Azerbaijani government will launch special bus tours to the country’s liberated territories starting on January 24, the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport reported.
Deputy Minister Rahman Hummatov said the regular intercity bus routes would be operated between Baku and Shusha, Baku and Aghdam, Ahmadbayli and Shusha, the Fuzuli International Airport and Shusha, as well as Barda and Aghdam. The trips will be available only for Azerbaijan’s citizens at the first stage.
“In the future, issues on the entrance of foreign citizens to the liberated territories will be considered,” Hummatov explained.
“As for our citizens, priority will be given to participants in the First and Second Karabakh wars, their family members, as well as members of martyr families, [and] citizens over 60 years old,” he added.
The bus between Ahmadbayli and Shusha will run four times a week, while other tours will be available twice a week. The tickets will soon go on sale at the newly-launched yolumuzqarabaga.az online portal.
Eldaniz Mammadov, Deputy Head of the Main Public Security Department of the Internal Affairs Ministry, said the round-trip visits would be carried out in one day given the lack of necessary infrastructure in Aghdam and Shusha, which could accommodate visitors. Each person is allowed to visit the liberated lands once a year.
According to Mammadov, the buses will be accompanied by police throughout the route. A police officer will also be assigned to each shuttle bus. Safety measures include the insurance of passengers and a GPS monitoring of the movement of buses. Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) will provide security along bus routes.
Launching bus routes became possible after the liberation of the Azerbaijani territories from nearly three-decades-long Armenian occupation.
Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region fell under Armenia’s occupation in the early 1990s during a bloody war 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 those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy carried out by Armenia.
On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries intensified after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Currently, the government of Azerbaijan is implementing major restoration and reconstruction projects in the liberated territories.
As part of these works, an electronic system for enabling the process of repatriation and reintegration of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) is being developed. The first phase of the “Great Return” to the Karabakh and East Zangazur regions will reportedly start from the Aghali village of the Zangilan district, where 200 eco-friendly smart houses are being built. In addition, the creation of the necessary social-technical infrastructure is being finalized in the village.