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Game is afoot: Reintegration of Karabakh Armenians into the fabric of Azerbaijani society commences

1 March 2023 17:59 (UTC+04:00)
Game is afoot: Reintegration of Karabakh Armenians into the fabric of Azerbaijani society commences
Sabina Mammadli
Sabina Mammadli
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Azerbaijan has broken the logjam that kept the long-anticipated revival of contacts with ethnic Karabakh’s Armenians to reintegrate them into the fabric of its own society and end Yerevan’s unauthorized intervention and command over the regional population.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly initiated contacts with representatives of the breakaway region following the victory in the second Karabakh war though they were torpedoed by foreign countries and the latest intruder was the self-styled “state minister” of the separatist Karabakh, Ruben Vardanyan, viewed as the man of Russia though the latter distanced from him.

Driven by its own peace agenda and reconciliation, Azerbaijan has been vocal about its position on Karabakh residents of Armenian origin. President Ilham Aliyev and other officials have repeatedly stated that Karabakh’s Armenian residents are Azerbaijani citizens and will be provided with all the rights envisaged by the Azerbaijani constitution for other citizens of the country.

Back in 2022, in an interview with AzTV on August 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani president spoke about unfolding contacts with ethnic Armenians of the separatist region and the determination of his government to overcome obstacles through new projects the region has not seen for 30 years.

“Today, there is no Karabakh issue on the agenda of the normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There were such attempts, but I never agreed to that. What does Armenia have to do with it? This is our affair. There is no talk of status at the negotiating table now. What is being discussed? The rights and security of the Armenians living in Karabakh. I have said yes, their rights and security will be ensured by the state of Azerbaijan, and I always do what I say,” the president said, adding that “these contacts are already taking place. And this is very important – I welcome them. People-to-people contacts will contribute to lasting peace.”

The resolute steps of the Azerbaijani president, his insistent calls for the elements sabotaging the people-to-people contacts and normalization process be removed from the region, the unity between the nation and government expressed in the form of defense of the national interests and the open-ended protests of the Azerbaijani eco-activists on the major road in Karabakh are among numerous factors that compelled the separatist Vardanyan, designed to be a key figure in retaining the region in tension and fear and under foreign influence, quit the bogus post, and pave the way for contacts.

The news that came today proves the Azerbaijani government’s determination made it happen.

Azerbaijan has assigned MP Ramin Mammadov as a point person for contact with the ethnic Armenians of Karabakh. Moreover, the first meeting between the Azerbaijani official and the representatives of the Armenian residents was already held in the city of Khojaly at the headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping contingent temporarily deployed in the territory of Azerbaijan.

Masim Mammadov, head of the monitoring group inspecting illicit exploitation of Azerbaijani natural resources, made up of experts from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the State Service on Property Issues under the Ministry of the Economy, and AzerGold Closed Joined-Stock Company, also attended the meeting.

Addressing the Munich meeting on February 19, 2023, the Azerbaijani president identified a two-track approach to the situation in the region. First, the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks track. Second, Azerbaijan’s communications with the Armenian population in Karabakh.

“So, this two-track-solution actually separates our talks with Armenia from our internal issues like our communications with Armenians in Karabakh. And also it was agreed with our international partners that there will be discussions on the rights and securities of the Armenian minority in Karabakh. And we are ready to do it. But with those representatives of the Armenian community who lived, who were born, and who lived in Karabakh throughout their life. But not with the person who was exported from Russia to have the leading position in Karabakh. Maybe, export is not the right word, I would probably prefer the word “smuggled into”. Because nobody knows how he emerged in Karabakh and how he is trying and achieving to go back to Yerevan and from there to Moscow, and then back to Yerevan and then to Karabakh,” the president said on February 19.

Armenia’s Sputnik media news agency also reported that the meeting took place, where issues of “resuming the unhindered passage of vehicles” along the Lachin road and the usage of the road for its intended purposes were discussed.

The report added that the parties also discussed “issues of resuming electricity supply and uninterrupted gas supply” though this point should be treated with suspicion as ethnic Armenians in Karabakh have never been tested with power or gas.

The meeting allegedly touched upon the possibility of environmental monitoring by Azerbaijani representatives of two deposits. Agreements were reached on further cooperation, reduction of tension, the establishment of a peaceful life in the region, and the search for ways to resolve the conflict.

Commenting on the day’s major issue, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar welcomed this initiative.

“Encouraging news from Khojaly today regarding contacts between Baku representatives and Karabakh Armenians. Good that discussions appear to have focused both on immediate concerns and broader issues,” he tweeted.

It is worth noting, that back on February 24, a similar meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian representatives was held with the direct participation of Russian peacekeepers. It was also informed that the next such meeting of representatives of official Baku with representatives of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenians might take place in Baku, Ganja, or Agdam.

There is momentum and progress now that needs to be retained at the right and workable level to overcome discrepancies and bring about a normalization of the situation in the region and fuller integration of the Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijani society.

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

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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