Address by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on the occasion of the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day and New Year

- My fellow Azerbaijanis.

The year 2023 is coming to an end. A number of significant events took place in the life of our country in 2023. Of all these events, however, the restoration of our state sovereignty will forever remain in the memory of the Azerbaijani people. Following a one-day anti-terrorist operation carried out in 2023, Azerbaijan fully restored its state sovereignty, the occupying forces were expelled from the territory of Azerbaijan, the enemy army was crushed, and its military hardware was either destroyed or taken over as trophy. I would like to once again sincerely congratulate all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of this historic event.

When the Second Karabakh War ended in 2020, and our flag was raised in Shusha and other liberated territories, we all knew perfectly well that our work was not completed. Azerbaijan had to restore its state sovereignty in full, and so it did.

We wanted to resolve the issue peacefully for three years. We believed that the Armenian leadership would properly analyze the results of the Second Karabakh War and draw the right conclusions. Unfortunately, this did not happen. For three years, not only did Armenia fail to fulfill its obligations, but it actually staged new military provocations against us and carried them out. The 15,000-strong Armenian army illegally stationed on our lands was not withdrawn from Karabakh. On the contrary, new weapons, ammunition, military equipment and mines were delivered into Karabakh, and mine terror against us continued.

Of course, we could not put up with this situation. We repeatedly warned the leadership of Armenia and the western countries behind it that this situation could not continue like that. Either the separatist regime is dissolved, and the Armenian army is withdrawn from our territory, or we would restore our state sovereignty by force. Regrettably, our words fell on deaf ears. The anti-terrorist operation, which started on September 19 and lasted only one day, even less than that, ended with complete victory of the Azerbaijan army. The separatist regime collapsed, fell to its knees before us, waved the white flag, surrendered, was forever expelled from our lands, and thrown into the trashcan of history. With this, the very roots of separatism in Azerbaijan were eradicated, and separatism – that scourge will never raise its head in our lands again.

The Azerbaijan army demonstrated its professionalism and heroism again. Our soldiers and officers showed an example of self-sacrifice. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace! Their dear memory will live in our hearts forever. I must state that the blood of our martyrs did not remain unavenged. We took revenge on the battlefield, for our soldiers, officers, civilians, victims of Khojaly, the martyrs of the First and Second Karabakh wars, as well as the anti-terrorist operation.

In April 2023, we fully restored our territorial integrity. A border checkpoint was established on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in the direction of Lachin, and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has been fully restored since that day. The people of Azerbaijan remember very well the anxiety that it caused around the world, especially in western countries standing behind Armenia and constantly supporting it, as well as the baseless accusations made against us. But no accusations and pressure could affect our resolve. I said back then that no-one could influence our determination. We are on the right path, we have regained control over our border, and we will not allow anyone to call the shots on our land. This is our land, we are the owners of this land, we will do whatever we think is necessary within the framework of international law, including international humanitarian law. But that did not serve as a lesson for the occupiers. It did not serve as a lesson for the anti-Azerbaijani forces standing behind them either. This is why the anti-terrorist operation carried out in September was inevitable, we carried it out and are proud of it. Every citizen of Azerbaijan and every Azerbaijani across the world rightly feels proud of that.

Karabakh and East Zangezur have turned into a huge construction site now. We are rebuilding our cities and villages, and about 5,000 formerly displaced persons returned to their native lands this year. In March of this year, on the eve of Novruz holiday, there was a festive mood in the village of Talish, as displaced persons returned to their native homes. In August, celebrations were held in the city of Fuzuli and the village of Zabukh. This year, displaced persons returned to Lachin as the Independence Day was celebrated – May 28 was a great holiday in Lachin. Prior to that, as you may know, displaced persons had settled down in the village of Aghali. So, life has now returned to five residential settlements.

I must also note that formerly displaced persons and refugees will return to several more residential settlements in 2024. I want to share the joyful news with them today and inform that the villages of Karkijahan, Malibayli and Turshsu will be completely restored and made available to the formerly displaced persons during upcoming year. Residents of Khojaly and Khankendi will also return to their homes.

In addition, several residential settlements will be ready to accommodate formerly displaced persons. We, the owners of these lands, are building and creating there. We are a nation of creators. For 30 years, the Armenians had been destroying our lands, razing our houses, historical buildings and mosques to the ground, committing acts of genocide against us, perpetrating the crimes of urbicide and ecocide. Our rivers have been poisoned and our forests have been destroyed. All this was done by the Armenian state. Unfortunately, they have yet to become an object of condemnation for these crimes in the West.

Double standards are pervasive in the West today. The people of Azerbaijan are well aware of this and, at the same time, know perfectly well that we will do what we think is right despite all the pressures, threats and unfounded accusations. Just as we have done to this day, we will continue to do so. The Armenian leadership should also draw the right conclusions from these historical lessons and behave in such a way as not to provoke our anger.

We have also successfully conducted an economic policy this year. An independent economy allows us the opportunity not to depend on anyone, not to depend on any international financial institution, and we are not.

We have significantly strengthened our army, elevating the level of professionalism and creating new armed units. These units, working together with other units of armed forces, demonstrated exceptional professionalism in the anti-terrorist operation. New weapons and military equipment have been purchased and delivered to the country with a number of new contracts signed. Let me also state that domestic military production will be significantly increased next year. The public and private sectors will invest at least one billion manats in military production next year. Thus, we will not just provide ourselves with critical assets, Azerbaijan will also become a country to be reckoned with on a global scale. The volume and range of our military products will increase to a large extent.

Our international prestige is growing by the day. In December, all countries of the world unanimously voted to hold the world's largest international conference in Azerbaijan – COP29 will be held in Azerbaijan next year. This is a sign of tremendous respect and reverence from the international community, but also a high assessment of our transition to green energy. The green energy transition is our priority, and the region's largest renewable energy plant was put into operation in Azerbaijan this year – a 230-megawatt solar power plant has already been fully integrated into our energy system. Based on the agreements and memorandums of understanding signed, 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy will be created in Azerbaijan in the next few years and Azerbaijan will become one of the world leaders in this field. Of course, the fact that COP29, an international conference on climate change will be held in Azerbaijan is further evidence of our successes in this field.

This year was declared a Year of Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan. The 100th anniversary of the National Leader was widely celebrated across the country. I spent this dear day for me, my father's birthday, in Shusha. Addressing the people of Azerbaijan from the central square of Shusha, I expressed my heartfelt words and said that our actions were the greatest sign of respect for the memory of the National Leader. I believe that our National Flag that I raised in Aghdara, Asgaran, Khojavand, Khojaly and Khankendi on October 15 was a sign of profound respect for the memory of the National Leader. Our Victory Parade in the central square of Khankendi on November 8 was also a sign of our immense reverence for the memory of the Great Leader.

Today, Azerbaijanis all over the world are truly proud of independent Azerbaijan. Today, Azerbaijanis of the world are celebrating the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day with a completely new mood. For three years now, Azerbaijanis of the world and all the people of Azerbaijan have been very excited and are holding their head up high with dignity.

Our historic victory, our victory in the Second Karabakh War, the anti-terrorist operation, liberation from the occupiers and the collapse of the separatist regime have rightly brought all Azerbaijanis together into one fist. The Iron Fist has been the symbol of our victorious chronicle. Today, the Iron Fist is also a symbol of our unity, and I would like to assure the people of Azerbaijan and all Azerbaijanis of the world that the Iron Fist will always be in place.

Dear brothers and sisters, I wish you robust health and every success. I do hope that 2024 will be a successful year for our country and people. Happy holidays!

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