Yerevan's historic chance for peace – President Ilham Aliyev's open message to international actors

Politics Materials 7 October 2022 15:38 (UTC +04:00)
Yerevan's historic chance for peace – President Ilham Aliyev's open message to international actors
Elvin Saxavatoghlu
Elvin Saxavatoghlu
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, October 7. While delivering a speech at the Azerbaijan National Urban Forum in Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev underscored the Armenian vandalism against Azerbaijan’s Karabakh during the occupation period, the scale of destructions in Aghdam and other Azerbaijani cities, rebuilding activities carried out in liberated territories, as well as talked about the international organizations turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Armenia, its landmine terror against Azerbaijan, the future of the Armenian population living in Karabakh, and about the regional peace, Trend reports.

The head of state outlined the humanitarian crisis faced by Azerbaijanis during the First Karabakh War.

“Our nation suffered a serious humanitarian crisis. Because as a result of Armenian aggression and occupation more than one million Azerbaijanis were totally ethnically cleansed from their native land in Karabakh, in Zangazur and also in today’s Armenia. And when it happened the population of Azerbaijan was less than eight million people and, can you imagine, one million became refugees and IDPs,” said the head of state.

President Aliyev pointed out the mosques destroyed during the Armenian occupation. He noted that a total of 65 out of 67 mosques that existed on the liberated territories were totally destroyed. The only half-destroyed building was a building of Juma Mosque, since Armenians used it for observation. The Armenians kept pigs and cows in the Juma Mosque.

“What you see here in Aghdam you can see in every single village of Karabakh area,” the head of state added.

Thus, removing Azerbaijani cities from the map, as well as other brutalities committed by Armenia were directly carried out on behalf of the Armenian leadership itself. Despite the end of the war, Armenia’s policy of terror against Azerbaijan continued at the state level.

Furthermore, President Ilham Aliyev highlighted landmine contamination in Karabakh, noting that Armenians have planted more than one million mines during the times of occupation. And this policy of terror against Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis continues. Azerbaijan is facing a tremendous challenge to return as soon as possible former refugees and IDPs to their homeland.

“Since the war ended two years ago, almost two years ago, we have almost 250 Azerbaijanis who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of landmine explosions. Unfortunately, the figure is growing every week. Just last week we had two killed and three seriously injured," the president stressed.

The Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) has so far released data on the existence of nearly 390,709 anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines, as well as other explosive devices on liberated lands. Roughly 147,988 hectares are considered high mining sites, while 675,570 hectares are considered low mining sites. The first stage, scheduled for 2022-2026, envisages the de-mining of 83 settlements in the Aghdam, Fuzuli, Gubadli, Jabrayil, Kalbajar, Khojavand, Lachin, Shusha and Zangilan districts.

Azerbaijan keeps conducting landmine clearance activities in its liberated Karabakh.

As part of the visit to Aghdam, President Ilham Aliyev attended the groundbreaking ceremonies of the internal road and communication network of the city, the 470- apartment residential block to be built for the former internally displaced persons, the railway and bus station complex, the establishment of Kangarli, Sarijali and Khidirli villages, viewed the work to be done in Panahali Khan's Palace and Imarat Complex, as well as the work underway on the newly-built Barda-Aghdam highway and the inauguration of Khurshidbanu Natavan's monument.

The president also emphasized the construction of highways and village roads in the liberated territories.

“According to the investment plan which has been already approved in the liberated territories of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur there will be 33 tunnels with the total lengths of more than 50 kilometres. There will be 84 bridges with the length of 12 km. These are only part of what we are now doing," the head of state said.

Azerbaijani cities were not devastated during the First Karabakh War but were subjected to systematic destruction during the period of occupation. President Ilham Aliyev said that Aghdam was destroyed during the years of occupation, when it was demolished stone by stone for 30 years and when all the buildings were ruined and dismantled. Stones have been stolen and sold out.

International organizations should immediately reflect on the relevant statements. Did they have a question about why Kangarli, Sarijali and Khidirli villages, which existed before 1993, are being re-established? Why did the international organizations remain silent while Armenia was committing barbaric acts against the Azerbaijani people for 30 years?

Underlining the relevant issue, President Ilham Aliyev added, despite the fact that the leading international organizations such as the United Nations, the OSCE and others adopted resolutions, decisions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories, particularly four UN Security Council resolutions which remained on paper for almost 30 years.

“The most regrettable is that the structure which had a mandate from the OSCE, the so-called Minsk Group and its co-chairs visited occupied territories many times, witnessed the brutal devastation of all the cities and villages, witnessed illegal settlement of Armenians on our lands, but did not condemn Armenia,” said the pressident.

What can these agencies offer now, when Azerbaijan independently resolved the Karabakh conflict? Why should Baku cooperate with the OSCE Minsk Group in the peace process, which has not fulfilled its obligations as a mediator in the conflict settlement for almost 30 years?

Speaking of the attempts to revive the Minsk Group, President Ilham Aliyev said that it had done nothing to fulfill its mandate.

“Now when we see some efforts to revitalize this Minsk Group, we, of course, cannot be supportive to that. Because they did nothing to implement their mandate. The only thing they did actually to a certain degree, they tried to legitimize the Armenian aggression. They tried to create a balance between aggressor and the victim of aggression,” said the head of state.

International organizations aren’t supposed to create a balance, but to take a fair position, sanction the aggressor and force him to peace. However, over the past period, the only thing the Azerbaijani public heard from the Minsk Group was "there is no military solution to the conflict" and "the conflict should be resolved only within the Minsk Group.".

Despite the anti-Azerbaijani propaganda conducted by Armenia’s military-political leadership among the Armenians living in Armenia and Karabakh, official Baku remains committed to the peace process in the face of these unconstructive actions of Yerevan. President Ilham Aliyev pointed out issues related to both the Armenian population living in Karabakh and Armenia's peace proposal, as well as reiterated Azerbaijan's position on the future of the region to some international actors.

“With respect to Armenian population who still lives in Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, are our citizens and we are not going to discuss how we are going to organize their life on our territory with any international player. Karabakh is Azerbaijan. The Second Karabakh War proved it on the ground,” the head of state said.

Speaking of the peace process with Armenia, the head of state underscored Azerbaijan's unwavering position.

"Despite all what you see in Aghdam and what anyone can see in the territory of more than 10.000 square kms totally destroyed by Armenians, despite the human sufferings of our people we proposed peace to Armenia. We announced publicly five basic principles of international law which should be the basis for peace agreement, particularly mutual recognition of territorial integrity of countries, refrain from territorial claims in the future, refrain from use of force or threat of use of force, delimitation of state border and opening of communications," the head of state stated.

Along with the peace message, the president also warned Armenia.

"We have certain optimism with respect to the peace process, because just recently several days ago the meeting of foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, first meeting of that kind, particularly with agenda of preparation of draft of peace agreement. We hope that it will not take long time. We know the tactics which Armenians usually use when they don’t want to come to an agreement like negotiations on Karabakh conflict for 28 years. If that continues then we will have no peace. If this is a choice of Armenia that means that they will make another serious mistake. They underestimated us, they underestimated our will, the will of people of Azerbaijan, the potential of Azerbaijan. They had to pay the price for that," president noted.

Official Baku won’t retreat from its peace-loving position and will continue restoring the region and ensuring the coexistence of the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples in the region. Despite all the atrocities of Armenia, Azerbaijan sticks to its humanistic position and offers peace to Armenia. Official Yerevan shouldn’t ignore Baku's calls for peace and make every effort to establish sustainable peace in the South Caucasus.