On September 27, 2020, armed forces of Armenia launched a new act of aggression against Azerbaijan by attacking on military postions of Azerbaijan and densely populated residential areas along the entire perimeter of the front line. In order to prevent another military aggression by Armenia and provide the security of densely populated civilian residential areas the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan undertook counter-offensive measures within the right of self-defence and in full compliance with international law.
Armenia’s delibrate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure is by no means isolated case. Since early 1990s Armenia’s aggresion against Azerbaijan has been accomplained by serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law with respect to Azerbaijani civilians. Ethnic cleansinng against all Azerbaijani population of the occupied territories is one of the egregious war crimes committed by Armenia. Close to one million Azerbaijan IDPs remain deprived of their basic human rights. Cultural heritage of Azerbaijani people and 63 of 67 mosques on the territory of today’s Armenia has been demolished and plundered. Armenia also destroyed all Azerbaijani historical and religious monuments in the occupied territories.
Having observed Armenia’s preparation for a new attack, the leadership of Azerbaijan had no question about the real intention of Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan’s provocative “Karabakh is Armenia and period” statement, “new war for new territories” concept put forward by Armenia, as well as so-called “seven conditions” for the resumption of negotiations have finally rendered negotions meaningless.
In this war, Armenia extensively uses terroists and mercenaries against Azerbaijan. According to various estimations, currently thousands of mercenaries and terrorists from Middle East and CIS coutries have already been deployed to the conflict zone by Armenia. Despite the ongoing pandemic, sifnificant increase is being observed in flights from these countries to Armenia. This includes both regular flights to Armenia, as well as from those places where there have never been flights to Armenia. Mercenaries and terrorist are brought to Armenia via these flights and then are deployed to the occupied territores of Azebaijan in order to fight against Azerbaijan and organize terrorist activites against Azerbaijani civilans.
Nagorno-Karabakh was made an autonomous region within Azerbaijan by the Soviet Union in the 1920s. During the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, this autonomous region declared so called independence which is not recognized by any country including Armenia, but recognized as a part of Azerbaijan by entire international community.
In the intervening decades, the one constant has been the Armenian occupation of almost all of Azerbaijan’s autonomous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions of Azerbaijan that together form about 20 percent of the country’s total territory. It is not the issue of dispute that these lands are occupied illegally and they must be returned: four UN Security Council resolutions and various OSCE documents directly related to the conflict make this clear, as do the formal positions of all the major powers, not to mention the rest of the world.
The mediators – the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France and the United States) – are at fault: there was a formal negotiation process that was launched in 1992, which had essentially produced no concrete results on the ground, in the sense that the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan has not come to an end, Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs have been prevented from exercising their right of return, and so on. In other words, for nearly three decades the Minsk Group led negotiations whose objectives were clearly and unambiguously set down on paper.
On October 9, agreement of humanitarian ceasefire was reached in Moscow at the meeting of foreign minister of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with mediation of the Russian Federation. The purpose of the ceasefire was to exchange the dead bodies and prisoners of war. At the meeting, it was also agreed to immediately start substantive negotiations under the mediation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Only 15 minutes after the ceasefire entered into force on October 10, at 12:00 Armenia continued its attacks on Azerbaijani positions. At night of October 11, Armenia launched missile attack on city Ganja, the second most populated city of Azerbaijan. As result, 10 civilians were killed more than 30 were seriously wounded. Extensive damage was inflicted upon civilian infrastructure.
On October 15, the armed forces of Armenia, grossly violating the humanitarian ceasefire regime, continue to shell the territories of Tartar district with heavy artillery, Armenians once again targeted civilians. The Armenian army fired on the graveyard in the territory of Tartar district during the funeral using heavy artillery. As a result of this act of vandalism, four civilians killed, and five wounded.
On the night of 17 October, 2020 the armed forces of Armenia attacked the Ganja city of Azerbaijan with ballistic missiles. This, third in a row atrocious attack on the second biggest city of Azerbaijan, since the new aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, situated far away from the frontline caused serious civilian casualties; 12 civilians, including 2 minors killed, more than 40 people injured.
The occupying Armenian armed forces, in violation of the norms and principles of international law, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, as well as the requirements of the humanitarian ceasefire agreed after its own persistent requests in Moscow, continues to deliberately target residential settlements in Azerbaijan with heavy artillery fire.
Armenian armed forces subjected to missile attacks the densely populated civilian areas in Ganja, Mingachevir, Barda, Beylagan, Tartar and some other cities of Azerbaijan. As a result of Armenia’s artillery and missile attacks, more than 60 Azerbaijani civilians were killed, more than 290 injured, more than 2000 residential buildings and civilian objects destroyed (from 27 September to 19 October 2020).
International organizations have issued statements condemning the attacks of the Armenian armed forces against the civilian population of Azerbaijan.
On 18 October the UN Secretary-General condemned “all attacks on populated areas” in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh zone of conflict. In a statement released by his Spokesperson, António Guterres described the “tragic loss of civilian lives, including children, from the latest reported strike on 16 October” on Azerbaijan’s second largest city of Ganja, as “totally unacceptable”.
On 18 October the European Union Statement has been issued by the Spokesperson on the strikes on the city of Ganja. The European Union deplores the strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja during the night of 16-17 October resulting in civilian loss of life and serious injury. All targeting of civilians and civilian installations by either party must stop. The ceasefire of 10 October must be fully respected without delay.
On 14 October the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed its concern about the violations by the military forces of the Republic of Armenia of the humanitarian ceasefire agreed between the Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia on October 10, 2020, which resulted in the death and injury of many civilians.
Azerbaijan continues its counter-offensive measures as a part of the Peace Enforcement Operation. It is worth to note that military forces of Azerbaijan liberated 3 cities, 2 settlements and 117 villages from the Armenian occupation since the beginning of the operation on 27 September. By liberating its territories from Armenian occupation Azerbaijan are ensuring the fulfillment of the UN Security Council adopted resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884, respectively. These resolutions reaffirmed respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the international borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan and demanded the immediate cessation of all hostile acts and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces from all occupied regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and called for ensuring the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes.
- Shahin Abdullayev is the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Saudi Arabia.