack our pipelines, they will attack Sangachal terminal which is an important terminal for oil and gas transportation, but this is also part of their terrorist nature. Because they openly declare that they will attack civilian infrastructure. And of course, if they do it, they will regret, because they will be punished by us, severely, and also those countries which today provide part of their energy security from Azerbaijan. What will be reaction of those countries? Billions of dollars have been invested in these pipelines. International banks, all the leading international banks like World Bank, EBRD, Asian Development Bank, European Investment Bank and other banks invested. So, the Armenian leadership should think twice about this kind of option. And of course, as I said, Azerbaijan itself will punish them severely, and I don’t think that they will even dare to do this, another war crime.
-Since it’s very rare occasion for us to meet you. Let us ask, a couple of questions about the future of your country in general.
-Yes of course.
-So, Azerbaijan is the first commercial oil producer in the world.
-Yes, that is true.
-But how do you think the country would transfer to the post-oil era. Do you have any expectations from you know, how Japanese companies might be involved in that?
-Yes, of course we have agenda of diversification of our economy, and this process is successfully continuing. Even this year, though our GDP is going down not very seriously, it’s less than 4% decline so far. In comparison with some other countries it’s not a bad result but with respect to non-oil related industry we have a growth. That shows that our diversification program is being implemented very successfully. Industrial development, business opportunities, tourism, of course before the pandemic was rapidly growing. And innovation sector and agriculture, and of course coming back to the main topic, when we see that now Azerbaijan is liberating the territories, first we liberated very important water storage, which will provide water supply for tens of thousands of hectares of land. Armenia actually committed an ecological terror against us. They were closing the water from the river Tartar and thus hundred thousands of hectares of land were not supplied with water. They were closing in summer, when people need it and they were opening it in winter and making floods. So, the terrorist nature of Armenia is on every, every step. So, after we regained the territories back, and this is a very good soil for growing different products, for breeding cattle, of course, our agriculture will have a new boost. We already started to plan our future agricultural development with respect of the liberation of the territories. Of course, we think that investments in human capital will provide for us good opportunities for development, because oil and gas will come to an end once, though, our reserves are huge. We just started to export large quantities of natural gas, and oil production profile will be more or less stable for coming decades. But non-energy sector of course, is priority. With respect to Japanese companies, they are very active here in the area of energy, with the loans from Japanese banks we built two big power stations, in Baku. Their capacity is close to 800 megawatts. So these power stations provide important part of our consumption and our export. We, by the way, export electric energy also, and we want to see Japanese companies in the area of renewable energy, which is now one of the priorities. We already signed preliminary agreements with some investors. So, we hope that the area which is very promising and has a potential because of a lot of sun and a lot of wind, especially in Absheron peninsula. And in many other areas today Japanese companies provide equipment, machinery, technology also in agriculture. So, we are very satisfied with the level of economic cooperation between Japan and Azerbaijan.
-What about political reforms? You have criticism, I mean there are criticism from many western countries that you yourself succeeded your father and now your wife is vice president and so, are you ready to promote democracy and to open up power to oppositions?
-I think that the democratic development in the country is going in a positive direction. We have all the major freedoms in Azerbaijan. Freedom of political activity, media freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, religious freedom. So, there is no restrictions on that. We have free internet, by the way, and those who tried to criticize us they should look to the substance and not spread rumors and use the so-called democratic shortcomings of Azerbaijan for political purposes, for the purposes of political pressure. Now, I introduced the new program of political reforms which was supported by absolute majority of all political parties. And that was done by the way before this clash. Now, of course, absolute majority of political parties strongly support my policy on return of the occupied territories. Only two parties are not part of this process. Only two parties are going against national interests of Azerbaijan. This is a Popular Front Party, and Musavat Party. And by the way, these two parties rejected my proposal for political dialogue. I made this proposal several months ago. I said, we need to have a political dialogue, we need to have normal, civilized relations between the government and opposition, between a leading party and other parties. And now I think 50 parties or more supported that. We are in a very active phase of the political dialogue. Only two parties, which have a direct financing from outside, which always were acting against national interests of Azerbaijan, these two parties are responsible for the loss of the territories. Because they were in power in 1992-1993, when Armenia occupied our territories-Popular Front and Musavat. And those people who are responsible for the loss of the territories today are the leaders of these parties for almost 30 years. And nobody talks about democracy, nobody talks about how they keep this position for almost 30 years. Therefore, those who want to criticize us better look at the mirror. In front of our eyes, in front of the international community eyes we see how demonstrations are brutally suppressed in the so-called democracies. How people are being killed at the rallies, wounded, injured. Every week we see it. How police is using you know dogs and horses in order to suppress protestors. You will not see it in Azerbaijan. Never. Therefore, those who criticize us better take care of their own business. With respect to what you said about me succeeding my father, yes it is true. But before I succeeded my father, I was for many years a Member of Parliament, since 1995 until 2003. I was the president of the National Olympic Committee since 1997. I was a deputy and then senior deputy of the leading political party – Yeni Azerbaijan Party. And I was a prime minister. So, my political career is known to international observers and of course, they know that it was not like they want to present. And talking about succeeding, why nobody talks about Bush family. How they succeeded each other. Why nobody talks about Clinton family. When the wife became the Secretary of State and then was a presidential candidate. And many other cases like that. Let them look at themselves before raising this issue. With respect to my wife, my wife was a Member of Parliament since 2005. She was very active on the issues related to the social and humanitarian area. She was and is the head of the biggest NGO in the Caucasus – the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. She has a strong support among Azerbaijanis, you can ask any person on the street and you will see how they love her and support her. And she was and is a deputy chairman of Yeni Azerbaijan Party. Therefore, her political career also was not a kind of sudden event. And I can tell you that she was not very happy when I suggested this position to her. I can tell you, maybe I tell that for the first time, it took me a lot of time to persuade her. And I had arguments and she didn’t want. She is totally involved in social, humanitarian issues. And she wants and she helps tens of thousands of people, tens of thousands. But she does it without any PR, without advertisement, without announcement. So, she is a person our people are proud of.
-You mentioned freedom of speech and the internet. But I believe there are some restrictions on the social networking systems.
-These are temporary restrictions, these restrictions have been imposed after these clashes have started. And we made announcement to our people that this is for the issues of national security. Because, we need to protect at this time our information system from Armenian provocations. So, this is temporary. As soon as this active phase of clashes stops, all these restrictions will be lifted. But I can tell you that the level of penetration of internet is very high, and more than 80 percent of Azerbaijanis are internet users. So, it is only temporary.
-Let me close with the one final question your highness. Let’s finish it with the hopeful note. Are you hopeful for a peaceful solution? And what will peace can bring Armenia and Azerbaijan also because Armenia is landlocked. Borders are closed here, borders are closed on Turkish side, their economy is on decline, what can peace bring to both countries?
-Of course, peace will change the situation in region completely. And I hope to see the time when the three countries of the Southern Caucasus will have cooperation. Now for instance, level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia is very high. We are strategic partners, and with current Georgian government we have excellent relations. We support each other and we are good neighbors and good friends. And we implemented look, how many projects together. Oil transportation, gas transportation, energy transportation, railroad connection, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, TANAP and many others. Azerbaijan is, I think, first to second largest investor in Georgia along with Turkey. First to second largest taxpayer and by the way, in the middle of 90s the issue of construction of pipeline was discussed. There were some proposals from the West to have these pipelines through Armenia. But Armenia should have then liberate the territories and then, the pipeline could have gone from Azerbaijan to Armenia and then to Nakhchivan and to Turkey. And that was a shortest route. If you look at the map you will see how the pipeline goes. It is because to bypass Armenia. But Armenians thought that we will not be able to implement this pipeline. Therefore, they said no, and I think now they seriously regret. They became deadlocked because of occupation. They thought that we will not be able to build pipelines, they thought we will not be able to build railroads, they were always advocating for how to say functioning of the Kars-Gumru railroad which existed. But it was closed because our brotherly country Turkey closed the border because of Armenian occupation. So, now Armenia is not landlocked but they don’t have border with Turkey, because of aggression against Azerbaijan, and because of territorial claims against Turkey. Maybe you don’t know, but in their constitution they have territorial claims against Turkey. One must be crazy now to have claims to such a powerful country as Turkey. But that’s substance of their ideology. During the time of negotiations, there have been messages sent to previous Armenian government that if they put an end to occupation, Azerbaijan can implement different social and economic projects in Nagorno-Karabakh. These messages were sent through the Minsk-group co-chairs to former Armenian president and they rejected. Today in Nagorno-Karabakh people live in poverty, you know total unemployment, poverty and destroyed infrastructure. We were ready to invest, but we said liberate the territories and we will help you. Today when we liberate the territories, ourselves, definitely will help those people those Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabakh and of course Azerbaijanis who will return to rebuild this area. But if Armenia makes the constructive steps and liberate the territories of course, we will open all the communications. I know that, I heard about the position of the Turkish government that they will also open communications if Armenia liberates the territories. Then the situation in the southern Caucasus will completely change.
-Has Mr. Erdogan mentioned you about this intention?
-Well, maybe we did not discussed it directly. But of course, we know that this is the position that the reason why Armenian Turkish border is closed, because of the occupation. If occupation is lifted, the border will be opened it is official position of Turkish government and Armenians know that. And without normalization of relations with Turkey and with Azerbaijan Armenia has no future. Because the market is small, and is getting smaller. Population is shrinking, migration is very high. According to our information today, real population, how many people there are in Armenia, less than two million. Less than two million. It will go down. Because of no job, especially now when they are deprived of those very productive lands in the occupied territories. If you look at these images from the sky, you will see how they use our land for illegal products. They not only use our land, they use our gold mines in Kalbajar. There are foreign companies whom we will sue, if they don’t stop. By the way, soon I think they will stop anyway. So, they will suffer even more problems, because they will be deprived of this important agricultural segment. They will just decline and we will develop. Our population is growing. Turkish population is 83 million, Azerbaijani population is 10 million. Armenian population is less than two million. They should think how they are going to live here in 10 years, in 20 years, in 50 years if they don’t be reasonable, if they don’t put end to aggression. And they cannot afford this aggression any longer, and we showed them on the battlefield who is who. All their mythology about their brave army, was a kind of fake. Their army is running, we defeat them. We beat them, and we will continue to do it, until they get out of our land.
-Thank you very much for this opportunity and it has been always a pleasure to be in Baku.
*** 17:30/ 21 October 2020
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, APA reports citing Presidential press service.