ANKARA

Azerbaijan will revive and restore all of its territories liberated from nearly three decades of Armenian occupation, the country’s president said on Wednesday.

“We have major plans for the restoration of these lands. These plans are already being implemented, [and] infrastructure projects are being implemented,” President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation after the Azerbaijani army entered the reclaimed region of Kalbajar.

He said Kalbajar is a historic part of ancient Azerbaijan and one of its largest districts.

“We will restore Kalbajar – let no one have any doubts about that – and life will return there. Agriculture will develop in Kalbajar, especially livestock breeding. We have large pastures there,” he said.

Aliyev accused Armenia of “brutally exploiting” the vast natural resources of the region.

“I have ordered officials to prepare a master plan for the reconstruction of the city; not just the city of Kalbajar but also all other cities [in the region], and life will return there,” he said.

‘Illegal settlements’

Aliyev said illegal settlement in Kalbajar was “another crime” committed by Armenia.

“People from Armenia and foreign countries have settled there illegally. This is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. We will hold the enemy accountable,” he asserted.

He said Armenia’s leadership will have to answer for all of its “war crimes” and destruction.

“I could not find a single safe building in Aghdam. The same was the case in Fuzuli and Jabrayil. They have destroyed everything, like a savage tribe has passed through,” the Azerbaijani president said.

‘Historical assets’

The historical sites of Kalbajar are a “great asset” for Azerbaijan, Aliyev said.

He emphasized that both mosques and churches in the liberated region hold equal significance as “historical treasures” for his country, explaining that the churches in Kalbajar belong to the ancient state of Caucasian Albania.

“There are many historical documents confirming this [fact]. This is no secret. Armenia’s so-called ‘historians’ and fraudsters have simply ‘Armenianized’ ancient Albanian churches, added their own inscriptions and falsely claiming them as their own,” said Aliyev.

“Anyone who looks at history can see that Tsarist Russia abolished the Albanian Church in the 1830s and gave all its property to the Armenian Gregorian Church, which is when Armenian priests and their patrons began to appropriate these churches.”

He said Azerbaijan has thwarted Armenia’s main aim of “erasing the history” of Caucasian Albania.

“Azerbaijan has a broad scientific base on this issue. There are [many] research works available. These works are, and should be, shared not only with the scientific community, but also with the world community as a whole,” he said.

‘Environmental terrorism’

On the natural landscape of Kalbajar, the president pointed out that many of Azerbaijan’s large rivers, including the Tartar River, the Bazarchay, and the Khachinchay, originate in the district.

Armenia blocked the flow of water to deprive many Azerbaijani regions of natural irrigation, he said.

“They cut off water supply in the summer and released it in the winter, flooding the lands. This was environmental terrorism against us,” Aliyev said.

“The water of the Tartar River, which originates in Kalbajar, was first collected in the Sarsang reservoir and then in the Sugovushan reservoir. This served the occupier’s [Armenia] interests, while we did not get any water.”

He said water supply has been resumed since the Azerbaijani army reclaimed the Sugovushan area.

Aliyev also called out Armenia for destroying swathes of the 24,000 hectares of forest in Kalbajar.

He said Armenian forces cut down trees to sell them and burned down parts of the forest “to create an environmental catastrophe”.

He said the deforestation carried out by Armenia and the way it tried to change the course of rivers, along with its destruction of historical Azerbaijani sites and “genocide” of civilians were all signs of a “terrorist state”.

“They broke into and lived inside people’s houses in Kalbajar. They burned down schools and killed pets that they couldn’t take [while leaving the occupied lands],” said the Azerbaijani president.

“I will say this every time – our victory is not only a victory over the Armenian state; we have also destroyed Armenian fascism.”

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