Author: Namig MAYILOV
Azerbaijan celebrated the victory in the Patriotic War and the liberation of its lands from the Armenian occupation on December 10 with a grand parade in Baku. More than 3,000 troopers and 150 units of modern military equipment marched through the Azadliq Square. A small portion of trophies seized from the defeated Armenian army was also demonstrated.
The parade was attended by the President of Azerbaijan, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev and his distinguished guest, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This was natural, since from the very beginning of the counter-offensive operation Ankara was near Baku.
“President Erdogan supported the just cause of Azerbaijan from the very first hours. His open, unambiguous and tough statements made the Azerbaijani people very happy. My brother said that Azerbaijan is right in this war, said that Azerbaijan is not alone, Turkey is always next to Azerbaijan. This is a manifestation of our unity, brotherhood. Turkish political and moral support to Azerbaijan makes every citizen of Azerbaijan proud and happy. Today we are attending the Victory Parade together; we once again demonstrate our unity to our peoples, as well as to the whole world,” Aliyev said at the parade.
President Erdogan drew attention to the natural cause of this support. “In relations with Azerbaijan, Turkey has always been guided by the slogan of the great leader Heydar Aliyev – One nation, two states. In the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the sorrow of Azerbaijan is our own sorrow, its joy is our joy. Therefore, Garabagh has been our pain for thirty years. Today we feel the joy of healing this wound together celebrating this glorious victory,” Mr. Erdogan said in his address at the Victory Parade in Baku.
The moral and political support of Turkey played an instrumental role in the success of Azerbaijan in the war. At the same time, it was the Azerbaijani soldiers and officers who said their decisive word in the war. Only 44 days were enough for Azerbaijan to end the 30-year occupation of its lands. But Baku has repeatedly warned that it reserves the right to liberate the lands by military means. The Victory Parade was the logical result of the messages that Azerbaijan sent to Armenia, and to the whole world during the previous parades. “I said that we were accumulating forces, and we did it. We won this war due to the professionalism, heroism, and national spirit. We were right and just,” President I. Aliyev noted. While progressively developing its economy, increasing the power of the armed forces, strengthening its international positions, Baku has always called the occupation of 20% of its territories problem number one. Accordingly, the entire policy of the country over the years was focused on solving this particular problem.
To peace through war
For many years, Azerbaijan has waited for a peaceful settlement of the Garabagh conflict with patience through the mediation of the international community. A large-scale work has been done to strengthen the legal framework for the settlement of the conflict. Through the efforts of Azerbaijani diplomacy, four resolutions of the UN Security Council demanding the liberation of the Azerbaijani lands from the Armenian occupation were also supported by resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the European Parliament, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international organizations.
Unfortunately, all these documents remained on paper. The peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has demonstrated that the international law has actually served the interests of the major players in world politics. When they need it, it works, when not, the conflict is frozen and the interested parties begin to take advantage. What else can explain the fact that the aggressor country has been regarded as a victim of the conflict? 27 years ago, the world community represented by the UN Security Council recognized the occupation of Azerbaijani territories and demanded the withdrawal of the Armenian occupation forces, but the international mediators represented by the OSCE Minsk Group have talked about some mutual concessions all these years offering various settlement options in the gray area.
At the same time, the mediators calmly watched the provocative actions of the current leadership of Armenia, which actually made the negotiations meaningless. Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan threatened Azerbaijan with the start of "a new war for new territories". Then Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan himself declared Garabagh to be Armenia. At the same time, Pashinyan tried to involve the Armenian separatists of Garabagh to the negotiating table as a separate party.
All these facts have made a military settlement of the conflict inevitable. “We destroyed Armenia on the battlefield. We destroyed the myth the Armenians have created for many years. By spreading false information about their army, they created a myth about the invincible nature of the Armenian army. But we destroyed their army just in just 44 days, including its equipment and manpower. Azerbaijan demonstrated its strength. On November 10, Armenia was forced to sign an act of capitulation. According to the act, the districts of Kalbajar, Lachin and Aghdam were returned to Azerbaijan without a single shot. We raised our flag in these districts. This shows that we have won the war both on the battlefield and on the political arena. Although many, in particular the mediators dealing with this issue, have repeatedly said that the conflict had no military solution. But we have proven that there was a military solution to the conflict. Otherwise, the status quo could have continued for another 30 years,” President Ilham Aliyev said in his speech at the Victory Parade.
Azerbaijan's sole implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions could not but affect the interests of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing states. First, Azerbaijan's military victory was a blow to the authority of the world powers as an arbiter in the settlement of global problems. Secondly, France and the US are concerned about the growing Russian influence in the South Caucasus. Thirdly, the mediating countries are unhappy with Turkey’s involvement in the region. The Kremlin is relatively less irritated, since Ankara coordinates its actions in the region with Russia, and not with Paris and Washington.
Either way, just in 44 days, Azerbaijan achieved what international mediators could not or did not want to achieve for almost 30 years. There is a fundamentally different situation in the region, which questions the need for the further existence of the OSCE Minsk Group. First, as the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia noted, the Daghlig Garabagh conflict is over. Secondly, at least one of the co-chairs of the group, France, has finally compromised itself as an impartial arbiter, unambiguously taking the side of Armenia. Thirdly, the parties to the conflict have already committed themselves to the future improvement of relations.
Nevertheless, there are still attempts to revive the format of the Minsk Group confirmed by the visit of the co-chairs from France and the US to the region. During the meeting with them, President Aliyev said that the settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has changed the situation in the region. “Currently, we have a completely new situation in the region. Azerbaijan settled the 30-years-old conflict by force and political means. I agree with President Putin, one of the heads of the co-chairing states, that the Daghlig Garabagh conflict has already become history. I think the same. Unfortunately, the Minsk Group did not play any role in the settlement of the conflict,” I. Aliyev said letting the co-chairs know of a different format of cooperation developing in the region.
He said that the Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center to be created in the liberated Aghdam district of Azerbaijan will monitor the ceasefire. The President of Azerbaijan called this a manifestation of "acceptable cooperation between Turkey and Russia."
Ilham Aliyev openly stated that he did not invite the Minsk Group to Baku, however he did not refuse to receive them in order to listen: “…the idea to visit Baku was yours. I can say that one more time in front of the cameras. I did not invite the Minsk Group to Baku. But when they told me that they wanted to come, I didn't mind. Maybe they have something to tell me."
Both Stephane Visconti and Andrew Schofer noted that their governments welcome the ceasefire and highly appreciate the provisions of the trilateral statement signed between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. Both France and the US acknowledge the development of a completely new situation in the region. Yet they believe they can play a role in realizing the new agenda.
Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mikhail Bocharnikov, who also attended the meeting, noted that Moscow considers the Minsk Group an important format. “Therefore, we have been participated and continue to participate in the group. I believe that the group's joint position was recently expressed by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in the statement released on December 3. The document expresses a general attitude, and we would be very happy to provide assistance in any area, including, as you said today, Mr. President, in carrying out reconstruction work,” Mr. Bocharnikov said.
Provocations behind the shield?
Meanwhile, Armenia continues its attempts to break the still fragile peace in the region trying to hide behind a Russian shield. Some Armenian militants remained in the forest in the north-west of the Hadrut settlement of the Khojavend district of Azerbaijan. Although Armenia appealed to the command of the Russian peacekeepers with a request to withdraw them from there, the militants refused to leave the territory.
Moreover, on November 26, they suddenly attacked the Azerbaijani troops in the liberated village of Sur (Khojavend) claiming the lives of three Azerbaijani soldiers and injuring two. On December 8, Armenian militants attacked Azerbaijani troops near the village of Hadrut claiming the life of one Azerbaijani soldier and seriously injuring an employee of Azercell.
The State Security Service of Azerbaijan was forced to conduct an anti-terrorist operation in the territory.
Meanwhile, the updated map of the zone controlled by the peacekeeping forces published on the website of the Russian Defense Ministry drew the public attention in Azerbaijan. Thus, the Russian peacekeepers showed the territories of the villages of Chaylaqqala and Kohna Taghlar of Azerbaijan under their control.
According to newspaper Yeni Musavat, “the Azerbaijani community rightly wonders who authorized the Russian peacekeepers to update maps every day. Manipulations with maps and the actions of the Russian peacekeepers that go beyond their competence clearly show that Russia has violated its obligations.”
Some experts suggested that the peacekeepers temporarily designated these territories as their zone of responsibility in order to organise the withdrawal of Armenian gangs from these territories. However, as of preparing this issue of our magazine, there was no official explanation of from the Russian side. We could only hope that the command of the Russian peacekeeping forces would be committed to their obligations, not taking the position of any of the parties to the conflict. This is extremely important for strengthening peace and security in the region, implementing creative programs, as well as maintaining Russia's prestige as a neutral intermediary.