In an interview with a local TV channel on January 10, 2023, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev commented on a number of issues on Baku’s internal and foreign policy agenda.
He detailed the country’s economic and political achievements until 2022, the future of regional transport projects, energy cooperation with Europe, the future of the Zangezur corridor, Azerbaijan-Armenia normalization, peace with Armenia, growing national military potential, major Foreign policy direction and so on.
Caspian News has compiled key takeaways from the President’s interview below:
– In the two years since the Second Karabakh War in 2020, Azerbaijan has achieved its goals at the level of international relations and domestically. The world has accepted the outcome of the war.
– Azerbaijan’s GDP reached a record $80 billion; foreign trade exceeded $50 billion, with a surplus of $25 billion, and the ratio of external debt to GDP fell below $7 billion.
– Azerbaijan has been implementing projects in the field of transport and all major activities related to the intermediate and north-south transport corridors passing through Azerbaijan have been completed. Baku believes that 15-30 million tons of goods can be transported through Azerbaijan through the North-South transport corridor alone.
– There should also be new cargo routes from Central Asia. The economic viability of the Zangezur corridor is beyond doubt. The tripartite statement dated November 10, 2020 clearly stated that there should be a transport connection between the western region of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which should be provided by Armenia. However, Armenia wants to sidestep this and has failed to meet its obligations for more than two years. But this will not stop Azerbaijan as this is a strategic project not only for the country but also for several neighboring countries and the wider geographical area. The realization of the Zangezur Corridor is a historical inevitability. It will happen whether Armenia wants it or not.
– Azerbaijanis expelled from West Azerbaijan, modern Armenia, should return to their ancestral lands; this is their right, which is recognized by all international conventions. Azerbaijan must do its utmost to guarantee this right in a peaceful manner.
– Significant increase in interest in Azerbaijan’s energy resources. Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of many countries, including EU member states. With the minimum confirmed gas reserves of 2.6 trillion cubic meters, Azerbaijan’s gas fields will be able to supply the international market with gas for at least 100 years. Azerbaijan is expected to export about 24 billion cubic meters of natural gas by 2023. Successful implementation of certain projects will allow Azerbaijan’s fossil fuels to enter new markets in the Balkans and Western Europe.
– Years of discussions on the Trans-Caspian pipeline have yielded no results. There are several key questions about the implementation of the project, one of which is who will finance the project. The Trans-Caspian pipeline project remains unclear. It should be known who will move forward with the project and what its financial capacity is.
– Azerbaijan monitors and understands which countries are ready to supply arms to Armenia. Unfortunately, India is also among them, which Baku considers to be an unfriendly move. These weapons, especially offensive weapons, have one target, and that is Azerbaijan. Therefore, Azerbaijan is of course taking the necessary measures not to allow Armenia to pose a threat.
– Azerbaijan has no intention of launching a third war with Armenia. Baku hopes that the second Karabakh war will actually end in 2023, and such provocations by Armenia in 2022 will not happen this year. However, if there is another threat against Azerbaijan, Baku will use all means to eliminate it immediately. This is a warning to Armenia and the people behind it.
– Azerbaijan strives to apply the combat experience of the national army on the basis of a new military concept. The new Commando has been fully formed to become a major component and the process is underway. New commandos will be created. Their numbers will increase. The size of the special forces, the number of special forces of the State Border Service, the Internal Forces, the State Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service, as well as the special forces of the Nakhchivan Independence Army have and will increase.
– Azerbaijan has signed new contracts with major companies in Turkey and Israel, as well as companies elsewhere. Meanwhile, negotiations with several leading companies to expand local military production are in their final stages.
– A new era of Azerbaijan’s military industry has begun. It will be an export-oriented industry. Azerbaijan currently sells military products to more than 30 countries. There is a shortage in the world arms market. But a huge need remains. That is why Azerbaijan has to fill this market and can become a military exporter worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Baku is aiming for this and will move towards it.
– The current state of relations between Azerbaijan and France is the result of the efforts of the current French government. During the Second Karabakh War, France openly accused and slandered Azerbaijan. “I now demand an apology from them. They slandered us and said we brought in jihadists. There is no proof.”
– During the Second Karabakh War, France launched an initiative against Azerbaijan at the United Nations. It was useless at the time. Then came the francophone effort, followed by the Prague conference. In French-speaking countries, they fail. The French Senate and National Assembly passed anti-Azerbaijani resolutions. This begs the question, why? “I don’t understand this. In other words, where does this inappropriate attitude toward us come from? I don’t understand, and don’t even want to think about it. Let me say it again: neither of us has each other. It’s been So far, we don’t need them. It’s just not normal and we don’t think we’re to blame.”
– Azerbaijan’s goal on the Lachin-Khankendi road is not a blockade. In less than a month, some 400 peacekeeper trucks passed through there. Of course, they also deliver food and other necessities to the Armenians living there. Red Cross permission is granted with each application. Azerbaijan has legitimate demands. They failed to give Azerbaijani experts access to illegally exploited mines. The rally of Azerbaijani eco-activists on the Lachin-Khankendi road is likely to continue until the passage is in place. Monitoring, inspection and ending illegal mining are necessary and Azerbaijan will achieve this goal. It would therefore be unfair to call the incident on the Lachin-Khankendi road a blockade.
– The necessary conditions will be created for Armenians who wish to live in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under the Azerbaijani flag. Just like all other citizens of Azerbaijan, their rights and security will be guaranteed. For those who do not want to be our citizens, the Lachin-Khankendi road is not closed; it is open. They can leave anytime; no one will stop them. The road is open.
– The Armenian side sabotages the peace process. The five principles proposed by Azerbaijan should be a straightforward document, a document that succinctly summarizes the basic principles. It is not possible to talk about the internal problems of Azerbaijan and all the problems related to Karabakh.
– This year will bring clarity to many issues. Baku believes that it is possible for a peace agreement to be signed by the end of last year. But it didn’t happen. Maybe Armenia is waiting for some change in geopolitics, maybe something that someone promised them. “Because it does look like they were promised something. An objective analysis of the situation in the region, the balance of power and the world’s reaction to what happened two years ago and what happened last September and is currently happening on the Lachin-Khankendi highway , showing that “every man is for himself”. We can help. Help them not to completely drown in this quagmire of Azerbaijaniphobia and hysteria.”
– “I think they’ll hear my message and draw the right conclusions. Again, I don’t want to be seen as someone putting pressure on me. In no case have I shown any disrespect, even towards someone who doesn’t deserve it Neither. I have to point out to come out again. Because I think this year will be their last chance [Armenia]. Because then in 2024, and then in 2025, Russia’s peacekeeping mission ends. They need to see slightly further than their nose. “
– After the “death” of the Minsk Group, the EU began to play a role in the normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia, Baku supported it. France has effectively cut itself off from the process. America and Russia still exist. This is how Azerbaijan sees the negotiations at the moment. Of course, if Europe treats Azerbaijan fairly, it can be there too.
– Azerbaijan hopes that all former internally displaced persons will return to their ancestral lands as soon as possible and will do its utmost to expedite the process. Lachin is rebuilding and repairing hundreds of houses. Many villages have already started construction. The first phase will rebuild up to 100 settlements. The construction of multi-storey houses has started in Shusha, Agdam, Fuzuli, Zangelan, etc. The foundations of several villages have already been laid. 2023 will be the first step in the return of Azerbaijanis to their homeland.
– Karabakh and East Zangezur are connected to the national grid. Eleven hydropower stations have been built in the liberated area, with a generating capacity of about 55 megawatts. Construction of the solar power plant will start this year in Jabrayil. Investment projects worth US$ 23.5 million have been approved for the Aghdam Industrial Park and US$ 5.9 million for the Jabrayil Industrial Park. More than a thousand entrepreneurs have applied and all are under consideration.
——More than 2,000 kilometers of roads and bridges are being built on the liberated land. The number of bridges will exceed 100. 50 kilometers of tunnels are being built in the approved project.
– The main direction and goal of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is to create a more favorable environment for the country at the international level. Azerbaijan changed after the Karabakh war, and the world changed after the Russo-Ukraine war. These two changes are almost parallel processes in time. Azerbaijan should strengthen its position in the region and the world. The main problem is to reduce external risks to zero, Baku has already managed to do this, and the steps being taken that are being discussed today are calculated for this.
– Azerbaijan should choose the right place for itself and should not set unrealistic dream-driven goals. It must be in the real interests of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has the opportunity to secure its political, economic, military and diplomatic interests and use its power prudently. “Long-distance runners usually finish first, we’re the pacers, but we also do sprints when we need to.”