President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has addressed the nation.
Address to the nation by President Ilham Aliyev
- My fellow citizens,
As you know, yesterday morning, due to a terrorist act committed by the Armenian armed forces, six Azerbaijani citizens - two civilians, became victims of a mine terror. It is not the first time that Armenia has committed a terrorist act against us. Since the end of the Second Karabakh War, more than 300 Azerbaijani citizens have become victims of mine terrorism or have been seriously injured.
Yesterday's terrorist attack was one such incident. After the Second Karabakh War, mines were illegally delivered from Armenia to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and planted in various locations until the Lachin border checkpoint was established. Some time ago, the mines discovered by the Azerbaijan Armed Forces were shown to representatives of the Russian peacekeeping contingent and the Russia-Türkiye Monitoring Center, and the issue of taking serious measures was raised with and demanded from them. These mines were produced in Armenia in 2021. So, it once again shows that after the Second Karabakh War, these mines were deliberately delivered to carry out terrorist acts against Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan duly punished the enemy by immediately taking necessary steps. Local antiterrorist measures were started, and all pending objectives were completed in one day. The terrorists were punished, and it was shown to Armenia again that all of their provocations would be met with a fitting response.
As a result of the initiation and successful completion of anti-terrorist measures, Azerbaijan regained its sovereignty at around 1:00 p.m. yesterday.
Our servicemen have shown extraordinary heroism, bravery and professionalism during the anti-terrorist measures. In challenging terrain and despite the presence of fortifications created over the years of engineering works by the enemy, given that the enemy's positions are located on hills and in favorable places, our servicemen once again, as I mentioned, showed heroism and professionalism and achieved significant military success in all directions in a short time. A large part of the army of the Armenian state, which was illegally stationed on the territory of Azerbaijan and has not been withdrawn to this day despite the obligation by the Armenian state, has been completely destroyed. Military equipment was obliterated and incapacitated.
Before the operation, I once again gave a strict order to all our military units that the Armenian population living in the Karabakh region should not be affected by the anti-terrorist measures and that the civilian population be protected. We have achieved this by using high-precision weapons. At the same time, civilians felt protected entirely thanks to the professionalism of our Armed Forces. In the meantime, I ordered that the civilian infrastructure not be targeted and only the military infrastructure be destroyed. I want to say again that the professionalism and technical capabilities of our Army and all of our Armed Forces made it possible to fulfill this duty with honor. Once again, Azerbaijani soldiers and officers showed high professionalism and moral qualities.
As a result of short-term local anti-terrorist measures, I would like to note again that most of the enemy's weapons and equipment have been incapacitated. I should also state that more than a hundred tanks and armored vehicles belonging to the Armenian Army were illegally stationed in the territory of Azerbaijan. Electronic warfare systems were deployed. More than two hundred cannons and artillery installations, the most advanced anti-aircraft equipment, were deployed. Contrary to the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020, Armenia did not withdraw its armed forces, manpower, and equipment from our territory for three years. However, during numerous contacts with the leadership of Armenia and from the high rostrums of international events, I repeatedly turned to this issue. I expressed the Azerbaijani state’s rightful dissatisfaction. The November 10 Trilateral Statement was an act of capitulation of the Armenian state, and according to this act of capitulation, Armenia had to withdraw its armed forces from all Azerbaijani territories. But it refused.
Unfortunately, we had martyrs during anti-terror measures. May Allah rest the souls of our martyrs in peace! We have wounded soldiers and officers. May Allah grant recovery to them. They sacrificed their lives for the Motherland, justice, and Azerbaijan's sovereignty. Their blessed memory will live forever in our hearts.
Of course, the successful progress of the operation seriously worried the Armenian state and the illegal junta regime operating under its auspices. As the operation unfolded, we received various vague signals from intermediaries. As a result of the successful offensive of our Armed Forces, these signals became more intense. This morning, the information provided by international partners was that illegal armed units, those units of the Armenian Army, are ready to accept our terms. I conveyed our terms to the United States Secretary of State yesterday, who called me. I was asked what is needed to stop the anti-terror measures. I said that the units of the Armenian Army illegally settled in our territory should lay down their weapons, be disarmed, and completely withdrawn from our territory. Simultaneously, they should hand over all weapons and equipment. Only in that case can Azerbaijan stop anti-terror measures. Otherwise, we will go until the end, and the enemy is very aware of our strength and determination.
In the morning, we were informed that our terms had been accepted. Moreover, representatives of the Armenian residents living in Karabakh, who refused to meet our representatives several months ago, were ready to meet in Yevlakh, the place we proposed. My response was that Azerbaijan always stands by its words. Both our friends and enemies know this. Our word is equally valuable as our signature, and if our terms are accepted, our military measures will stop. Today, a ceasefire was declared at 13:00. Unfortunately, the opposing side did not observe the ceasefire thoroughly, and our positions came under fire after the declaration of the ceasefire. Nevertheless, all our conditions were accepted in principle, and I must note that it is five minutes past six now.
The process of withdrawal of Armenia's illegal armed units from their positions has already begun. In addition, they have accepted our terms and started laying down their arms. It begs the question - who benefited from causing this situation? After all, immediately after the Second Karabakh War, we repeatedly appealed to the Armenian leadership, their patrons abroad, and other parties, expressing our legitimate concern and saying to them that the continued presence of the Armenian armed forces on the territory of Azerbaijan was illegal and should stop. We were saying that the illegal junta should fold up its so-called flag, worth no more than a piece of cloth, and vacate our lands. It is our sovereign right.
Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan, and the whole world knows it, including the Armenian leadership itself. Whereas he once said, "Karabakh is Armenia, full stop," now he says, "Karabakh is Azerbaijan". In fact, not only does he say that, but he also does not forget to mention the dimensions of our territory. Indeed, he did not do it of his own free will. The "Iron Fist" forced him to do it, but the facts are apparent. After Armenia has recognized Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan, what status can the criminal regime that has been calling the shots in Karabakh for 30 years have? What state attributes can there be? What elections can there be? Despite all the trilateral verbal agreements reached after the Second Karabakh War, fake "elections" were held in Karabakh on September 9, and a fake "president" was elected. That person immediately declared that they would pursue the status issue. Perhaps they had forgotten my words. When the Second Karabakh War ended, and Armenia threw in the towel, was brought to its knees, and signed the act of capitulation, I said that the status went to hell. For some time after the war, we did not hear any nonsense about the status. But as this fear slowly dissipated, revengeful forces started emerging again. Therefore, all these factors are further evidence that the regime of the illegal criminal junta has become impertinent and impudent. They forgot that they were living in the territory of Azerbaijan. Therefore, all our steps are legitimate, legal, and fair, and we are both responsible and proud. Again, the anti-terror measures were carried out with high professionalism and accuracy so that the civilian population was not affected and the civil infrastructure was not damaged. Only enemy positions, their weapons and equipment were destroyed.
And now, I am sure that the emergence of a new situation in our region is inevitable. After the surrender of the criminal junta, this source of tension, this den of poison, has already been consigned to history. The Armenian population of Karabakh can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I said this before, and I want to repeat it: the Armenian population of Karabakh are our citizens. Armenian nationalists, war criminals, and the so-called leaders of Armenia and Karabakh took these people hostage and poisoned their brains. They concocted endless lies about Azerbaijan and its people, brainwashed and poisoned them. I am sure that the Armenian population living in Karabakh will soon see a change for the better. We intend to build a life together based on peace, mutual understanding, and mutual respect. We have no problems with the Armenian people. We have no enmity.
Despite all the injustices and crimes the criminal Armenian regime committed, we have never blamed the Armenian people for those crimes. We did not blame the Armenian people for the Khojaly genocide, the destruction of our towns and villages, and the digging of graves. We accused the elements and leaders of the criminal regime, and we will bring them to justice. Some have already received their deserved punishment, and others will follow suit.
In two days, during a meeting of representatives of the Karabakh community with my representative in Yevlakh, we will convey to them our visions of future coexistence. All their rights will be guaranteed: educational rights, cultural rights, religious rights, and municipal electoral rights because Azerbaijan is a free society. Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state. It is our great asset. Representatives of every nationality living in Azerbaijan can see this. There is no need to explain that. It is our way of life. There has never been and will never be discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds in Azerbaijan, and the Second Karabakh War showed it again. Representatives of all nationalities, representatives of all ethnic groups, all confessions united as one fist - for Azerbaijan, for dignity, for the Motherland! Therefore, look at this beautiful atmosphere; this is a natural environment, and we are inviting the Armenian population of Karabakh to enjoy it. We are ready to implement various social programs. We are rebuilding all of Karabakh and East Zangezur. Look how much we have done in just two years.
In two years, not even 1 percent of what has been done in that region for 30 years was accomplished - power plants, bridges, tunnels, reservoirs, residential buildings, villages, and cities are being built. In just two years. Without receiving any help, we alone. I said that when the Second Karabakh War ended, we would turn Karabakh and East Zangezur into a paradise, and we are turning it into a paradise; everyone who visits there can see that. We will create the same conditions in Khankendi, Aghdara, Khojavand, in the villages, in Askeran. This is all in our hands. So, this is our proposal, and today was the turning point. The junta, the bloodsucking leeches, have already been completely exposed and surrendered. They threw in the towel!
Today, a new historic chance has been created for ordinary people living in Karabakh. Take advantage of that chance. We are ready for this, and the Azerbaijani people know this, and I am sure that the Armenian people also know that I am a man of my word. We propose this, and I hope that our proposal will be accepted. This proposal is based on logic, historical justice, international law and future development and is calculated for future growth.
During this period, today and yesterday, Armenia has unexpectedly shown political competence, which we appreciate. We see this as an essential factor, and the events that happened today and yesterday will also positively impact the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
I want to hope that the steps we have taken and the results of anti-terrorist measures will allow us the opportunity to finally remove the obstacle to the peace talks created by Armenia, whatever you call it, and this will create a new reality in the South Caucasus, will create peace, lasting peace. We must ensure that the other side does not live with revanchist ideas, and they must also rest assured that we do not have sights for their land. We recognize their territorial integrity and have declared it, and we recognize the territorial integrity of all countries. We demanded that from them and the stubborn Armenians behind them. Those who are not with them in a difficult moment, who are located far away in Europe, should know - the farther they are from our region, the more comfortable the region will be; breathe a sigh of relief, and we are offering that. We propose that the future of South Caucasus countries should be based on peace, tranquility and development. We suggest that the forces, the fraudsters, and corrupt politicians sitting far from our region that pursue their political agenda and use the Armenian people as a tool and exploit them to leave us alone. Those who sit on the other side of the world and make groundless accusations against us should get their hands off us. Let the South Caucasus, this region, which has been a place of fighting, wars and bloody clashes for centuries, breathe easy. We have had enough! We demand this, and I want to say that the position of the Armenian state yesterday and today gives hope. It gives hope that the day is not far when Azerbaijan and Armenia will settle the issues between them, sign a peace treaty, and countries of the South Caucasus start working on future cooperation in a trilateral format. But at the same time, I must also say that those who despise us, those who despise our land, and those who set their sights on our lands should never forget that the Iron Fist is in place and will always be! No one can speak to us in the language of dictate and ultimatums! Let no one forget this! Don't forget that Karabakh is Azerbaijan!
The firsthand accounts are harrowing. There’s no food on shelves in stores. Children stand for hours in bread lines to help feed their families. Mothers walk for miles in search of cooking oil and other provisions. Electricity, gas and water are in short supply. Ambulances can’t whir into motion for lack of fuel. Clinics report a surge in miscarriages in pregnant women who are malnourished, anemic and consumed by stress.
Such is the apparent state of the isolated and increasingly desperate ethnic Armenian enclave in Nagorno-Karabakh, whose 120,000 people are enduring what local authorities and a host of international experts describe as a blockade at the hands of Azerbaijan, the country within which the territory sits. Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought multiple wars over Nagorno-Karabakh after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the advent of their independent nation-states. Though recognized by the international community as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and some areas surrounding it have been governed for decades by a separatist ethnic Armenian entity.
For the entirety of this year, Azerbaijan has restricted movement along the Lachin corridor, the sole route connecting Armenia directly to the enclave, which Armenians refer to as Artsakh. The restrictions intensified this summer, with the International Committee of the Red Cross unable to deliver humanitarian assistance to the region and trucks with hundreds of tons of supplies stranded on the roads. The plight of the afflicted communities led Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to publish an opinion earlier this month determining that the conditions of starvation inflicted on the enclave’s ethnic Armenians was an act of genocide. He cited an article in the Genocide Convention that referred to “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”
“The idea of genocide is not just about killing, but about removing people from the land,” Moreno Ocampo told me during a phone call this week. In his report, he wrote: “There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.”
On Wednesday, the situation was discussed at an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. Various officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called on Azerbaijan to “restore free movement through the corridor.” Armenian foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan said the deprivation imposed on the enclave was a form of warfare that would lead to the “ethnic cleansing of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
That sentiment was echoed in Washington by a handful of U.S. lawmakers. “Azerbaijan’s systematic ethnic cleansing of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh through a large-scale and unprovoked invasion is unconscionable,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) told me, referring to the territory seized by Azerbaijan during a lopsided six-week war in 2020 that saw thousands die. “Particularly egregious is their weaponization of the blockade to starve the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and block humanitarian assistance.”
Responding to these charges, Yashar Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s U.N. envoy, described talk of a blockade as “unfounded and groundless allegations” and said his government was subject to an Armenian “campaign” to “manipulate and mislead the international community.” Officials in Baku claim that the restrictions on movement along the Lachin corridor, which is supposed to be administered by Russian peacekeepers, are necessary to stop, among other things, the illicit supply of arms from Armenia into the enclave. They point to the intransigence of the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, who have refused the delivery of supplies through an alternate eastern road from Azerbaijan.
“An administration of occupation is blocking the Azerbaijani government’s provision of food and medicine to an Azerbaijani region. Tellingly, nowhere in the Ocampo report is this mentioned,” wrote Hikmet Hajiyev, top foreign affairs adviser to Azerbaijan’s long-ruling President Ilham Aliyev. “Claiming they are under threat while engineering a crisis to galvanize the international community’s support is intended to convince the world that Azerbaijanis and Armenians cannot live together, as we once did.”
The impasse reflects the profound gulf between the two sides. Some analysts believe that Azerbaijan, wealthier and reinforced by Turkish and Israeli arms, is pressing its considerable advantage with the world distracted by the war in Ukraine to apply intolerable pressure on the separatist enclave in its midst. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in rounds of negotiations over a lasting peace settlement that would normalize ties and find an acceptable accommodation over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
But the current crisis has highlighted the existential fears and deep-seated enmities felt on both sides. As Armenians around the world raised the alarm over the plight of blockaded Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani media focused on the discovery of a mass grave of Azerbaijani people in the city of Shusha, dating back to the battles of the 1990s and the area’s occupation by ethnic Armenian forces. The city was “liberated” by Azerbaijan in the brief 2020 war, which saw Baku’s forces seize significant swaths of territory captured by Armenian troops in the earlier phase of the conflict.
Now, some ethnic Armenians who fled Shusha — known to Armenians as Shushi — in 2020 find themselves in even more dire straits. One of those is Alvina Nersesyan, a resident of the enclave and mother, who briefed reporters on a virtual call organized by Armenian officials on Thursday. She described the “fearful” bread lines in Stepanakert, the enclave’s de facto capital, known in Azerbaijan as Khankendi, and lamented that she doesn’t “even say the words for sweets anymore,” lest she upset her deprived children who are “too small to understand the situation.”
The immediate hardships are recognized by diplomats elsewhere. “Access to food, medicine, baby formula and energy should never be held hostage,” Thomas-Greenfield said Wednesday. “We urge the government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor.”
“U.S. officials believe that Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are managing to survive only because of backyard gardens and other home-produced food,” wrote Post columnist David Ignatius. “They fear that within two months, as winter approaches, the population could face starvation. Armenians dread a repetition of the Ottoman genocide of 1915, an ever-present historical memory for Armenians around the world.”
Moreno Ocampo summoned that deep, bitter history, noting that hundreds of thousands of Armenians who perished more than a century ago were driven from their homes by Ottoman forces and left to die of hunger. “Starvation was the weapon of the genocide in 1915 and now Azerbaijan is using starvation against Armenians,” he told me. “It’s tragic but history is repeating, and that’s why humanity has to react.”
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Authorities in an isolated ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan on Tuesday allowed entry of a humanitarian aid shipment in a step toward easing a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan that has blocked transport to the region since late last year.
The region, called Nagorno-Karabakh, has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since the 1994 end of a separatist war. That war had left much of the surrounding territory under Armenian control as well, but Azerbaijan regained that territory in a six-week-long war with Armenia in 2020; Nagorno-Karabakh itself remained outside Azerbaijani control.
Under the armistice that ended the war, Russia deployed some 3,000 peacekeeping troops in Nagorno-Karabakh and were to ensure that the sole road connecting the enclave to Armenia would remain open. However, Azerbaijan began blocking the road in December, alleging Armenians were using it to ship weapons and smuggle minerals.
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The blockage caused serious food shortages in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan proposed that food be sent in on a road leading from the town of Agdam, but the region's authorities resisted the proposal because of concern that it was a strategy to absorb Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan agreed this week that both the Agdam road and the road to Armenia, called the Lachin Corridor, could be used for aid shipments under International Committee of the Red Cross auspices.
The aid delivered on Tuesday includes 1,000 food sets including flour, pasta and stewed meat, along with bed linen and soap.
“We regard the fact that the cargo was delivered precisely along the ... road as a positive step and an important shift towards the opening of this road,” said Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizade.