President Ilham Aliyev has called for installing checkpoints on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border that would facilitate the delimitation of frontiers between the two countries.
In his remarks to the media following a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Munich on Saturday, President Aliyev said Baku’s respective suggestion has been officially conveyed to the Armenian side during the meeting.
“We made this suggestion before and repeated it officially today. Previously, this proposal was conveyed through informal channels, and Armenia did not articulate any stance in response. They may require additional time to consider the matter,” he said, according to President.Az.
The Azerbaijani leader added that Baku’s initial impression is that both Europe and America view this proposal as logical since this is certainly an important factor in the normalization of relations between the two countries.
“Because if we are talking about border delimitation, it is only possible to achieve with checkpoints. Suppose we are talking about the opening of communications, of course. In that case, checkpoints should be established at both ends of the Zangezur corridor and the border between the Lachin district and Armenia […] We will wait for a response from Armenia,” President Aliyev said.
The proposal by the Azerbaijani president comes amidst the ongoing protest of the Azerbaijani eco-activists, civil society members, and volunteers on the Lachin road connecting Armenia with the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The participants of the rally have been demanding an immediate end to the illegal exploitation of the mineral resources of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region and the misuse of the road.
The illegal mineral extraction in the Karabakh region and the transfer of the ores through the Lachin road to Armenia prompted a serious backlash from the Azerbaijani authorities who demanded more effective control of the Lachin road by the Russian peacekeepers. Baku-based Caliber.Az news agency has reported that eight Kamaz trucks made their way from the Khankendi city of Azerbaijan to Armenia between November 10 and November 14, 2022. Moreover, on November 16-18, the same vehicles were seen along the Lachin road from Armenia to Khankendi.
According to operational data, raw materials extracted at the gold mines near the village of Gulyatagh of the former Aghdara (present-day Tartar) region of Azerbaijan, located in the zone of temporary responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, have been transported on these Kamaz trucks. The materials were moved by the Base Metals company, a subsidiary of Vallex Group Company based in Switzerland, which engaged in the looting of precious metals in Kalbajar, Zangilan and Aghdara during the years of occupation and currently in the area where Russian peacekeepers are stationed. The chairman of Vallex Group is a citizen of the Republic of Armenia Valery Mezhlumyan, born in 1951, and residing in Yerevan.
Since December 3, 2022, a group of experts from Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry and Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry, and the State Property Service under the Ministry of Economy and AzerGold Company, held negotiations with the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent on the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits, as well as on environmental and other secondary consequences in the Azerbaijani territories under its temporary monitoring. As a result of consecutive meetings on December 3 and 4, the two sides agreed to ecological monitoring by the Azerbaijani experts at the Gizilbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits.
On December 5, 2022, the Commander of the Russian peacekeepers, Andrei Volkov, said it was agreed with Azerbaijan to install mini customs checkpoints along the Lachin road. However, Volkov has later denied his remarks.
On December 10, the visit of the representatives of Azerbaijan to the deposits was derailed in the wake of illegal intervention by ethnic Armenians living in certain parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. Back then, the Russian peacekeepers did not take preventive measures to facilitate the previously agreed visit of the Azerbaijani experts. This led civil society members and volunteers to protest along the Lachin-Khankendi road on December 12.
In the meantime, the rally’s goals were deliberately distorted by the Armenian side as if it aims to “blockade” the Lachin road and subsequently trigger a “humanitarian crisis” in the territories of Azerbaijan settled by the Armenian population.
President Aliyev said there is no blockade on the Lachin road given the daily movement of the Russian peacekeeping vehicles and the International Red Cross relief convoys from Armenia to Khankendi and vice versa.
“Since 12th December until today, when our activists from civil society came to the checkpoint, there have been more than 2,500 vehicles, including tracks of Russian peacekeepers and representatives of the Red Cross. Red Cross took almost 100 medical patients from Karabakh to Armenia for treatment. So, how can we call it a blockade when there is an open road? And if Armenians in Karabakh try to use this road, no one will stop them,” he said during panel discussions at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.