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Azerbaijan Regains Control Over Four Villages on Armenia Border After Decades of Conflict

By Yaver Kazimbeyli May 25, 2024

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Baghanis Ayrim, Ashagi Askipara, Kheyrimli, and Gizilhajili villages comprise a total of 6.5 square kilometers of territory along a 12.7-kilometer section of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border / Courtesy

Azerbaijan has regained control over four villages near the border with Armenia following the delimitation of the interstate border along these settlements.

The announcement came on Friday from the press service of Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Shahin Mustafayev.

On Friday, units of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan were deployed to the villages of Baghanis Ayrim, Ashagi Askipara, Kheyrimli, and Gizilhajili in the country’s Gazakh district, comprising a total of 6.5 square kilometers of territory along a 12.7-kilometer section of the border. The return of the villages has been officially reported to President Ilham Aliyev.

Restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty over four villages came after consecutive meetings between the border delimitation commissions of the two countries.

On April 8th, 2024, the commissions signed a protocol to ensure the withdrawal of the Armenian military from these four villages and their eventual return to Azerbaijan. To put this protocol into action, the clarification of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border line commenced based on ground-based geodetic measurements, in line with the coordinates of the border line, and a Technical Protocol on the joint field work outcomes for describing the route of the relevant border line was drawn up.

On May 15th, 2024, at the 9th meeting of the Commissions held at the interstate, a final agreement on the Technical Protocol was reached.

According to media reports, border markers have also been installed on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border near the village of Kirants in Armenia. Video footage circulated on social media shows Armenians setting the area on fire before leaving and returning it to Azerbaijan.

In March of this year, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to return the four Azerbaijani villages that had been seized by Armenian forces in the 1990s.

On Friday, Armenia’s security service confirmed that the country’s border guards had relocated to new positions in accordance with the border agreement and handed over control of the four villages to Azerbaijan.

Starting in the late 1980s, Armenia’s unfounded territorial claims and aggression against Azerbaijan extended beyond the Karabakh (Garabagh) region to other regions of Azerbaijan. Since the early 1990s, the villages of the far western Gazakh district of Azerbaijan, situated near the border with Armenia over 100 kilometers northwest of the Karabakh region, have been under attack by armed Armenian forces. At that time, the Soviet Union government had ordered the confiscation of all types of weapons from the population and government offices in the Gazakh district, leaving the local population defenseless against the Armenian military.

Between 1990 and 1992, the Armenian military forcibly expelled the unarmed local population from seven villages in Gazakh, including Sofulu, Barkhudarli, Baganis Ayrim, Gizilhajili, Yukhari Askipara, Ashagi Askipara, and Kheyrimli. Over seven thousand people were brutally displaced from the occupied villages and settled in temporary residential areas across the Gazakh district. Today, some of the occupied villages of Gazakh are illegally settled by Armenians, while others remain in ruins following the conflict.

As a result of the conflict, a significant part of Azerbaijan’s state border with Armenia, measuring 1,007 kilometers, remained out of the country’s control for nearly 30 years after Karabakh and East Zangezur regions fell under the illegal Armenian occupation in the early 1990s.

On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries took a violent turn after Armenian forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations, which lasted 44 days, 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 in a tripartite statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.

The cartographic complications on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border surfaced following Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2020 war, as a result of which the Azerbaijani army restored control over a large portion of the border with Armenia.