Vaahan’s Turkish Editor Ahsen Melek Kocatürk travelled to Azerbaijan during the conflict with Armenia and conducted an exclusive interview with Hikmet Hajiyev, Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration about the war before the ceasefire agreement was signed.
Armenia has opted for a policy of political and military provocation by firing missiles into Azerbaijani land, provoking the intervention of third parties into the dispute such as Russia.
I would like to learn about the 30-year old Karabag dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the strategic importance of this region.
Over the past 30 years, Armenia has maintained an attack against the people of Azerbaijan through the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. While it has been subject to the Minsk Process within this 30-year period, unfortunately an agreement has failed to be reached. The extension of this process has created favourable conditions for Armenian occupation, and therefore it seems that the intention of Armenia is not to solve this problem peacefully but to make an illegal land acquisition. In other words, to strengthen the Armenian state and seize the territories of Azerbaijan that are currently occupied; executing an illegal land acquiring policy.
Our view was that Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia would implement a different policy after coming to power, however this did not come to fruition. On many occasions, we have tried to find a solution to the ongoing conflict receiving reassurances from the Armenian premiership that this would happen. During a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2018 held in Dushanbe, Pashinyan approached our President at the time saying, “let’s solve this problem, I need time”, which was accepted. On another occasion when Armenia sought to further strengthen the ceasefire arrangement, we obliged.
What have we seen in exchange of this? In a statement, Prime Minister Pashinyan said “Karabag is Armenia”. From our standpoint, this signifies the end of the dialogue. When they say Karabag, they do not only mean Karabag but also the surrounding provinces. Furthermore, the Armenian Defence Minister has clearly said “our new military doctrine is new lands, new wars”. In other words, they aim to start new wars and occupy more land of Azerbaijan. The Armenian Intelligence Minister has also asserted that Armenia does not intend to return any of the occupied territory.
In July, we witnessed an Armenian attack against Azerbaijan at the Azerbaijan-Armenia borderline, in Tovuz. This was not an ordinary event that broke out in the proximity of the borderline. This was a major military operation that Armenia had planned, still continuing today. We have witnessed their attack against Azerbaijani civilians again on the 27th September 2020. In response, Azerbaijan has started an operation to compel peace with the aim of emancipating the land from occupation.
In Baku, there is an Armenian church to which the State of Azerbaijan has restored and maintained. The Armenian people residing herein have no complaint. Is the conflict a provocation of hidden allies? Does Azerbaijan want Russia to side with them?
Unfortunately in recent times, Armenia has adopted a more past–oriented perspective rather than one looking towards the future. They have created fake history and still try to believe in and show it as if it were real. To me, they have become the victim of their false desires like this one. Armenia has opted for a policy of political and military provocation by firing missiles into Azerbaijani land, provoking the intervention of third parties into the dispute such as Russia. Russia and Azerbaijan enjoy a good relationship, which is important as neighbouring countries.
Secondly, Russia has also comprehended the strategic significance of Azerbaijan very well. It understands that this is the case of Azerbaijani people and not solely the state. This is why Russia stays in a well-balanced and cautious position. It is also known by Turkey and Iran that if a rise in tension happens within the region, it shall become a matter which would create discomfort for everybody. In the context of cooperation between Turkey and Russia, we think that we need to solve this problem in general. Therefore, it is very important for us that both countries contribute. However, we feel that Turkey should be at the table.
There is a good relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan. In this regard, Israel also says that Azerbaijan is right. What will you say about this?
Yes, there are good relations between Israel and Azerbaijan. There have always been good relations between the Jewish people and the Azerbaijani people, in other words between the Turkish peoples. The Jewish people have never forgotten this either. For example, during the Inquisition era in Europe, they took shelter in the Ottoman and Turkish homeland. There has never been anti-Semitism here in history. That’s why they have a historical commitment. As a matter of fact, that is why there are good relations between Israel and Azerbaijan today. Since Azerbaijan has good relations with both Turkey and Israel, we are working hard to help improve the relations between Turkey and Israel.
Does Karabag have a special importance for Israel?
The people of Israel have always seen that the Azerbaijani people have supported their plight during difficult times for Jewish people. We believe that this is why Israel supports Azerbaijan to this day. We also enjoy the support of Pakistan among others. The most essential goal is to achieve justice for the Azerbaijani people. The approach of Israel and Turkey comes from a rational fairness to the situation. In this sense, the case of Azerbaijan is the case of interest. We have no eyes on anyone’s land. Our claim is to liberate Azerbaijani lands from occupation.
Which event in this war has affected you the most?
One of the issues that has touched us the most is when the Armenians attacked our civilians in Ganja with Scud missiles. Scud missiles are incredibly deadly and those using such weaponry are aware of the damage that they can cause. This is a continuation of a policy of genocide, terror and vandalism against the Azerbaijani people coming from Khojaly.
I have read some of the books banned by the Armenians. They have always killed people with torture in their history. History also writes this sadistic attitude of the Armenian people. What would you like to say regarding the support of Turkey?
Yes, of course, we attach great importance to the support of Turkey. The hearts of our dear President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and every Turkish citizen are beating together with Azerbaijan. This relationship with Turkey is integral to ensuring that peace and security is brought to the region.
I would like to compare our Karabag struggle with the events within 1918. At that time, except for the First World War, Azerbaijan had established an independent democratic republic, but the capital Baku was again under occupation by Armenia and the Bolsheviks. Even at that difficult time, and regardless of its own hardship situation in process of WWI, Turkey sent soldiers under the command of Nuri Pasha from the Iraq Front to Azerbaijan for assistance. More than 1,100 people were martyred but contributed to the liberation of our land from occupation as the Caucasian Islamic Army. They also saved the capital Baku. A hundred years later, a great military anthem was released in Baku in 2018. Once again, the Turkish-Azerbaijani Armed Forces parade was performed in Baku. The President of Turkey also agreed to this national anthem by calling up personally. This is very symbolic. The coming together of states happened in 1918 and again in 2018. Today, with the same logic and enthusiasm as a “one nation, two states” the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan improves better.
A bomb was fired towards your city, Ganja and we witnessed first-hand the widespread damage and casualties this had caused. Armenia however, announced to the world press that an earthquake had happened there. What do you say to the silence of the world about the civilian massacre?
This has always been the case, double standards have always happened. Armenians’ actions have always been ignored. Of course, there were a number of statements made by some organisations such as the European Union and some similar organisations. However, despite this, we do not want to fight with civilians. Our intention is not to target Armenian civilians either. We say our word in the battlefield. I think that the Azerbaijani soldiers also spoke their words in the battlefield and continue to do so. Today, our dear President has declared that Zengilan was liberated from the occupation.
Furthermore we would like to extend our thanks to the Turkish media and every press member as well. Unfortunately these modern wars are also information wars. A comprehensive “black propaganda” against Azerbaijan is being executed by Armenia. So, in helping the voice of the Azerbaijani people to be conveyed to the world and Turkish citizens, the Turkish media is fighting with us in the war and we thank them as well … especially you.
Thank you very much.
Background and current situation
Nagorno-Karabakh is a region within the borders of Azerbaijan. Ethnic conflicts started in this region in the early 1990s. This situation turned into a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Receiving the support of the Russians, the Armenians declared their independence there on October 10, 1991. On January 6, 1992, they officially declared their independence under the name of “The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh”. No country or international organization, including Armenia, recognized their independence.
The conflicts started again on September 27, 2020 as Armenia violated the ceasefire. This situation turned into a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Azerbaijan took action to regain the territories belonging to it and annexed 28 years ago.
Pursuant to the ceasefire signed on 9 November, the conflicts stopped. A ceasefire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Moscow and Ankara participated in the negotiations of this agreement.
According to this agreement, a connection road will be opened between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan and the road will be under the control of the security forces of the Russian Federation.
The restitution agreement of Azerbaijan’s territories was signed in accordance with the map in the period of Soviet Union, not in accordance with the provincial borders drawn unilaterally by the Armenians.
DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of Vaahan Magazine.