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17 May 2024, 10:30

Lukashenko, Aliyev visit Azerbaijan’s post-conflict territories

FUZULI, 17 May (BelTA) – On 17 May, as part of his state visit to Azerbaijan, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko together with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev visited the country’s territories, being rebuilt after the conflict, BelTA has learned.

In the morning of 17 May, Aleksandr Lukashenko flew to Fuzuli. He was met by Ilham Aliyev at the airport. The president of Azerbaijan briefed his Belarusian counterpart on the works carried out to restore and develop these territories and build new infrastructure facilities. Aleksandr Lukashenko got familiar with the new airport, and the heads of state accompanied by an impressive motorcade headed for the city.

Fuzuli International Airport is one of the country’s seven international airports. Its construction began in January 2021, and the first plane landed there in September. The opening ceremony of the airport was held a month later with the participation of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Türkiye.

Fuzuli returned to Azerbaijan on 17 October 2020. The city has great transport and logistics potential, as it is located at the intersection of the main transportation arteries of the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions of Azerbaijan. According to the general plan, the population of Fuzuli will increase to 50,000 people by 2040 (for comparison, about 17,000 people lived here in the late 1980s, and only a few thousand live here now).

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev toured the city, saw destroyed facilities and prospective areas for development. The presidents traveled along the route in one car, with the Azerbaijani leader behind the wheel.

Aleksandr Lukashenko got familiar with the expositions depicting the pace of the reconstruction of the destroyed sites. After that, the two leaders headed for Shusha.

In the days of the Soviet Union the town of Shusha was part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the territory was controlled by the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijan reasserted control over the town in November 2020. The move was stipulated by a trilateral statement by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Restoration work is in progress in Shusha now. Housing is being built for the return of Azerbaijani refugees.

The heads of state visited the residential area of the city, examined housing conditions, memorial sites and museum and exhibition exposition on Heydar Aliyev's activity. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev also inspected tractor equipment presented to the city by the president of Belarus.

“Use them. If you like them, we will add more,” the Belarusian head of state said. 

There are many reminders of the city’s tragic past: some houses are unrestorable. Memorial sites and temples have been destroyed.

"Telling ruins," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. "Restorable buildings must be fixed."

From ancient times Shusha was famous for its rich cultural life, literature, music and architecture. Various literary and musical societies operated in the city. The international folklore festival Hary-bulbul was revived in Shusha in 2021. In 2024 the city became the cultural capital of the Islamic world. In this regard, part of the trip highlighted the historical and cultural traditions of Shusha.
In the city, the presidents met the famous Soviet and Azerbaijani singer, and now the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Russia Polad Bülbüloğlu, which came as a big surprise for Aleksandr Lukashenko.

"Polad, is this you? You are here, not Moscow?" the president said.

"This is a surprise for you!" Ilham Aliyev said.

"A gorgeous place. This is why you still sing. Air here is amazing! I recently watched a TV show starring you!" Aleksandr Lukashenko said in admiration.
Shusha has restored the house of Polad Bulbul oglu’s father, Soviet and Azerbaijani opera singer, founder of the national musical theater Murtuz Mashadi Rza oglu Mammadov, nicknamed Bulbul (“nightingale” in Azerbaijani).

Now it houses a museum dedicated to the famous performer. Nearby there is the bust of Bulbul. It was erected back in the Soviet years. Later on it was  gunned down and dismantled. Until 2021, the bust was kept in the courtyard of the Azerbaijan Museum of Art, and then it was returned to Shusha.

"Those who shoot at icons and monuments are barbarians," the Belarusian leader said.

On 16 May, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ilham Aliyev held official talks as part of the state visit of the Belarusian leader to Azerbaijan. One of the topics of the meeting was the post-conflict rebuilding of the territories of Azerbaijan.

At a meeting in St. Petersburg in December 2023 the president of Azerbaijan accepted Belarus' proposal to take part in the modernization and construction of infrastructure facilities in Karabakh.
During the talks in Baku Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that after the end of the hostilities, the most important and difficult task is rebuilding and post-war development of the affected territory. The head of state drew attention to the fact that it is not enough just to return people to these lands. It is necessary to create jobs and provide citizens with a decent life, which will take many years.

“Equipment, agricultural towns, workplaces, certain technologies (your specialists, ministers know these technologies well), if they fit, if our equipment can be useful here... During one-on-one negotiations I asked Ilham Heydarovich to let Belarus be part of this effort. And Ilham Heydarovich supported such an approach,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

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