On Sep. 27, Armenian armed forces launched a new wave of aggression against Azerbaijan by attacking military positions and densely populated residential areas along the entire perimeter of the front line.
To prevent further military aggression by Armenia, and ensure the security of densely populated civilian residential areas, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan undertook counteroffensive measures in self-defense and in full compliance with international law.
Armenia’s deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure is by no means an isolated case. Since the early 1990s the country’s aggression against Azerbaijan has been accompanied by serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law with respect to Azerbaijani civilians.
Ethnic cleansing targeting the Azerbaijani population of the occupied territories is one of the egregious war crimes committed by Armenia. As a result, close to a million internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain deprived of their basic human rights.
The cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people has been damaged, and 63 of 67 mosques on the territory of present-day Armenia have been demolished and plundered. Armenia also destroyed all Azerbaijani historical and religious monuments in the occupied territories.
Having observed Armenia’s preparations for a new attack, the leadership of Azerbaijan had no doubt about the nation’s intentions. The provocative “Karabakh is Armenia, period” statement by the country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the “new war for new territories” concept put forward by Armenia, and the so-called “seven conditions” for the resumption of negotiations have finally rendered negotiations meaningless.
In this war, Armenia extensively uses terrorists and mercenaries against Azerbaijan. According to various estimates, thousands of mercenaries and terrorists from Middle Eastern and Commonwealth of Independent States countries have already been deployed in the conflict zone. Despite the pandemic, a significant increase has been observed in flights from these countries to Armenia. This includes existing regular flights, as well as flights from places where there have never been direct air links to Armenia.
Mercenaries and terrorists are brought to Armenia on these flights and sent to the occupied territories to fight against Azerbaijan and organize terrorist activities against Azerbaijani civilians.
By liberating its territories from Armenian occupation, Azerbaijan is ensuring the fulfillment of UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884.
Ambassador Shahin Abdullayev
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, the autonomous region declared so-called independence, which is not recognized by any country, including Armenia. The region is instead recognized as a part of Azerbaijan by the international community.
In the decades since then, the one constant has been the Armenian occupation of almost all of Azerbaijan’s autonomous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, along with seven surrounding regions of Azerbaijan that together account for about 20 percent of the country’s total territory.
It is not a matter of dispute that these lands are occupied illegally and must be returned: four UN Security Council resolutions and various Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) documents make this clear, as do the formal positions of all the major powers, not to mention the rest of the world.
The mediators of the conflict — the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France and the US) — are at fault. A formal negotiation process was launched in 1992 but has essentially produced no concrete results on the ground: the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan continues, Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs have been prevented from exercising their right to 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 Oct. 9, an agreement for a humanitarian ceasefire was reached in Moscow during a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, mediated by the Russian Federation. The purpose of the ceasefire was to exchange prisoners of war and the bodies of the dead. It was also agreed immediately to start substantive negotiations, mediated by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Only 15 minutes after the ceasefire came into force, on Oct. 10, Armenia resumed its attacks on Azerbaijani positions.
On the night of Oct. 11, Armenia launched missile attacks on the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-most populated city. As result, 10 civilians were killed more than 30 seriously wounded. Extensive damage was caused to civilian infrastructure.
On Oct. 15, the armed forces of Armenia, in a gross violation of the ceasefire, shelled the territories of Tartar district with heavy artillery, once again targeting civilians. The Armenian army fired on a graveyard in Tartar district during a funeral service, using heavy artillery. As a result of this act, four civilians were killed and five wounded.
On the night of Oct. 17, Armenian forces again attacked Ganja with ballistic missiles. This atrocious attack on a city far from the front line killed 12 civilians, including two children, and left more than 40 injured.
The occupying Armenian 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 — continue to deliberately target residential areas in Azerbaijan with heavy artillery fire.
Armenian forces have launched missile attacks on densely populated civilian areas in Ganja, Mingachevir, Barda, Beylagan, Tartar and other cities. More than 60 Azerbaijani civilians were killed and more than 290 injured by artillery and missile attacks between Sep. 27 and Oct.19, and more than 2,000 residential buildings and civilian objects were destroyed.
International organizations have denounced the attacks by Armenian forces on civilians in Azerbaijan. On Oct.18, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned “all attacks on populated areas” in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh zone of conflict. He described the “tragic loss of civilian lives, including children, from the latest reported strike on Oct. 16” on Ganja as “totally unacceptable”.
On the same day, the EU said it “deplores the strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja … resulting in civilian loss of life and serious injury. All targeting of civilians and civilian installations by either party must stop. The ceasefire of Oct. 10 must be fully respected without delay.”
On Oct. 14, the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had expressed its concern about violations of the humanitarian ceasefire by Armenian forces and the resultant civilian deaths and injuries.
Azerbaijan continues its counteroffensive measures as a part of its Peace Enforcement Operation. Its military forces have liberated three cities, two settlements and 117 villages from the Armenian occupation since the beginning of the operation on Sep. 27.
By liberating its territories from Armenian occupation, Azerbaijan is ensuring the fulfillment of UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884. They reaffirm respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the international borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan, demand 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 call for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes.
• Shahin Abdullayev is the ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Saudi Arabia.