President Ilham Aliyev recently spoke about the future for Armenians living in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region.
President Aliyev said Armenians are part of Azerbaijan’s ethnically and religiously tolerant society, alongside other ethnic minorities, whose rights are protected by the Constitution.
“With respect to the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan is a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic country. The rights of minorities in Azerbaijan are protected by our constitution. And anyone who knows the real situation in Azerbaijan can say that Azerbaijan is a country with a high-level of religious and ethnic tolerance, where representatives of different ethnic groups, different confessions live in peace and dignity,” Aliyev said in his opening speech at the 10th Global Baku Forum "The World of Today: Challenges and Hopes" on Thursday.
According to President Aliyev, Armenians living in the Karabakh region, as citizens of Azerbaijan, will enjoy the same tolerance and peace on par with other ethnic groups.
“I'm sure that the life of Armenians who live in Karabakh region of Azerbaijan will be much better than it was during the times of occupation,” Aliyev said.
“Every conflict has its own history, has its own dynamics and has its own end, but important is that disputes between countries are resolved on the basis of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty cannot be changed by force.”
The Azerbaijani President is convinced that there are no obstacles to achieving peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which was clearly demonstrated last October through the agreement between the two countries regarding the respect for each other's sovereign and territorial integrity.
“Right after the war ended in November 2020, we launched an initiative to start peaceful negotiations and presented the famous five principles, which could be a basis for peace agreement with Armenia,” Aliyev said.
“We hope that international actors, which try to facilitate will persuade Armenia not to lose this chance.”
The President added that due to the aggression against Azerbaijan, Armenia lost its chance to become an independent state and build its future as they became totally dependent, kind of a colony of other country, and now maybe other countries. Now, there is a chance for Yerevan to act as a real neighbour, he said.
According to Aliyev, Azerbaijan does not want any other war.
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 spiraled 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 war, 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” of nearly 25,000 Armenians living in the Karabakh region, and avoiding the fulfilling of its obligations under the trilateral statement, such as the withdrawal of its armed formations from the Azerbaijani territories.
A minor breakthrough was achieved recently during a meeting between the officials from Azerbaijan and the representatives of the ethnic Armenians residing in the Karabakh region. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the temporary Russian peacekeeping mission located in the town of Khojaly on March 1.
According to the media report, during the meeting, preliminary discussions were held on the reintegration of the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region into Azerbaijani society in line with the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan. The meeting participants agreed to continue contacts for further discussions.
According to information obtained by Baku-based Caliber.Az from diplomatic sources, Azerbaijan’s cities of Barda, Ganja, and Aghdam were being considered as possible venues for the next meetings.
However, the process was axed a few days later on March 5 when Armenian armed gang members caused an incident in the Karabakh region leading to a deadly firefight with Azerbaijani servicemen.
During the provocative incident, a minivan carrying ammunition and weapons to the Karabakh region from Armenia on an unpaved road bypassing the Lachin road was stopped for checking by Azerbaijani army officers. Armenian armed saboteurs in the minivan opened fire, leading to casualties and injuries on both sides. As a result, three members of the illegal Armenian formations and two servicemen of the Azerbaijani army lost their lives.