Azerbaijan decries ‘regrettable remarks’ by EU on Karabakh dispute

Azerbaijan decries ‘regrettable remarks’ by EU on Karabakh dispute

The recent statements by the European Union’s foreign policy chief on the current situation in the disputed Karabakh region are “regrettable,” Azerbaijan said Thursday, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.

“The presented approach toward the situation in the region by (EU) High Representative (for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) Josep Borrell in his July 26 statement, based on the propaganda and political manipulations spread by Armenia, is regrettable,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aykhan Hajizada said in a statement.

Hajizada said that Baku appreciates the EU’s support “to establish peace and stability in the region, as well as to the peace negotiations with Armenia,” but “ignoring” the grievances of Azerbaijan regarding the incomplete withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the region and presenting Azerbaijan’s establishment of a border checkpoint on the Lachin road as its closure is “fundamentally wrong.”

“Similarly, it must be made clear that the blatant misinterpretation of the relevant decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will not yield results,” Hajizada said, indicating that an ICJ decision earlier this month “once more demonstrated that the protection of its own security by Azerbaijan is legitimate.”

On July 6, the ICJ unanimously rejected Yerevan’s request to modify the court’s February 2022 decision on the “Armenia vs. Azerbaijan” case, in which one of its demands was to remove the border checkpoint established by Baku at the entrance of the Lachin road.

On Wednesday, Borrell said that the EU is “deeply concerned about the serious humanitarian situation” in the region, while also claiming that movement through the Lachin road “remains obstructed for more than seven months.”

Responding to the claim, Hajizada said that vehicles belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pass through the road on a daily basis and that Azerbaijan continues to cooperate with the ICRC and facilitate the passage of medical supplies.

He further said that Azerbaijan made a proposal to use the Aghdam-Stepanakert (Khankendi) road and other alternative routes into the region for the transport of large amounts of cargo, while “taking into account threats originating from Armenia.”

The mountainous region of Karabakh has been at the center of a decadeslong territorial dispute between the two countries. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed some 30,000 lives.

The two former Soviet republics fought two wars to control Karabakh in the 1990s and again in 2020. Six weeks of fighting in autumn 2020 ended with a Russian-sponsored cease-fire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territories it had controlled for decades.

In April this year, Azerbaijan set up the border point at the entrance to the Lachin corridor, exacerbating allegations from Armenia of a Karabakh “blockade.” Tensions soaring over the move left another half a dozen people killed from both sides since December.

Baku fervently denied the claims, saying the checkpoint was created in response to security threats from Armenia and citing the transfer of weapons and ammunition to the Karabakh region. Earlier this month, it temporarily halted the checkpoint pending an investigation into the Armenian branch of the Red Cross for alleged smuggling.

The latest developments followed a monthslong protest by Azerbaijani environmental activists, which Yerevan claims spurred a humanitarian crisis and food and fuel shortages.

Azerbaijan insisted at the time that civilian transport could go unimpeded through the Lachin corridor.

In February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the U.N.’s top judicial body – had ordered Azerbaijan to ensure free movement on the road.

There have been frequent clashes at the two countries’ shared border despite the ongoing peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under mediation from the European Union and the United States.

Earlier this week following a meeting between the top diplomats on both sides, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said the two countries could sign a peace treaty by the end of the year. He named normalization between Baku and the Karabakh region as the condition for signing the treaty and said Armenia cannot decide the fate of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh – have to negotiate security guarantees in talks with Baku.