Statement by H.E. Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov,
in and with regard to Territories under Military Occupation:
Third-Party Obligations and Implications for Conflict Resolution
Distinguished Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome such a distinguished audience to discuss an extremely topical issue related to promotion of rules-based international order based on respect for norms and principles of international law, and obligations and responsibility of states in that regard.
Illegal activities in and with regard to territories under military occupation are serious challenge to international peace and security as they threaten the rule of law, good governance, environmental sustainability, and undermine perspectives of resolution of conflicts. It is a complex phenomenon necessitating holistic approach and concerted actions at national, regional and global levels. Given the comprehensive programme and high-quality participation, I am fully confident that today’s conference will serve to this goal and contribute to establishment of the rule of law and justice in the context of unresolved conflicts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is not without reason that this conference takes place in Baku. Azerbaijan has been suffering from military occupation of almost 20 per cent of its internationally recognized territories by neighboring Armenia for more than two decades. In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and occupation of its territories and reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of its international borders. In those resolutions, the Security Council reaffirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is part of Azerbaijan and called for immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Armenia continues to disregard these demands of the international community, and instead, directly by its own means and indirectly through the subordinate illegal regime and with the assistance of the Armenian Diaspora, carries out large-scale illegal activities aiming at altering demographic, cultural, economic and social character of the occupied territories with a view to consolidating status-quo of occupation.
At the request of the Government of Azerbaijan, the OSCE dispatched two missions into the occupied territories in 2005 and 2010. The reports issued as a result of these missions confirm the validity of concerns of Azerbaijan. On the basis of their findings, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen urged “[...] to avoid any activities in the territories […] that would prejudice a final settlement or change the character of these areas.”
The report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued in 2016 extensively documents multifaceted illegal activities in the occupied territories on the basis of facts collected from different sources, including those of Armenia. These include transfer of settlers from Armenia and abroad to the occupied territories, destruction and appropriation of historical and cultural heritage, in particular through illegal excavations, embezzlement of artifacts, exploitation and pillage of natural resources, including agricultural and water resources, change in social, economic and transport infrastructure, interference with Azerbaijan’s fixed and cellular radio-telecommunication networks and radio frequencies, and illegal visits to and from the occupied territories, to name just a few. Armenia also actively promotes illegal de-mining to make the occupied territories available for illegal activities, first and foremost for illegal settlements.
As a result, serious damage was inflicted upon public and private property, including those belonging to hundred thousands of IDPs expelled from these territories. Illegal activities in the occupied territories also raise a number of environmental concerns, such as de-forestation, depletion and water pollution. There is also trans-boundary pollution from the tailings in Armenia that pollute rivers crossing the international border of Azerbaijan and end up in the Azerbaijani farmlands and forests. Of particular importance is illegal exploitation and export of rare trees for furniture, barrel and rifle production.
Illegal activities take place within a nexus with transnational organized crime, such as money laundering, tax evasion and other serious economic and financial crimes. The profit acquired from these activities is extensively used for financing lobbyists and corrupt politicians in foreign countries to promote and propagate the illegal regime established in the occupied territories and carry out smear campaigns against Azerbaijan.
These activities must be seen in the context of consistent policy and practice of Armenia to secure the annexation of occupied territories and to prevent the Azerbaijani internally displaced population from returning to their homes. The financial resources acquired as a result of these activities, as well as transactions, investments and infrastructure changes made in respect of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan are mostly used for sustaining and prolonging the occupation.
It is utterly disturbing and unacceptable that some foreign natural and legal persons engage in or facilitate illegal activities. By so doing, foreign companies and entities violate international law, including the international humanitarian and human rights law, and national legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan and contribute to continuation of the status-quo and the prolongation of the armed conflict.
Prevention of illegal activities in the occupied territories is one of the policy priorities of the Government of Azerbaijan. We take consistent, coordinated actions at bilateral and all relevant multilateral levels in that respect. This include raising awareness of governments and private sector of foreign countries, elaboration of legal-political measures in the framework of relevant specialized international organizations and taking appropriate legal actions at national and international levels to hold the perpetrators accountable. We continuously raise this issue in the framework of bilateral joint economic commissions that gradually bears certain results. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank all countries which positively reacted to our appeals and take measures with a view to preventing their natural and legal persons from engaging in any activity in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Our request from the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to dispatch a new fact-finding mission to the occupied territories is still pending due to apparent resistance of Armenia. We will continue to closely follow this issue at all relevant levels and formats and hope for constructive and responsive engagement by our counterparts.
The Republic of Azerbaijan expects that the third-countries and international organizations to impose economic, trade and financial restrictions and take all necessary measures to prevent their legal and natural persons from engaging in the illegal activities in occupied territories. Such measures would include prohibition of importation/exportation, sale or supply into/from of any goods and services with regard to these territories. In parallel, all countries should live up to their obligations under international law, and ensure that their economic and other engagement with the Republic of Armenia fully corresponds to Armenia’s commitments taken within relevant international organizations, in particular the World Trade Organization, and exclusively confine to its internationally recognized borders.
It is within this understanding that I attach great importance to discussions in specific panels during the conference. I hope that deliberations will be instrumental for taking stock of existing international and regional legal instruments, elaboration of obligations of third-parties, and will focus on identification of possible areas for future work with a view to improving response of international community.
I wish you all success and look forward to fruitful exchange of views throughout the day.