President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s determination for achieving the long-awaited peace with Armenia.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan has demonstrated a clear and logical stance on peace negotiations, which is in line with the principles of international law and could serve as a basis for signing a peace treaty.
The latest rounds of negotiations and high-level contacts scheduled for the next few days are aimed at getting closer to the peace agreement, he said.
He also underlined that Armenia must reciprocate in the peace process by putting the verbal statements on paper, adding there is some positive progress in Yerevan’s position.
“Whereas it (Armenia) accepted Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, sovereignty and borders in October last year, this May, they went further. They officially recognized the parameters of the territory of Azerbaijan, including Karabakh and enclave villages. This should be viewed as a positive development,” he said during a government meeting on the socio-economic results in the first half of 2023.
The Azerbaijani president went on to add that it is now time for the exact words to be put on paper, sign it, and establish relations, for which Azerbaijan will continue its efforts.
“Our policy pushes the Armenian side to take essential steps. But, of course, it is a two-way street,” Aliyev noted.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over the latter’s Karabakh (Garabagh) 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 these 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. 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. In March 2022, Baku submitted five basic principles to Yerevan, including mutual territorial integrity recognition and border delimitation activities, that should facilitate the peace process.
Meetings to get closer to peace
Since the end of the war, there have been a series of high-level meetings between Azerbaijan and Armenia mediated by European, Russian, and American officials.
The most recent meetings between President Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took place in May and June in Moscow and Chișinău, respectively. The trilateral summit hosted by President Vladimir Putin in Moscow primarily highlighted the efforts aimed at unblocking regional transport communications and border delimitation.
The meeting in Moldova’s capital Chișinău was attended by the European Council’s President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Following the meeting, President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan agreed to meet in Brussels on July 21. Moreover, the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers were instructed to hold a meeting in the US in late June.
Foreign Ministers Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan discussed the peace process in a summit hosted by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 28 in Washington.
“We look forward to continuing this process as well in the weeks ahead to take advantage of the momentum that we’ve helped achieve through these meetings, through further agreement on different discrete pieces, with, again, the objective of reaching an overall and final agreement in the weeks and months ahead,” Secretary Blinken said in a close plenary session with Ministers Bayramov and Mirzoyan.
Despite the efforts to achieve peace, 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, in addition to avoiding fulfilling its obligations under the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020, such as the withdrawal of its armed formations from the Azerbaijani territories.
President Aliyev has repeatedly said that the demands of the Armenian side would not be considered since Armenians living in the Karabakh region are the citizens of Azerbaijan and issues regarding their rights is Azerbaijan’s internal matter.