2023 was a challenging year for Artsakh and Armenia. More than 100,000 Armenians were forcibly displaced, a situation that was more than predictable given the decades of hate speech and war mongering. While Azerbaijan continues to feign engagement in peace negotiations, it simultaneously continues to promote aggressive rhetoric at the state level and target the Armenian people. This rhetoric and developments on the ground indicate that Aliyev has no intention of seeking peace with the Armenian people. Moreover, the constant portrayal of Armenians as enemies helps Aliyev maintain his authoritarian grip on power, as he will never relinquish this essential tool.
Aliyev has even referred to Armenia as “Western Azerbaijan”, laying the “historical” groundwork for potential aggressive actions against Armenia itself.
Here are a few excerpts from Aliyev’s speeches throughout 2023, containing justifications for war, elements of using force and threats, as well as portraying Armenians as “enemies” and an “ungrateful nation”. There is no analysis or commentary—just facts illustrating Azerbaijan’s aggressive and dangerous policies. This information might help international partners clearly recognize and prevent any use of force, not only for Armenia and the Armenian people but also for the Azerbaijani people.
January 9, 2023
“Our historic victory is a source of pride for every Azerbaijani, every citizen, and all Azerbaijanis worldwide. We will educate the next generation with a patriotic spirit, as we have always done. We have raised an incredible young generation that raises the flag of our country both in sports arenas and on the battlefield. The absolute majority of those who took part in the Second Karabakh war were young people who grew up under our policies and received a good education in both society and in their families. This factor, of course, manifests itself in all areas. Our nation has been living as a victorious nation for more than two years now, and this significant factor will remain with us forever.”
January 10, 2023
“No matter what weapons are provided to Armenia, it will not help them, and I have said this to the Armenian side several times. I told them not to waste money on that. Because, first of all, it will not help you, and secondly, it may create an illusion among the revanchist forces in your country… that you can retaliate. You will not be able to! If we see a serious threat to us, we will crush this threat immediately – no matter where this threat comes from, both within and beyond our borders. It is our legitimate right. … We monitor and know which countries are preparing to supply arms to Armenia. Regrettably, India is now playing a role among them. We consider this an unfriendly action. Because these weapons, especially offensive weapons, have a target, and it is Azerbaijan. Therefore, of course, we are taking the necessary measures and cannot allow Armenia to pose a threat to us. We can never tolerate that.
“I should also note that we have increased the number of special forces within the State Border Service, Internal Troops, State Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service – new detachments and groups have been created. We have increased the number of marines several times. We have increased the number of special forces of the Nakhchivan Standalone Army. I will not disclose the numbers here for obvious reasons. Their numbers will grow as we have yet to reach our goal. We have and will continue to create such a force that it would be suicidal to ignore.
“Today, it is no secret that the Western Azerbaijan Community was denied its rights as a community that was displaced for many years. Of course, talking about the rights of Western Azerbaijanis when there was a problem with Karabakh might have seemed premature. But today, we have brought this matter to the international stage. My recommendations, i.e., those I gave on 24 December, are being implemented. A special working group has been established based on all the tasks I outlined and suggestions from the ground. We have started working on a unified plan. Of course, Western Azerbaijanis should return to their ancestral lands; this is their right, and all international conventions recognize this right. As the state of Azerbaijan, we must do our best to secure this right. Again, I said during the meeting with community representatives there that we wanted to do it peacefully, and I am sure we will achieve that. Because there are no mono-ethnic states in our area, in Eurasia in general, it would be good for Armenia, as they say, to escape this mono-ethnic state stigma. The best and fairest way for this is for Western Azerbaijanis to return to their native lands.
“There should also be new routes for cargo from Central Asia. The route across the Caspian Sea is very attractive in terms of time. At the same time, we should make this route economically more viable by implementing a standard tariff policy. Negotiations are going in a positive direction here as well. So, given the shipping potential of the Central Asian countries and the cargo going there from Europe, we see that even if we implement and expand all these projects, it will still not be enough. Therefore, the economic viability of the Zangezur Corridor is beyond doubt. Of course, it is more than just an economic and transport project for us, it is a project of strategic significance. We are sure that the realization of this project is our natural right. In addition, the realization of this project was also reflected in the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020. Indeed, there is no mention of the “Zangezur Corridor” in it because I introduced the term “Zangezur Corridor” in the geopolitical lexicon afterward. However, it is explicitly stated that there should be a transport connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and Armenia should provide it. Armenia wants to shy away from that and has not fulfilled its obligations for more than two years. But that won’t stop us. So, for us, this is a strategic project, not just for us but also for several neighboring countries and the broader geography.”
March 16, 2023
“The decision of the Soviet government in November 1920 to separate West Zangezur, our historical land, from Azerbaijan and hand it over to Armenia led to the geographical separation of the Turkic world. By 1991, all Azerbaijanis were forcibly driven out of the territory of present-day Armenia. Similarly to Karabakh and East Zangezur, Armenia has also destroyed our cultural heritage, mosques and historical sites in present-day Armenia – in Western Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani community has repeatedly appealed to UNESCO to send a fact-finding mission to monitor the Azerbaijani people’s cultural heritage in present-day Armenia and still awaits a positive response from UNESCO.
“Our fellow compatriots who suffered from ethnic cleansing in Western Azerbaijan have now united in the Western Azerbaijan Community. They have set the goal of a peaceful return to their historical lands. According to the Concept of Return developed by the Western Azerbaijan Community, there should be an international legally binding agreement with an appropriate verification and guarantee mechanism for the return of Azerbaijanis who were forcefully deported from the territory of present-day Armenia.”
March 18, 2023
Ilham Aliyev: “We expelled the contemptible enemy from our lands.”
“In 44 days, we expelled the contemptible enemy from our lands and raised the Azerbaijani flag in Karabakh. This is the most significant achievement in the centuries-old history of Azerbaijan. For 44 days, the people of Azerbaijan stood united behind our army like a fist. We liberated the occupied lands by shedding blood․
“We applied force to restore our territorial integrity in accordance with the UN Charter, liberated the territories of Azerbaijan recognized by the international community, expelled the enemy, crushed the Armenian army, and brought it to its knees. This is our rightful duty.
“They are showing to the world again how treacherous and ungrateful they are. Now they are looking for a new owner. They don’t know whose feet to fall under. All this is to no avail. There is one condition for them to live comfortably on an area of 29,000 square kilometers – Armenia must accept our conditions, officially recognize Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan, sign a peace treaty with us and carry out delimitation work according to our conditions. Only under these circumstances can they live comfortably on an area of 29,000 square kilometers, which is all they want now. If Armenia does not recognize our territorial integrity, we will not recognize their territorial integrity either. Armenia and the hypocritical countries behind it should know what the result will be. They should know that no dirty plan against us will work. We have power, we have friends, we have a strong position in the world and we have strong determination. We demonstrated this during and after the war.
“For 44 days, we were only moving forward and did not take a single step back. We showed the strength and high moral qualities of the Azerbaijani people on the battlefield for 44 days. Not a single person deserted our army. According to the latest information, there were not 10,000 but 11,000 deserters in the Armenian army. They should not forget this, and if they do, we will remind them. Let no one forget the results of the Second Karabakh War. Everyone should accept the new reality.”
April 18, 2023
“…The Azerbaijani flag flies in Karabakh today. The Azerbaijani flag flies in Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli, Kalbajar, Lachin, Shusha, Hadrut, Talish, Sugovushan, and hundreds of villages. Today, the Azerbaijani flag flies in the Zangezur mountains. Let them not forget that. Can they approach those flags? Can that humanoid creature and his ilk approach those flags? They are afraid to even look at those flags from afar. By burning our flag, they only showed their ugly qualities to the whole world. I want to say again that behind this is the Armenian state, the Armenian government, the anti-Azerbaijani campaign conducted in Armenia for many years, the Azerbaijanphobia conducted in Armenia for decades. This is no ordinary event.
“I also want to note that this incident cannot shake us, of course. It cannot have any impact on our determination. But they should think carefully. One day they may wake up to see the Azerbaijan Flag above their heads.”
June 13, 2023
“Today, we also discussed our future plans in the fields of defense and defense industry. It was noted with satisfaction that 16 joint military exercises would be held this year, with six already completed. After the Second Karabakh War, I said that the Azerbaijani Army would be developing on the basis of the Turkish model, and we can clearly see that now.
“In the present-day world, the power factor becomes crucial. Unfortunately, international law does not work. We saw this during the 30-years of occupation; discussions and negotiations did not yield any results. It was our strength that brought results. Therefore, the collaborative work to be carried out will further increase our strength both in the region and in the world.”
July 24, 2023
“Yes, we invested a lot in our defense capability, in training our military servicemen. We did a lot to prepare ourselves for the Second Karabakh War. But I can tell you now, after two and half years, the main factor of our victory was spirit. Those who liberated the land had never seen Karabakh in their lives, because they were very young. They had not yet been born when Karabakh was occupied. So, what led them to that? It was the spirit of victory, patriotism and dignity.”
August 1, 2023
Ilham Aliyev: “Winning a war was my life’s mission.”
“Well, winning a war was my life’s mission and that of my political life, which ended successfully. So, we won the war, despite many factors, political, despite factors of long-lasting infrastructure projects on the occupied territories, which made it very difficult for our military servicemen to break several defense lines. In some areas, they had five,while in others, there were seven, full of mines. And the road from Fuzulu had an uphill climb. This is the road our military servicemen took. The road you came on, which I later named the Victory Road, did not exist. It was the road our military servicemen took to reach Shusha, climbing these rocky mountains. Despite these factors and strong political support from many countries with a large Armenian diaspora, we did what was right to do. We restored justice, and we restored our territorial integrity. We fought on our land. We didn’t fight on the Armenian land, and we won. So, that completes mission number one.”
October 15, 2023
“Twenty years ago, when I began my duties as President, my main objective was to raise the Azerbaijani flag in all of our territories, lands, cities, and villages that were occupied at the time. Each day, each hour we moved towards this sacred goal. Every day, we brought this cherished moment closer and repeatedly said that each of us should try to bring this day closer through our hard work.
“Over these years, Azerbaijan has become stronger and has taken its rightful place on the global level. It is now being reckoned with in the world. The position and steps of our state carry great meaning not only for the region, but also for a broader geography. In many cases, Azerbaijan has been the author of important initiatives. Over the years, we have created a strong political and legal foundation for resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. At the same time, we have created a strong economy, and the successes achieved in this direction over the past 20 years are obvious. Our economy has grown more than four times. A strong economy means independence. Independence should never be conditional. To achieve real independence, you must have a strong economy, you must have a strong army.
“We have worked tirelessly to strengthen our army, and as a result, we have created a strong army that can honorably fulfill any task today, as demonstrated on the battlefield. We forced the enemy to sign the act of capitulation in just 44 days during the Patriotic War three years ago. At the same time, the anti-terror operation which we carried out last month and which lasted only 23 hours, showed our strength, and the enemy surrendered by waving the white flag. We are rightly proud of our Armed Forces.
“The main reason we are here today is the people of Azerbaijan –– the children of Azerbaijan. We have raised a young generation that was ready to die for the Motherland, for our lands. They confronted death. May Allah have mercy on all our martyrs. We bow our heads to their souls. We, the people of Azerbaijan, are forever indebted to them. … Throughout the last three years and during the anti-terror operation in September, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers showed true heroism, patriotism and self-sacrifice. We are proud of our army, our armed forces. They are the source of our pride. Not only Azerbaijani citizens but also, I am sure, tens of millions of Azerbaijanis living in the world are rightly proud of Azerbaijani soldiers and officers, and the state of Azerbaijan.”
October 17, 2023
“How does a child or teenager who was born and raised in Baku, accustomed to the atmosphere of a big city, adjust to living in a city or village far away? They sincerely said that this brought them great joy. That is the way they were raised, including by your generation. Because they have seen this at home and school; school and family are essential factors in our return here. We did not allow the youth to forget anything. We did not allow the topic of Karabakh to be forgotten. Many countries and forces wanted to instill this in us, i.e., we must come to terms with the situation and start cooperating with Armenia. Many reiterated that there was no military solution to the conflict. We have shown that there is and have shown it again recently. This topic is now closed! The subject of the Karabakh conflict is closed once and for all! The book of separatists is closed once and for all! That is a great source of happiness.
“I want to reiterate that we must always be in their debt. The younger generation should be continuously educated in this spirit. Their heroism is unforgettable. Winning this historic victory in such difficult geographical terrain is truly unmatched. The enemy had taken all the heights. If you go in any direction from here, you will see that almost every hill had its outpost, battle station, several lines of defense, barbed wire and mines. It took our soldiers great courage to break through and advance under fire. It is something that perhaps never happened in the world’s military history. If it did, let them tell us where. It didn’t happen before; the people of Azerbaijan did that. While being under the occupation, we raised such a young generation that they were ready to die for the Motherland. And they were facing death every step of the way.
“We must allocate funds for military expenses because the ‘Iron Fist’ must always be in place. However, at the same time, much of the funds is channeled into the reconstruction of Karabakh. That is why we do not depend on anyone and do not want anything from anyone. That is why some large countries are dissatisfied with us because they are used to others coming and bowing to them and asking for their permission. Some said we should have asked them when conducting the counterterrorism operation. But who should we ask? What should we ask? Some claim now that we misled the international community. It is also odd that a group of countries considers itself an international community. After all, when we say international community, we refer to more than 200 countries; 20-30 countries cannot be considered an international community. They are so accustomed to this. They disregard everyone but themselves as the international community. And an accusation is thrown that we deceived the international community, we deceived them by conducting the counterterrorism operation. That is very harmful logic. We have rightfully restored sovereignty in our native land under all norms and principles, principles established at the international level. No one has the right to accuse us of anything now. There have been and will be attempts, as you are probably following the issue.”
November 8, 2023
“Three years ago, the city of Shusha, the crown jewel of Karabakh, was liberated from the occupiers. A day later, the enemy army surrendered and waved the white flag. Thus, the Second Karabakh War resulted in a complete victory of the Azerbaijani state. This is a historic event.
“For many years during the occupation, the people of Azerbaijan worked hard for our lands to be freed from the invaders as soon as possible. We brought this holy day closer every day and every hour with our hard work.
“When the people of Azerbaijan placed great trust in me for the first time 20 years ago, I promised to my dear people as President: I will do everything in my power to restore our territorial integrity. Both in the run-up to the election and in my swearing-in ceremony, I promised to my people that the day would come when we would raise the national flag of Azerbaijan in every corner of the occupied lands. I remember saying five years ago, during a military parade held in the Azadlig Square in Baku in September 2018, that the day would come when the Azerbaijani flag would fly over all our lands that were still under occupation, and that day has come.
“Our victorious armed forces who gave us this day showed courage, heroism and selflessness on the battlefield and expelled the enemy from our ancestral lands. This is a historic event. The centuries-old history of the Azerbaijani people had never witnessed such significant victories before. The Shusha operation, along with all other military operations carried out in 44 days, showed heroic bravery of our soldiers. By defeating the enemy on the battlefield and liberating our cities and villages, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers showed true heroism for forty four days. Every day we went forward and never took a step back. The enemy army, seeing the professionalism and selflessness of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fell into a state of panic, and according to their own admission, there were 12,000 deserters in the Armenian army during the 44-day war. Not a single soldier of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces left the battlefield. This once again demonstrated the indomitable spirit and high moral qualities of the Azerbaijani people to the whole world.
“The military operations we carried out in the last three years, including the Farrukh operation, the Saribaba-Girkhgiz operation and indeed other military operations, have greatly improved our strategic positions. At the same time, these operations were a message sent to Armenia that nobody and nothing could stop us, that Karabakh is the land of Azerbaijan, that we are the ones dictating the situation here, and that they should immediately withdraw their armed forces from our lands. If they had listened to my words at that time, there would have been no need for the anti-terror measures in September. They only have themselves to blame for all their troubles. Their troubles did not start only three years ago. They started at the beginning of the 1990s. At that time, the ungrateful people who ate the bread of Azerbaijan and drank the water of Azerbaijan raised a territorial claim against us on this square.”
December 6, 2023
Ilham Aliyev: “We brought peace by war.”
“In one of the interviews, I said that liberation of territories was a main goal of my political life. And I’m proud that these goals have been achieved. How I will be remembered will depend on many factors. Frankly speaking, I don’t even have time to think about it. And even if I think about it, it is beyond my capability to influence that. With respect to peace, I think we brought peace. We brought peace by war. I think this is something that should also be evaluated on a broader scale, beyond the local situation in the Caucasus. How to achieve peace by military means? For many years, during negotiations and occupation, I heard from the Minsk Group co-chairs – three of them in one voice, saying that there is no military solution to the conflict. It turns out that all three were wrong.”