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Azerbaijan Returns More Former IDPs to Liberated Lands

By Timucin Turksoy July 14, 2023

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Residents of the Lachin city prepare to return to their houses, July 13, 2023, Baku, Azerbaijan / Trend News Agency

Azerbaijan continues to return former internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the liberated lands as part of the state-run “Great Return” program.

On Wednesday, 85 people of 23 families relocated to Lachin, which was returned to Azerbaijan in December 2020. The returning residents will be housed in restored or newly built residential complexes.

Earlier, a total of 70 families comprising 266 people returned to Lachin in May and June.

President Ilham Aliyev recently shared the details of Azerbaijan’s plans to return the former IDPs to the territories liberated from Armenian occupation in 2020.

During his speech at a government meeting on Tuesday, Aliyev said all measures are being taken to enable the return of residents to five settlements – one city and four villages – as part of the initial stages of the “Great Return” program.

“In total, 100 settlements will be reconstructed in the first phase of the Great Return program. I participated in the groundbreaking ceremonies of 30 residential settlements, eight cities and 22 settlements and villages. Master plans have been prepared and approved, and extensive construction work is underway in many places,” the President stated.

Azerbaijan kick-started the return of former internally displaced persons to the liberated lands in July 2022. Since then, 96 families have been brought back to the Aghali village of the Zangilan district.

In March of this year, 20 families comprising 90 people resettled in Talish, Tartar district. By the end of 2023, the Sus and Zabukh villages of Lachin will also welcome their residents back.

The government of Azerbaijan plans to resettle 2,000 families or 10,000 people in the Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions by the end of 2023.

According to a decree signed in November 2022 by President Aliyev approving the "First state program on the Great Return to Azerbaijan's liberated territories”, a total of 280,000 hectares (692,000 acres) of lands in the Karabakh and East Zangezur regions will be readied for resettlement by 2026.

The document also schedules the launch of the Lachin International Airport in 2024, and the Aghdam-Khankendi gas pipeline to be built by 2026.

By 2026, a total of 34,500 families will be relocated to the Karabakh and East Zangezur regions. To accommodate them, 34,500 apartments and private houses will be built by 2026.

In the past, Armenia and Azerbaijan had been locked in an armed conflict over the latter’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan. The war ended in a ceasefire in 1994 and resulted in Armenia forcibly occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, 3,890 went missing, and one million were expelled from these lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Armenia.

On September 27, 2020, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict took a violent turn when Armenia’s forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the 44 days of the war, the Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from a nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended with the signing of a tripartite statement by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under the agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani government launched major infrastructure projects in Karabakh and East Zangazur shortly after the regions were liberated from Armenian occupation during a 44-day war in 2020.

The 2023 state budget allocated AZN 5.26 billion, or $3.1 billion, for the ongoing and new reconstruction projects in the liberated Karabakh and East Zangazur regions. However, President Aliyev confirmed that by the end of this year, the total amount of these investments will reach AZN 12 billion, or $7 billion.

In 2022, AZN 4.315 billion, or $2.5 billion, was invested in the revival of the liberated lands. In 2021, the total financial allocations for this purpose stood at AZN 2.178 billion ($1.28 billion).