By Vafa Ismayilova
After restoring its territorial integrity in a 44-day war with Armenia in autumn 2020, Azerbaijan is taking measures to ensure safety and restore order in the region. One of such measures is to stop drug flow in the region that was previously controlled by an illegal regime set up by Armenia.
Over its 30-year occupation of Azerbaijani territories, Armenia has used Karabakh and adjacent seven regions for its illegal activities, including arms and drugs trafficking. Although Azerbaijan repeatedly raised the issue before the international organizations, Armenia continued in the same vein, creating all the necessary conditions there for the illegal cultivation, production, and further distribution of narcotic substances.
Armenian-planted drugs in Karabakh
Azerbaijani police officers seized and burned 1,200 hemp bushes with a total weight of 800 kilograms from the plantation discovered in liberated Aghdam region's Jinli village on May 19. Later, police found hemp bushes in liberated Kalbajar region on May 20. In October 2020, during the hostilities in Fuzuli region, Azerbaijani servicemen stumbled upon a large drug plant and a laboratory.
All the aforesaid facts once again confirm Azerbaijan's earlier statements that Armenia used the controlled Azerbaijani lands for drug trafficking and drug production.
In its official statement made before the second Karabakh war, Azerbaijan's Interior Ministry said that the "occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 administrative districts adjacent to it, 132 kilometers of the state border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran got out of legitimate control. The situation currently existing in the area appears very beneficial for the cultivation of drug-containing plants and the production of narcotic drugs pending their subsequent transportation abroad".
The ministry then stressed that "lots of narcotics are produced and illegal funds derived from are used for strengthening military positions of Armenia at those places, transit of narcotics and for the unimpeded activity of secret training bases of international terrorist organizations".
Various news sources earlier reported the safest route used by drug traffickers passing through Armenia and occupied Azerbaijani lands consisted of Afghanistan-Iran-Armenia-Russia, Karabakh-Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia, Karabakh-Armenia-Russia, and dugs were mostly transported from Russia to Europe.
Until the war, Nagorno-Karabakh continued to remain as one of the international drug trafficking routes, and training camps for terrorist groups due to the lack of practical international steps against Armenia. Azerbaijan's victory in the war, which allowed it to regain control over its lands, will absolutely repel further threats not only for the country but the whole region and the world.
Although the US State Department, UN, and the PACE reports confirmed the aforesaid facts, the world did not care about the situation.
In 2000, the US State Department report on the strategy of international drug control reflects the facts of drug trafficking in occupied Karabakh. The State Department report for 2001 indicated the use of the occupied territories for drug trafficking, and Armenia, according to its geographical location, is considered as a potential subject in international drug trafficking. The fact of growing drug-containing plants on the occupied territories was also reflected in the PACE report on Nagorno-Karabakh. UN reports confirmed the presence of laboratories for the processing of narcotic substances in Nagorno-Karabakh, local media recently reported.
Political analyst Tofiq Abbasov said in an interview with Day.az news website that throughout the whole occupation term, Armenia had shown that it holds very dubious values.
"A completely disregarding attitude to international legal norms facilitates the flourishing of crime within the country and counts on the involvement of external drug smuggling, trafficking and drug trafficking forces in this process. In fact, both Armenia itself and the territories that were temporarily under its control were turned into a grey zone," he said.
The analyst said that official Baku, Azerbaijani diplomats and parliamentarians have repeatedly informed the international community and structures about the inadmissibility of Armenia's violation of international law, but these appeals were not taken into account. He stressed that the international community should not ignore Baku's warnings over the issue to prevent further regional threats.
"Baku is a hundred times right when it says that Armenia is a zone of trouble and on this basis, the appetites of all kinds of dubious elements, speculators, international dealers in arms, drugs and human organs have grown there. The international community should not ignore these warnings. All measures must be taken to prevent our region from becoming a big black market," he said.
After Azerbaijan launched its satellites, thanks to images from space, it began to receive indisputable evidence that Armenian smugglers were engaged in the cultivation of hemp and other drug-containing plants on the occupied lands. The arms trade flourished there, Abbasov said.
Armenia's illegal activities in Karabakh
The lack of control over the occupied territories and the failure of international organizations to take appropriate steps in this direction deepened the problem, showing that the uncontrolled areas used for transnational crime are a source of an international threat. Because the drugs transported from Karabakh reached Europe and even the United States. Moreover, drugs transported from Karabakh were widely sold in Russia and in other CIS countries, according to earlier media reports.
In his interview with Day.az, Tofiq Abbasov also confirmed the aforesaid.
"As you know, a whole network has been created in Armenia under the Defence Ministry's patronage, which actually merged with the international criminals. Russian criminal circles acted as intermediaries and buyers. Their representatives very often visited Armenia and then occupied Karabakh. After [acting Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan came to power, blatant facts were revealed about the participation in black business of the Defence Ministry and political circles under the leadership of [former Armenian Presidents] Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan," he said.
He noted that evidence was obtained that Armenia is also involved in the smuggling of radioactive waste.
"Under the guise of waste, prohibited substances used in the operation of the Armenian NPP were brought to the 'market'. At one time, in connection with such facts, a loud scandal erupted, in which not only the Armenians but also their Russian and Arab accomplices were involved," he said.
Commenting on reasons for the appearance of Russia's non-exportable weapons in Armenia, Abbasov said that "no one doubts that this happened with the participation of the domestic Armenian segment, which for many years was involved in the smuggling of weapons and technology to Armenia".
Persisting threat from Armenia to neighbors
Abbasov warned against still persisting threat from Armenia to its neighbors.
"Despite the defeat in the war, the Armenians still continue to be in the regime of, let's say, the weightlessness of the law. The smuggling network has a very powerful root system, and many criminal circles warm their hands on it. They have their own clientele, orders, and contracts which continue to come in, and in this respect, of course, it is not surprising that many risks for Armenia's neighbors come from this country. And the Armenian authorities, due to the deplorable state of the country, turn a blind eye to many illegal actions," he added.
The expert drew attention to the smuggling of arms of mass destruction into Armenia, saying that this was proved by the shelling of Shusha by the Iskander missile.
"Although the missiles did not work, the fact remains that they somehow got to Armenia and from there were transported to Karabakh," he said.
Abbasov believes that for certain Russian pro-Armenian circles, Armenia has turned into a very convenient base for the implementation of black operations there for the prohibited and non-traditional arms trade.
"Usually, these black operations are carried out using forged documents. Aircraft of those companies that specialize in illegal flights are chartered. Everyone remembers that during the war, Azerbaijan more than once recorded illegal flights of large-tonnage aircraft, among which was the personal property of the Russian businessman Karapetyan, who bought the aircraft and actively used it to smuggle weapons, missile systems, and offensive technologies," Abbasov said.
The expert added that everything suggests that there is a complete chain of businessmen from Armenia, Russia and other countries, which even today continues to smuggle weapons, drugs, and illegal materials.
Abbasov said that Russia should pay special attention to the facts in question as the current situation is very dangerous for the interests of other peoples and countries.
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