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Baku Says Yerevan’s Destructive Approach Delays Peace Process

By Ilham Karimli March 13, 2023

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Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration / Courtesy

A recent media interview of a senior Azerbaijani official, Hikmat Hajiyev, has shed light on the state of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, as well as the reasons behind the delay in normalizing bilateral ties.

Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration, told the Baku-based Report News Agency on Sunday that Baku hoped to sign a peace agreement with Yerevan by the end of 2022, however, these hopes were dimmed due to Armenia’s “non-constructive” position.

“The provisions of the statement signed on November 10, 2020, are grossly violated by Armenia. The remnants of the Armenian army are still not completely withdrawn from the territory of Azerbaijan. According to our information, about 10,000 personnel remain in the Karabakh region,” Hajiyev said, adding illegal Armenian armed formations are creating new posts and engineering fortifications, polluting our territories with mines produced in Armenia in 2021, and shelling the positions of the Azerbaijani Army in a bid to create a new "line of contact".

“Despite the recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty by Armenia at the meetings in Prague and Sochi in 2022, the Prime Minister and other Armenian officials continue to threaten our country, making statements that call into question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. And there have been more and more such actions lately.”

“Armenia deliberately avoids signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, disrupting the peace process and trying to gain time,” Hajiyev said.

He noted that from the beginning, Armenia tried to include the Karabakh issue in the peace agreement – an approach that is unacceptable to Azerbaijan.

Baku views personal rights and security of Armenians living in the Karabakh region as exclusively internal affair of Azerbaijan, which will not be discussed with any third parties including Armenia.

“The Karabakh conflict is resolved; Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan. For Azerbaijan, the Karabakh issue has left the international agenda. It is no coincidence that there is no mention of Karabakh in the documents adopted at the Brussels, Moscow, Prague, and Sochi meetings,” Hajiyev said.

“The issue of the rights and security of the Armenians living in Karabakh will be resolved under the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan. There are no special privileges for them. As I said, this issue has nothing to do with Armenia and other countries.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over the latter’s Karabakh region. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan that lasted until a ceasefire deal was reached in 1994. As a result, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from these lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Armenia.

On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries spiraled after Armenia’s forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During counter-attack operations, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha. The war ended in a statement signed on November 10, 2020, under which Armenia returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.

Post-war peace

Shortly after the war, the Azerbaijani authorities voiced readiness and determination to launch negotiations with Armenia that would ultimately bring the long-awaited peace to the region.

However, the process suffered major setbacks due to Armenia’s demands, including so-called “rights and security” of nearly 25,000 Armenians living in the Karabakh region, in addition to avoiding fulfilling its obligations under the Trilateral statement, such as the withdrawal of its armed formations from the Azerbaijani territories.

A minor breakthrough was achieved during a recent meeting between the officials from Azerbaijan and the representatives of the ethnic Armenians residing in the Karabakh region. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the temporary Russian peacekeeping mission located in the town of Khojaly on March 1.

According to the media report, during the meeting, preliminary discussions were held on the reintegration of the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region into Azerbaijani society in line with the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan. The meeting participants agreed to continue contact for further discussions.

However, the process was halted a few days later on March 5 when Armenian armed gang members caused an incident in the Karabakh region leading to a deadly firefight with Azerbaijani servicemen.

During the inciting incident, a minivan carrying ammunition and weapons to the Karabakh region from Armenia on an unpaved road bypassing the Lachin road was stopped for checking by Azerbaijani army officers. Armenian armed saboteurs in the minivan opened fire, leading to casualties and injuries on both sides. As a result, three members of the illegal Armenian formations and two servicemen of the Azerbaijani army lost their lives.

Following the incident, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called for establishing an “international discussion mechanism” between Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan. However, Hajiyev said there can be no talk of creating any international mechanism to discuss the rights and security of the Armenians living in the Karabakh region.

“We have never agreed to this. There is no logic in Armenia's statements on this matter; they are aimed at creating artificial tension,” he said in a recent interview with Report.

In the meantime, the Azerbaijani presidential administration on Monday invited the representatives of Armenians living in the Karabakh region to visit Baku for the next stage of contact on reintegration and discussions of the issues related to the implementation of infrastructure projects in the Karabakh region.