President Ilham Aliyev met on Tuesday the residents of Fuzuli district during the celebrations of the “City Day”, marking the third anniversary of Fuzuli’s liberation from Armenian occupation in 2020.
In a meeting with a group of recently resettled residents, who lived in temporary IDP settlements for nearly thirty years, President Aliyev said Fuzuli is being built from scratch due to colossal destructions caused by Armenians during the years of occupation.
“When Fuzuli was liberated, we could not find a single sound building to raise our Flag, except for a military unit. We raised our Flag on a pole in its courtyard, but our hearts ached when we came here for the first time, just like every Azerbaijani,” he said, adding everyone was horrified by the scale of destruction during the period of occupation.
Earlier, President Aliyev attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for two villages, a kindergarten, new residential blocks, and an administrative center in Fuzuli as part of the government’s efforts to facilitate the relocation of the former IDPs to the district.
“I was informed yesterday that over 800 people have already been accommodated. About 2,000 people will live here by the end of the year. At the end of the first stage of our Great Return Program, by late 2026, 22,000 people will live in the Fuzuli district, and 140,000 people will live in Karabakh and East Zangezur. In other words, this is the minimum. A more significant number of people will be resettled,” he said.
On October 17, 2020, President Aliyev announced the liberation of the city of Fuzuli and seven villages of the Fuzuli district — Gochahmadli, Chimen, Juvarly, Pirahmadli, Musabeyli, Ishigly, Dedeli — from the Armenian occupation.
Fuzuli’s liberation was crucial in breaking the defensive “Ohanyan line” installed by the Armenian forces during the years of occupation of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Reclaiming Fuzuli was very important given its strategic location and large area that allowed to expand the scope of the “Iron Fist” counteroffensive operation of the Azerbaijani army.
“It was the third largest settlement to be liberated from the occupiers after Jabrayil and Hadrut,” President Aliyev said in 2021. According to him, Fuzuli and surrounding areas staged fierce battles for several days before it was freed from the Armenian occupiers.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had been locked in a decades-old armed conflict over the Karabakh region, which is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan. The bloody war lasted until a ceasefire was reached in 1994 and saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, nearly 4,000 went missing, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.
Armenia captured Fuzuli, including the district’s central part and 51 villages during the First Karabakh War in 1993. At least 55,000 Azerbaijanis were forcibly expelled from the district in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign. Although a portion of Fuzuli was liberated by the Azerbaijani forces in 1994, a significant part remained under Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
The renewed clashes between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces broke out on September 27, 2020, after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. The attack prompted immediate counter-attack measures by the Azerbaijani army. The hostilities lasted 44 days until the signing of a trilateral statement by Azerbaijan and Armenia through Russia’s mediation on November 10, 2020. By the end of hostilities, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from the Armenian occupation. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Currently, Fuzuli, one of the districts in the Karabakh Economic Region of Azerbaijan, is being revived as part of the Azerbaijani government’s large-scale campaign to restore and reconstruct the liberated territories.
The master plan for the city of Fuzuli, which is the district’s administrative center, has already been developed. According to the master plan, Fuzuli city will cover 1,936 hectares, and by 2040, it will be home to 50,000 people.
On October 18, 2021, President Aliyev broke ground for the “smart village” in the district. The project is being implemented using green and alternative energy and a “smart management” system. At the initial stage, 450 houses will be built. Also, the village will be surrounded by a “smart village” farm.
On October 26, 2021, President Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the Fuzuli International Airport, the first all-new airfield launched in the liberated Azerbaijani lands. President Aliyev labelled the air harbor “air gate of Karabakh”.
The airport’s runway spans 3,000 meters in length and 60 meters in width. It is designed to receive all kinds of aircraft, including large cargo planes and small-sized private jets. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) granted the Fuzuli International Airport a three-letter distinguishing geocode – FZL. It was also assigned the UBBF code by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Fuzuli has already welcomed a part of its former IDP residents back as part of Baku’s state-run “Great Return” program. So far, 258 families comprising 928 individuals have been returned to the newly built residential areas in the district.
The Uzbek government sponsored the construction of a secondary school in Fuzuli upon the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The 960-seat school, after a prominent medieval Uzbek statesman Mirza Ulugh Beg, was launched in August of this year.