Azerbaijani FM talks post-conflict normalization, reconstruction
The role of certain third parties to embolden Armenia’s revanchist behavior is cause for serious concern, as it tempts Armenia to resort to increased military provocations and bellicose rhetoric, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said.
He made the remarks speaking at the Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels on December 12.
Talking about the normalization process with Armenia, the minister stressed that 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.
“Over this year, facilitation by EU Council President Mr. Charles Michel provided momentum for post-conflict normalization. The trilateral meetings in Brussels proved to be productive. Azerbaijan continues to support this format and remains ready for further engagement,” he stated.
Noting the importance to respect impartiality and neutrality, strict respect for international law, and consent of the parties, which lie at the heart of any mediation or facilitation efforts, Bayramov stated that Azerbaijan’s approach is clear, consistent, and based on international law.
Further, he added that one of the tangible outcomes of the Brussels meeting on August 31 was the kick-off of the bilateral negotiations on the text of a future peace treaty.
“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,” the official said.
He stressed that despite increased dynamism in bilateral negotiations, progress remains rather limited as Armenia sticks to the past practice of imitation. According to him, Armenia tries to avoid implementing the undertaken obligations in all three major tracks of interstate normalization, namely, signing a peace treaty, delimitation of borders, and opening regional communications. He added that Armenia has also yet to fully withdraw its illegal armed formations from the territories of Azerbaijan and delays the restoration of transport links
“Instead, following reckless provocation along the undelimited state border in mid-September, Armenia has embarked on a smear campaign against Azerbaijan to hijack the normalization agenda,” Bayramov stated.
Speaking at the event, the minister specified that Azerbaijan has embarked on large-scale post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reintegration efforts, planning to allocate $1.8 billion from the state budget for this purpose in 2023.
“This year the first group of displaced persons has already been resettled in the newly-built Aghali village marking the practical start of the Great Return program, which targets around 700,000 displaced Azerbaijanis,” he added.
Besides, he emphasized that Azerbaijan is resolute to re-integrate its citizens of Armenian origin residing in post-conflict territories, guaranteeing the same rights and freedoms as all the citizens of Azerbaijan.
“The constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan provides a solid legal framework in this regard. Increased dialogue and contacts between central Azerbaijani authorities and local ethnic Armenian residents aim at ensuring peaceful co-existence and needs to be encouraged and sustained,” he stressed.
Later, the minister talked about the massive contamination of territories of Azerbaijan with land mines and other explosives, which is a key challenge for post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction.
He expressed Azerbaijan’s appreciation for the EU's support for humanitarian demining, noting that given the scale and gravity of the challenge greater international solidarity and support are of vital importance.
Bayramov also informed his opposite numbers about the November 10, 2020, trilateral statement, and the fact that 268 Azerbaijanis have been victims of mine explosions, 45 were killed and 223 wounded among them 9 children and youth, 1 woman, and 3 media representatives.
“By recklessly disregarding the rising humanitarian toll on an almost daily basis, Armenia refuses to share full and accurate information on minefields. On the contrary, it plants new landmines at massive scale in the territory of Azerbaijan,” he emphasized.
Further, Bayramov pointed out that since August this year, 2,728 landmines, made in Armenia in 2021, have been detected in the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan, adding that the minefields of newly planted Armenia-produced mines were checked by the leadership of the Russian peacekeeping contingent and the Joint Russian-Turkish Monitoring Center, as well as military attaches of the embassies accredited to Azerbaijan.
“Apart from being a breach of peace and war crime in itself, the continued planting of landmines cannot but undermine efforts for reconciliation after an almost 30-year-long bloody conflict. The transfer of landmines to the territory of Azerbaijan is a blatant abuse of the Lachin road envisaged for exclusively humanitarian purposes,” he finalized.
In his speech, Bayramov noted that the current meeting is a useful opportunity for an open and sincere exchange of views regarding the current state and future direction of the Eastern Partnership
“Azerbaijan continues to see the Eastern Partnership as an important complementary mechanism for the development of bilateral EU-Azerbaijan relations, which is based on mutual respect, equal partnership, shared interests and benefits,” the minister stressed.
Moreover, he underlined that the EU is one of Azerbaijan’s largest trade and investment partners, and the MoU that the sides signed in July 2022 will be important both in terms of stable and affordable natural gas supply and potential export of green electricity to Europe.
“Next week we will observe the launch of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania-Hungary Black Sea submarine cable project, which will accelerate the energy transition in the participating states. We are also working with our partners on the export of green energy from Azerbaijan to Europe and expect to take an important step in the coming days,” he noted.
Bayramov highlighted that Azerbaijan and the EU also work on the implementation of the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan in Azerbaijan, which is a good example of project-oriented cooperation, noting that the first meeting of the High-Level Joint Working Group was held last week in Baku.
Later, he emphasized the wide economic and investment possibilities of the Trans-Caspian East-West Middle Corridor and the increase of transit flows via Azerbaijan by 70% in 2022.
“The emerging transport hub in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, including the Zangazur Corridor will play a positive role in regional peace and sustainability and will foster intra-regional trade. Difficult times we are living through make it a necessity that EaP adapts and adjusts its activities to the needs and interests of partner states,” the minister continued.
He also expressed his hope for the EU's approach towards the South Caucasus to be adapted taking into account the new situation on the ground, emerging needs, and priorities in the region.
Sabina Mammadli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @SabinaMmdl
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