25 June 2022

Saturday, 11:13


Azerbaijan returned its lands and demonstrated who was their real owner



A year has passed since the end of the victorious counteroffensive of the Azerbaijani army, which was called the 44-day, or Second Garabagh War. A year that changed the realities of our region, full of hopes and expectations.


Scale of recovery VS scale of destruction

Right after the liberatation of the lands from the Armenian occupation, Azerbaijan launched a full-blown restoration campaign on them. It was not easy to do because there were thousands of mines laid on the territory of about 10,000 sq.km, towns, villages, roads, and other infrastructure were in ruins. Under these circumstances, the process of restoration turned into a process of re-construction what once pleased the eyes, brought considerable income, and was a shelter for hundreds of thousands of civilians. From the very first days, the restoration process has been under the direct control of President Ilham Aliyev, who, together with his wife, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, visits the liberated territories almost every month and personally supervises the progress.

Thanks to close attention and personal involvement of the country's top leadership in this process thousands of hectares were cleared, large infrastructure facilities like the Fuzuli International Airport and the Victory Road to Shusha were built, and main power plants were built and restored in the past year. Also, ‘smart villages’ were founded in a number of districts, master plans for several cities were approved, and large-scale construction of other roads and airports began. All this progress was possible in one year only, before the eyes of the international community and the population of the neighbouring Republic of Armenia, which finally understands that all the stories that their own authorities had fed them for decades were nothing but fictitious fairy tales. Not only Azerbaijan returned its lands, but it also demonstrated who was their real owner.

In spring of this year, the overwhelming majority of 65,000 respondents, who took part in the first online sociological study to predict the repatriation potential of population for the effective organisation of this process, noted that they were considering the possibility of returning to native lands.

Armenian re-settlers from the mountainous part of Garabagh, however, despite the pathetic statements of their leaders, are in no hurry to return. According to real data, a little more than 20,000 residents returned to Garabagh so far, those who simply cannot afford living in Armenia or anywhere else. The rest chose to look for a better life outside Garabagh and even Armenia, joining over 12,000 citizens of Armenia who, according to many indications, left the republic forever.


International guests of the region about the realities

On November 4-7, Azerbaijan hosted the 8th Global Baku Forum on the theme World After COVID-19 organized by the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre supervised by the President of Azerbaijan. The culmination of the event was a visit of the forum participants to Shusha.

Meeting of President Ilham Aliyev with the forum participants, opening of a number of facilities in Shusha, as well as the inauguration of the Victory Road connecting Shusha with the rest of Azerbaijan bypassing communications through the zone of peacekeeping forces demonstrated the geopolitical realities of the region.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the Shusha television and radio broadcasting station was of particular importance. The station built in 1966 existed in Soviet times and broadcast TV and radio programs to Garabagh and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Before the occupation of Shusha, Armenians did everything to prevent the broadcast of TV and radio programs to these regions. Since 1992, the station suspended operations. Now, with the revival of the station, its signals will cover the territories of Garabagh, Zangezur, and Nakhchivan.

It is no coincidence that the true scale of Azerbaijan's victory could be felt in Shusha. According to the former president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers, “it is not easy to take a decision on the liberation of lands. You need to be thoroughly prepared and choose the right time. Azerbaijan achieved its goal. As a result, Azerbaijanis celebrate November 8 as the Victory Day.” Another forum participant was the former president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, who said: “It is sad to see the destroyed Shusha; everything is in ruins. But all the destruction can be restored if there is an appropriate attitude and fighting spirit, which the people of Azerbaijan have enough.”


Negotiations continue. What are the changes?

Speaking about the realities of the post-conflict period, we should note that the signing of the November 9 (10) trilateral statement in fact put an end to the involvement of the OSCE Minsk Group into the conflict resolution as a negotiating platform. Now there is a more effective trilateral format, including Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia. Thanks to this format, it is now possible to coordinate the key parameters of post-conflict co-existence and the issues related to the coexistence of the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the future.

Certainly, constructive elimination of all the problems that have accumulated over many years requires a consistent approach, meaning the resolution of all the border issues, opening communications, and preparations for signing a comprehensive peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia based on the norms and principles of international law.

In principle, external players agree with this approach. On November 3, speaking at a briefing at the Russian Foreign Ministry, official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said that Moscow supported the earliest possible launch of the process of delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. According to Zakharova, who voiced the official position of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the launch of delimitation and demarcation processes will make it possible to find a comprehensive solution to the problem between Baku and Yerevan. Consequently, the settlement of border issues with Armenia may have a beneficial effect on the coordination of all the other issues left after the 2020 war.

A day later, speaking at the 8th Global Baku Forum, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov actually repeated this position, noting that with the demarcation of borders relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia would normalise. Earlier in October, Turkish President Recep T. Erdogan also touched upon this issue and called the process of border demarcation and delimitation an important condition for establishing lasting peace in the region.

Thus, we can see that the positions of the parties on this fundamental issue obviously match. It is assumed that if they come to an agreement on the border issue, it will be easier to agree on the recognition of sovereignty over the territories and the procedures for passing the borders, which is a condition for unblocking communications.

According to Azerbaijan, Yerevan is impeding the intensification of processes in the above direction. In his speech at the 8th Global Baku Forum, President Aliyev categorically stated that there was still no response from Armenia to the proposal to conduct delimitation and demarcation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on the basis of recognising the territorial integrity of the two states, as well as concluding a peace treaty. Azerbaijan is ready to sign a peace treaty and to turn the page over. But Armenia has remained silent for about a year.


Border problem

The recent incident on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border is an illustration of the destructive line that the Armenian side prefers to follow. On November 10, approximately 60 Armenian militants made an attempt to disrupt communications between the border posts of the Azerbaijani army, having installed barrage structures and gaining a foothold near the Lake Garagol. However, thanks to the timely action of the Azerbaijani border guards and special forces, Armenians were surrounded and disarmed. Due to the intervention of the Russian border guards and at the request of the Armenian military leadership, it was possible to avoid a more serious incident. At the same time, Baku's tough reaction suggests that if such incidents take place again, Azerbaijan can take more decisive actions, including the use of weapons.

Apparently, the military and political leadership of Armenia is trying to test the available options using force against Azerbaijan and hiding behind the Russian peacekeeping forces. The goal is to provoke a crisis in relations between Moscow and Baku. Yerevan hopes to change the balance of power in the region through Russia's active intervention, whether it be under the influence of circumstances or the need to demonstrate its strength in the face of the growing Azerbaijani-Turkish military-political alliance.

Interestingly, Armenian provocations coincided with the visit of the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to Azerbaijan and his statements about Turkey's military support to Baku, as well as Ankara's readiness to mobilise all its capabilities to solve any problem in Azerbaijan.


Why Armenia is nervous

On November 6-7, the Armenian Defense Minister Arshak Karapetyan visited the separatists in Khankendi and the military positions in Syunik (Zangezur). In both cases, tensions were observed in the region. Armenians are trying to demonstrate that, despite the defeat, they continue to influence the military-political situation in the Armenian-populated region of Azerbaijan. Moreover, they do this demonstratively, perhaps to show the firmness of their negotiating positions and to make it clear that Yerevan has its own ‘strong’ arguments in negotiations with Baku, which it is not going to abandon. But the real ‘argument’ for Armenia can be the armed Armenian detachments still remaining in Garabagh, which Yerevan is in no hurry to stop supporting.

What is Yerevan afraid of? It is expected that a meeting of the trilateral commission on resolving economic issues takes place at the end of November in Moscow to finalise the estimates. As part of subsequent internal approvals in each country, the parties should approve the budgets for the next year for each of the organisations involved in restoration operations. Thus, the process of unblocking communications will become irreversible.

The political component of economic agreements can be determined as part of a trilateral meeting between the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, possibly through a video conference. The agreements reached at the online meeting can provide necessary political and legal basis for unblocking of the roads and restoring economic ties between the countries. It is quite likely that the parties reach fundamental agreements on border issues as well.

Apparently, they understand in Yerevan that this will be the starting point, after which it will be impossible to reverse the regional processes. That’s why they are trying to impede the pace of history leading the region away from the conflict past. There are many examples in history showing how attempts to slow down the progress ended. But only time will probably show if Armenians can learn from these lessons.