Opening and concluding speech of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of ‎Azerbaijan, supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the ceremony of ‎decoration of parents, family members of the soldiers, deceased National Heroes ‎and distinguished people, who participated in the defense of Khojaly from the ‎enemy with medals of Golden Star and order of Banner of Azerbaijan - February ‎‎26, 1999‎

Dear sisters and brothers!

The Armenians have repeatedly committed aggressions and genocides against the people of Azerbaijan in XX century. The Khojaly genocide is the most terrible of them.

Seven years ago, in that horrible February night, the Armenian armed forces supported by Motor Rifle regiment 366 of the Soviet Union committed a terrible genocide against the inhabitants of one of the magnificent towns of Azerbaijan - Khojaly. Committed with an unprecedented atrocity this genocide is one of the most terrible tragedies of XX century. Peaceful and unarmed Khojaly inhabitants got heavy blows on that night. As a result of the genocide, hundreds of women, men, old and young, children from Khojaly were killed. Hundreds of Khojaly inhabitants were wounded and became displaced. Hundreds of people were taken hostages.

This tragedy is the hardest blow delivered to Azerbaijan in the course of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Khojaly people faced this tragedy steadfastly and with fortitude. Those who were defending their home and family herocally were killed and became martyrs. As result of the fire opened by the brutal Armenians, the territory of Khojaly became stained with blood.

This tragedy shocked all the Azerbaijani people and was a hard moral blow for the inhabitants of Khojaly. However, the will-power of the Khojaly people was not broken; they became martyrs heroically and courageously. Khojaly people went through this tragedy with fortitude. Today when seven years have passed since that tragedy, the proud people of Khojaly live still a heroic life.

There is no doubt that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict will be settled, the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will be freed and our compatriots expelled from home by force will return to their lands. Of course, Khojaly will be also liberated from occupation, and the inhabitants of Khojaly will return home and will live there again.

However, the wound of Khojaly will always live in our hearts. Those who committed the Khojaly genocide will be accused by justice. The former leadership of Azerbaijan guilty in the Khojaly genocide and other officials will be punished by the people. The court of justice will sentence them.

Our people experienced lots wars in the course of its history, and defending its territory and its dignity it gave sacrifices. However, each time after these wars, fights and difficulties our people got stronger and determined. I am confident that our people, including the inhabitants of Khojaly, have become stronger in the independent state of Azerbaijan and are determined to fight to the end in order to protect the independence of our country and liberate our occupied territories.

Today, in the seventh anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy, I bow my head before the spirits of our sons who became martyrs in Khojaly. I ask you to commemorate with a minute of silence their memory.

May the peace and blessings of God be upon the martyrs!

And now I would like to present the awards of Azerbaijan to those who displayed heroism while defending the territory of Khojaly and the parents and family members of those who became martyrs.

Closing speech

Dear sisters, brothers, friends!

Today is the day of mourning in our motherland, in our country. Commemorating the seventh anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, our people, the citizens of Azerbaijan remember with a deep feeling of sadness the Khojaly tragedy and the genocide committed there. Today we pay our tribute to all those killed, wounded, displaced and people taken hostages and who are still missing as a result of the Khojaly tragedy and we declare to all the inhabitants of Khojaly that we are together with them.

The Khojaly tragedy is not only that of the inhabitants of Khojaly but of all the Azerbaijani people. Therefore, today is the day of sorrow and mourning in our country. I ask peace and blessings of the Almighty Gud for all the killed and I express my condolences to all the inhabitants of Khojaly and all the Azerbaijani people. Because our every compatriot killed there is not only the son of his family, but at the same time of Azerbaijan and this is the mourning day of the Azerbaijani people.

At the same time, I was deeply impressed with the meeting today with you. You mentioned here that after my election to the post of the President of Azerbaijan in 1993, I began thoroughly analyze the reasons of the misfortunes experienced by the Azerbaijani people and I have taken necessary measures. In the February of 1994, an evaluated the Khojaly genocide and this day was declared the day of mourning.

However, every time while meeting the inhabitants of Khojali, I feel a sense of pride. People who suffered so much grief and experienced such terrible days and lost their relatives in their presence, are still proud and strong. Each of them lives with the concern for their Motherland and love to the homeland. It is the evidence of a high morality of the Azerbaijani people. However, the inhabitants of Khojaly are examples for everybody - an example of heroism, courage, devotion and patriotism.

You have said here a lot of kind words, and I express my gratitude to you for this. There is a profound sense in your words. That is to say, in spite of the fact that you lost your children, bread winners, brothers and relatives, you are still optimistic and look forward with hope. I completely share your mood. It is true that since the beginning of the conflict with Armenia in 1988, we experienced many difficulties and suffered losses. Our territories have been occupied by the Armenian armed units. This is our sorrow, the sorrow of our people.

However, we managed to cease the fire and bloodshed in 1994 and we intend to liberate our territories in a peaceful way, by conducting negotiations, and we want to restore the territorial integrity of our country.

This is not easy, because after occupation of the territory, it is more difficult to drive them out. However, we are loyal to the peaceful solution of the conflict. I believe that our peaceful policy and the undertaken measures will yield their results.

At the same time, I consider your speeches here reasonable, and if is a great moral support for us. If our peaceful initiatives do not provide the liberation of the occupied territories, we shall liberate them by every means at the coast of sacrifices, and you will return home and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will be restored. This is our sacred duty-the duty before our ancestors, duty before our present and future generations.

As President of Azerbaijan I always feel this responsibility. I declare that the main part of my activity, as President of Azerbaijan, will be devoted to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and liberation of the occupied territories.

I have been dealing with this issue day and night in the last years. I am doing it now and I will do it in future. You may be confident that I will always be with you, with the families of martyrs and compatriots who became refugees. For me you are the dearest citizens of Azerbaijan, and I shall always be with you. I believe that we shall together liberate the occupied territories. Khojaly will be liberated and the territory of Khojaly will be returned to its inhabitants, and you will be the owners of this territory.

I wish you good health. Today I ask peace and blessings of God for all the martyrs. I wish patience and tolerance to each of you and success.

Thank you.