[This news item was first published on commonspace.eu on 20 March 2021]
In an emotional address to the nation on the occasion of the start of the traditional Novruz holiday, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev addressed his countrymen from the city of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has recently reverted back to Azerbaijani control following the 44-day Karabakh war.
The message of the president started with images of the Ilham Aliyev wearing military fatigues, together with his wife and daughter, lighting the traditional flame with the mountains of Karabakh in the background.
"This year we celebrate Novruz in Shusha, on the Cidir plain. This is a historic event. Every year since 2004, when congratulating the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of Novruz, I have said that we will return to our native lands. I said that we will restore the territorial integrity of our country. I said that we would celebrate Novruz in Karabakh after the liberation of our lands, and today has come. Today we celebrate Novruz in our ancient city, Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan. This is a historic event. This is a great happiness. God heard the prayers of the Azerbaijani people. Every year, on the eve of Novruz, we probably all thought and said to each other, hopefully, next year we will celebrate Novruz in Karabakh, next year we will celebrate Novruz in Shusha, and today has come. After 28 years we returned to Shusha."
The president said that the liberation of territories lost to Armenia in the early 1990s was the main aim of his presidency from the very beginning:
"In recent years, I have repeatedly said in speeches and interviews that we do not need an incomplete solution. What this means is that the people of Azerbaijan probably understand very well. I said that everything should be done on time. I know what, when and how to do it. For me, there has never been a more important task than the liberation of lands. I have dedicated my entire presidency to this. Behind every decision was this goal, this goal – whether this step will bring us closer to victory or not. I said that each of us must bring victory closer every day. I have speeches, they remain in history. Every day, each of us must bring victory closer. We approached, prepared, came, defeated and destroyed the enemy. We came and stopped here."
The Novruz holiday is a big national holiday in Azerbaijan and other countries in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Central Asia and coincided with the old Persian new year.