By Akbar Mammadov
Armenia is artificially changing the demographic composition of occupied Kalbajar and is illegally exploiting its mineral resources, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on April 2 that marks the 27th anniversary of Kalbajar’s occupation by Armenian forces.
Kalbajar’s was occupied by Armenian forces on April 2, 1993. The offensive for the occupation of Kalbajar, located outside the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, was carried out mainly from the territory of Armenia, and Armenian heavy artillery, Mi-24 helicopters and military planes were used during the occupation.
Kalbajar’s occupation was followed by the UN Security Council Resolution 822 that stressed the inadmissibility of the use of force to gain territory and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces from the occupied Kalbajar and other regions. Following the adoption of this resolution, the OSCE Minsk Group prepared a "timetable for emergency measures" for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. However, Armenia has refused to comply with the requirements of UN Security Council resolutions.
As a result of the occupation, about 60,000 residents of Kalbajar were subjected to ethnic cleansing, expelled from their native lands, 511 civilians were killed, 321 people were taken prisoner and went missing. Currently, more than 70,000 Kalbajar residents live as IDPs in various regions of Azerbaijan.
The ministry reminded that the Armenian occupation destroyed the ancient and rich material and cultural heritage of Kalbajar, and the original architectural features of the monasteries located in the region and belonging to the ancient Albanian Christian heritage of Azerbaijan were changed and Armenianized.
The ministry also commented on the April 2, 2016 clashes on the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops, saying that the shelling of civilians by Armenian forces once again showed that the presence of Armenian armed forces in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is a major threat to peace and security in the region.
“In response to the Armenian attacks, as a result of the counter-offensive measures of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, the security of the Azerbaijani civilian population was ensured and strategically important Azerbaijani territories were liberated from occupation,” the ministry's statement reads.
The MFA emphasized that the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, including Kalbajar, is temporary. Armenia is responsible for all illegal activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and will eventually be held accountable for these illegal actions.
“The Armenian side must put an end to the policy of aggression and ethnic cleansing, comply with its international obligations, as well as UN resolutions and decisions of other international organizations demanding the liberation of Azerbaijani territories.
“The only way to achieve lasting peace is the unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, ensuring the inalienable rights of IDPs to return to their native lands," the statement concludes.
Akbar Mammadov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AkbarMammadov97
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz