Permanent Council: Armenia intensified military provocations and imitates negotiations

Permanent Council:  Armenia intensified military provocations and imitates negotiations
# 12 September 2023 15:17 (UTC +04:00)

Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the OSCE Rovshan Sadigbayli responded to Armenia’s attempts to mislead OSCE at the 1439th special meeting of the Permanent Council.

APA presents the statement:

“Since the last address by the Foreign Minister of Armenia in July this year, we had hoped that the Permanent Council would finally hear a different statement offering a constructive approach. Unfortunately, as the statement that we have just heard clearly demonstrates, Armenia, instead of being part of the solution and implementing the agreements reached with Azerbaijan, continues to exploit various platforms, including this one to advance its obsolete conflict narratives and disinformation and smear campaign against Azerbaijan.

The address by the deputy foreign minister of Armenia should be viewed in the context of almost three-decades-long aggression by this country and occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan in flagrant violation of international law accompanied with most serious international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

The trilateral statement of November 2020 put an end to the military occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia for almost three decades. Azerbaijan restored its previously infringed sovereignty and territorial integrity. Despite devastating consequences and unhealed wounds of war, occupation and ethnic cleansing, it was Azerbaijan which, after the end of the conflict, initiated the process of normalizing inter-State relations with Armenia based on five basic principles that include mutual recognition and respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity within their internationally recognized borders. We emphatically underscored the pressing need for concrete results on three specific tracks forming the agenda of bilateral discussions, namely, the delimitation of the State border, the soonest conclusion of a peace treaty; and the opening of transport communications in the region. For the past two and half years my country has been demonstrating strong political will to promote the peace agenda.

However, the normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan faces serious challenges and is at the critical juncture. What we observe in the behavior of the Armenian side is the replication of the pattern that has been typical for this country for 30 years-imitation of talks, back-stepping from previous agreements and escaping from implementation of undertaken commitments through resorting to various political, military and other provocations. In all engagements through different international actors, be it with the Russian Federation, the United States, European Union or with the ICRC, Armenia escapes from negotiations in good faith, behaves insincerely, and torpedoes all previously reached arrangements and understandings.

Armenia pursues one goal: to sustain separatism in the territory of Azerbaijan through all possible ideological, political, military, financial and other means. For this purpose. Armenia tries to win time and escapes from real steps to allow progress in negotiations in all tracks.

The situation with respect to the delivery of goods to the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan to meet the needs of Armenian residents serves as a clear example. The history of negotiations in this regard, which have been conducted through various third parties, proves one thing: Armenia is not interested in seeking solutions at the negotiation table. False and groundless allegations on so-called "blockade" or "humanitarian crisis" pursue the obvious goal to manipulate and mislead the international community.

The Delegation of Azerbaijan has previously brought to the attention of the Permanent Council that Armenia abused the Lachin road for almost two and half years for illegal military and other purposes. All our calls were neglected and no action was taken to address Azerbaijan's legitimate and fact-based concerns. Given, the continuing speculations around this issue, it is worth elaborating on the situation to set the record straight.

On 23 April 2023, Azerbaijan established a border checkpoint on the state border to prevent the abuse of the road while ensuring transparent and regulated passage across the border. Despite all the allegations, the checkpoint functioned in an exemplary manner under very sensitive conditions. Azerbaijan consistently appealed to the Armenian side to establish working contacts between relevant state bodies, customs and border services to ensure that the cross-border passages are facilitated in a smooth manner. Unfortunately, these appeals were not reciprocated. Armenia continued to challenge the very right of Azerbaijan to establish checkpoint on its border, tried to exploit the International Court of Justice and other bodies. The border checkpoint was established in exercise of Azerbaijan's inherent right to safeguard its sovereignty and security, to prevent the consistent and blatant abuse by Armenia of this route for illegal military and other activities. It should be mentioned that later, on 6 July the ICJ took unanimous decision to reject Armenia's request for an interim measure on the removal of the checkpoint, definitively dismissed Armenia's allegations that the Lachin checkpoint is illegal.

Having failed in all such attempts and unable to reconcile with the intensified use of the checkpoint by local Armenian residents, Armenia resorted to an open military provocation on 15 June 2023. It put under the risk the residents passing through the checkpoint, as well the personnel of the ICRC, which were in close vicinity while conducting a pre-planned medical evacuation operation.

Following this provocation, Armenia once again attempted to misuse the checkpoint for smuggling, a fact that the ICRC had to acknowledge itself. Even after these provocations, passage through the checkpoint for medical evacuations and other urgent purposes resumed and continues to this day. Since 15 June 2023, the ICRC has conducted 27 operations, 312 Armenian residents accompanied by 208 persons (total 520) travelled to Armenia, while 380 persons returned to Garabagh having completed their treatment. For these operations, the passage of 425 ICRC vehicles was registered in both directions. While returning back to Garabagh, they also bring essential goods, including medicines. Thus, the claim that since 15 June 2023 no good is transferred to Garabagh has no basis and simply is not true. We reject all the accusations that Azerbaijan in anyway hinders the passage via the Lachin road or imposes so-called "blockade".

While facilitating passages through the checkpoint, Azerbaijan officially offered the use of other roads for the delivery of goods to meet the needs of local residents. This was extensively discussed at the meeting of the leaders on 15 July 2023, with the participation of Charles Michel, President of the European Council. It was not coincidence that this matter was reflected in Mr. Michel's statement following the meeting.

On 25 July 2023, in Moscow, the use of multiple roads in a synchronized manner was once again a topic of discussion at the trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers. This was a formula proposed by the Russian side. Azerbaijan gave its consent to such an option. Armenia escaped from concrete discussions. Instead, the following day, Armenia resorted to another pre-planned provocation by sending a so-called "humanitarian convoy" to the border in violation of the principles governing humanitarian assistance, namely consent of the host country, respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This was pure provocation to manipulate international public opinion and to create a ground for further provocations. Since the Moscow meeting. the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union engaged intensively with the parties to facilitate the implementation of the synchronized use of the Aghdam- Khankandi and Lachin-Khankandi roads and organization of a meeting between central Government's special representative and local residents. Finally, on 4 August 2023, agreements were finally reached with respect to both issues. Sequential opening of the roads and organization of a meeting in Yevlakh in Azerbaijan were agreed. All involved stakeholders, including the ICRC and peacekeepers were prepared to facilitate the implementation. Yet again, at the very last moment, the Armenian side backtracked from both agreements by putting forward politically motivated, illegitimate pretexts. This was followed by an intensified smear campaign worldwide to lay a ground for the UN Security Council's engagement into the matter. However, Armenia's attempt to exploit the UN Security Council for anti-Azerbaijani actions failed. Instead, the majority of the UN Security Council members spoke against the politicization of the humanitarian delivery, called for the opening of all routes for such delivery and underlined the necessity for direct dialogue. Azerbaijan continued its engagement with all partners to implement the well-received algorithm of synchronized use of the Aghdam-Khankandi and Lachin- Khankandi roads.

During recent high-level contacts with the United States, the synchronized use of the Aghdam-Khankandi and Lachin roads was again discussed in detail. In order to accommodate the concern of the Armenian side, communicated through the American side, Azerbaijan agreed to change the sequential opening of the roads into simultaneous delivery of goods through both roads. The US-side positively received this as a sign of constructiveness. Again, it failed to be materialized as of today.

In every instance, without exception, the Armenian side violated previously reached agreements under different pretexts. The true reason is one and the same: to prolong the situation, artificially ignite tension and ultimately derail the normalization process. One thing is crystal clear and there should be no doubt about that: what Armenia tries to impose on the international community as a "humanitarian" matter, is indeed a brazen political campaign targeting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

If it were humanitarian, it could have been solved weeks ago on the basis of the proposal of synchronized use of multiple roads. Under pretext of humanitarian needs of the Armenian residents of the Garabagh region, Armenia in essence took hostage these persons to its policy of separatism and continues to spread the idea of intolerance and hatred and groundless allegations of so-called "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide". No matter how many times Armenia will refer to so-called "opinion" by so-called "independent expert" Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, with dubious background, this will not alter the basic reality on the ground, which is diametrically opposite to the Armenian allegations. The flaws in Mr. Ocampo's assertions have been identified in detail by a prominent international law expert, Mr. Rodney Dixon, in his report, which we distributed to the OSCE. Suffice to mention that it is peculiar to hear such accusations from a country that ethnically cleansed the formerly occupied territories of Azerbaijan, forcibly expelling around one million of refugees and IDPs from these territories and from Armenia.

Azerbaijan is interested in finding a solution and has demonstrated this commitment through sincere engagement with all which offered their good offices and mediation services. It is because of the concrete blocks and all other physical barriers installed by the Armenian side on the Aghdam-Khankandi road, two cargo trucks, with 40 tons of flour and flour products sent by the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan, have been waiting on the ground for two weeks, unable to deliver the food to the Armenian residents.

Today a truck loaded with food and food products of the Russian Red Cross Society in accordance with the joint memorandum on cooperation between the Azerbaijan Red Cresent Society and the Russian Red Cross Society delivered supplies to the residents in the Garabagh Economic region of Azerbaijan via the Aghdam-Khankandi road after waiting for two days in Barda city of Azerbaijan because of the obstruction from the Armenian side. We consider passage of this cargo in coordination with the authorities of Azerbaijan via the Aghdam-Khankandi road as a positive step in opening of this route.

Azerbaijan has agreed with our international partners to the simultaneous use of Aghdam-Khankandi and Lachin-Khankandi roads through the ICRC. It is Armenia and the illegal subordinate regime under its direction and control that prevents implementation of this agreement. Azerbaijan is ready to create conditions for the transportation of goods facilitated by the ICRC in compliance with the border and customs procedures at the Lachin border crossing point in parallel to usage of the Aghdam-Khankandi road. So, all calls on opening of the routes must be addressed to Armenia. Mr. Chair,

The presence of the deputy foreign minister of Armenia at the Permanent Council is an opportunity to take stock on where we are in the normalization process. The situation around the delivery of goods is not isolated from Armenia's increased military and political provocations targeting Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Armenia's nearly 10,000-strong armed forces continue to be illegally stationed in the territory of Azerbaijan. Dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles, more than two hundred heavy artillery pieces, including multiple rocket launchers, dozens of different type of radio electronic warfare equipment, close to two hundred mortars are currently deployed in the territory of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent has been temporarily deployed. Armenia provides technical, military, logistical and financial support to sustain these forces in violation of its international obligations and commitments. The armed formations in Azerbaijan's territory are financed directly from the state budget of Armenia.

In recent days, we have witnessed even more intensified military provocations accompanied by increased military build-up, both along the undelimited border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the Garabagh region. Armenia digs new trenches, builds fortifications and accumulates personnel and equipment in an apparent effort to go into another military adventure. Armenia must finally abandon the "line of contact" logic and embrace lines of communications approach, if it is genuinely interested in peace and normalization. Despite its earlier statement regarding Armenia's recognition of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan that includes the Garabagh region, the Prime Minister of Armenia took yet another extremely provocative step by issuing a so-called "congratulatory message" on the occasion of the so-called "anniversary" of the establishment of the illegal puppet structure in the territory of Azerbaijan.

Armenia's Prime Minister once again referred to the so-called "right to self-determination of Armenian residents" and confirmed that Armenia would continue to intervene in matters related to these residents under the pretext of their security and rights. As such, he essentially nullified his previous statement on the recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Just to recall that this has been for 30 years used by Armenia to maintain the occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan. Armenian Prime Minister's message is nothing other than yet another confirmation that Armenia has not abandoned territorial claims against Azerbaijan, it has no intention to stop fueling separatism in our territory by all available means, including by providing political, military and financial support.

Armenian diplomatic missions, including the one accredited to this organization, continue to distribute various papers on behalf of the illegal regime, again despite Armenia's expressed recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The illegal activity under the false pretext of so-called "elections" of the so-called "president" by the puppet regime created as a result of the occupation by Armenia of the territories of Azerbaijan is extremely provocative step that undermines the efforts of normalization in the region and reintegration of ethnic Armenian residents into the constitutional framework of the Republic of Azerbaijan. We thank those participating States who rejected this sham so-called "elections" and we call on the OSCE and other participating States to follow suit.

All above-mentioned attests to Armenia's systematic policy aimed at undermining the normalization process and efforts of the international community to take this process forward. The peace process is at the critical juncture. This necessitates adequate understanding of the risks and threats posed by Armenia's irresponsible and destructive behavior. The international community and OSCE participating States should take necessary urgent measures to urge Armenia to reverse its dangerous path.

In parallel track separate from the bilateral peace treaty, domestically Azerbaijan is on the record for pursuing the policy of reintegration of ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region as equal citizens guaranteeing all the rights and freedoms envisaged in the Constitution of Azerbaijan and all the relevant international human rights mechanisms that Azerbaijan is signatory to. Azerbaijan's commitment to the peace process is strong and has been proven through consistent steps we have been taking since November 2020. At the same time, our determination to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity by all legitimate means enshrined in the UN Charter and international law is equally firm and resolute.

Armenia actions, which undermine the peace process, must be condemned by the international community and additional efforts must be taken to enforce Armenia to peace and to keep it within the logic of normalization process. The only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan and the disbandment of the illegal puppet regime. Armenia must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, both in words and in deeds".

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