Azerbaijan rules out partial return of occupied territories
By Sara Rajabova
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has always stated that the country's territorial integrity would be restored and the return of only five-seven regions is out of question.
Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov made the remark on July 9 commenting on the recent reports about the possibility of returning to Azerbaijan some regions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian media quoted U.S. Ambassador to Yerevan, John Heffern as saying that all occupied regions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh with the exception of Lachin corridor must be returned to Azerbaijan.
Azimov said Azerbaijan's position is that the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions should be liberated. He went to add that Azerbaijan had always put emphasize on this position.
Furthermore, Azimov noted that some concrete steps need to be taken to find a settlement for the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which emerged in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
Azimov said Azerbaijani has repeatedly stated that it is ready for negotiations to settle the problem.
He further stressed that Azerbaijan's proposals in these negotiations are clear, adding that it is important to carry out specific activities, including preparing a time table for the liberation of the occupied territories, the transfer of control of the territories to Azerbaijan simultaneously with withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied lands, restoration of local authorities and final works.
Azimov went on to say that only then, the two sides can work on final steps for a peaceful coexistence in the region.
He said after the return of the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh to the occupied lands, both communities will re-learn to live together and establish cooperation.
Since a lengthy war in the early 1990s that displaced over one million Azerbaijanis, Armenian armed forces have occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions.
Peace talks, mediated by Russia, France and the U.S. through the OSCE Minsk Group, are underway on the basis of a peace outline proposed by the Minsk Group co-chairs and dubbed the Madrid Principles. The negotiations have been largely fruitless so far.
The UN Security Council's four resolutions on Armenian withdrawal have not been enforced to this day.