Anastasia Lavrina
Political analyst, TV journalist, research fellow in the Institute for Development and Diplomacy (ADA University)

Which state would agree to voluntarily grant the right to a neighboring country to bring ammunition, mines and terrorists into its territory? I think the answer here is unambiguous, none! In this case, why should Azerbaijan do this?

On November 10, 2020, the Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended. Within just 44 days, the Azerbaijani army, under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief President Ilham Aliyev, confidently moved forward, liberating villages and cities from long-lasting Armenian occupation. After the liberation of the city of Shusha, the pearl of Karabakh, the Armenian army capitulated, expressing its readiness to sign a ceasefire document with Azerbaijan. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan kept calling Moscow asking President Vladimir Putin to assist and stop the war. Could Baku refuse and go to the end, liberating by military means all the Azerbaijani regions that remained under the control of Armenia at that time? Of course, it could, but Azerbaijan is a humane state, and in the end, it was decided to sign a tripartite statement, which can be also considered a ceasefire agreement, between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, in which the parties assumed obligations clearly stated in the document.

Almost immediately after the signing of the document, Armenia started to make revanchist statements, calling for the start of a new war to return of control over the territories they had lost, in their opinion. The Armenian diaspora around the world has stepped up its lobbying activities, especially in France and the United States, with the aim of presenting Azerbaijan as an « aggressor ». On November 15, 2020, the French Senate adopted a biased resolution against Azerbaijan demanding sanctions. It was an Armenian “thank you” for the goodwill of Baku.

Two years after the signing of the tripartite statement, Armenia has not fulfilled two of the most important points. The Armenian illegal armed formations have not been withdrawn from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily deployed. In addition, transport communication between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in order to organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions has not been organized.

But what is most dangerous is that Armenia, referring to the same tripartite statement, used the Lachin road, which links Armenia with the part of Karabakh where ethnic Armenians live, to militarize the region. Ammunition, military equipment, weapons, mines, sabotage groups, and sometimes citizens of third countries were illegally brought into Karabakh along this road for more than two years.

In December 2021, the main presidential candidate of France, Valerie Pecresse, accompanied by several French deputies, illegally visited the city of Khankendi, where she uttered her anti-Azerbaijani slogans. How is it possible? A candidate for the presidency of a European country illegally enters the territory of a sovereign state, where she conducts her election campaign. And how can the actions of Armenian saboteurs on Azerbaijani soil, who planted mines previously delivered along the same Lachin road, be connected with the peace agenda?

On June 4, 2021, two Azerbaijani journalists were killed by a landmine explosion in the Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan. The Armenian armed forces continued to commit criminal acts against the citizens of Azerbaijan by mining the country’s territories, which is a gross violation of the basic norms and principles of international humanitarian law, including the requirements of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Nearly 300 Azerbaijanis victims of Armenia-laid landmines since end of Second Karabakh War. The icing on the cake of Armenian cynicism was the appearance of a fugitive Russian billionaire of Armenian origin Ruben Vardanyan, who proclaimed himself the representative of the Armenians of Karabakh. And he got there again along the Lachin road.

All of the above indicates that throughout these months Armenia spoke about peace only in owls, but in fact continued to destabilize the situation in the region. Of course, when Azerbaijani environmental activists spoke out against the illegal exploitation of deposits in the territories under the temporary control of Russian peacekeepers, a flurry of criticism rained down from Armenia. How else? After all, by their actions, the Azerbaijani eco-activists, among other things, took away from Yerevan the opportunity to use the Lachin road to export the looted Azerbaijani natural resources from Karabakh to Armenia. And this was another proof that the Lachin road was used by Armenia far from being for humanitarian purposes, as it was written in the tripartite statement.

The patience of the Azerbaijani leadership and people is not unlimited. Seeing Yerevan’s unwillingness to resolve issues peacefully, Azerbaijan used its sovereign right to take control of its own border. On April 23, in order to prevent the illegal transfer of manpower, ammunition, mines, as well as other military equipment from Armenia to the Armenian armed formations on the territory of Azerbaijan, the units of the State Border Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan established a checkpoint on the border with Armenia, at the beginning of the Lachin-Khankendi road. Thus, a fat cross was put on Yerevan’s plans to continue its illegal activities on Azerbaijani lands, delaying the signing of a peace treaty.

Armenia speculates on the rights of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh, pursuing only its own selfish goals and continuing its illegal activities in the region. In contrast Azerbaijan is ready to integrate ethnic Armenians into a multicultural, tolerant society, as the head of state has repeatedly stated. Azerbaijan is a home to many ethnic groups with equal rights and opportunities. Twice, the Azerbaijani authorities invited representatives of the Armenian community of Karabakh to a meeting in Baku, but so far there has been no positive response.

Therefore, instead of worrying about the future of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh, Yerevan should better think about Western Azerbaijan Community, which is currently engaged in protecting the rights of Azerbaijanis who were expelled from the territories that were their historical homeland for centuries and today are called Armenia. Those in the Armenian government who express dissatisfaction with the establishment of the checkpoint, will they be able to answer the question: is Armenia ready to give the legal right to Azerbaijani refugees to return to their historical lands and then ensure their unimpeded connection with Azerbaijan? I think the answer suggests itself. Therefore, summing up, we can say that Azerbaijan’s actions are logical and justified. Armenia should fulfill its obligations, leaving behind revanchist slogans and dreams of the so-called « Great Armenia », since it will not be possible to change the situation. The other day, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan publicly recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and now Armenia must accept the peace initiatives of President Ilham Aliyev, start constructive negotiations to achieve a comprehensive peace based on international law. It is this path that will lead the entire region to peace and prosperity.

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