President Ilham Aliyev participated in opening of first residential complex in Shusha and met with the city's first returning residents

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva participated in the opening of the first residential complex in Shusha and met with the city's first returning residents.

The head of state and the First Lady were briefed on the work completed in the residential complex.

The initial phase, according to the relocation schedule, saw 20 families comprising 88 individuals resettled in the first residential complex. The complex consists of 23 buildings and spans a total area of nearly 8 hectares. Its foundation was laid on August 29, 2021. The complex contains 450 apartments, with 28 one-room, 195 two-room, 190 three-room, 30 four-room, and 7 five-room units.

The head of state and the First Lady then toured the complex and inspected the apartments to see the conditions provided for the residents.

President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva also met with the first families who have relocated to Shusha.

The head of state delivered a speech during the meeting.

Speech of President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear natives of Shusha, welcome to Shusha.

You are returning to your native Shusha after 32 years. I sincerely congratulate you on this wonderful and historic event. You lived with a longing for 32 years, but I am sure that you never forgot Shusha, you knew and believed that you would return here. I also knew it, I also believed in it, and ever since I became President in 2003, I did everything in my power to return you and all the former IDPs to your native land.

We were preparing and strengthening our country, we were strengthening our economy and creating a strong army. Most importantly, we have raised and brought up the young generation who liberated Shusha, our source of pride today, and other occupied lands at the cost of their lives. We have raised an educated, knowledgeable, patriotic, physically strong, morally healthy and pure young generation, and they liberated these lands by putting their lives on the line for 44 days on my order. We are very much indebted to them for this day, we are indebted to our glorious Army, we are indebted to our Armed Forces, we are indebted to our martyrs and disabled veterans. May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace.

The people of Azerbaijan have demonstrated such heroism and self-sacrifice that, today the whole world talks about the sons of Azerbaijan and shows respect for our nation. Because we have restored our right not through negotiations, not at the expense of any concessions from someone, but on the battlefield. We have liberated our cities and villages, we have shed blood and we have had martyrs. All the people of Azerbaijan were as united as a fist for 44 days.

The contemptible enemy had committed a miscalculation. They were so convinced of their own myths that they thought they would be able to keeps our lands under occupation forever. Their patrons behind them, the great states further reinforced this confidence in them. But we were sure, we knew that the day would come and we would return to our native lands.

For many years as President, I tried to resolve this issue through negotiations. My activity is obvious, dozens, perhaps even hundreds of meetings and rounds of negotiations were held. But there was no result. Why? Because Armenia, I want to say this again, wanted to keep our lands under occupation forever. The countries behind them, the alleged mediators wanted to make this occupation permanent.

The 44-day Patriotic War is part of our glorious history, and the people of Azerbaijan will forever be proud of this Victory. For 44 days, we were moving forward every single day. Unlike the Armenian army, not a single soldier of ours left the battlefield. According to their own confessions, they had about 12,000 deserters. Our soldiers and officers advanced every day. The victory achieved on the first day of the war, the liberation of several villages, continued all the way until the last day, and the liberation of Shusha on November 8, 2020 broke the enemy’s back. The enemy already realized that they were no longer able to resist and after that signed an act of capitulation, which was practically a surrender. We stopped the war right then. Because I had been stating from the first days of the war that the enemy should give us a timetable of when they would vacate our lands, and then we were ready to stop the war.

During those days, I received many calls from different capitals, various proposals were put forward, and some even tried to threaten me. However, I was firm in my conviction, and I was saying it both during those phone calls and in my addresses to the people of Azerbaijan: a timetable must be provided of when the enemy is getting out of our lands and then we would be ready to stop the war, and so it happened. In the early hours of November 10, 2020, Armenia signed the act of capitulation and the war stopped.

As you know, during the war, I gave interviews to a number of foreign media representatives and, of course, the questions were different. Of course, I could not say anything about our plans for the war. I was once asked about Shusha, and I said that our work would be incomplete without Shusha, and I think everyone understood that we were not going to stop until Shusha was liberated. Shusha is a symbol of our indomitable spirit. Shusha has left such a big mark in the hearts of every Azerbaijani citizen that the war could not have ended successfully without Shusha.

As a result of the anti-terror operation, we liberated our historical and ancestral lands from the invaders. We showed the power of our state and its strong political will again. We carried out the operation with great professionalism, skill and dedication, without reckoning with anyone, without considering anything and fearing anyone. Thus, Azerbaijan fully restored its state sovereignty.

A new history of Shusha begins today. I said in my address to the nation on November 8, 2020 that we would revive Shusha. Today we are seeing a reviving Shusha. It is not only about these beautiful buildings, there is a lot of large-scale construction going on in Shusha. Today, on the birthday of the National Leader, the foundation stone of a third residential complex was laid. The foundation of a second residential complex was laid on May 10 last year. A total of 450 apartments will be built in this first residential complex, about 300 in the second and about 500 in the third. A part of it is already finished. You will move into these apartments today. All the buildings have a beautiful architectural style – the traditional style of Shusha. The conditions are very nice, and I am sure that after a long pause, the residents of Shusha will live here comfortably, create, build and preserve the historical image of their hometown.

Construction work in Shusha actually commenced immediately after the Second Karabakh War. First of all, the road to Shusha had to be built. Because you know perfectly well that before the occupation, the road to Shusha passed through Khankendi. Therefore, the Victory Road was built from Fuzuli to Shusha in a short period of time. A wider highway is now under construction. A beautiful four-lane road with seven tunnels, nine viaducts and a number of bridges is under construction, and it will probably be ready by the end of next year. The restoration of Shusha’s historical monuments started immediately. First, Vagif's mausoleum was rebuilt and its original appearance was restored. Then the Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque and then the Saatli Mosque were restored. Today, we opened the Mamayi Mosque after restoration. Restoration work has already started in the Chol Gala Mosque. The Mehmandarov Mosque and Mehmandarov's House have been restored. Four hotels are already in operation. The biggest of them, the five-star Shusha hotel reflects the modern appearance of Shusha. And yet the hotel was built in the style of traditional Shusha architecture. Also today, the Shirinsu Bathhouse was opened after major renovation. The repair and restoration in the Ashaghi Govhar Agha Mosque are nearing completion. The monument to Uzeyir Hajibayli, which was destroyed by the savage enemy, was put back in its place. The bust of Vagif destroyed by the Armenians was restored to its previous appearance and form. The reconstruction of Uzeyir Hajibayli's house destroyed by the Armenians is in progress, it will be ready this year. Several other important events took place.

The revival of Shusha is in full swing. Everything is built on the basis of a very detailed and precise plan and in accordance with the most advanced urban planning rules. We have involved the world's leading companies in the restoration and reconstruction work not only for Shusha, but also for all our liberated lands, so that people who used to live in harsh conditions for many years – in tents, dormitories, kindergartens and unsuitable buildings – can now live well and comfortably. In parallel with this, we are also dealing with employment issues both in Shusha and other towns and cities that have already been built, trainings are held. We are seriously dealing with and resolving employment issues for those who will return here.

The regions of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur will become one of the most beautiful places not only in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, but also of the whole world – the most modern, the most comfortable and the most beautiful. The nature of this place, its spectacular views, the scenery and water springs are complemented by modern and, at the same time, traditional buildings. A wonderful city will emerge here, I am sure each of us, every Azerbaijani will be proud of. I want to say again that we are implementing large-scale programs in all liberated territories. Today, Shusha is already the sixth residential area to which former IDPs are returning. Former IDPs are also expected to return to the village of Sus in Lachin today, so life will be brought back to at least 20 residential areas before the end of this year.

May 10 is a dear day for each one of us, including myself, of course – it is the birthday of the National Leader. His biggest dream was to see these realities, to put an end to the occupation, and it was thanks to his activity that we embarked on a path of development. You, or the older generation, remember only too well what was happening before that – anarchy, arbitrariness, chaos, struggle for power, and the placement of incompetent, cowardly and treacherous people in the government. All this was the reason for the occupation of a city like Shusha and other cities and villages of our country. Random people had assumed power. People from the street who had no education, no experience in public affairs and no knowledge got the positions of ministers of defense, secretaries of state, speakers of parliament and president, and the people of Azerbaijan suffered the bitter consequences of that. I wonder what feelings that individual who promised to defend Shusha or shoot himself in the head is experiencing now. I am sure he is not happy about this day at all. People like him, the leftovers of the PFPA-Musavat duo who aspired to come to power at the time, the vast majority of them were not happy about our victory and actually regretted it. They are still trying to cast a shadow on our Victory to this day. They collude with the Armenians in an attempt to belittle our Victory and cast a shadow on it. It was because of their aspiration to power and the treachery and cowardice of the then government that Shusha was occupied. No major forces were needed to defend Shusha – you know that perfectly well. Shusha was left completely exposed and the surrender of Shusha to the enemy paved the way for the Popular Front’s ascent to power. Look at those dates, those historic events. After a few days, they came to power, overthrew the government, staged a coup. They sacrificed Shusha, then Lachin and then Kalbajar in order to turn the people's legitimate protests in their own favor. Thus, the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was de facto joined to Armenia from a geographical point of view.

The people of Azerbaijan showed their greatness again in 1993. The people appealed to the National Leader and invited him to take power. Because the people of Azerbaijan were aware that only Heydar Aliyev could save them from those misfortunes. The ceasefire reached in 1994 was an enforced measure – we could never put up with the ceasefire, neither my father nor I. He did not live to see this day. We, his followers, have fulfilled his and the Azerbaijani people's dream and achieved this historic Victory. We showed the enemy their place, and today the enemy is helpless in front of us. Today, on our demand only, four villages of Gazakh district are being returned to us without us having to resort to any other means, so to speak. They will be returned to us on our demand, and this is the way it should be. And it will be like this from now on. We have the say here, we are the leading state in the Caucasus, we are the leading state economically, politically, militarily, in all aspects, and everyone should reckon with us. Both Armenia and the foreign circles behind it, those giving them false promises, will regret if they do not reckon with us.

Today, the lands of the Gazakh district, occupied in 1990 and 1992, are being returned to us without a single shot being fired. The process of delimitation and demarcation is underway on our terms, and this is yet another victory of ours.

We never wanted war, and we don't want it today either. We don't need war, we needed our lands back. The activities of the Minsk Group in 28 years were aimed against the people of Azerbaijan. Their false promises and inaction were not accidental. They did not want to solve the problem. They promised these lands to the Armenians. Just like the pro-Armenian Gorbachev in Soviet times and then Yeltsin promised these lands to the Armenians, so did France and America. Even today, notice who is playing the main fiddle against us – France and America. We must clearly say that France is particularly active. And they should also know that no issue can be resolved in this region contrary to our will. The visit of some ambassador to Shusha should not be portrayed as a favor to us. If they come, let them come, but if they don’t, it's not even necessary. As if something might change with their arrival, nothing will change. We have a say here in this land. Our policy is based on international law and justice. If we see revengeful forces raising their head again in Armenia, if France gives deadly weapons to Armenia and if we see that these weapons reach a critical level, then, let no one have any hard feelings. In any case, everyone knows what we are capable of, what our Army is capable of and how strong our determination is. No one can stand in front of us. No one can dictate anything to us or interfere in our internal affairs. We will do what we think is right. After the Second Karabakh War, we told Armenia that let's define the border fairly. If you don't want that, then we will say where we want there to be a border. What will he do, who will he call, let him call 100 times, but what will the result be? I want to say again to both the people of Azerbaijan and those interested in this region that no step should be taken here without our approval. I am sure they will hear my words. They know that I do what I say.

Today's holiday, a double holiday for me and for all of us, shows again that we are peace-loving and creative people. The Armenians devastated Shusha and tried to Armenianize it. Today, I saw a cross on one of the pillars inside the Ashaghi Govhar Agha Mosque while reviewing its renovation. Can there be a cross in a mosque? Don't those who have been turning a blind eye to this, those who have been accusing us of some criminal deeds see this? Don't they see that they turned the Aghdam Mosque into a stable? They destroyed 16 of Shusha's 17 mosques and tried to portray one as a mosque belonging to another nation. As soon as we got back here, we immediately got rid of the repairs that had supposedly been done there and rebuilt it. All our cities and villages were destroyed by vandals. Nobody wants to see that. But everyone should and will see it. Because neither we nor the world will forget the Armenian vandalism. No matter how hard they tried to Armenianize Shusha, they could not achieve it. Because Shusha has been an Azerbaijani city since time immemorial and preserved its Azerbaijani image even during the occupation. If Armenians considered it their hometown, they would have built Shusha, not destroyed it. Not a single stone has been left untouched. We have come to live here forever, and from now on the Azerbaijani flag will fly in these lands forever.

I heartily congratulate you again. I wish you all happiness and good health. Live here comfortably.

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Then a ceremony to present apartment keys was held.

The head of state and the First Lady presented apartment keys to residents.

The residents expressed gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.

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President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva posed together with residents for photographs.