President Ilham Aliyev recently reiterated that Azerbaijan has adhered to the peace process with Armenia, and underlined the key conditions that could facilitate the talks to achieve the long-awaited normalization between the two neighbors.
Despite the Armenian occupation and violence, Azerbaijan proposed a peace treaty by putting forward the well-known five principles that could act as a cornerstone for the peace efforts, President Aliyev said in an interview with local TV channel on Tuesday.
“From the beginning, we have declared that negotiations are possible and a peace treaty can be signed based on these principles – the sovereignty of countries, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders and other principles,” the president said.
He recalled last year’s Sochi and Prague meetings with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, where, Yerevan “generally agreed” to Baku’s approach to officially recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
President Aliyev’s remarks came after the Armenian leader’s statement about peace with Azerbaijan.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Pashinyan said the peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan would become reality if the two countries recognize each other’s territorial integrity. He noted that an agreement was reached with President Aliyev during their meetings in Prague and Sochi on October 6 and October 31 in 2022, respectively.
Following this, President Aliyev noted that Armenia should officially declare that Karabakh (Garabagh) is a part of Azerbaijan. The issues related to the Karabakh region should be seen as Azerbaijan’s internal affair.
“Armenia, which used to say that “Karabakh is Armenia and full stop,” must now repeat our words that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan and exclamation mark.” Because if they have said “A,” they should also say “B.” Having shown its readiness for a peace treaty based on the Alma-Ata Declaration, Armenia should now officially declare that Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” the president added.
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 those 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, from a nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a statement signed on November 10, 2020, under which Armenia returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Nearly 25,000 Armenian-origin people reside in certain parts of the Karabakh region, monitored by a temporary Russian peacekeeping mission. Shortly after the war, the government of Azerbaijan voiced its readiness to reintegrate these people into Azerbaijani society in line with the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan.
On March 1, officials from Azerbaijan met with the representatives of Armenians residing in the Karabakh region. During the meeting, preliminary discussions were held on their reintegration into Azerbaijani society. In late March, the Azerbaijani authorities invited the representatives of Karabakh Armenians to Baku for a second meeting.
However, a group of separatists in the Karabakh region meddled to derail the process. They have been seeking a so-called status for the region’s Armenian population, demanding “independence” from Azerbaijan.
President Aliyev dismissed the possibility of granting any status, saying Armenians living in the Karabakh region should either accept Azerbaijani citizenship or find another place to live.
“I am sure most of the Armenian population currently living in Karabakh is ready to accept Azerbaijani citizenship,” he said.
“(Separatists) must finally understand that they cannot test our patience,” the president said.