Azerbaijan marks Karabakh victory, calls for regional cooperation
People take part in a procession marking the anniversary of the end of the 2020 military conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in Baku, Azerbaijan, November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

Azerbaijan marks Karabakh victory, calls for regional cooperation

As Azerbaijan on Monday marked the first anniversary of its victory liberating the Armenian-occupied territories in the Karabakh region, its foreign ministry released a statement saying new realities have emerged in the South Caucasus region, and Armenia has to choose between regional cooperation and illegal and unfounded territorial claims against its neighbors.

The statement recalled that, as a result of last year’s 44-day Karabakh war that started on Sept. 27, 2020, against the increasing attacks and provocations of Armenia, Azerbaijan liberated its lands from occupation. It was noted that the right to live in the ancestral homeland of approximately 1 million Azerbaijani migrants was ensured.

Reiterating that more than 300 settlements were liberated in the war, the statement added that with the tripartite declaration signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on Nov. 10, 2020, Armenia accepted its defeat, and the problem was solved by military and political means.

It was stated that the areas liberated after the war were reconstructed and rehabilitated, the lands were cleared of mines, and the ultimate aim was to return the displaced, whose fundamental rights have been violated for years, to their homeland in a safe and dignified manner.

The statement emphasized that not only Azerbaijan but also friendly and brotherly countries played a role in the process, which requires time, money and serious effort. It also underlined that the return of the displaced to their homes will be realized in the coming years.

It reiterated that Azerbaijan has taken the necessary steps to prosecute Armenia for nearly 30 years of aggressive policies, violations of international law and war crimes, and that this process is ongoing.

Emphasizing the importance of punishing perpetrators in terms of ensuring justice and preventing the recurrence of such situations in the future, the following was also included in the statement:

“Ensuring lasting peace, development and progress is the basis of Azerbaijan’s future strategy. Having eliminated the occupation factor, Azerbaijan is ready to normalize its relations with Armenia, provided that the principles of international law, in particular the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders, are strictly adhered to. It is important to fully implement the tripartite declarations at this stage in order to ensure security and it is expected that Armenia will respond to the steps taken by Azerbaijan in this direction.”

“With the end of the conflict, new realities have emerged in the South Caucasus and everyone has to accept these realities. Armenia must choose between regional cooperation and illegal and unfounded territorial claims against its neighbors. The international community should play a positive role in this regard and call on Armenia to understand that there is no alternative to peace. The vengeful tendencies in Armenia and the attempts to directly or indirectly support the armament of this country must be put to an end.”

In September, Azerbaijan filed a case at the United Nations’ top court against Armenia saying that Yerevan engaged in “ethnic cleansing and cultural erasure.”

The case was lodged at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) a week after Armenia filed suit against Azerbaijan at the same Hague-based world court, accusing Baku of a “state-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred.” Both cases focus on the two countries’ decadeslong territorial dispute that erupted into armed conflict again last year, leaving hundreds dead.

Referring to that eruption of hostilities, Azerbaijan alleged in its written filing that “Armenia once again targeted Azerbaijanis for brutal treatment motivated by ethnic hatred,” the court said in a statement.

“Armenia’s policies and conduct of ethnic cleansing, cultural erasure and fomenting of hatred against Azerbaijanis systematically infringe on the rights and freedoms of Azerbaijanis, as well as Azerbaijan’s own rights,” the case alleges. It accuses Armenia of breaching an international convention aimed at eradicating discrimination.

Azerbaijan last month also applied to the ICJ to order neighboring Armenia to hand over maps showing the location of land mines in the Karabakh territories liberated by Azerbaijani forces from the nearly three-decade Armenian occupation last year, while the judges are also considering tit-for-tat claims that the other side violated an anti-discrimination treaty. Azerbaijan accused rival Armenia at the U.N.’s top court of laying land mines as part of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” despite the end of last year’s war.

Recently, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan offered to resolve border disputes and reach a permanent peace deal with Armenia but hasn’t received any reply so far.

Speaking at the opening of the 8th Global Baku Forum, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan and Armenia are in the post-conflict era now, and Baku is ready to make a peace deal with Yerevan.

Armenia must cease its territorial claims that go against Azerbaijan and pursue a peaceful agenda in the South Caucasus, Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to Aliyev, also told Daily Sabah last week.

Thousands march to mark victory

A march was also held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Karabakh victory.

As part of the “Victory Day” celebrations, military high school students, cavalry units of the Border Services Command, Karabakh War veterans and citizens participated in the march, which started from Baku’s Azneft Square.

In the march, which started with the marches of the military band, military high school students carried a 440-meter (1,444-foot) flag of Azerbaijan in reference to the 44-day war.

Citizens accompanied the march with Azerbaijani and Turkish flags, chanting “Karabakh is Azerbaijan” and singing marches.

The march, attended by thousands of people, ended at the “Spoils Museum” in Baku, where some of the weapons and armored vehicles seized from the Armenian Army are exhibited.

A year ago, the Azerbaijani army liberated Shusha, the symbolic city of Karabakh, from occupation.

Shusha was occupied by Armenia on May 8, 1992. Gaining control of Shusha was a major victory for Azerbaijani forces, who had been making gains against Armenian separatist fighters since new fighting erupted over Nagorno-Karabakh a month ago.

The town has significant military value because of its strategic location, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the region’s capital over Stepanakert (Khankendi) and on the road linking the city with Armenian territory.

Launched on Sept. 27, 2020, the counterattack lasted 44 days, during which more than 300 settlements were liberated from occupation. The entry of the Azerbaijani army into Shusha caused the Armenian Army to disperse. Armenia signed a declaration on Nov. 10, 2020, acknowledging its defeat and promising to withdraw its army from the provinces of Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin.

Aliyev declared Nov. 8, the date of the liberation of Shusha, as “Victory Day,” since Nov. 10, the date of the end of the war, was the date of death of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Messages from Turkey

Turkey on Monday marked the anniversary of Azerbaijan’s victory in Karabakh, expressing everlasting solidarity with the brotherly country.

“I sincerely congratulate the Victory Day of Azerbaijan and this glorious day that heralds the liberation of the lands of Karabakh,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter.

He also commemorated with gratitude those “heroes who fought unblinkingly” for the homeland and fell in battle, as well as brave veterans.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay also issued a message on Twitter marking the day.

Saying that Azerbaijan “crowned its epic struggle of 44 days with a victory one year ago today,” Oktay wished eternal rest to those who lost their lives in battle. His tweet included the hashtag “One Nation, Two States,” meaning Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“We are celebrating the victory of Azerbaijan’s 44-day Patriotic War, which was crowned by liberation of the cultural capital of ancient Shusha on November 8 last year,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

Noting that Azerbaijan used its “right to self-defense to regain its occupied lands,” the Foreign Ministry said the country was able to ratify its victory on the ground via the trilateral declaration.

Turkey also welcomed the return of “1 million forcibly displaced Azerbaijani brothers” to their homelands with the victory of Azerbaijan.

The statement further noted that the Karabakh victory not only liberated the occupied territories but also “paved the way for the lasting peace, stability and cooperation we long for in the region.”

Citing the motto of “one nation, two states”, Turkey shared the “joy and pride of Azerbaijan, with which we have brought our relations to the level of alliance with the Shusha Declaration.”

“Our solidarity with Azerbaijan will continue forever,” it added.

Turkey and Azerbaijan signed the Shusha Declaration on June 15, a pact that focuses on defense cooperation and establishing new transportation routes.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Aliyev met in the historic city of Shusha, which was liberated last fall from nearly 30 years of Armenian occupation.

The declaration affirms joint efforts by the two armies in the face of foreign threats and the restructuring and modernization of their armed forces.

Turkey was a key backer of Azerbaijan during last year’s 44-day Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Also, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Monday arrived in Azerbaijan with top military officers to participate in the country’s first anniversary of the Karabakh war victory celebrations.

Welcomed by Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and other officials in capital Baku, Akar and the officers were taken to Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in the city to join a ceremony on the occasion of the Victory Day.

Speaking at the ceremony, Akar said: “Victory has been won, but a new struggle has begun to ensure a permanent peace that will bring stability to the Caucasus after many years.”

Aliyev and Erdoğan have displayed an extremely constructive approach to bequeath peace to future generations, and have opened the door to a new era based on stability and cooperation, Akar noted.

“Everyone needs to know that a future cannot be built on grudge and hatred. Armenia should abandon hostility and look to the future,” he said.

Turkey will continue to strive for peace, tranquility, and stability in the region as part of its historical responsibility, the Turkish minister added.

Hasanov, for his part, said the victory in the Karabakh war is one of the most magnificent pages in Azerbaijan’s history.

During and after the war, he said, Azerbaijan was bolstered by the political and moral support shown at the highest levels by “brotherly” country Turkey.

The Turkish parliament speaker on Monday also greeted Azerbaijan on the first anniversary of its win in the 2020 Karabakh war.

“Under the strong leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan ended the 30-year occupation, making history in 44 days,” Mustafa Şentop said in a letter marking Azerbaijan’s victory.

Shusha, which was liberated on Nov. 8, 2020, has “great meaning for all of us,” Şentop said, as “Azerbaijan crowned its victory on the field” with the tripartite declaration between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia.

The liberation of Shusha, known as the pearl of Karabakh, led to the recognition of defeat by Armenia, as well as the cessation of the hostilities between Baku and Yerevan.

“I wish health, peace and prosperity to the friendly and brotherly people of Azerbaijan, and success to you and to the esteemed members of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan,” Şentop added.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Ersin Tatar also marked the first anniversary of Azerbaijan’s victory in the Karabakh war.

Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Tatar said Azerbaijan’s victory is also that of the TRNC, Turkey and the entire Turkic world.

Congratulating Aliyev on the anniversary, he said it is necessary to act with unity as they are the “sons of the same ancestry and the same nation.”

“We have to develop such a policy to be strong together in the future,” he said, adding they have to stand tall to maintain unity and solidarity.

Bilal Khan Pasha, the consul general of Pakistan in Istanbul, also celebrated the anniversary and expressed his condolences to the families of those who were killed in the 44-day war.

Noting that Pakistan always stands by Azerbaijan in its just cause, he said this support is based on friendship.

“Turkey, Azerbaijan and the TRNC are three states and nations. Pakistan is with you as a brotherly country,” he added.

Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

Before the Second Karabakh War, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory – including Nagorno-Karabakh and neighboring regions – had been under Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and the Armenian Army continued its attacks on civilian and Azerbaijani forces for 44 days, even violating three humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, with the cease-fire seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.

Two months later, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.

This article originally appeared in DAILY SABAH on 08 Nov 2021.