One year has passed since the beginning of the 44-day Patriotic War, which brought an end to the 30- year Armenian occupation of the internationally recognized territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and restored the territorial integrity of our state.
As is known, the baseless territorial claims and aggressive policy pursued by the Republic of Armenia, which are not grounded on any historical and legal facts, led to the occupation of 20% of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan since the early 1990s. As a result of this policy, one million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their ancestral homes through the cruel ethnic cleansing being carried out in Armenia and the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
During the first Karabakh war, around 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, more than 50,000 people were wounded or maimed, and 4750 people were captured, missing, and taken hostage. Horrifying criminal acts, stemming from national hatred and enmity, were perpetrated against Azerbaijanis and one of the most terrible tragedies of the 20th century – the Khojaly genocide – was committed.
As a result of the occupation, 877 cities, villages and settlements were looted, destroyed, and burned; Azerbaijan’s historical, national, and cultural heritage in these territories was ruthlessly destroyed and falsified.
The UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 adopted in 1993, the UN General Assembly Resolution 62/243 adopted in 2008, as well as documents of several other influential international organizations, affirmed the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan, demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories, and corroborated the right of the displaced persons to return to their homelands. Despite all this, the Republic of Armenia, ignoring the numerous calls of the international community, continued occupation of Azerbaijani lands and tried to maintain the status- quo.
At the same time, the mediation efforts of the United States of America, Russia and France, the cochairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, which had been established to resolve the conflict for many years, did not yield any results due to Armenia’s unconstructive and disruptive position.
Taking advantage of the indecisiveness of international organizations, the Armenian side attacked the front lines of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in April 2016, as well as July and August 2020, and fired on civilians with artillery, rocket launchers, armoured vehicles, and large-scale shooter arms. On September 27, 2020, after yet another provocation, the Republic of Azerbaijan exercised its right to self-defence granted by the UN Charter and launched a counter-offensive to force the aggressor into peace and put an end to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands.
Since the very first days, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces had severely defeated the Armenian armed forces and obligated them to surrender. Helpless on the battlefield, the Armenian armed forces committed horrible crimes against the civilian population in gross violation of the norms and principles of international law, including that of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949. As a result of the attacks with ballistic missiles and cassette shells on the cities of Ganja, Mingachevir, Barda, Tartar, Gabala, the Siyazan and Khizi districts, and other settlements located far from the front line, more than 100 civilians, including 11 children had been killed, and more than 450 people injured.
Azerbaijan had achieved victory in the 44-day Patriotic War by effectively ensuring the implementation of documents by the UN and other international organizations on the conflict, restored its territorial integrity and created a new geopolitical reality in the South Caucasus. The Trilateral Statement signed on November 10, 2020, by the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia, and the Prime Minister of Armenia, put an end to more than 30 years of conflict and introduced a new format of activities aimed at the future development of the South Caucasus.
It is commendable to witness that a new era has begun in the life of Karabakh, the ancient and historical land of Azerbaijan – the era of restoration and construction. Projects are being implemented to restore settlements in the lands severely vandalized during the 30 years of occupation: infrastructure facilities are being set up, airports, roads, bridges, tunnels, and other facilities are being built, electricity and water lines are being laid out. Conditions are created for IDPs to return to their homelands as soon as possible.
Azerbaijan is a multinational unitary state with a long tradition of tolerance, where representatives of all ethnic groups live in equality and mutual respect. This country is the common and indivisible homeland of all Azerbaijani citizens. Armenians living in Karabakh have the same rights and freedoms as other citizens of Azerbaijan.
Unfortunately, at a time when Azerbaijan is taking the necessary steps to establish a peaceful life in the region and ensure lasting concord, the Armenian side is refusing to provide full and accurate maps of the hundreds of thousands of anti-tanks and anti-personnel mines buried throughout the liberated territories and to launch the border delimitation and demarcation process.
After the end of the war, the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan repeatedly appealed to the Republic of Armenia to sign a major peace agreement on the condition of mutual recognition of the territorial integrity. However, the other side has been avoiding accepting the peace proposals under various pretexts so far.
We hope that this historical opportunity created to establish lasting peace and civil interstate relations between the Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have suffered a bloody conflict for many years, and to ensure the peaceful coexistence of the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples, will be well seized upon. The Republic of Azerbaijan will continue to take all necessary measures to turn the region into a place of peace, stability, and development in which representatives of all ethnic groups live in prosperity.