Azerbaijan is celebrating the 103rd anniversary of the Republic Day this year, and the long path toward it was not always smooth, said the country's ambassador to Turkey.
"We owe independence to people first, because without people, without determination, without desire for freedom and independence, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic would have never happened," Khazar Ibrahim told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
The envoy stressed that his country also owes the independence to the "founding fathers" who "sacrificed a lot," did their best not only to gain independence but also to get recognized as the first democratic republic in the Muslim East.
On May 28, 1918, the Azerbaijani National Council declared the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, also known as Azerbaijan People's Republic, in a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. Mammad Amin Rasulzade was chosen a leader of the newly formed republic.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was toppled after almost two years in 1920 by the Soviet Union.
In 1991, Azerbaijan re-established its status as an independent state on Oct. 18. The present Azerbaijan is the heir of Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, which was recorded in history as the first secular and democratic state in the Muslim East.
Caucasus Islamic Army
"Nuri Pasha and the Caucasus Islamic Army played a huge role in the history of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. They came to save, to help Azerbaijan," Ibrahim said.
The army was made up of Turkish and Azerbaijani troops, the ambassador said, and it was in fact the "reflection" of the Azerbaijan's national leader Heydar Aliyev’s notion and slogan of "one nation, two states," which was voiced 100 years afterwards.
On Sept. 15, 1918, an elite Ottoman force -- called the Islamic Army of the Caucasus under the leadership of Nuri Pasha (Killigil) -- was sent to Azerbaijan in the final months of the World War I, right after Azerbaijan's plea to the Ottoman Empire, along with the Azerbaijani National Army and volunteer forces, and liberated Baku from Armenian and Bolshevik occupation, paying the noble price of 1,132 people killed.
Enver Pasha, then minister of war, personally conveyed the message to the Ottoman Empire that Baku was liberated from Armenian gangs.
Baku's liberation paved the way for the transfer of the capital from Ganja to Baku and ensuring the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and set the basis for its contemporary boundaries.
"Nuri Pasha will always live in the memory of Azerbaijani people because what they did for our country, for our nation and for the first democracy in the Muslim East was indispensable, and today all the people of Azerbaijan cherish their memory in every part of Azerbaijan where we have our Turkish brothers who were laid to rest," Ibrahim said.
He underlined that today Azerbaijan and Turkey do not have any difference of opinion on any international issue, adding that both states "mutually support each other at every level and everywhere in the world."
"Today Azerbaijan and Turkey are so much integrated that economically, energy-wise, politically, culturally, educationally, militarily, in every sphere, we provide not only the base for the regional cooperation, not only we lead all the formats of interaction in the region, but also we exert an international influence," the ambassador asserted.
Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top Turkish officials congratulated Azerbaijan's 103rd anniversary of independence.
"Brotherly Azerbaijan is crowning the Republic Day this year with the pride of its rightful victory in the Patriotic War, and Turkey enthusiastically shares this happiness of Azerbaijan," Erdogan said in a message on the occasion of the day.
Erdogan voiced pleasure over mutual commitment to further increase strategic relations, which are "already at an excellent level".
"I firmly believe that our brotherhood and cooperation are the greatest guarantees of peace, stability and prosperity in our region," he said.
Ibrahim emphasized that this year's independence anniversary is "especially remarkable" for Azerbaijan as the country recently liberated its occupied territories from the nearly three-decade occupation of Armenian forces.
"Of course, the 103rd anniversary of independence is very special after the liberation of the occupied territories. For the first time in our history the lands which others tried to illegally and militarily get from us we gained back. It's a sense of pride, it's a sense of real independence, and it's a sense of unity which is led by the Commander-in-Chief President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, and the sacrifices of our soldiers that will never be forgotten and their memories will always live in our hearts, and the day of independence will be also the day of remembrance of those for making this day very special for us."
During the 44-day conflict last year, which ended in a truce on Nov. 10, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages in Karabakh from Armenia's occupation.
Referring to the liberated territories in Karabakh, Ibrahim recalled the nation's leader's statement on turning those lands "into a paradise."
He went on saying that the Armenian government and its armed forces made an "absolute disaster" in occupied lands, such as destroying all buildings, environment, forests, and plantations, as well as the cultural heritage and all the infrastructure.
"As the president said, we'll turn this disaster, this terrible situation into a paradise with the best technologies and with the best practices of the world. With the Azerbaijani government and all the friends from outside, together we're putting all the plans, we're building the roads, we're putting in the infrastructure in order to make this place a paradise, a modern paradise to let all the internally displaced to get back, and to have their lives restored," Ibrahim said.
The diplomat also stressed that there are still provocations from Yerevan against Baku, as the country's Defense Ministry on Thursday announced that it held a group of Armenian servicemen who tried to infiltrate into the Azerbaijani territories and mine the routes to the country's military positions.
"And this creates big problems for not only the reconstruction, but also the very much needed reconciliation, because the occupation is over and now there is a need for everybody who lives in the region to work together for the better future of the people," he said.
"Of course, these terrible things, all the disastrous things which were put together by the government of Armenia and the Armenian Armed Forces, they cannot be gone overnight, and therefore we have to clean all the landmines, which, as far as we know, is one of the biggest mine problems the globe faces. It's even worse than the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas," he concluded.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.