BAKU, Azerbaijan 

Azerbaijani defense officials have shared the story of a decorated army officer martyred during the recent clashes to liberate Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, from Armenia.

On Dec. 31, 2020, a Turkish military delegation, led by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler, participated in the opening of a photo exhibition on the theme, Turkish-Azerbaijani Brotherhood is Eternal.

In the display, the photo which grabbed Akar’s particular attention was that of Lt. Valeh Memiyev.

Col. Abdullah Gurbani of the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry has now shared the story of the fallen hero with Anadolu Agency.

According to him, the photo was taken during an award ceremony that followed a joint Turkish-Azerbaijani joint military exercise on Aug. 13, 2020.

Addressing the Azerbaijani troops who participated in the exercise, the Turkish defense minister had appreciated their “strength and professionalism.”

“Your main task remains the liberation of Azerbaijani territories, which are under Armenian occupation for the last 30 years,” he had said.

“We are waiting for orders from our supreme commander [Ilham Aliyev]. Once we receive the orders, we will liberate our territories and realize your wish,” Lt. Memiyev had responded to Akar.

Gurbani said Memiyev and his comrade-in-arms kept their promise by participating in the liberation of many settlements in the Qubadli region.

“Unfortunately, war and victory come with losses. During the clashes, Memiyev was critically wounded. In his last moments, he smiled and told his comrades that he kept his promise to Hulusi Akar.”

What happened in Karabakh?

Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as an Azerbaijani territory, and seven adjacent regions.

When new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and even violated humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages, while at least 2,802 of its soldiers were martyred. There are differing claims about the number of casualties on the Armenian side, which, sources and officials say, could be up to 5,000.

The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10 to end fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.

A joint Turkish-Russian center is being established to monitor the truce. Russian peacekeeping troops have also been deployed in the region.

The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have withdrawn in line with the agreement. Violations, however, have been reported in the past few weeks, with some Armenian soldiers said to have been hiding in the mountainous enclave.

* Writing by Ahmet Gencturk

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