On April 20, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by Azerbaijan Television.
APA presents the interview.
Correspondent: Mr. President, good afternoon. Mr. President, today we have made a trip to Hajigabul district and taken part in the opening of a number of social facilities. We would you like to know your impressions of the trip?
President Ilham Aliyev: My impressions are very positive. We are seeing the results of the work we have carried out in Hajigabul district. The program of socioeconomic development of the regions adopted in due time is being successfully implemented. A lot of work has been done within the framework of this program, including the work in Hajigabul district. A lot has been done throughout the country. In Hajigabul, it is already at the completion stage. As for infrastructure projects, I can say that the level of gas supply in Hajigabul has reached 100 percent. The district has full gas supply. Electricity supply has improved significantly, as evidenced by the opening of a new substation today, because the demand has increased. The drinking water project was implemented back in 2013 and the city of Hajigabul is provided with drinking water. As for the construction of rural roads, 75 percent of them have been built anew. At the same time, many social projects have been implemented in the district. A hospital, cultural facilities, 22 schools have been built and overhauled. In other words, all this creates excellent conditions for the people. People's standard of living has improved. Business conditions have improved. In general, the facilities I have attended the opening of today will significantly enhance the future economic potential of the district.
- Mr. President, you got acquainted with two agricultural estates today. How would you assess their performance? How do you assess their role in the development of the non-oil sector?
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, this is an integral part of the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan in the field of agriculture. The main goal of creating large agricultural estates is to ensure food security. Naturally, specific work is also under way to develop small farms. Agriculture is developing along these two directions.
The advantage of agricultural estates is that higher yields and higher productivity are achieved here. And this is natural because the most modern agro-technical measures are applied here.
Hajigabul district is not very large in terms of population, it has a population of 77,000 people. However, there are two large agricultural estates here and hundreds of local residents are provided with jobs. For example, Hajigabul is not the most advanced region of our country in terms of soil fertility. Its quality is lower than in other districts. However, despite this, the establishment of these agricultural estates in Hajigabul testifies to the success of our policy because Hajigabul is one of the most difficult places. I was informed today that thousands of hectares of irrigated land are under the pivot in both agricultural parks. The productivity in grain production here is 60 quintals, i.e. six tons per hectare. For comparison, I can say that the yield in Hajigabul district is 30 quintals per hectare. In the country as a whole, the yield is just over 30 quintals. At the same time, the yield in large farms is 60 quintals – twice as high. If this approach is applied to all our large farms, as well as in small ones, then we will complete our work related to food security issues.
Other produce is also cultivated here. Livestock breeding is also developing in this farm, in this agricultural estate. Two thousand head of thoroughbred cows have been imported. Gradually, their count will reach 5,000. The milk produced here is sent to the nearby Kurdamir dairy plant. Thus, domestic milk supply will reach higher percentages, and I hope that Azerbaijan will be fully self-sufficient in milk in the next few years.
In general, there are plans to create about 50 agricultural estates. Many of them are already in operation. The total investment exceeds two billion manats. If we had not done all this work together with the private sector, then no-one would have made this investment. The state provides a certain amount of low-interest loans and, at the same time, implements infrastructure projects and creates conditions for the private sector. The private sector, in turn, invests these funds. Over the past few years, two billion manats have been invested in agriculture, which is a very large amount. These agricultural estates – Agro Dairy and Azersun – were established in the last four to five years. The number of workers in agricultural estates throughout the country exceeds 7,000. These are jobs for people living in villages.
We stimulate domestic production and the non-oil sector. I recommended that managers of both Agro Dairy and Azersun agricultural estates here set up similar farms on liberated lands, in Karabakh, and first steps in this direction are already being taken.
Additional instructions were given today in relation to Hajigabul district, including those related to the development of the Hajigabul industrial estate. Five more enterprises will be established. This Industrial Park, set up by my Order in 2017, already has five enterprises. They were inaugurated today. Tens of millions of manats have also been invested in these enterprises. This is also an initiative put forward by the state. We have identified a site, implemented infrastructure projects, laid all communications and even built hangars at the expense of the state. Entrepreneurs made investments here and modern products are manufactured here now. These products will meet domestic needs.
The automobile plant is the largest of these enterprises, of course. The automotive industry is already developing in Azerbaijan, and we are working in this area together with several countries. One of the issues on the agenda at the next stage is the further increase in localization, and we will achieve this as well.
Notice that although Hajigabul district is not very large in terms of population, both industry and agriculture are developing here using modern approaches, productivity is increasing and people are provided with jobs. So our work is yielding tangible results.
- Mr. President, you have mentioned that agricultural estates will be created in the territories liberated from the occupation. In general, it would be interesting to find out your opinion about the work being done there.
President Ilham Aliyev: At the current stage, work is under way in various directions there. The process of mine clearance is under way. The biggest difficulty is associated with the fact that Armenia does not provide us with mining maps. It refuses to do so although we know for certain that they have them. The refusal to provide these maps is yet another war crime on the part of Armenia. Due to its failure to provide mining maps after the end of the war, more than 100 civilians have been killed and injured. Work in this direction will be continued. New equipment is being purchased and an order has been signed to increase personnel numbers of the Agency for Mine Action. We will try to mobilize all our resources as much as possible so that demining work proceeds at a rapid pace. At the same time, servicemen from Turkey and Russia are engaged in this work and providing assistance in this area. On my instructions, several sapper battalions have been set up by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, and they are also actively involved in these activities. The Ministry of Defense has cleared the biggest area so far.
In parallel with this, the key infrastructure projects have been launched. I have repeatedly informed the Azerbaijani public about this. I believe that the supply of electricity to the liberated territories will be completed by the end of this year. Power lines are being extended and new substations are being built. The city of Shusha is fully supplied with electricity today, and new power lines are now being laid from Dashkasan to Kalbajar. This is very hard work because this infrastructure project passes through the Murov mountains. The height of the mountains there reaches 3,500 meters and the weather conditions are not yet favorable enough, the snow has not melted yet.
Work is progressing in all directions related to the road infrastructure. First of all, the Fizuli-Shusha road, the Victory road, is under construction, and the foundation of the Horadiz-Zangilan highway will be laid in the near future. The construction of the Fuzuli-Hadrut, Fuzuli-Jabrayil, Barda-Aghdam, Goygol-Toghanaly-Kalbajar roads has already begun. In parallel, the railway infrastructure of Barda-Aghdam and Horadiz-Zangilan-Aghband is being created. This road will reach the Zangazur corridor. Work is progressing on schedule.
In parallel with this, the process of calculating the damage caused continues. Foreign specialists are involved. As you know, our plans are to take Armenia to international courts. Naturally, we will do this and foreign experts will help us. Armenia and its foreign partners which illegally exploited our natural resources will face an international court because the plundering of our gold, copper and other natural resources, as well as their illegal exploitation by Armenia, are considered an international crime. So legal procedures have also been launched in this direction. Foreign partners are already involved in this work.
As you know, the first “smart village” pilot project will be implemented in Zangilan district. It will cover the villages of Aghali-1, 2 and 3. The foundation of this project will probably be laid in the near future. During my trip to Zangilan, I was informed about this project. Preparations are underway for the groundbreaking ceremony. I do hope that this first pilot project will already be implemented next year and the first group of formerly displaced persons will return to their native lands.
Master plans of all cities are being prepared. I believe that this, first of all, will cover the city of Aghdam. I hope that a draft version of the master plan of the city of Aghdam will be submitted by the end of May, after which, of course, a discussion will take place, including with the participation of the people of Aghdam district. Master plans of our cities are also being prepared.
As for the restoration of villages, we must divide our work into stages here too. First of all, we must restore the villages located near the existing infrastructure. And this is natural because it is more expedient both from the point of view of time and from the point of view of efficiency. Therefore, appropriate instructions have been given in relation to the restoration of the villages of Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil districts located near the former line of contact.
There are numerous proposals from abroad, many of our foreign partners want to take an active part in the restoration of Karabakh. We certainly welcome this. Naturally, all proposals will be analyzed and discussed. We must do all this work with maximum efficiency in order to create the best conditions for citizens returning to the liberated lands.
As you know, the construction of the Fuzuli international airport is proceeding at a high pace. In the near future, the construction of a new airport will be launched in Zangilan district. The third airport will be built in Lachin district. This will happen a little later. The snow has not yet melted in this district. At the present time, it is not possible to carry out work on the site provided for the airport. We expect work in this direction to begin in May-June perhaps.
So as you can see, we started work in all areas immediately. All this work started immediately after the end of the war. This is a very voluminous work, because. I have already said this before and I want to say again that liberated lands are the size of four states of Luxembourg. So I believe that this is a clear enough picture for everyone to have an idea. We must rebuild and build a territory four times the size of Luxemburg from scratch, because the contemptible enemy has destroyed everything, every single building on these lands. All foreign visitors can see that today. They can see Armenian vandalism with their own eyes. This is unprecedented barbarism. There have been many wars in history but I think that such cruelty and hostility has never happened in the history of wars. Even if we compare it to World War II, there was no such vandalism at the time. Religious sites were not destroyed. We know all this well. Armenian fascism is the ugliest and most brutal of all those that existed in other countries. In this war, we not only restored our territorial integrity but also destroyed Armenian fascism. This is s historic mission we have completed not only for the Azerbaijani people but also for the whole world. Armenian fascism has been destroyed. It has been destroyed by the Azerbaijani people. If certain revengeful forces raise their head in Armenia today, they should know that, if necessary, we will smash their heads at any moment. We cannot allow Armenian fascism the opportunity to raise its head again. We cannot allow Armenia to bring its army to a state that would pose threat to us again. If we see a potential threat, we will immediately eliminate it. Everyone should know this – both Armenia and its patrons, because it is an issue of national defense, a matter of national security for us. In parallel with this, we are also ready for cooperation – although Armenia committed genocide against Azerbaijanis at state level. Despite the fact that all our historical and religious sites have been destroyed, we must look to the future. Of course, we will never forget Armenian vandalism. The main goal of the establishment of the Military Trophies Park, which has caused a great stir in Armenia, is for the Azerbaijani people never to forget this vandalism. We must never forget that. We will never forgive this. Everyone should know this. But in parallel, we must take the necessary steps to secure our interests. The creation of the Zangazur corridor fully meets our future national and historical interests. We are implementing the Zangazur corridor, whether Armenia wants it or not. If they do, it will be easier for us to decide, if they do not, we will decide it by force. Just as before and during the war, I said that they must get out of our lands or we will expel them by force. And so it happened. The same will apply to the Zangazur corridor.
Our main rival is time because the construction of a railway and a highway takes time. Therefore, all resources have been mobilized to implement this project. So the Azerbaijani people will return to Zangazur, which was taken away from us 101 years ago.
- Mr. President, at the opening of the Military Trophies Park, you spoke about the Iskander-M missile dropped on the territory of Azerbaijan and said that you were waiting for a response from Russia in this regard. Has an answer been given?
President Ilham Aliyev: The day after I said this, the Russian Defense Ministry responded to the letter from the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry. I have read this answer. I must tell the Azerbaijani people everything the way it is, because this is a very serious issue. This is not an ordinary issue. Therefore, there should be no secrecy here. The response indicated that the Russian side did not record the launch of a ballistic missile.
In fact, this is not a complete answer to our letter because the main question in our letter was how the deadly Iskander-M missiles banned for export ended up in Armenia? After all, this is impossible. There are two ways to do that: either by smuggling or in violation of international norms and rules, because the Armenian army can only have Iskander-E, which is an export version of the missile. There is a huge difference between them. The range of Iskander-E missiles is 280 kilometers. Iskander-M are long-range missiles. Their range is 500 kilometers. So the Armenian army could not have Iskander-M missiles. There are only two ways. There is no other way because no other country has these missiles. This is the question we must have answered. We are waiting for an answer. The Azerbaijani people are waiting. We have clarified many questions for ourselves. We know when and why these missiles were fired, but an official response must be given from Armenia, which dropped these missiles on us, and Russia. These missile systems were either handed over to Armenia or were illegally stolen and taken out of Russia. There is no answer to these questions. Of course, this is an unpleasant situation. There are strategic partnership ties between Russia and Azerbaijan. With the consent of Azerbaijan, Russian peacekeeping forces arrived in our lands – in Karabakh, Khankandi and adjacent territories. We believed that this new format of cooperation would strengthen our ties. As a matter of fact, it should. However, the discovery of Iskander-M missiles in the city of Shusha and the failure to provide us with a complete answer on this issue to this day, of course, cause legitimate feelings of regret and surprise among the Azerbaijani people and leadership. We do hope that this issue will be clarified. Relations between strategic partners must be sincere. Azerbaijan has always been sincere with all strategic partners, has always abided by its word and kept a given word. The Trilateral Statement has also been fully implemented by Azerbaijan.
We hope that the issue of Iskander-M missiles will be clarified, because they are on display in the Military Trophies Park. It is simply impossible to deny this. In any case, we will continue to demonstrate a position of principle. The Azerbaijani people will receive full information on all important issues, just as they have done so far. Unlike Armenia, I spoke the absolute truth during this war. The leaders of Armenia are silent now. When they are asked whether they used Iskander-M missiles, they remain silent. They remain tight-lipped – although we know how and when they were fired. We do know a lot more.
Since absurd versions regarding Iskander-M missiles are being put forward in the Russian media, I can say one more thing. I do not consider these to be just random theories, because even these theories – they were put forward by the media outlets though – we see some kind of a systematic approach at least. It is claimed that Azerbaijan, together with Turkey, allegedly delivered fragments of Iskander-M missiles from Syria and placed them in Shusha. This is an open accusation against us. What are we being accused of? Falsification? Can at least one person say that Azerbaijan has ever committed a falsification? Not! We have been faced with hundreds of facts of falsification, hypocrisy and failures to keep the promises. We have never allowed such falsification. Why would we need to do that? What is the purpose? Today we are working on the implementation of the Statement signed on 10 November. We want peace in the region to be eternal. We are strengthening security measures. Why would we need to commit such provocation? Anyone who accuses us of this must have at least a little conscience. Therefore, I wanted to clarify this issue.
As for the smuggling theory, of course, this requires investigation, because during the war, a large supply of weapons were smuggled from Russia to Armenia. Azerbaijan informed the Russian side about this issue at the highest level, at all levels, at the level of relevant agencies. We even sent official letters to ICAO, the international aviation organization. These letters said that we knew for certain that – we also provided flight numbers – that these planes, passenger planes were delivering weapons from Russia to Armenia. We have also indicated the types of weapons. Despite the fact that such letters were sent repeatedly during the war, the ICAO did not provide a response. However, we know for sure that one Armenian arms dealer David Galustyan, while sitting in Russia, illegally acquired weapons from Russian military factories and sent them to Armenia by passenger planes. The cost of these weapons was paid by Armenian oligarchs operating in Russia - Abrahamyan, Karapetyan. It is a crime. They should be prosecuted for this. These weapons were sent to Armenia by various smuggling routes. We also informed the Russian side that David Galustyan is a business partner of the former Armenian defense minister Tonoyan. They also did it to make an illegal profit. It is no coincidence that after a bitter defeat, the Armenian defense minister, who threatened Azerbaijan with a new war, was removed from office. One of his business partners, David Galustyan, was arrested. An investigation is under way in Armenia now. If it is conducted fairly, then all the facts I have indicated will be revealed. We have facts. If necessary, we are ready to disclose them. What I am saying is not just words. All these are facts. There has been smuggling. Weapons were transported by commercial planes. This is a completely illegal act. The Armenian oligarchs living in Russia – the very Karapetyan and Abrahamyan – acquired transport planes because there were no such planes in Armenia. It is unacceptable to transport weapons. During the war, they purchased a transport plane which illegally transported weapons to Armenia.
So we know a lot. We will simply make some things public at the right time and at the right moment. Today's information is being brought to the attention of the Azerbaijani public for the first time. We have a lot of such data. Therefore, I believe that all partners should be sincere with us. Because sincerity and friendship should be mutual.
- Thank you very much, Mr. President.
- Thank you.
***15:20/20 April 2021
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by Azerbaijan Television on April 20, APA reports.