By Rashid Shirinov
Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan remains the major threat to the country, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s Spokesman Hikmat Hajiyev said on December 28.
He made the remarks at a press conference in Baku on the outcome of 2017 foreign policy.
Hajiyev said that this year, Azerbaijan continued its policy of restoring the country’s territorial integrity, ensuring security in the region, strengthening the international authority of the country, developing mutual relations with other countries, as well as implementing a multilateral policy, a course of humanitarian and cultural policy, measures to ensure the rights of Azerbaijani citizens living abroad, and work in foreign policy in other areas.
“Work was carried out against the disinformation policy of the Armenian lobby and its patronizing circles against Azerbaijan, and the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan,” he noted.
The spokesman also added that Armenia’s attempts to disrupt the negotiation process and to preserve the status quo did not allow the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
He further stressed that the illegal referendum, held by the unrecognized regime in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, was not recognized by the international community, and respect was demonstrated for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
Hajiyev added that the Armenian side again resorted to military provocations during 2017, thus aggravating the situation on the contact line.
“Deliberate shelling of Azerbaijani civilians by Armenia and the murder of several peaceful Azerbaijani citizens was strongly condemned by the international community,” he noted.
One of the most remarkable atrocities the Armenian side committed against Azerbaijani civilians during the year was the murder of civilians early July. The Armenian armed forces, using mortars and grenade launchers, shelled the Alkhanli village of Azerbaijan’s Fuzuli region and as a result, residents of the village Sahiba Guliyeva and her two-year-old granddaughter Zahra were killed.
Armenia broke out a lengthy war against Azerbaijan by laying territorial claims on the country. Since a war in the early 1990s, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities.
To this day, Armenia has not implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
Work underway on Azerbaijani hostages
During the press conference, Hajiyev also said that the work continued in 2017 with the Russian Federation, OSCE and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in connection with the release of two Azerbaijanis Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev, who were taken hostage in their native lands by Armenians.
The spokesman said that as a result of Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan, the issue of about 4,000 missing Azerbaijanis was discussed with international organizations.
Asgarov and Guliyev were detained by the Armenian armed forces in July 2014 while visiting their native places and graves of loved ones in the occupied Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan. Moreover, Armenian forces killed the third captivated Azerbaijani, Hasan Hasanov.
Later, Guliyev and Asgarov were judged illegally by the unrecognized courts of a separatist regime in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. Following an expedited “judicial process” in December 2015, Asgarov was sentenced to life imprisonment and Guliyev to 22 years. Attempts of Azerbaijan to provide justice and to free the hostages are still unsuccessful.
The information by Azerbaijan’s State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons says that 872 Azerbaijani missing persons were captured or became hostages of Armenian soldiers due to the intense combat action during the Nagorno-Karabakh war and they are currently kept in caption.
Azerbaijan agrees on expansion of OSCE office
Hajiyev said Azerbaijan positively responded to proposals on increasing the number of staff members of the OSCE chairperson-in-office personal representative’s office, noting that this issue was discussed during the year. He noted that this issue was also reflected in the latest statement of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Hajiyev added that the increase in the number of staff members of the OSCE chairperson-in-office personal representative’s office should be conducted in parallel with substantive and intensive negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
List of undesirable persons
Hajiyev also spoke of the list of undesirable persons of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, noting that it includes 600 people.
“In 2017, Azerbaijan was requested to remove the names of 10 people from the list of undesirable persons,” he said. “The names of some of them were removed from the list, the appeals of others are being considered.”
Speaking about the Turkish citizens who illegally visited the Nagorno-Karabakh, Hajiyev noted the Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies continue staying in contact with Turkish law enforcement agencies in this regard.
The spokesman emphasized that as a result of propaganda and awareness-raising efforts, people no longer believe in Armenia’s lies, and foreign ministries of some countries have posted news on their websites that there is legal liability for such visits.
Any individuals paying illegal visits to Nagorno-Karabakh and other regions of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia are included in the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s ‘black list.’ The ministry and diplomatic missions pay special attention to the illegal activity in the occupied areas of the country.
Baku to host ministerial conference of Non-Aligned Movement
The spokesperson also informed that preparatory work is carried out for the mid-term Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, which is to be held in Baku on April 3-6, 2018.
Hajiyev said that Azerbaijan will chair the Non-Aligned Movement in 2019-2022, and the next summit will also be held in Azerbaijan in 2019.
The Non-Aligned Movement unites about 120 states of the world on the principles of non-participation in any major power blocs. The purpose of the organization is set to ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries. Azerbaijan joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 2011.
In his speech Hajiyev also said that Azerbaijan condemns rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia. The spokesman noted that such negative circumstances can cause tension in the region.
“We call on to increase the political and diplomatic efforts in order to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he added.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz