President Ilham Aliyev attended plenary session on security issues in South Caucasus as part of Munich Security Conference
A plenary session on “Moving Mountains? Building Security in the South Caucasus” has been held as part of the Munich Security Conference.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended the event.
Moderated by Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Christoph Heusgen, the plenary session was also attended by Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and OSCE Secretary General, Deputy President of the Foundation Council of the Munich Security Conference Helga Maria Schmid.
Moderator Christoph Heusgen: Good afternoon, everybody. It's good to have you here. We have with us President of Azerbaijan and Prime Ministers of Armenia and Georgia. And I didn't know this, but the President of Azerbaijan just told me that this is a historic meeting. This is for the first time in history that the three leaders of these countries meet. We have to check this in the history book. I know that foreign ministers met, but Helga Schmid, the Secretary General of the OSCE nods and if she nods, this must be true. So, thank you very much for joining us here. This conference, of course, as we all know, is happening one year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and this conference continues like last year to have this as the main topic. Now, your countries are not directly involved, but you are neighbors to Russia. And my first question is, how has Russia's invasion, the war against Ukraine, how has this affected your respective countries? President Aliyev if I may ask you.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Well, I would say that there was not a direct impact on us. But definitely, the general geopolitical situation has changed completely and probably will not go back to the time before Russian-Ukrainian war. So, we can see some disadvantages with respect to trade cooperation with some traditional partners. At the same time, some advantages, especially with respect to connectivity projects. Azerbaijan for many years invested in creation of modern transportation and logistics and infrastructure. And now, the diversion of cargo transportation from Central Asia across Azerbaijan to Europe creates additional opportunities. But you know that we had our own war something more than two years ago, which lasted for 44 days. And we know what is war. We know what kind of a devastation and suffering it brings to the peoples. Therefore, we of course, want peace to be established in Eurasia. And I think that Azerbaijan and Armenia need to demonstrate that the transition from the long-lasting stand of mutual hatred and hostility must end. We are now working on a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Hopefully, we would conclude it sooner or later. And I think that could be a good example how countries which had serious historical disagreements can get together and turn the page of hostility. So, that would be my answer.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much and before I ask the Prime Minister of Armenia to respond to this, I would pass through Georgia. Georgia, of course, has these occupied territories Abkhazia, South Ossetia. And what is the effect now for your country from the side of Russia? How about the Geneva talks? Is there anything happening? How has how is this impacted you?
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili: Thank you very much. First of all, thank you for organizing this panel discussion. I think this is very good initiative and historic meeting, as you mentioned. When the South Caucasus get together, and I think this is a great already successful meeting and thank you for organizing this discussion.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, of course, this is a big challenge for all of us. Since World War Two, I think Europe and the world in general has not experienced such a big challenge. You know that in 2008 we had a war with Russia. And since then, Russia occupies our historic territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia has two military bases on our territory. And since then, we have been facing lots of problems, challenges. But after we came to power in 2012, we have made lots of efforts in order to de-escalate the tension. De-escalate tension and at the same time, of course, we have been very active on our European integration path. Georgia signed association agreement. Deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with European Union. We called it the visa free regime. And last year this was a historic decision when the European Council decided to give us European perspective. So to respond to your question, how the war in Ukraine affects all of us in Georgia, right now, we all see that Russia is focused on Ukraine. It's a devastating war. And I have to say that we must do everything in order to stop this war. There is no alternative to peace. And I have to tell you that Georgia has been pursuing a peaceful resolution policy when it comes to the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country. We have made it very clear that Georgia has a peaceful plan to restore its territorial integrity. I want to thank the OSCE, EU, US and other participants who have been actively involved in the mediation process.
You mentioned Geneva international discussion, this is the only platform that we have right now with the Russians. And so therefore, I must repeat again that this war must be stopped. We have seen this war in the effects of this war in our country in 2008. And lots of lots of people died and we lost control on our territories completely. And as I said Russia has military bases on our territory and it’s ongoing. It doesn't stop. I also want to mention that since 2008 war, we haven't seen any sanctions that were imposed on Russia, or the country we saw that business continued as usual. Therefore, it was a very, let's say, bad signal.
To conclude, I think the international community now must decide how we move forward. Because if this work continues, it means more devastation, more killings of civilians. So therefore, once again, I want to repeat that our intention our main, let's say, goal has to be to stop this war.
Christoph Heusgen: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. The killing has to stop. But, let me just briefly come back to your country, you mentioned 2008. And I was at the time advisor to the Chancellor and it was a very, very difficult situation where we don't have to go into detail. But going back to 2008, may I ask you, at that time we had, we dealt with President Saakashvili. And we have seen alarming pictures, photos of President Saakashvili in a very delicate situation and people are afraid for his life and there's also a journalist, who is in a different situation. I have the impression your country that what is called in times of in harsh times, in times where you have war in the region that you called for a national unity. There's something where from the outside one has felt that this is happening in your country. And as I said, President Saakashvili was a host was a guest very often here at the Munich Security Conference and they sent these alarming pictures there, isn't there another possibility so that he can get out and get some treatment in hospitals outside Georgia?
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili: Well, first of all, thank you for this question. I don't want to talk about and speculate about the health of President Saakashvili who is now in a private hospital. I want people to know that he arrived in Georgia. He came back in Georgia two years ago, actually, more than a year and a half ago. October 1st, to be more precise. The idea of his comeback was to make another revolution in Georgia, to organize mass killings and bloodshed. He failed and he ended up in jail. So, he requested that we transfer him in private hospital. I don't want to bother the audience about the details, but since you asked this publicly, I have to respond. So, he has been in the private hospital for more than eight months and the Georgian Government has been providing maximum support, maximum comfort, all the privileges that other prisoners are not receiving. You mentioned the pictures and photos. I want to say that Mr. Saakashvili was a good actor. The Georgian government has been doing everything we can to maximum support. Again, I'm want to repeat we even made a proposal, offer to his family to bring any doctors from any hospital or from any country to provide medical in case he needs a medical support in Georgia. So, this is my answer. And I also want to mention that probably you have seen lots of fake news, disinformation that has been spreading by the lobbying firms of Mister Saakashvili, and his family. For example, I want to give you just a fact. Last month, it was disclosed that his family officially paid $1 million to launch him aggressive media campaign all around the world. So, what you hear, what you see on the videos or on Facebook or social network does not actually describe the reality. So, therefore, no one stands above the law. We are building a strong democracy in Georgia. We are building strengthening democratic institutions. This is the understanding of democracy, I guess, that no one should be above the law. Saakashvili committed the grave crimes, such as the killings of former banker Girgvliani, this was a famous case, beaten up to death former member of parliament and many of the cases, seizure of private TV channel Imedi, for example. Plus, he added another crime which is the crossing illegally state border. By the way for your information, he spent two days in the container truck, refrigerator, when to get the ferry boat from Ukraine from Odessa to come back to Georgia, to do the revolution. So, this is the story. I didn't want to talk about this individual here at this panel to bother you all the details. But, since you asked Mr. Heusgen, I want to respond about this.
Christoph Heusgen: I don't want to deepen into it, it just a humanitarian appeal. I would like to get back to Prime Minister Pashinyan, coming back to the question asked at the outside, also to President Aliyev. The repercussions of the war of Russia against Ukraine on your country?
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. I also would like to express my gratitude to you for organizing such a format. And, really, I agree maybe it is historic meeting. But, it's very important to identify the content of the history that now is being created. Because we can have different outcome, consequences or results, and I think we need to be result-oriented. And, that is our approach.
And, as far as your question is concerned, you know, global instability can make things in our region better, because, you know, for a long time, a whole international attention is concentrated on Ukraine understandably. And, it creates new risks for our region. And, it's very important to keep the international attention to our region as well, because I think, there are many risks to be managed. What is our approach to this whole situation? We are devoted to our democratic reform agenda, because we believe that democratic reforms, the development of democratic institutions, rule of law, human rights, independent judiciary, etc, would make the overall situation in our region better. We think that it is a benefit for whole region, for us to do our part of the job.
Christoph Heusgen: Yes, thank you very much. This leads me now directly to the Secretary General of the OSCE Helga Schmid. Wonderful to be here in your hometown, in Munich. The OSCE is an organization where the three countries are member of, by the way, an organization where Russia is still a member of. What can the OSCE at this stage do to help also cooperation between the countries to help to stabilize to have the instruments that the OSCE has at its disposal at a different, at a difficult time for your organization, but what can you do to try to lower tensions and promote cooperation?
OSCE Secretary General, Deputy President of the Foundation Council of the Munich Security Conference Helga Maria Schmid: Thank you. And I'm also very happy to be part of this meeting today. But I would, before I come to your question, Christoph, let me just say that we are also witnessing the impact of a horrible earthquake that is affecting Türkiye and Syria. And I actually would like to start by paying tribute to all three of you because you have been providing life-saving very quick support. And I know, particularly, I want to pay tribute to you, Prime Minister Pashinyan. I know your foreign minister was in Türkiye, I think, only a couple of days ago, he met with his Turkish counterpart. And in the face of this tragedy, we actually may find a way to work together. And I think this is very important. But now, there, maybe, no direct impact, as you said, President, when it comes to the war against Ukraine, but we know for sure is that there is really a very strong feeling of insecurity in the wider Black Sea region. And I think the only way forward is really keeping of the processes. I agree with you on the Geneva international discussions, dialogues but also regional cooperation. The OSCE, and this brings me to your question, has a mandate to promote regional cooperation, also to promote trade links, connectivity. I think that's very important. Now, it's very difficult to build a sustainable peace, reconciliation. There are outstanding issues that need to be addressed. Related to the board, missing people, detainees, also mines. So this is why it's very important to use all the means we have, also on confidence-building measures for example, regional monitoring, demining efforts could be envisaged. We work a lot already with youth. Youth are the stakeholders of tomorrow to bring together the leaders of tomorrow with all three countries. You will not be surprised to hear me say that women have to be a part of all of that. But regional cooperation is important. I also, I'm very supportive of the Brussels-led dialogue. I think because it can deliver very concrete results and also the implementation of the roadmaps agreed. In the end, it's about people, it's about conflict that affected people that deserve a better life for the future.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you, Helga. You mentioned also Prime Minister Pashinyan, that you are helping in Türkiye also now in the face of this horrible earthquake. Do you see perspective that between Armenia and Türkiye, what we have been looking for over many, many years, decades that there is actually an improvement of relations? In some state, we were close to getting rid of the blockade and where do you stand there? Is there a perspective that this horrible crisis, this catastrophe humanitarian catastrophe is something good may come out in your relationship? Thank you.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, you know deciding to send humanitarian rescuers to Türkiye, we had humanitarian motivations only because millions of people suffered next to us. But in the process, we see quite a positive reaction from the Turkish Government. And if this step will have political results, as well it's better. But our initial motivation, purely humanitarian, and as we announced, we're ready to provide as much humanitarian support as it is in our capacities. And we're ready to do that.
As far as political dialogue is concerned, to be honest, before earthquake, we had political dialogue through the special envoys. I believe that in reality, this dialogue was very important. I mean, in the creating atmosphere, where these decisions were made. And I believe that through this humanitarian conversation and communication may be the opportunities for concrete political decisions will be higher. Especially minister, you mentioned, visited Türkiye and some political arrangements were mentioned there. And we are ready to go forward because we believe that really, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Türkiye and the opening of our border will be very positive, not only in terms of the original situation, but for international situation as well.
Christoph Heusgen: Yeah, let's hope that this comes out. We had originally, the Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu surely wanted to come here, but of course due to the situation in the country he decided to stay home, but let's hope that this will lead to something. Because this border was closed for far too long, and we have to come also to improvement for the relations there. Now, let me come to the elephant in the room. If you allow me, this is, of course, the question that President Aliyev alluded to at the very beginning. The war that started two years ago already and we see a situation which is still very critical. We are not here to do any negotiations. But then, of course, we are when you look at it from the outside, the international community, we are concerned about the humanitarian situation and one looks always as we have been looking right now with regard to humanitarian aid to Türkiye, we're looking at humanitarian steps. We see the Lachin corridor that is seen from the outside blocked and we wonder. And maybe prime minister, you can tell us a bit about, maybe efforts to have some confidence-building measures there to see that somehow the situation improves. All, and afterwards, I would like to turn to President Aliyev again. We would like to see that through some small steps we come to a de-escalation and come closer to a resolution of this conflict.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. You're right. It's already 70 days that the Lachin corridor is blocked. And now unfortunately, we have humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and energetic crisis as well. Because electricity supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh have been shut down. And the gas supplies as well have been shut down and we counted and during last 70 days, the gas supplies were cut at least 10 times and it is the problem that should be addressed. And our position is that in the trilateral Statement from 9 November, 2020, we have very precise provisions connected with Lachin corridor. And according to that statement, it is the obligation of Azerbaijan and Russian peacekeepers to keep Lachin corridor operable. But now unfortunately, we have a totally different situation and I meant Lachin corridor as well, saying that international attention should be kept on the situation. Because we afraid that continuation of this situation can cause unturnable humanitarian consequences for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Christoph Heusgen: President Aliyev, as I said, we are not here, we cannot negotiate the substance of the agreement and how to come to a final conclusion. I think the President of the European Council has been working with you on this. We don't want to get into this. My question is just is there do you see, because you are saying that we should use this opportunity now, to come to a more stable situation. Can you do some humanitarian gestures so that this blockade is being stopped? And the people that according to what the Prime Minister is just saying are in Nagorno-Karabakh, are living in very difficult circumstances. That's something you can do as kind of a good way to measure confidence-building? So that talks have a chance to succeed and system for substantial questions, of course, are not resolved yet.
President Ilham Aliyev: As far as we understand in our communications with our American partners and partners from European Union, and also, as far as I understood from today’s trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Pashinyan, which was organized by Secretary Blinken, we have a common understanding that there should be a two-track approach to the situation in the region. First, Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks track. Second, Azerbaijan’s communications with the Armenian population in Karabakh.
Just for your information, the word Nagorno-Karabakh is no longer valid. This is actually the Russian word. “Nagorno” means mountainous. And in Azerbaijan, there is not such an administrative unit like Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, of course, I would like to ask our partners to respect the sovereignty and the constitution of Azerbaijan. There is a Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where there is Armenian population. So, this two-track-solution actually separates our talks with Armenia from our internal issues like our communications with Armenians in Karabakh. And also it was agreed with our international partners that there will be discussions on rights and securities of Armenian minority in Karabakh. And we are ready to do it. But with those representatives of Armenian community who lived, who were born, and who lived in Karabakh throughout their life. But not with the person who was exported from Russia to have the leading position in Karabakh. Maybe export is not the right word. I would probably prefer the word “smuggled into”. Because nobody knows how he emerged in Karabakh and how he is trying and achieving to go back to Yerevan and from there to Moscow, and then back to Yerevan and then to Karabakh. The only this fact demonstrates that there is no blockade. Second fact, which demonstrates that there is no blockade, is that since 12th December until today when our activists from civil society came to the checkpoint, there have been more than 2,500 vehicles, including tracks of Russian peacekeepers and representatives of Red Cross. Almost 100 medical patients from Karabakh were taken by Red Cross to Armenia for treatment. So, how can we call it a blockade when there is an open road? And if Armenians in Karabakh try to use this road, I’m sure no one will stop them. So, this is important to understand the current situation. And also, in order to properly evaluate the current situation, we need to go back a little bit to the history. For almost 30 years our lands were under Armenian occupation. Prime Minister Garibashvili mentioned that in 2008 after the Russian-Georgian war, there were no sanctions imposed on Russia. But I also can say that Armenia occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, violated international law, did not comply with UN Security Council resolutions for 27 years. And no sanctions were imposed on them. And we always were asking for sanctions to Armenia to be imposed to avoid the war. We were waiting for Minsk Group to deliver result. We were waiting for the Security Council of the United Nations to respect their resolutions. But we thought that there is no movement, and there is a common understanding that this conflict is frozen. So, we proved that it is not frozen. We had to fight. We had to sacrifice 3,000 lives in order to restore our dignity, our territorial integrity and justice, and implement UN Security Council resolutions. Therefore, we cannot take out of the context today’s situation in Karabakh or our communications with the Armenian community there and just forget about the thirty years of occupation, forget about that the territory equal to the territory of Lebanon is totally in ruins, and that was done not by aliens. That was done by our neighbors who came, occupied our land, made a million Azerbaijanis homeless, destroyed 65 out of 67 mosques, desecrated them. And then, when we kick them out, they now plea for justice. They accuse us of occupation. Those who occupied us for 30 years. And also one thing also should not be forgotten that the trilateral declaration of November 2020, which Prime Minister referred to, actually de-facto is the capitulation act by Armenia. We fought the war. And the results of the war have been accepted by international community and by Armenian society. And the best indicator to that was the new mandate which Armenian population gave to Prime Minister. That was the mandate for peace. Therefore, we need to look to the future. And I think that if we look to the future, today, as we discussed just prior to the session, is a historical day. Because for the first time three leaders get together in the independent country. There was cases like that during the Soviet times. And we should not miss this opportunity.
Karabakh Armenians are Azerbaijani citizens, are minority. Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic country. And all minorities in Azerbaijan enjoy same rights and privileges including cultural, linguistic, and any other and also security. And we are ready to start practical communications with representatives of Armenian community in Karabakh. And today in front of Secretary Blinken, I told my Armenian colleague about that. But we can do it only when Russian citizen-criminal oligarch, a person who was involved in money laundering in Europe, Vardanyan is out of our territory.
Christoph Heusgen: As I said, we cannot replace negotiations here, but I would like to give Prime Minister Pashinyan a possibility to react to what he heard from President Aliyev, and then also I would like to give the audience, of course, a chance to ask questions to the panelists. Prime Minister, please.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you. About Nagorno-Karabakh, you know, President mentioned the trilateral statement, and on the trilateral statement we have provision and we have “Nagorno-Karabakh” on trilateral Statement, and we have a signature of the President of Azerbaijan under this document. And, we have Lachin corridor that should be freely operable, and by the way, according to that trilateral Statement, out of control of Azerbaijan, and it is according to the signature of the President of Azerbaijan. And recently, you know, some Armenian children from Nagorno-Karabakh, they tried to travel by bus to Lachin corridor, and they were stopped, and some Azerbaijani persons with masks intruded into bus and children there were screaming and that was the last attempt of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to freely commute through Lachin corridor. President Aliyev mentioned destroyed mosques. You know, I would like to say that in 2017 in Azerbaijan, several mosques were destroyed for building new roads. And President Aliyev mentioned that several, I don't know how many thousands mosques that were destroyed. And by the way, in the Soviet time, and when, in Azerbaijan, approximately 1,560 mosques were destroyed. And it was usual thing for Soviet Union. In Armenia as in Soviet time churches were destroyed, mosques were destroyed. And you know, Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, they don't, they shouldn't pay the debts from the Soviet time. And you know, it's very important. It is very dangerous narrative.
Because I'm afraid some time there is an impression that Azerbaijan want to give some religious context to this whole situation. It is very dangerous, there is no any religious context in the conflict and the proof is that that we have very good and, by the way, in our country, we have Muslim minority, and we have in our country acting mosque. That is the reality. And you know, the wording of Azerbaijan, what is concerning using the wording of such kind of almost offensive wording, capitulation etc, you know, from aside, it can be impression that now, Azerbaijan wants to show that and that is maybe reality that Azerbaijan adopted a revenge policy. And maybe that is the policy of Azerbaijan. But, as it was mentioned, we have very complicated history. And I just said, yes, maybe it is historical meeting, but for what purpose we want to use this? For inflaming intolerance, hate, aggressive rhetoric in our region? Or in opposite, we want to use this platform for making things better. We think that this platform should be used for constructive purposes. Of course, we can now tell many stories of enmity. But what is the meaning of our leadership? To deepen that enmity or to use our capacities, our authorities, our mandates? I'm proud that I have I've been able, our government was able, even after the devastating war to have free, democratic elections in our country that was worldwide, acknowledged as free democratic, transparent and competitive. And as I said, from our point of view, the solution is democracy, the solution is transparency, the solution is dialogue, the solution is respect for all countries in our region. We're ready to work to that direction. Thank you.
Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much. We will not be able to go any deeper into this again. My appeal is what I said at the beginning that maybe this will help a bit to have some confidence-building measures to see if that when the Lachin corridor is used by children to get humanitarian aid to get, you know, have people traveled there, that this is possible so that people don't have to suffer from the political differences that exists there also, that they have access to energy. So this is only the appeal we can launch here from this from this podium.
Now, we have a few minutes left to ask questions there. This is a topic where you can have not asked question but give a long statement. So I just warned please, only short questions. Yes, please.
Questions: Thank you very much. I’d like to put one common denominator. Probably would be much easier for President, to prime ministers. Regarding the situation with Russia. The war Ukraine wasn't expected to most of us forced you to consider your perception of Russia. Russia has turned itself from the stability into the country of instability in terms of security.
My question to the Armenian prime minister. As you mentioned a couple of times the Collective Security Treaty Organization is not very productive at the moment and Armenia may leave the organization. Can you comment on that?
For the prime minister of Georgia, What do you think of potential strategic moves of Russia while they are losing in Ukraine might be considering of making some blitzkriegs in the countries they consider a much more vulnerable and easy targets like Moldova and Georgia. Do you see the threats for your country?
For the President of Azerbaijan, you mentioned peace negotiations and talks with the participation of US as a mediator. So, it looks like Russia has lost its role with regards to Nagorno-Karabakh. Can you have comment on this issue?
Christoph Heusgen: I mean these are these are very good questions. But this is very unfair, because by having three people. But since you're from a partner organization well what choice do I have? Prime Minister, please.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: Well, you know, and it was public and transparent. We have some concerns connected with the CSTO. And we raised those issues with our partners, and actually, we made it public and we're working and the concerns are there in the place and by working to address all the issues and all the questions and concerns that we have.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili: Thank you for the question. You mentioned about the threats that are coming from Russia. Well, first of all, I have to say that, you know, talking to our European friends, American friends, our international partners. Everybody has the same position that we're not in a position now to say something more precisely, concretely right, what will happen in Ukraine? Of course, the consequences the results of this war will have impact on countries like Georgia, you mentioned Moldova. Let's say, let's be very frank, on the entire European security architecture, on the world. Because what Russia is trying to do now is – they are trying to change the international order - rules-based international order. So, I think what the experts have been saying to us within two or three months, we will have a clearer picture about where we are. So, you know about Georgia. Georgia is partially occupied, 20 percent of our territories were occupied by Russia. We experienced this war in 2008. We had indirect let's say so, war in the beginning of 1990s when the separatists in Abkhazia and Ossetia were backed by the Russians. So, we have a good experience. So therefore, it's really hard to say what will happen. I think time will show us where we are now. Where will be the world, the region and Europe, after Ukraine. So, but I think too, I have to repeat what I said in my opening remarks. There is no alternative to the peaceful negotiation and peaceful talks. Because, we have witnessed that nuclear war rhetoric has come back which is catastrophic for the entire world, not only for Ukraine and for Europe, but for the entire planet, right? So therefore, we must expect that big players such as United States, China, Russia, European Union, will sit down and talk about the future of this planet. Because once again, the war is not a solution. Georgia is a small country with only 4 million population. Again, with our own challenges, but what we have managed to achieve in the last decade, this is the only peaceful period - this ten year period. When we have been in power, we ensured peace and stability. This is what people need. We need peace, stability and prosperity. So by war we cannot achieve prosperity, we cannot achieve stability. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: We have several of platforms to address the issues related to normalization of Azerbaijani-Armenian relationship. One of them is the so-called Brussels format. And yesterday, during the meeting with the President of the European Council Mr. Charles Michel, we once again reconfirmed our commitment to the Brussels process. Today, during the trilateral meeting hosted by Secretary Blinken, we also discussed Brussels process as a trilateral format. And I think that there is a common understanding that this is only a trilateral – EU, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. There is certain legacy from the so-called former Minsk Group, which already retired and actually does not exist, maybe exists only on the paper. Therefore, the former co-chairs of the Minsk Group, which actually did not deliver any result for 28 years, they still have some leverage on the situation. Therefore, we have a platform which is hosted by the United States, by Russia and now by European Union, but no longer by France. Because of one-sided pro-Armenian position of the French government. And it is clear when you are a mediator you cannot take sides, and you cannot demonstrate that you take sides. So, this I think, is an answer to your question. And above that, I want to say that whoever will help both countries to come to an agreement, of course, will have the champions’ medal. But with respect to the peace talks, you know, we can understand this position. But judging from our experience, I can tell you, that peace talks sometimes last too long. We had peace talks for 28 years. Can you imagine from 1992 till 2020? And if we did not resolve Karabakh conflict on the battlefield, these peace talks would have continued for 28 years more.
It was absolutely acceptable for Armenia, because they wanted to seal the situation, to keep our lands under occupation forever. It was acceptable for Armenian friends in different parts of the world. But it was not acceptable for us. And we were preparing, we were mobilizing our efforts, we were growing a new generation. Growing a new generation, which came and liberated the lands which they have never seen because they were young. They were not even born when Armenia occupied our lands. Therefore, peace talks, yes, I am not against, but you have to restore justice by force. And this is your legitimate right. This is a right given to you by Chapter 51 of United Nations. And we used that right. And we fought on our territory. Our war was a war of liberation. And that’s why, it was a just war. Our war was not a war of occupation. And that’s why we did not have a single one from our army who left the battlefield. For 44 days, when our cities and villages were shelled by Iskander missiles no one left the battlefield. In Armenia, there have been 11,000 deserters. Why? Not because they were losing on the battlefield, because their war was the occupational war. There was no motivation for people who were born in Armenia to go to Azerbaijan and to fight for the lands which do not belong to them. And what we have seen as one of the results of our liberation war - the main factor is motivation.
Weapons are important, tactics is important, planning is very important, but motivation is number one. And you cannot conquer the people who want liberty. They can wait. They can wait like we waited for 28 years. But one day they come to their land. They kick out the aggressor and they put their flag on top of all our historical buildings.