Q: There are many claims that in September 2023, the Armenian population of the Garabagh region was subjected to “ethnic cleansing” by Azerbaijan. What is your comment on these statements?
A: These are completely fabricated and claims of parties interested in maintaining tension in the region. Think for yourself, Azerbaijan has used all political and diplomatic opportunities to restore its territorial integrity for years. Unfortunately, despite the calls of the entire international community and the mediation of relevant international organizations, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has not been ensured for a period of 30 years.
In 2020, Azerbaijan succeeded in liberating its territories from occupation based on the principle of self-defense of international law. And after that, despite all the wounds and severe consequences of the conflict, he became a herald of peace. Azerbaijan offered peace to Armenia, emphasizing the principle of mutual respect for territorial integrity.
Do you think that a country that shows such determination, a country that shows what it says in its actions, will take such a non-constructive step in front of the whole world? Of course not.
Our intention is to uphold the rule of law and ensure the welfare of our country’s population. Armenian residents of Garabagh region are also our citizens. As it has been said before, Azerbaijan is faithful to its word in the reintegration of these Armenians.
“Ethnic cleansing” is an act of violence against civilians, something Armenia inflicted upon us 30 years ago. But this does not mean that we will repeat the same thing. There was no violence against the Armenian civilians in the Garabagh region. They confirm it themselves.
We have always considered them citizens of Azerbaijan, but unfortunately, as long as the illegal separatist institution existed, it did not allow us to have direct contact with them.
As soon as Armenia’s illegal armed groups in the Garabagh region announced that they would lay down their weapons and surrender, Azerbaijan started negotiations with the Armenian residents of Garabagh. And these negotiations were productive.
Now, the most important issue on our agenda is the reintegration of the local Armenian residents of Garabagh into the Azerbaijani society. Azerbaijan is determined to carry out the reintegration process.
There has not been a single case of violence or atrocities against the Armenian residents of the Garabagh region. I repeat, this is confirmed by the residents themselves. Furthermore, there is a certain report from October 1st by the UN Mission that visited the Garabagh region. The mission found no damage to civilian public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and housing, as well as cultural and religious sites. The Mission did not receive any reports from interviewed local residents or interlocutors regarding incidents of violence against civilians since the ceasefire.
Additionally, while passing through Aghdam, the mission noted the destruction in that city during the period of Armenian occupation and the need for mine clearance, as well as reconstruction efforts undertaken by the Azerbaijani government.
Q: What official measures has Baku taken to ensure security and improve living conditions for ethnic Armenians?
A: Baku has established a government working group to address humanitarian and socio-economic issues related to reintegration of ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region. At the request of representatives of Armenian residents, voiced at a meeting on September 21 in Yevlakh, fuels and lubricants were delivered to Garabagh; Priority is given to kindergartens and emergency medical services. An important milestone in infrastructure restoration was achieved on September 24, when Khankendi was successfully connected to the Azerbaijani electrical grid. Tens of tons of humanitarian supplies, primarily food and other essential items, have already been delivered to the region. Electronic registration of Armenian residents living in the Garabagh region is carried out through the portal of the State Migration Service.
Azerbaijan, being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country where dozens of ethnic and religious groups live peacefully and enjoy their constitutional rights, has repeatedly invited ethnic Armenians living in the Garabagh region to join this multicultural family of peoples. The goal of the Azerbaijani government is to ensure a dignified life side by side for Azerbaijanis and Armenians in prosperity and mutual respect.
Q: There is official data about the mass exodus of Armenians. Why, despite the measures taken by the Azerbaijani government, are the Armenian residents leaving Garabagh?
A: There are many components. The Azerbaijani government is pursuing a policy of national reconciliation and is confident that in the near future it will have tangible results: The Armenian residents of Garabagh, which was hostage to the separatists for 30 years, will return. We understand that this is not a matter of one day.
Azerbaijan is sowing the seeds of peaceful coexistence in the region. At this critical juncture, the international community should resolutely reject any attempt to incite hatred and hostility that prevents our region from achieving the long-awaited peace; to encourage Armenia to finally direct its efforts towards building peaceful coexistence in the region, to focus on the successful completion of the negotiation process for a peace treaty based on mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Already now, everyone can compare the Garabagh region before and after the occupation: the construction of “smart” cities, international airports, the implementation of international projects – all this is the result of the activities of the Government of Azerbaijan.
We believe the Armenian residents will return to a prosperous Garabagh, restored by the Azerbaijanis from the ashes. I am confident that by combining our efforts, we will be able to achieve a peaceful future for us and our children. There is no alternative to peace.