President Ilham Aliyev explained the reasons behind the establishment of the Lachin checkpoint on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border during a lengthy meeting with media representatives in the city of Shusha on July 21.
According to him, Azerbaijan took a just approach to resolve the issues related to the reintegration of the Armenian residents of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, as well as the usage of the Lachin-Khankendi road.
The measures taken by Baku included the appointment of a special representative for talks with the Armenians residing in the Karabakh region, with the first meeting held in the town of Khojaly in March of this year. President Aliyev stated that following the initial meeting, they were invited twice to Baku for a second round of talks, but the invitations were defiantly rejected.
Furthermore, the Azerbaijani president recalled instances of misuse by Armenia of a chance given by the Azerbaijani authorities for the use of the Lachin-Khankendi road. He stated that the road was illegally exploited for the transfer of landmines to Azerbaijani territories.
The non-constructive feedback from Karabakh Armenians and the Armenian government led to Azerbaijan taking “logical, justified, legitimate, competent, and sufficiently courageous” steps, including the installation of the Lachin border checkpoint, according to Ilham Aliyev.
“So, the establishment of a checkpoint on the border is an important stage in the post-conflict situation, which has significantly changed the landscape and the fact that these actions were fully accepted, although not immediately and not entirely willingly by all actors, but they were eventually perceived as legitimate,” he told media representatives in Shusha last week.
Azerbaijan installed a checkpoint at the entrance of the Lachin road on the border with Armenia in April 2023, following regular shipments of arms and ammunition through the highway. Since August 2022, a total of 2,728 landmines produced in Armenia in 2021 were detected and neutralized, 1,119 of which were in the Kalbajar and Lachin districts along the border area with Armenia, and 1,609 in the territory of the Karabakh Economic Region.
The illegal supplies by Armenians, under the aegis of the temporary Russian peacekeeping mission in the Karabakh region, through the Lachin road and other roads bypassing it, continued despite multiple warnings and local control measures taken by Baku, necessitating the urgent installation of the checkpoint.
Currently, the checkpoint enables free and safe movement to and from the Karabakh region, based on the legislation of Azerbaijan. It was temporarily closed twice in May and June for investigation purposes following bloody provocations committed by the Armenian military. From April to July, more than 1,927 people freely crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijan border using the Lachin checkpoint.
President Aliyev also addressed the so-called “blockade” narrative about the Lachin road, stating that it has emerged solely due to the activities of the junta in the Karabakh region, who blocked the road to deliberately hinder the movement of the region’s Armenian residents.
“They set up a roadblock, accusing us of the blockade. Today they put up concrete blocks on the Aghdam-Asgaran road again. When you said, “why do products have to be shipped from another country? After all, Karabakh is Azerbaijan.” Right? It is, isn’t it? Doesn’t everyone recognize it as such? Everyone recognizes it. Does anyone say it is not? No! And why should goods be delivered from another country? This is illogical. But instead of accepting this gesture, concrete blocks were placed there. So, who is blocking whom? This is the whole point,” the president of Azerbaijan said.
Simultaneously with the highway blockades in the Karabakh region, the separatist also led a rally to demand an end to the so-called “blockade” allegedly imposed by Azerbaijan. Their leader, the war criminal Arayik Harutunyan, even appealed to international organizations and participated in a sit-in strike to draw attention to the so-called “blockade.”
President Aliyev emphasized that such measures would not help the case.
“We are ready to follow the path of reintegration, respecting the rights and security of the Armenian minority in Karabakh within the framework of our Constitution and within the framework of the good practice of how these issues are resolved in Azerbaijan as a whole,” he added.