By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has hailed his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for their roles to boost security in the South Caucasus region.
Aliyev made the remarks during the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who visited Azerbaijan on 21 November. The meeting was also attended by deputy prime ministers Alexander Novak and Alexei Overchuk, Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko, Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) Anna Popova, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board of Russian Railways JSC Oleg Belozerov.
On November 10, Baku and Yerevan signed a Russia-brokered agreement to end fighting and work towards a comprehensive solution.
“A promising new situation has emerged in the region. I am confident that positive trends will continue to grow. In any case, Azerbaijan is ready for this and today we will discuss in detail our vision of how we think the region will develop. Of course, the trilateral statement is an important step towards establishing a strong and lasting peace in our region. I would like to emphasize the personal role of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who very actively and effectively participated in the development of the text of the agreement, and the fact that the agreement is being successfully implemented is largely due to the fact that this text also contains the signature of the President of the Russian Federation,” Aliyev said.
He also underlined Erdogan’s important role strengthening regional security.
“I would also like to note the important role played by the President of Turkey Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan in strengthening security measures in the region. In general, I think that the format of cooperation both in terms of the peacekeeping mission and in terms of the long-term cooperation in the region is acquiring new outlines today. I think that this meets the fundamental interests of the countries of the region because countries of our region should certainly play a leading role, including the matters of strengthening security. What was agreed in the trilateral statement suggests that, with goodwill and a constructive approach, it is possible to resolve issues that previously seemed insoluble,” the head of state noted.
Aliyev expressed his optimism about the fact that Baku and Yerevan had managed to reach the decisions that will allow the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia to live in peace, to try to think about a common and safe future for the two countries and their neighbours and thus contribute to the strengthening of regional security.
The president was also upbeat about the fact that “other members of the Minsk Group who did not directly participate in the elaboration of provisions of the statement have also expressed their attitude, a positive attitude towards the text of the statement, albeit with a slight delay”.
“I think that their positive approach to the statement will also play an important role in strengthening security measures and long-term peace,’ he added.
The president expressed the hope that the phrase “Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” again will not be heard further.
“When we talk about Nagorno-Karabakh, we will only hear news related to the development, elimination of the consequences of the war and reconciliation of the countries that were once at war with each other,” he said.
In turn, Lavrov said that the Russian delegation’s visit to Azerbaijan reflected Putin’s intention to actively support efforts to implement the trilateral agreement signed by Baku, Yerevan and Moscow and “emphasize the special strategic nature” of Russia’s partnership with Azerbaijan.
“The conversations that will be held with our colleagues in their areas of our interaction today will, of course, be aimed at ensuring that our bilateral relations advance and flourish for the benefit of our peoples,” Lavrov said.
The Russian foreign minister highly evaluated Azerbaijan’s support for the agreement.
“Not everyone immediately perceived this agreement correctly, trying to interpret it not from the point of view of the result, which consisted in stopping the bloodshed, in the transition to a peaceful life, in establishing a recovery process, and in solving humanitarian problems, and attempted to interpret it through the prism of geopolitical games, which, of course, does not meet the requirements of the modern world. We particularly appreciate the fact that the President of Azerbaijan, dear Ilham Heydar oglu, always emphasizes the task of reconciliation in this region, which, as we are deeply convinced, is the whole point of further work if we really think about the people and not about some introduced interests,” Lavrov added.
Lavrov spoke about the coordinated work among Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to solve humanitarian problems in the interests of returning people.
“This is about the arrangement of civilian infrastructure, the establishment of everything necessary to unblock economic and transport communications and, of course, the involvement of international organizations, the Red Cross, UN agencies on refugees, food affairs, children's problems, UNESCO, which should be more actively involved in the issue of preservation of cultural and religious heritage in this ancient region,” the foreign minister said.
Lavrov expressed his expectations that the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, who have been leading the political process together with Russia for many years, will also join the solution of these issues on the basis of the November agreement.
At the meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on the same day, Aliyev said that the sides will focus on the implementation of the trilateral agreement.
“In our opinion, provisions of the statement are being implemented successfully, and this once again demonstrates the readiness of both the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides to put an end to the long-term conflict and come to a political settlement,” the president said.
Aliyev described the agreement as “very important political document”, which put an end to many years of confrontation.
The president also spoke about the flagrant violation of all international legal norms by Armenia during the hostilities. He added that as a result, 94 Azerbaijani civilians were killed, including children and women, more than 400 were injured and over 3,000 houses were destroyed.
“Cities located near the war zone were subjected to shelling, mortar and artillery shelling almost on a daily basis, but there were also ballistic missile attacks on the cities of Ganja, Mingachevir, Barda and other cities. Those were targeted attacks aimed at killing the civilian population. We have documented all these war crimes, the use of ballistic missiles, cluster munitions and phosphorus munitions, and corresponding instructions have been given in connection with further legal actions to be taken by the Azerbaijani side,” he said.
Aliyev also touched on the participation of foreign mercenaries involved by Armenia in the war.
“Armenia has extensively used foreign mercenaries. We have numerous photo and video documents. We have passports of foreign citizens, in particular, citizens of France, the USA, Lebanon, Canada, Georgia and other countries. Some of these people are of Armenian origin, some are not. This, however, does not change the essence of the issue because the participation of foreign mercenaries on the part of Armenia, of course, is unacceptable,” he said.
The president also noted the presence of the Azerbaijani army units in Agdam region, which was vacated by Armenians troops on 20 November under the peace deal.
“We also welcome the deployment of the peacekeeping mission of the Russian Federation, which works in working contact with our bodies and, as far as we know, with the Armenian side. I believe that this is an important factor in stabilizing the situation, and there have been no serious violations of the ceasefire since the signing of the statement. And I am sure there won't be any,” Aliyev said.
The president praised the active course of Russian-Turkish talks on the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring centre in Azerbaijan.
“We consider this a very important element in strengthening stability and security in this region. We are also grateful to the Turkish leadership and personally to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his participation in creating the prerequisites for the cessation of hostilities. The fact that both Russia and Turkey are two friendly countries for us – our two neighbours will participate in measures to observe the ceasefire and to exercise control over it – also speaks volumes of the strengthening of the format of interaction between our two neighbouring countries, and also within the framework of regional cooperation,” he added.
The president expressed the hope that “the current ceasefire and our further plans to normalize relations with Armenia if perceived positively by the Armenian side, can create a new situation in the region, a situation of cooperation, a situation of strengthening stability and security. Everyone will benefit from this – the peoples inhabiting our region, our neighbours and the whole world will be more secure”.
In turn, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu briefed Aliyev about the measures taken by the Russian peacekeepers under the signed document, which he described as “historic”.
“The peacekeeping forces have already taken up the positions that were determined, i.e. the 23 posts were taken under control in the direction of the highway in order to ensure the security of the line of contact. The return of refugees has begun. All the work that has been done to date is bearing fruit, of course.
As you have said, the ceasefire has been observed during all this time, perhaps with the exception of some rare and what we consider minor exchanges, and I am confident that this will continue to be the case,” the Russian defence minister said.
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