I believe that the South Caucasus will once be free of conflicts - Farid Shafiyev interviewed by the Lithuanian journalist - VIDEO | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

14 May, Friday

I believe that the South Caucasus will once be free of conflicts - Farid Shafiyev interviewed by the Lithuanian journalist - VIDEO

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With the organisation of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) a group of Lithuanian journalists have paid a visit to the liberated territories in Karabakh. 

The guests have visited historical and cultural monuments in Tartar, Aghdam, Fizuli and Jabrayil and have witnessed the terrible consequences of the Armenian aggression.

There have been well-known journalists in the group, including a famous military journalist Richardas Lapaitis, who has been awarded the 'Order of Friendship' of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Arunas Sartanavichius and Mantas Bartasavichius.

During the visit, Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of the Centre of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Centre), has received Lithuanian journalists. He has given an interview to Richardas Lapaitis. 

Eurasia Diary presents the video of the interview:

- Esteemed Farid Shafiyev, first of all, I would like to thank you for receiving our group of journists. Secondly, I would like to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev, on his great victory. Not only we, the countries of the Baltics, but the whole world have been watching what happened for 44 days, and I want to heartly congratulate you on the liberation of the ancient lands of Azerbaijan. Firstly, I would like to ask such a question. What is the current situation? What did you face in those areas after a long occupation?

- Thank you for visiting Azerbaijan and covering the post-conflict situation. Azerbaijani officials view the situation as a post-war period. We want this conflict to go down in history and build development in the region on the basis of mutual economic and political ties. Unfortunately, 30 years of occupation have left deep traces in Azerbaijan. If you have the opportunity to go to the liberated territories, you will see that large settlements and cities have been completely destroyed. If said what has been completely destroyed, there has not been left any house without a serious damage. The roofs of the houses have collapsed, there are no window frames, doors and fences. Cemeteries, infrastructure and pipelines have been destroyed. Therefore, the Azerbaijani government is undergoing major restoration work.

The first step is demining. However, the Armenian side has not yet provided us with a map of the mined areas. This endangers the lives of people involved in the restoration work. Since the signing of the Tripartite agreement on November 10, 2020, 10 people have died from landmines. This is the first task in all the commitments.

Our second task will be to restore the infrastructure. This includes gas, water, electricity and roads. The third stage is the construction of settlements for the return of refugees and IDPs. For this purpose, the Azerbaijani government has allocated 2.2 billion manat this year. However more finance is needed for this yet. There is a need for the assistance of the international community and investors in that area. There are opportunities for the development of agriculture and tourism in those areas. But the most important thing is peacebuilding in the South Caucasus.

Unfortunately, we have seen the consequences of territorial claims. Therefore, Azerbaijan has acted on the principles of development of minority rights within the framework of territorial integrity of states. This is the foundation of European security. This is how security was established in Europe after the Second World War. Therefore, we believe that peace should be ensured in the South Caucasus on the basis of international law and the principle of territorial integrity, sovereignty and the rights of minorities. Of course, not everyone agrees with us. There are revanchist forces in Armenia. But we would like to believe that the war is over and we must gradually establish peace both in Azerbaijan and in the region as a whole.

- We were very surprised watching the Patriotic War, the War of Independence. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is accepted by all. The President of Azerbaijan, esteemed Ilham Aliyev, showed great humanism and saved Armenian soldiers from totally being killed in the last days of the Patriotic War. The territory of Karabakh has a great historical heritage. As you mentioned earlier, where is the work on the restoration of cultural heritage? Is it possible to restore them? What can be saved there?

- When talking about the cultural heritage of Karabakh, for some reason only Christian cultural objects are mentioned. Yes, there are Armenian facilities there. The Azerbaijani side is making every effort to preserve them. We have an Armenian church in the centre of Baku. As for the threat, almost everything has been destroyed there over 30 years. 37 mosques have been destroyed. Only two of them are more or less safe and can be restored quickly.

Besides that, Muslim religious monuments have been completely destroyed. There are only ruins of walls left, but not all of them. Many Muslims used to live there. Some unique museums have been ruined, such as the Bread Museum in Agdam. Unfortunately, some of them will not be restored, but some will be restored by the Azerbaijani government.

At the same time, restoration work will be carried out if the immunity of the Christian population in the region is needed. There will be no distinction between Muslims and Christians or between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. This cultural heritage belongs primarily to Azerbaijan and the world community as a whole.

- Lithuania and Azerbaijan have had excellent economic, cultural and diplomatic relations for more than 100 years. I hope that this wonderful relationship will continue. How can the Baltic countries contribute to the restoration work you mentioned?

- Indeed, our bilateral relations are developing dynamically. To do this, businessmen need to meet and talk about what Lithuanian companies can offer specifically in connection with the restoration work. As a member of the European Union, Lithuania has the opportunity to invest in the EU's reconstruction tools. Each country has a certain experience.

In Lithuania, for example, there is a Polish minority. It would be interesting for us in terms of ensuring and developing the rights of minorities. We have no problems with our minorities in Azerbaijan. It is often said that the rights of the Armenian minority need to be strengthened. We have Russians, Jews and other minorities. Other minorities also live in Azerbaijan as members of society. In the current situation, given the sensitivity of the situation, we can study the experience of other countries. We hope that Lithuania, as a member of the EU, will support the organisation's more active participation in projects.

Unfortunately, the EU did not take an active part in the region during the occupation and during the whole period. We believe that the EU can and should now take a more active part in reconstruction, investment, and the exchange of experiences in overcoming hostilities between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

We know very well that during all this occupation, despite the provocations of Armenian separatists, Armenian officials and some forces, Azerbaijan had very good relations with Georgia. How do you think Armenia can exist in the South Caucasus without Azerbaijan?

According to our common understanding of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia must establish economic cooperation. As you mentioned, we have very good relations with Georgia. We have transregional projects in the field of energy transport. Now we want to implement such projects with the participation of Armenia as well. We believe that Azerbaijan, Armenia and all countries of the region and our close neighbours will benefit from this.

Yes, there are certain political and sometimes economic problems, but this is natural and there are sometimes problems between neighbours. At the same time, they must be resolved in a constructive atmosphere, through diplomacy. I think Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia must develop regional cooperation in the future.

Thank you very much. I have a topical question. You've probably heard. In Lithuania, the Armenian diaspora allegedly collected signatures and appealed for Armenian captives. I think not everyone fully understands this. How do you understand this provocation? What is the situation with Armenian prisoners of war?

Under the November 10 agreement, all prisoners of war had to be exchanged, and they were released. And Azerbaijan handed over the captives held up to that time to Armenia. There were a small number of Azerbaijani captives on the Armenian side, and they were returned to Azerbaijan.

At present, there are about 50 Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan who have been caught on committing terror and sabotage. They have been detained in December, a month after the ceasefire was declared. And according to all the criteria of international law and international humanitarian law, they are not considered prisoners of war. These people attacked and killed 4 of our servicemen and one civilian - an employee of a mobile operator working in Azerbaijan. Someone must be held accountable for the killings of soldiers and civilians. Therefore, Azerbaijan rightly said that more than 50 people have not been considered prisoners of war, and that they were Armenian citizens.

According to the November 10 declaration, Armenian military units had to leave the territory of Azerbaijan by December 1. Unfortunately, to this day, as noted in the report of a British journalist, Armenians regularly hold rallies in front of the Ministry of Defence. And they demand that their troops have not been sent to Azerbaijan. This fact has already been confirmed by several independent media sources. Therefore, there are no prisoners of war in Azerbaijan today. 

Azerbaijan has shown the world who is the leading country in the South Caucasus, and this is confirmed by its neighbours and Central Asian countries. The level of Azerbaijan has risen. Many are learning the processes because for many it was new. This, of course, was the result of the "inactivity" of some international organisations. 30 years is a very long period for an occupation. I would like to ask you such an important question. Despite all the difficulties, how do you see the future of Karabakh and surrounding areas?

We would like to believe that there will be peace and security in the region in the future. As you mentioned, part of our territory has been occupied for 30 years. Lithuania itself has been under occupation for 50 years. We have similar tragic historical events. Tragic events in Vilnius and Baku in 1990-91. But those were in the past, and now we need to look to the future. History must be left to historians. Of course, it is important to know it, to learn it, to remember the mistakes. But we need to look to the future, because the future is for peace and cooperation. We want to believe that after 30 years of occupation, we will finally be free from the burden of conflict. We support it with all heart. Therefore, Armenia must agree to develop peace in the Caucasus on the basis of international law, the principles of mutual respect and international cooperation.

Thank you again. I wish the region prosperity and development in tourism in the future. We know how beautiful these areas are. I wish prosperity to the Kalbajar region, Upper and Lower Karabakh, all the Azerbaijani people and the Azerbaijani soldiers.

- In my turn, I wish the friendly Lithuanian people prosperity. All countries are going through a difficult period due to the global crisis. But I am confident that we will overcome this crisis. First of all, I wish the Lithuanian people peace and security, strengthening independence and good neighbourly relations with all neighbour countries. I visited Vilnius, Lithuania in the 1990s. The situation there was very complicated and there was a blockade. I talked to Lithuanians, they believed in Lithuania's independence, in Lithuania's future. Now I want to say that I have always believed that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. And I strongly believe that one day the South Caucasus will get rid of conflicts? Just like after all these devastating wars in Europe.

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