On September 29, the "Rossiya-1" TV channel aired the "60 minutes" program dedicated to the latest events on the Azerbaijan-Armenia line of contact.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan took questions from the program's hosts.
The hosts first asked questions of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
Host: Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to this interview. What is happening at the front line right now? Information about the use of aviation is already coming in.
President Ilham Aliyev: The situation at the front line is tense. Due to the Armenian military provocation, which began on the morning of September 27, Azerbaijani settlements and our combat positions were subjected to massive artillery fire. As a result of this aggression, 11 Azerbaijani civilians, including two children, were killed. There are also casualties among the military. We were forced to respond adequately to the aggressor and, thus, protect our people and our land. Fierce battles have been going on for three days now. In their wake, Azerbaijan's Army has liberated several settlements from occupation and seized strategic heights in different directions. Today the situation is such that active clashes are underway.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, please clarify Turkey’s role. Through its President and head of the Foreign Ministry, Ankara has officially announced that it would help you on the battlefield.
President Ilham Aliyev: I believe that Turkey is playing a stabilizing role in the region. Turkey is our brotherly country and our ally. From the very first hour, once the international community learned that Armenia attacked Azerbaijan, Turkey spoke out unequivocally at the level of the head of state and other leaders in support of Azerbaijan, in support of international law. Armenia has grossly violated international law by occupying the territory of Azerbaijan for about 30 years. So that is Turkey's role - nothing else. Turkey provides us with moral support, and we are grateful to the Turkish leadership, the President and the Turkish people for their solidarity and support. Turkey does not participate in this conflict in any other capacity. All the rumors that Turkey is involved as a party to the conflict, circulated by the Armenian side, are provocative. As they say now, this is fake news. There is no evidence of Turkey's involvement in the conflict and nor is that necessary. Azerbaijan’s Army is well-prepared to protect its people and territory.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, you do not confirm; moreover, you deny the information that the Turkish Air Force shot down an Armenian Air Force plane just an hour ago. It was about the F-16 and Su-25.
President Ilham Aliyev: We do not have this information. Just recently, I was informed that such news appeared in the information domain. It is not corroborated by anything. The F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force do not participate in operations in any way. Given modern technologies' availability, it is very difficult to conceal anything today because there are objective forms of observation. There is satellite observation, and therefore it is effortless to verify that this is another provocation. We understand the Armenian side's goal – by creating such false news, they first want to belittle the combat capability of Azerbaijan's Army, which is now fulfilling the task of restoring its territorial integrity with dignity. And also to create the impression that the conflict is growing, that third countries are getting involved. They are trying to attract as many countries as possible to justify their provocation. Therefore, I state to you with full responsibility: Turkey is not a party to the conflict, does not participate in it in any way, and there is no need for that.
Host: Ilham Heydarovich, is your country ready to proceed towards the Kazan formula, within the framework of which Armenia must liberate several districts or any other formula? What can be done in principle now? How can the situation be reversed, if the conflict in Karabakh has been burning or at least smoldering for as many as 30 years? What to do?
President Ilham Aliyev: You know, Azerbaijan has always shown constructiveness on the negotiation track. And the Minsk Group co-chairs, who are responsible for the mediation mission, can confirm this. In particular, in the past two years, we have repeatedly stated, both myself and other officials, that we are committed to the resolution principles developed over the years and which the Minsk Group and its co-chairs consider the basis for the negotiating process. Moreover, we have repeatedly stated in the past two years, and before that, we are committed to the negotiation format. Negotiations are underway between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
There are only two sides to the conflict. Sometimes, when talking about the conflict, there is a mention of all sides. It is an erroneous definition - not all sides. There are only two sides – Armenia and Azerbaijan. Still, look at what has been happening in recent years after the Soros coup carried out by the current government in Armenia? The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is Armenia, full stop. In this case, what negotiations can we talk about? After all, the essence of the principles developed by the OSCE Minsk Group is that the territories around the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region should be transferred to Azerbaijan. And then he says that Karabakh is Armenia and that we have to negotiate with the so-called puppet regime of Nagorno-Karabakh. Thereby, trying to undermine the format of negotiations that have already existed for 20 years, Armenia deliberately disrupts the negotiations and puts forward unacceptable demands. When the Minsk Group recently began to speak more actively about who remains an obstacle to the resolution, they resorted to provocations like September 27. Before that, on July 12, our positions at the state border were attacked. On August 23, an Armenian subversion group was captured; its leader was captured on the line of contact. Everything is being done to derail the negotiations, then accuse Azerbaijan, and then involve third parties, thereby undermining the talks. The reason is that the Armenian side wants to maintain the status quo. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group represented by the Presidents of Russia, France and the United States have repeatedly made statements that the status quo is unacceptable. And this means that the territories under occupation must be returned to Azerbaijan. We are committed to negotiations, but we see completely opposite actions from the Armenian side.
Host: Please tell us, Mr. President, what happened on Sunday; what provoked such a large-scale and bloody confrontation?
President Ilham Aliyev: You know, Armenia had been moving towards this Sunday, towards what happened on Sunday for several months. If you track their actions and statements' chronology, you will clearly see that they deliberately went for this provocation. Not so long ago, speaking at the UN General Assembly, I openly said that Armenia was preparing for war, and it must be stopped. In July, they launched an armed attack on our settlements along the state border. It is far away from the conflict zone. One civilian and several servicemen were killed then. The clashes lasted four days. Since we did not have and still do not have any military targets across Armenia, as soon as the Armenian armed forces were driven back from our territory, the fire was ceased by mutual agreement. Then, as I said, a subversion group infiltrated our territory and was neutralized. Then the Armenian side publicly and defiantly announced the resettlement of Armenians from Lebanon to the occupied territories and to our ancient Azerbaijani city of Shusha, which amounts to a war crime. It is a violation of the Geneva Convention. It is done demonstratively. Before that, they held the so-called swearing-in ceremony for the so-called leader of the criminal Nagorno-Karabakh regime in Shusha, an ancient pearl of Azerbaijani culture.
All these are deliberate provocations against us, attempts to drag us into conflict and provoke retaliatory actions. We showed restraint, constructiveness and common sense, but when they failed, they made this attempt. Moreover, another reason is the internal political crisis in Armenia. After all, there is a Soros regime in Armenia today. The coup that failed in Belarus was successful in Yerevan two years ago. Today the Armenian leader in the person of Pashinyan is Soros's henchman, a man who made many promises and who cannot fulfill them, and the country is in crisis.
So he needed an external factor, some mess, so to speak, to divert the population's attention, which he succeeded in doing. Moreover, just two days before they attacked us, Armenia's prominent opposition party leader was arrested. The dictatorial and despotic regime of Pashinyan eliminated the entire opposition in his country and is now demonstrating aggression against the Azerbaijani people again.
Host: Your position is clear. Many thanks! Can you please say briefly: yes or no? Are there fighters from Syria on the frontline right now?
President Ilham Aliyev: No! It is another piece of fake news. There are no fighters from Syria. There is no evidence, no proof. It has been planted by Armenian propaganda and circulates through different websites and media outlets. There is no need for this. Azerbaijan has a trained army and a vast mobilization reserve. Just yesterday, I announced partial mobilization; we are calling tens of thousands of reservists to arms. With a population of 10 million versus 2 million in Armenia, we do not need human resources. Therefore, we can stand up for ourselves and punish the aggressor to never venture even to look in our direction.
Host: Thank you very much! Ilham Aliyev was on the line with us from Baku. Peace to you. Goodbye!
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you! Goodbye!
İgor Korotchenko, Editor-in-Chief of the "Natsionalnaya oborona" magazine:
- I listened to the speeches of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia very carefully. Undoubtedly, it was a clear, logical, precise and consistent speech by Ilham Aliyev. It is the MGIMO signature. MGIMO produces brilliant professionals! Now to the essence of what has been said. President Ilham Aliyev is right when he said absolutely correctly that with the current level of development of intelligence technologies – satellite, electronic, surveillance – it is impossible to conceal the fact that Turkish fighters were indeed deployed to the territory of Azerbaijan; this would be exposed quite easily by any country that has satellite intelligence. Today the Nagorno-Karabakh region is closely monitored by all the leading nations of the world. I wish to draw the attention of my colleagues to the following. We are all adherents of international law. From the point of view of international law norms, military action today is taking place on the territory of Azerbaijan, between the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenian military formations.