Peace in the region cannot be guaranteed without Turkey’s mediation, the Azerbaijani president said on Thursday, as fighting in the Upper Karabakh region continues for over two weeks.
In an interview with NTV, a private Turkish news channel, Ilham Aliyev said Turkey has influence in the region, and there can be no solution to the conflict without Ankara’s active role.
He thanked Turkey for a strong and clear stance of support on the matter.
“Statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are clear indicators of our brotherhood,” he said.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
The recent clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces.
Turkey has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.
The number of Azerbaijani civilians killed in clashes has reached 43,218 people are injured, 1,592 houses and 290 civilian facilities have been destroyed, and 79 apartment blocks have become uninhabitable, according to the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office.
“Armenia is responsible for bloodshed in the region,” Aliyev said, arguing that it was attacking civilians to hide its losses on the battlefield. “Despite Armenian provocations, we only target military positions, not the civilians.”
He also praised the solidarity showed by the Pakistani people and the government.
Aliyev said that a humanitarian cease-fire agreement, brokered by Russia last week, was swiftly violated by Armenia, seeing it as an opportunity to fortify its military position.
He said the violation did not receive global attention despite being clear for everyone.
“I warned Armenia it will regret if it does not show a positive approach [to finding a solution to the problem]. I was proved right, and they were mistaken,” he said.
Aliyev said the Azerbaijani people have run out of patience after 30 years of occupation and continual Armenian hostility.
“At the first stage, the Armenian army should withdraw from the regions it occupied, firstly from five districts, and then from two districts. Former residents of the Upper Karabakh, Susha, and other occupied regions should start returning to their homes.
“Then, negotiations for Karabakh should continue. We don’t have any problem with Armenians living in the Upper Karabakh; Azerbaijan is a multinational country,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s position legitimate and lawful
On the calls by Armenian officials to the international community to recognize the so-called administration of Karabakh, Aliyev said Armenian efforts would go in vain.
“Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is recognized internationally. Co-chairs of the Minsk Group recognize our territorial integrity. Documents signed within the EU also recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
“I believe no state will recognize the independence of Karabakh,” Aliyev noted.
The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
Some 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
*Writing by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara
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