The President of Azerbaijan attended the 16th Annual Meeting of Valdai International Discussion Club. Ilham Aliyev made a 15-minute speech at the event to highlight Azerbaijan-Russia strategic relations against a background of global and regional developments. He also referred to recent irresponsible statements of the Armenian leaders, and provided an insight into Azerbaijan’s position on the issue and achievements in state building. Commenting on different aspects of cooperation with Russia, the head of state expressed Azerbaijan’s interest in fostering this collaboration. President Ilham Aliyev gave a harsh answer to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s populist statement on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Azerbaijani leader’s speech grabbed the audience’s attention and was given a big round of applause. This article will give an insight into Ilham Aliyev’s speech at the meeting of Valdai International Discussion Club.

Historic speech: Reflecting reality, objectivity and justice

Founded in 2004, Valdai International Discussion Club is one of the world’s leading think tanks. It has grown into an important international platform for discussing pressing global political, economic, geopolitical, social and humanitarian issues. This year, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to the event. The head of state’s speech at Valdai Club grabbed the spotlight. Ilham Aliyev’s remarks were of great importance from the point of view of global geopolitics and regional security. The audience listened very attentively to the Azerbaijani leader who gave them plenty of food for thought.

Ilham Aliyev started his speech with a brief analysis of Russia’s activities amid global trends and their impact on Eurasia. He said that the main factor behind Russia emerging from the most difficult ordeals with dignity at the turn of the millennium was the factor of Vladimir Putin. That was the most objective assessment of the activity of a Russian leader. The head of state reaffirmed that the factor of personality plays a serious role in the modern politics. The President of Azerbaijan described the Russian leader as a reliable partner. Vladimir Putin is a staunch supporter of the development of Russia-Azerbaijan relations. It’s not a coincidence that the bilateral trade between the two countries rose 20 percent last year. Azerbaijani investments in Russia are in the amount of 1.2 billion dollars and the volume of Russian investments in Azerbaijan is 4.6 billion dollars. In addition, President Ilham Aliyev said that about 700 companies with Russian capital operate in Azerbaijan. A total of 25,000 students study in Russian. Also, 130,000 schoolchildren in 338 schools in our country study in Russian in 338 schools with Russian education.

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It should also be noted that in his speech Vladimir Putin said the Azerbaijani President’s initiatives were behind the development of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, praising the successful implementation of the programs proposed by the Azerbaijani leader.

President Ilham Aliyev said: “We already have contracts on the acquisition of Russian equipment amounting to 5 billion dollars, of which 3 billion has already been implemented. As I said, we intend to continue work in this direction.”

The Azerbaijani President stressed Russian’s increasing geopolitical power amid global trends, assessing relations between the two countries in this context. It’s about strategic partnership and mutually fruitful cooperation between the two independent states. Azerbaijan maintains cooperation with Russia as an equal partner. It is a source of pride, which was highlighted widely by Ilham Aliyev.

But Armenia does not have such a source of pride because it is a satellite state and has not put forward any cooperation initiative. It looks like the Russian leader hints that words are not enough and that Armenia would better put words into action. Moscow appreciates Azerbaijan’s concrete cooperation programs. And whether to understand this message or not is up to Armenia. But no one can ignore the political realities.

Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and exclamation mark: a laconic and precise answer

In this regard, President Ilham Aliyev’s remarks on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict provoked great interest. The reason was that they reflected reality. Nikol Pashinyan recently alleged that he had put forward an “argument” explaining Armenia’s stance on the conflict but had not receive an answer. He said: “Nagorno-Karabakh (they call it “Artsakh”, but it’s not clear what it changes) is Armenia and dot. The decision to be made from now on should be acceptable for the people of Armenia, people of Azerbaijan and people of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Naturally, by saying “people of Artsakh” Pashinyan means the Armenians who were resettled there by the Russian Empire, rather than aboriginal Azerbaijanis (Turks) who had lived there for centuries.

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The answer anticipated so much by the Armenian prime minister was given by the President of Azerbaijan in brief and very precise manner. And he did it with great confidence and a smile on his face. Ilham Aliyev proved that “Karabakh is Armenia” phrase is completely false. “…in 1921 the decision of the Caucasian Bureau was literally “to leave Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan”, not transfer it, as the Armenian side often interprets it,” said Ilham Aliyev. Armenians are shamelessly distorting the specific document because traditionally they are afraid of the truth.

Referring to the past, the Azerbaijani President said that Nagorno-Karabakh always was and is Azerbaijan from historical, cultural, demographic, political, geopolitical and all other points of view. And he expressed this with a historic phrase – “Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and exclamation mark!” The Armenian media said that this argument of the Azerbaijani President smashed Pashinyan’s “dot” to smithereens. Indeed, it was a brief, but a very powerful, effective and objective answer.

At the same time, it was a diplomatic message to Valdai Club participants. It means that Karabakh was occupied! This occupation is still ongoing. The conflict is mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, which has three co-chair countries, including the United States, Russia and France. And for many years the co-chairs have not assisted in restoring Azerbaijan’s rights. What they do is just supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity vocally. They do not exert any real pressure on Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijan’s occupied lands. On the contrary, they continue to “play” with the issue in their own interests.

President Ilham Aliyev underlined that the UN Security Council’s resolutions on the conflict had not been implemented. And it was very important. “For more than 25 years they have not been fulfilled. And here we come to the important issue of implementing the decisions made. The UN Security Council is the highest international body, and if the decisions adopted by the Security Council have not been implemented for more than 25 years, this raises a lot of questions about the effectiveness of this organization. We in Azerbaijan are concerned about the selective nature of the implementation of resolutions. Sometimes they are carried out in a matter of days, sometimes they are not required at all for certain military operations, in our case, the resolutions remain on paper,” said the President.

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The solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, the UN Charter adopted by the whole world, resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Helsinki Final Act. Azerbaijan has always preferred peaceful settlement of the conflict through talks. This position is unchanged. But this process cannot last forever as the mediators must find an international law-based solution to the conflict.

The President also highlighted Azerbaijan’s achievements and results of the programs implemented in the country. “Azerbaijan has been living in a stable environment for 26 years…The international standing of our country is strengthening. One indicator of this is the election of our country as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council several years ago.” That milestone achievement was a result of tremendous diplomatic efforts.

The Azerbaijani President’s speech at Valdai Club was a historic event. His answer to the Armenian prime minister was a highlight of that speech. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry attempted to give an answer, but that was ridiculous. The spokesperson of the ministry accused Azerbaijan of pursuing “an aggressive policy” and using “rhetoric of dehumanizing Artsakh and the Armenian people”. But she remained silent on who should be held accountable for the Khojaly genocide, vandalized Azerbaijani graves, destroyed cultural monuments and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis.

The situation of Armenians will be getting worse and worse, unless they accept the reality. Realizing and recognizing the truth is key to solving any problem. The government, which demands from others recognition of what never happened 100 years ago, is rejecting what happened yesterday. And it distances Armenians from justice and, in general, from humanity. But it is their own tragedy!