By Vafa İsmayilova
The appearance of the Zangazur topic on Azerbaijan's agenda with new angles has generated hysteria in Armenia. President Ilham Aliyev’s latest remarks about Zangazur’s historical and geographical belonging to Azerbaijan and his decree to establish the East Zangazur economic zone made Armenia finally realize that territorial claims against neighbors could have a boomerang effect.
Some experts believe that fearing the loss of Zangazur, Armenia, perhaps for the first time in history, understands the importance of the “territorial integrity” concept.
“Maybe this concept will soon prevail in their foreign policy, as opposed to the popular expansionist policy,” Vice-Rector Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy Fariz Ismailzade tweeted.
Some analysts question the hysteria of Armenia, the country which has open territorial claims to Azerbaijan, perpetrated a bloody massacre in the early 1990s, carried out ethnic cleansing and kept foreign lands under its occupation for almost 30 years.
East Zangazur economic zone
On July 14, President Aliyev described West Zangazur as Azerbaijan’s historical land handed over to Armenia during the Soviet era.
“The East Zangazur economic zone has been established. Armenia has now raised hysteria about this issue. There is no need for that because East Zangazur is our historical land. West Zangazur is our historical land. We cannot forget history. We cannot become hostages of anyone's political interests. Let them look up historical documents and maps and see when the Soviet government tore Zangazur apart from Azerbaijan and handed it over to Armenia. This is a relatively recent date – 101 years ago,” he said.
The head of state underlined that Azerbaijanis will return to their historical lands.
“It is now being said in Armenia that Ilham Aliyev is making territorial claims. If there is East Zangazur, then there is also West Zangazur. Yes, West Zangazur is our ancestral land. I said that we have to go back there. I said this 10 years ago. All my speeches are available in the media. I said that it is the land of our ancestors, that we must return there, we will return and we are already returning there. No one can stop us. We will definitely return because there is no other way,” he stressed.
Historian Ramin Alizada said that the establishment of the Karabakh and East Zangazur economic zones will allow Azerbaijan to ensure not only its geographical but also its socio-economic integrity.
“The main point here is the restoration of Zangazur’s historical name. The officialization of a part of it under the name of East Zangazur is the restoration of historical justice. This is a message to the entire world that if there is east of Zangazur, which is Azerbaijan’s historical territory, it did have a west as well,” he said.
Alizada noted that the construction of the Zangazur corridor will not only lead to the economic revival of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which has been under blockade for many years but also pave the way for the unification of Azerbaijan’s historical lands in the near future.
Political analyst Elshan Mammadov described the decree about the East Zangazur economic zone as “a very important decision”.
“The decree... gives grounds to say that the Pashinyan government should be beware of us. Just as before, he ignored the warnings of Azerbaijan and received a huge blow from us, and if Armenia and its supporters commit such provocative actions against Azerbaijan, they may see the ‘Iron Fist’ in their heads again,” he said.
The expert urged the fulfillment of all terms of the November 10 Azerbaijani-Russian-Armenian trilateral peace deal. He described the withdrawal of all Armenian troops from Azerbaijan as quite relevant, reiterating the recent Armenian provocations on the border and liberated lands.
“In this regard, Russia must also act responsibly and do its best to implement the trilateral declaration,” he said.
Elshan Mamamdov stressed that if someone interferes in Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and wants to disrupt the new regional situation, they will “inevitably face the extensive discussion of Azerbaijan’s historical lands”.
Meanwhile, Fariz Ismailzade tweeted that “Armenians shooting at Azerbaijani villages and thus violating November 10 agreements are actually challenging President Putin’s policy in the region”.
Meanwhile, Day.az stressed that official Baku started to announce the historical Azerbaijani names of cities, reservoirs, regions and mountain systems of present-day Armenia only after it became finally clear that the latter does not agree to peace and intends to increase the tension, seeking external support for revenge.
“Earlier, Azerbaijan tried to adhere to the protocol, hoping that the defeat in the war would sober up its neighbors and change their unhealthy thinking towards good neighborliness. But that did not happen,” the website noted.
Yerevan’s actual refusal to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity means that Azerbaijan no longer considers itself obliged to recognize Armenian’s territorial integrity.
“This does not mean that we are preparing to go to war with our neighbors and reclaim the vast territories that belong to us by historical law, but we have every right to call things by their proper names,” Day.az said.
So, Azerbaijan has no plans to hold multi-year discussions with Armenia. The only thing that Baku will discuss with Yerevan is a peace treaty.
“I have said several times that we are ready to sign a peace agreement with Armenia... However, there is no reaction from Armenia, there is no official reaction. The information we have received through unofficial channels is that Armenia is not ready for this... We believe that the issue has been resolved and there should be a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There must be recognition of each other's territorial integrity, recognition of borders, and delimitation work must begin. I should also say that international organizations are now reacting positively to the delimitation work. If Armenia does not want to do that, it is up to it, but let them think carefully before it is too late,” Aliyev said.
The president said Armenia will regret the situation if it negatively reacts to Azerbaijan’s proposal. He pledged that Azerbaijan will only move forward and turn Karabakh and East Zangazur into a paradise.
Military expert Adalat Verdiyev said even after its shameful defeat, Armenia refuses to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
“In this case, Azerbaijan also has the right not to fulfill the requirements arising from the terms of the [November] peace deal. If Armenia does not recognize our country’s territorial integrity, then why should Azerbaijan recognize the territorial integrity of the other side? Azerbaijan has never had, does not have and will not have such an obligation,” the expert said.
Zangazur’s history and geography
Expert Ilgar Valizada believes that it was no coincidence that Aliyev noted both the historical and geographical belonging of Zangazur to Azerbaijan.
The East Zangazur economic region is located on the territory of the Zangazur ridge, its two spurs - Bargushad and Meghri, which are an integral part of the unified Zangazur mountainous region.
Zangazur region has existed as an administrative-territorial unit for about 56 years. It was created in 1873 in the Yelizavetpol (Ganja) province. In 1918-1920 it existed as an administrative-territorial unit within the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. At the conference of the League of Nations, Zangazur was approved as an integral part of the administrative-territorial division of Azerbaijan.
However, with the establishment of the Soviet power, in the late 1920s, under pressure from the central authorities, Zangazur was divided into two parts. Lachin, Gubadli, and Zangilan remained in Azerbaijan, and the remaining four regions occupied by the Armenians in front of the "security guarantor" - the 11th Red Army, with the exception of pastures, were transferred to Armenia. Later, the Armenians also appropriated the pastures.
“I consider one of the most important results of the 44-day war to be on the agenda is the creation of the Zangazur transport corridor. And on July 7, another important step was taken - the East Zangazur economic region was created, which makes the eastern part of Zangazur an integral part of the Azerbaijani territory,” Valizada said.
As for the prospects for the return of Azerbaijanis to Zangazur, in the new geopolitical realities, when communications are unblocked, conditions for peaceful and safe living of people within the geography of the region are created, then Azerbaijanis will have the opportunity to return to the lands of their ancestors, live and work in the future, he added.
“It must be said that after the end of the Karabakh conflict, great opportunities have opened up in the region for the implementation of large-scale economic and humanitarian projects. If Armenia joins their implementation, it will open up great opportunities for Armenia itself. All fears and assumptions are aimed at disorienting the Armenian society, reinforcing the image of the enemy that has developed over the past decades. This tactic is inappropriate, does not correspond to the realities of today, and must be reconsidered by Armenia," Valizada stressed.
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