PKK presence in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region puts regional peace at risk

2 November 2020 17:34 (UTC+04:00)

By Vafa Ismayilova

The Turkish president has officially confirmed intelligence reports on the relocation of at least 2,000 PKK terrorists in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made public details of his conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a few days ago.

“We have identified, through intelligence sources, that there are some 2,000 PKK terrorists fighting for Armenia at the moment for $600” and warned “if our red lines are crossed, we would not hesitate to take action," Erdogan said.

PKK presence

Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, other senior officials and security agencies repeatedly warned against the presence of PKK terrorists from Syria, Iraq and other Middle East countries in the region. Professionally hired militants and terrorists being resettled to Nagorno-Karabakh is accepted as a war crime under international law, putting peace and stability in the region at risk.

Armenia’s dangerous actions to involve PKK terrorists in its clashes with Azerbaijan are believed to be one of the major destabilizing factors in the region of strategic importance as Azerbaijan provides energy and transport links to Georgia, Turkey and Europe. Through its irresponsible actions, Armenia threatens major infrastructure projects like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, and puts European energy and transport security at huge risk.

Earlier, several times Yerevan claimed that Syrian mercenaries being deployed to fight along with Azerbaijani troops against the Armenian military.

Although Baku denied the allegations Yerevan continues to use these allegations against Azerbaijan as part of its fake information war starting 27 September. Since then, Armenia has been employing all possible means in its fake propaganda campaign to discredit Azerbaijan.

In an interview with an Italian TV channel on 26 October, President Ilham Aliyev once again dismissed the allegations about Azerbaijan and Turkey sending mercenaries from Syria to Karabakh via Turkey.

“We strongly reject these insinuations... We have 100,000 soldiers of the regular army... Therefore, this is all lies and slander... I suggest that those who want to accuse us first deal with them and then make such hasty conclusions based on false information,” Aliyev said.  Aliyev said that Azerbaijan has so far received no official evidence proving the allegations. Addressing the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries, who earlier voiced similar concerns about the claims, Aliyev said in an interview with Haber Turk: “As for the participation of foreign citizens, let them look at Armenia. How many foreign terrorists are there? PKK camps exist there, as well as there are PKK camps in Karabakh.”

Apart from the abovementioned, Armenia repeatedly stated that Syrian mercenaries allegedly fought together with the Azerbaijani soldiers wearing the uniforms of Azerbaijani border guards.

"We wish to remind that most recently, Armenia had released an utterly unprofessional fake video regarding foreign mercenaries in uniforms of the State Border Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan, alleging that mercenaries were fighting on Azerbaijan's side," Azerbaijani Presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev commented on the issue on his official Twitter account.

“The Armenian side may also dress PKK terrorists and Armenian soldiers in military uniforms of the Azerbaijani Army, organize perpetration of military crimes against the civilian Armenian population, and attempting to put the responsibility on Azerbaijan," Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev wrote on Twitter.

He recalled that the situation was similar in Azerbaijan’s Sumqayit in 1988.

"We recall very well the fact that in 1988. Armenia's intelligence agencies, aided by the USSR's Committee of State Security, through an Armenian criminal Eduard Grigoryan, had organized pogroms of the civilian Armenian population in Sumgayit and later blamed Azerbaijan for that," Hajiyev said in an interview with the Turkish media earlier.

Hajiyev expressed Baku’s concern over the presence of PKK terrorists in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.

“They established a corridor to bring the PKK into Azerbaijan’s occupied territories,” Hajiyev said. He added there are also PKK camps in the area, while the tactics used by Armenia indicate a PKK presence.

“Forming tunnels in the region, digging ditches and the firing systems are all unique to the PKK. Azerbaijan has determined PKK presence in the front rows of Armenian fronts with regards to their movement, tactics and differences of appearance,” Hajiyev said.

He said that according to the latest intelligence from captured Armenian officers, some 200 PKK terrorists would cross into Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia.

Hajiyev noted that all countries that do not see the PKK as a terrorist organization contribute to crimes against humanity.

The presidential aide said that foreign fighters from Libya, Syria, Lebanon, as well as the USA, Canada and France, in particular, were fighting among the ranks of Armenia’s armed forces.

Some researchers state that this is not the first time Armenia has been recruiting terrorists and paid mercenaries for its own interests. Such was also the case during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s. Even back in the Soviet times, Kurds were instrumentalised by Russia and Armenia, the former having established the autonomous region of Red Kurdistan in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1923-1929 to facilitate the resettlement of Kurds living in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran to the region. 

The PKK is listed as an armed terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA, the European Union, Australia, Japan, and Azerbaijan. Since 1984, the PKK terrorist organization has been involved in an armed conflict with Turkey in an attempt to carve out an independent Kurdish state, later changing its demand to Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. As a result of its bloody actions and terror tactics, tens of thousands of military and civilian, including women, children and infants, were killed over the past decades.

Illegal resettlements in occupied lands

Efforts to change the demographics of the occupied territories by bringing in ethnic Armenians from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, even though unlawful, is another concerning point for Azerbaijan.

The artificial resettlement policies of Armenia following the explosion in Beirut on August 4 this year and the Syrian War in 2009, aimed to change the demographics of Nagorno-Karabakh. The action is a violation of international law, the Geneva Convention and various international agreements.

The settlement of Armenians in the occupied territories outraged the Azerbaijani government and public, adding more fuel to the already-strained tensions between the sides, earlier enflamed by the border clashes in this July.

In his address in this September, President Ilham Aliyev said that Armenia will be held accountable for its policy of illegal settlement in the occupied territories.

“Several Lebanese-Armenian families have recently been resettled to Nagorno-Karabakh, including Shusha, an ancient city in Azerbaijan. It amounts to a war crime and contravenes the Geneva Convention. Armenia will be held accountable for this crime. It is another provocation against us. Settlement in the occupied territories is a crime, and Armenia has pursued this policy for many years. The fact is that the country's population is shrinking due to Armenia's difficult economic, political, and social situation. Armenia is experiencing a demographic crisis and does not have the human resources to deploy its people in the occupied territories,” Aliyev said.

Later Hikmet Hajiyev reiterated that “Armenia aims to alter the demographic situation across Azerbaijan’s occupied territories by pursuing the illegal settlement policy”.

Referring to international law, Hajiyev noted that the Geneva Convention of 1949 proscribes the transfer of the civilian population of the occupying state into the territory it occupies. “Ironically, such actions are considered a crime under Armenia’s own legislation. In Article 390 of Armenia’s Criminal Code, the occupying power’s deportation of the local population and transfer of its people to the occupied territories is a grave violation of international humanitarian law, punishable by 8–12 years of imprisonment,” Hajiyev told Azertag on September 12.

Thanks to satellite imagery provided by Azercosmos, Azerbaijan’s satellite operator, Baku has been able to track the expansion of new settlements in this region.

On September 14, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry sent a letter of protest to OSCE Minsk Group, the international institution tasked with the mediation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“We call on the international community to take practical steps to hold accountable the Armenian government, which keeps the Azerbaijani territories under occupation and [is] carrying out illegal activities in these lands,” the Azerbaijani ministry declared.

Although the Minsk Group has yet to comment on Azerbaijan’s appeal, the international body’s previous fact-finding missions in the occupied territories, in 2005 and 2010, already reported evidence of new settlements.

In 2005, the Minsk Group co-chairs warned against the potential repercussions of this process and said that it seriously complicates the peace process.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated on September 27 when Armenian armed forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands made military provocations against Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions. The ongoing clashes mark the most intense fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces since 1994 when a ceasefire was reached. Armenia's offensive prompted immediate Azerbaijan’s counter-attack measures.

In retaliation, Azerbaijani troops have so far liberated the occupied cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan and Gubadli, as well as dozens of villages, settlements and strategic heights in the districts of Tartar, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Khojavend, Zangilan, Gubadli and Kalbajar.

As a result of the bloody war with Azerbaijan, Armenia occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories – the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. Azerbaijan faced a humanitarian crisis during the war, in which 30,000 of its citizens were killed, while one million others were forcibly displaced from their homeland.

Although the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from Azerbaijani lands and the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their ancestral lands. Armenia failed to comply with all of the legally binding documents.

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