INTERVIEW of the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Republic of Latvia Mr. Javanshir Akhundov to Latvian “NEATKARIGA” newspaper.
Armenian side creates obstacles for and threatens normal functioning of the energy and transport corridors.
- What is the chronology of the happenings in Tovuz district of Azerbaijan?
As you are well aware, Nagorno Karabakh which is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia after it launched military campaign against Azerbaijan in 1991. By the time the ceasefire reached in 1994, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territories, which include the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts that have ethnically been cleansed of ethnic Azerbaijanis. The bloody war claimed the lives of 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis and expelled one million more from their ancestral lands.
In terms of happenings in Tovuz, tensions between the two neighboring countries turned into fighting on July 12, 2020 when Armenian armed forces opened fire on Azerbaijani state border positions, in particular civilian residential infrastructure in villages of Tovuz region along the border with Armenia by artillery fire. As the consequence of the attacks of Armenian army, eleven Azerbaijani servicemen, including one general, one colonel and two majors killed, and five more injured so far. Also, one civilian was killed in an artillery strike in a village in the Tovuz district.
As a result of the adequate steps undertaken by our units, the enemy was defeated and driven back suffering losses.
- Why Armenian armed forces attacked Tovuz region which is geographically a couple of hundred kms away from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 surrounding districts? What is the point of timing?
What was happening in Tovuz region along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, was a clear-cut provocation and a terrorist act, an attempt to use force from official Armenia. I can say there are several reasons for Armenia to aggravate the situation on the border line. First of all, Armenia obviously tries to widen the geography of clashes with Azerbaijan, demonstrating its absolute unwillingness to engage in constructive peace talks with the Azerbaijani side despite the relevant resolutions and demands of the international community, including the United Nations Security Council, UN General Assembly, European Parliament, Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO, Non-Aligned Movement, OIC, etc. It is no co-incidence that the Armenian government expressed its intentions to further continue the confrontation with Azerbaijan, including the infamous statement on “new war for new territories” made by the Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan.
Secondly, the Armenian side creates obstacles for and threatens normal functioning of the energy and transport lines such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, as well as South Caucasus Pipeline channeling natural gas to the TANAP and TAP gas pipelines supplying Europe with alternative energy resources. These lines making up strategic East-West energy and transport corridors are playing an important role in Europe’s economic and energy security and are passing through Tovuz district of Azerbaijan which is under attacks now. It must be underlined that in a few months first Azerbaijani natural gas is expected to be delivered to Italy through TAP gas pipeline. As a result of these attacks the Armenian army could have been able to control a strategically important highway stretching from Azerbaijan's second-largest Ganja city to the border with Georgia through Tovuz district of Azerbaijan and to gain control over the oil, gas and railway routes passing through the district. Once again, Tovuz is located in a strategically significant area along the routes of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, and the Southern Gas Corridor, a megastructure that carries natural gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey and Europe through the territory of Georgia, which is located 78 kilometers west from Tovuz.
Thirdly, the Government of Armenia attempts to distract the attention of the people of Armenia from the fact that the leadership of their state is not able to constructively solve the problems in the Armenian society that are seriously exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fourth, in case if the recent events had happened not in border region, but in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region, the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, Armenia wouldn’t have any legitimate right to even consider the chances to appeal for the relevant support of the Collective Security Treaty Organization – the military alliance it has aligned itself. However, by “relocating” the attacks to the border region and putting forward the falsified claims about the Azerbaijani so called “aggressive military operations” on the Armenian territories, Armenia was hoping to achieve the CSTO’s direct interference, the plans which have been exposed and didn’t happen.
And lastly, it was a clear-cut attempt to undermine Azerbaijan’s initiative to convene the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on COVID-19. As known, the UN General Assembly has decided to hold its Special Session upon the initiative of the President of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement Mr. Ilham Aliyev to discuss the opportunities for a collective response to COVID-19, which was supported by more than 130 countries. It isn’t coincidental that Armenia was the only country which opposed the initiative to convene UN GA’s Special Session. By this, Armenia has once again proved that its groundless political ambitions are of higher priority for this country than global solidarity and multilateral diplomacy in fight against the real threat. So, Armenia started to commit provocations along the state border to change Azerbaijan’s agenda and hamper the preparations for the Special Session.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact how Armenia undermines international law. Along with hitting the civil population of Tovuz region, the Armenian side threatened to strike the Mingachevir hydroelectric dam which is the largest dam in Caucasus with its 6 billion cubic meters water. Should it be destroyed, it would make the whole region of Kura-Araks valley flooded that could result in big natural and human disaster.
This new Armenian military adventure raised simultaneous indignation and mass protests among Azerbaijani people. Thousands of people came together in Baku and different regions to express their solidarity with the army and chief military commander of the country. Tens of thousands of young people expressed their desire to defend their country as volunteers to retaliate the enemy in the front line. Whole Azerbaijani society united around the state and the President, and were ready to fight for the liberation of their occupied lands.
- What was the reaction of World Community to the military attack of the Government of Armenia?
Reaction of the world Community to the Armenian provocations was unequivocal. First of all we appreciate and highly value the official position of Latvia calling for stop of military confrontation and for its support for the resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict base on the international law principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of states. We also appreciate the position of Latvian Member of the European Parliament Andris Americas who expressed concern over the fighting and loss of life on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and called for an end to the hostilities, the preservation of regional stability and the resumption of peace talks. Regarding the settlement of the current conflict, Mr. A. Ameriks stressed "the respect for the territorial integrity of all Eastern Partnership countries within their internationally recognized borders and the inadmissibility of forcible change of these borders in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the European Parliament".
I would also like to note that:
- The European Conservatives and Reformists Party strongly condemned recent attacks of the Armenian armed forces attempted to violate the state border of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the support of heavy artillery from the direction of Tovuz region of Azerbaijan and considered the tensions between two countries are harming Europe-Asia corridor and new strategic energy projects.”
- Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) adopted communique on the military provocation of the Armenian armed forces at the Azerbaijan-Armenian border. In the communique, the NAM Member States strongly condemns the recent armed attack by the armed forces of Armenia, with the use of artillery, against the positions of the armed forces of Azerbaijan along the international border between the two States. The Bureau reaffirmed its support to the settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the basis of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Thus, the 120 Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement extended their firm support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and expressed their solidarity with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the efforts aimed at restoration of its territorial integrity.
- Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization called for the soonest settlement of the conflict and expressed his support for Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity in this regard.
- The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has expressed deep concern over the tension on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and called for a peaceful political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884. and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Influential members of the Italian Parliament, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Senator Vito Petrocelli, Chairman of the Italian Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Paolo Grimoldi, as well as Chairman of the Interparliamentary Friendship Group with Azerbaijan in the Italian Parliament Senator Stefano Lucidi and Chairman of the Interparliamentary Friendship Association MP Rossana Boldi made statements condemning the provocations of the Armenian armed forces in the direction of Tovuz district of Azerbaijan on July 12 and supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey has strongly condemned the Armenian military aggression and attacks on the state borders of Azerbaijan, and called for immediate liberation of the occupied and internationally recognized territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Members of the Latvia-Azerbaijan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Latvian Saeima have also condemned the Armenia military provocations and called for the liberation of the occupied territories and return of the internally displaced persons to their ancestral lands in its public letter addressed to the Azerbaijan – Latvia Inter-Parliamentary Working Group in the Parliament of Azerbaijan.
Finally I want the Armenian side and the world community to know that the only way to ensure sustainable peace and security in the region is the withdrawal of the occupying Armenian forces from all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and ensuring the return of all internally displaced persons to their homes. Azerbaijan will never reconcile with the fact of the occupation of its internationally recognized territories and not an inch of our land will be left under occupation.
Azerbaijan has always stated its support for a political solution to the conflict, but it must not be understood as endless continuation of negotiations. Azerbaijan supports the result-oriented talks and expects the mediation efforts of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in this direction.
The Armenian leadership is fully responsible for the tension on the front and for all the consequences it may cause.