Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed on Sunday the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process and installation of a border checkpoint by Azerbaijan.
Blinken reiterated Washington’s belief that peace is possible between the two countries and pledged continued US support.
For his part, Aliyev reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s commitment to the peace agenda and noted that his country had initiated the peace treaty talks and normalization with Armenia, President.Az reported.
In this respect, the Azerbaijani side proposed five principles to Armenia in line with the norms and principles of international law, the president added.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over the latter's Karabakh (Garabagh) 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 of the war, 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 spiralled 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.
Shortly after the Second Karabakh War of 2020, 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” for 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 and recognizing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
The installation of a checkpoint by Azerbaijan on the conditional border with Armenia on April 23, 2023, came after the latter's failure to acknowledge the inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders. There have been constant military and material support from Armenia to the separatist regime in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Despite Baku’s calls to refrain, military shipments, both on the Lachin highway and unpaved roads bypassing it, have been a common occurrence over the recent period. It has even led to fatal skirmishes on March 5, 2023, killing servicemen of the Azerbaijani army.
Although the Azerbaijan Armed Forces on March 25 took local control measures to suppress the illegal movement of military personnel and arms via the dirt roads bypassing the Lachin highway, another illegal shipment was spotted on a new dirt road on April 21.
President Aliyev told Secretary Blinken that the Lachin checkpoint on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border had been set up in accordance with Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights and all international rules.
The president said the aim of the checkpoint is to ensure control rather than restrict movement as passage is already allowed through the checkpoint.
Free and safe movement of the people and vehicles through the checkpoint was seen in video footage that went viral on Sunday.