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Azerbaijan determined to reintegrate citizens of Armenian origin into post-conflict processes

2 December 2022 16:51 (UTC+04:00)
Azerbaijan determined to reintegrate citizens of Armenian origin into post-conflict processes

By Sabina Mammadli

Azerbaijan is determined to provide its citizens of Armenian origin with the same rights and freedoms as all the citizens of the country, Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has said, addressing the 29th session of the OSCE Ministerial Council.

“Azerbaijan is resolute to re-integrate its citizens of Armenian origin residing in post-conflict territories into its political, social, and economic space, guaranteeing the same rights and freedoms as all the citizens of Azerbaijan,” the minister said.

Bayramov noted that Azerbaijan’s constitution provides a solid legal framework in this regard, adding that increased dialogue and contacts over the past months between central Azerbaijani authorities and local ethnic Armenian residents need to be encouraged and sustained.

Talking about the return to Karabakh, the foreign minister stressed that enabling hundreds of thousands of IDPs to return to their homes in safety and dignity, and ensuring peaceful life in the post-conflict territories, are the absolute priority for the government of Azerbaijan. He emphasized that the first group of families have recently returned to the Zangilan District’s Aghali village, which was rebuilt based on a “smart village” concept.

OSCE’s mission to Armenia

Speaking about OSCE's decision to send a mission to Armenia, Bayramov stated that sending a so-called “needs assessment mission” to Armenia without consensus is a blatant violation of mandates adopted by the collective will of all participating states.

He stressed that during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the Forum for Security Cooperation, the country was guided by a strong belief that adherence to the fundamental norms, principles, and commitments enshrined in the core OSCE documents, starting from the Helsinki Final Act, in particular, respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers of states, must remain the bedrock of security and stability, as well as the basis for cooperation within the OSCE.

“The principle of consensus-based decision-making is clearly reflected in all major OSCE decisions. For years, Azerbaijan suffered from the misuse of consensus within the organization. Nevertheless, we always advocated for strict adherence to the letter and spirit of cooperative security, firmly underpinning the OSCE and its conflict cycle toolbox,” the minister noted.

He emphasized that the failure to act upon the fact that all OSCE institutions, established as common assets for all participating states, undermines confidence.

He noted that Azerbaijan calls upon these institutions to rectify the gross violation of their mandates.

Similarly, the minister stressed that at a time, when both sides have a real chance to finally move towards sustainable peace, it is essential for the international community, including the OSCE, to persuade Armenia to abandon its attempts to undermine the normalization process.

“Armenia should reciprocate on the constructive offer of Azerbaijan and seize the historic window of opportunity to normalize its relations with Azerbaijan and other neighboring countries. This will pave the way towards peace, security, and cooperation in the region,” he added.

Mine pollution

Moreover, the foreign minister reported that the contamination of liberated territories with mines laid by Armenia on a massive scale is the major impediment to the reconstruction efforts and the return of IDPs.

“Sadly, after the signing of the trilateral statement in November 2020, 268 persons have become mine victims. 45 persons, including 35 civilians, were killed. Recently, 350 landmines were detected in the territory of Azerbaijan. All of them were produced in Armenia in 2021. In total, 2,728 landmines, made in Armenia in 2021, have been found in sovereign territories of Azerbaijan. These mines were transferred through the Lachin road. This is a blatant abuse of this road, which was envisaged for humanitarian purposes only,” the official shared.

Bayramov pointed out that the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force and the leadership of the Joint Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center, as well as foreign military attaches accredited in Azerbaijan, visited this area and inspected the minefield in question.

Bayramov emphasized that Armenia’s failure to provide Azerbaijan with full and accurate mine maps of all liberated territories brings new deaths and injuries, noting that around 55 percent of all mine incidents took place in areas, with respect to which no minefield record was shared by Armenia.

Post-conflict period

During his speech, Bayramov underlined that along with large-scale post-conflict recovery, reconstruction, and reintegration work, Azerbaijan has also initiated the process of normalizing interstate relations with Armenia.

“Despite devastating consequences and unhealed wounds of war and occupation, Azerbaijan offered Armenia peace based on mutual recognition and respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within their state borders. For the past two years my country has been demonstrating strong political will to promote the peace agenda,” he highlighted.

Recalling last year’s meetings in Brussels, Prague, and Sochi at the highest level, as well as his own three meetings with his Armenian colleague, Bayramov stated that all the meetings discussed the preparation of a bilateral treaty on interstate relations.

He reminded the participants that at the last meeting of the foreign ministers in Washington D.C., the sides agreed to expedite negotiations to that end. With this in mind, Azerbaijan has already submitted to Armenia a set of comments on the draft agreement, he added.

“Azerbaijan’s approach is clear, that is, international laws. After an almost 30-year-long absence of the relations, the urgent necessity for the sides is to agree on a legally binding document setting the foundation for their interstate relations. This document shall guarantee their rights as two equal sovereign states and provide a basis for addressing all issues of common interest or concern falling into the realm of inter-state relations,” Bayramov stressed.

Furthermore, the Azerbaijani official noted that despite increased dynamism in bilateral negotiations, the progress remains rather limited in three major tracks of the normalization process, namely, signing a peace treaty, delimitation of borders, and opening regional communications.

According to him, in all three dimensions, Armenia sticks to the past practice of imitation rather than engaging genuinely in the process and despite verbal commitments to the peace agenda, Armenia tries to avoid implementing the obligations it has undertaken.

“In this regard, Armenia has yet to fully withdraw its illegal armed formations from the territories of Azerbaijan. In a similar vein, Armenia artificially delays the restoration of transport links, including by rejecting to provide unimpeded access between mainland Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Instead, Armenia launched a smear campaign against Azerbaijan to hijack the normalization process and distract the attention from non-fulfillment of its commitments,” Bayramov underlined.

The minister noted that the role of certain third parties to embolden Armenia’s revanchist behavior is also cause for serious concern, as it tempts Armenia to resort to increased military provocations and saber-rattling rhetoric.

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Sabina Mammadli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @SabinaMmdl

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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