No:533/23, Statement by Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at the 9422nd Meeting of the UN Security Council
I thank the Albanian Presidency of the Security Council for an opportunity to attend this meeting of the Council.
Although, Armenia’s attempt to exploit the UN Security Council in its campaign to mislead the international community is deplorable, we take this opportunity to once again inform the Council and the wider international community on challenges Armenia poses to regional peace and security.
As a matter of fact, and it needs to be underlined in the very beginning, Armenia’s request to the Council is related to the local counter-terror measures taken by Azerbaijan within its sovereign territory, in full compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law.
Therefore, Armenia’s yet another appeal to the Security Council is a blatant violation of the UN Charter demands on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and non-interference with their internal affairs. Such a reckless abuse of the Council for yet another time is utterly inadmissible, is a serious blow to the authority and reputation of this august body, and must be resolutely rejected.
It is also counter-productive and irrelevant. In fact, when the Council is called for a debate today allegedly due to concerns over the rights and security of ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan, the counter-terror measures have already been ceased, and dialogue on the reintegration of ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan started in practical terms on the ground.
The long overdue meeting of the Special Representative of the Government of Azerbaijan with representatives of Armenian residents took place today in the city of Yevlakh, Azerbaijan.
At the meeting, the special representative assigned by the Government of Azerbaijan for the dialogue with Armenian residents outlined the plans of the Government for reintegration and the issues related to restoration and operation of infrastructures were discussed.
In the context of discussion of social and humanitarian matters, and upon the request of the Armenian residents the delivery of fuel for the use of social facilities, such as kindergartens and schools, hospitals, and other emergency services, as well as other humanitarian support measures are expected to be implemented soon by the relevant central Government institutions.
Such a dialogue was not possible before due to obstruction of the Armenian side, relying on heavy illegal military presence in the sovereign soil of Azerbaijan.
What Armenia tries to present to the international community as an attack on “peaceful” residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan, is in fact local counter-terror measures by Azerbaijan, fully in line with its rights under the UN Charter, to disarm the Armenian armed formations illegally stationed in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan.
Armenia itself with its brazen and uncorrected disregard to its international obligations made these measures by Azerbaijan unavoidable.
Armenia’s attempt to accuse Azerbaijan of violating the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020 of the leaders of Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Armenia is equally baseless. On the contrary, it is Armenia that blatantly disregarded its commitment under the mentioned document with respect to withdrawal of its forces from the territory of Azerbaijan.
Throughout the past three years since the signing of this statement, Armenia kept more than ten thousand-strong armed formations equipped with such heavy weaponry as tanks and other armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers, mortars, electromagnetic warfare equipment and other types of offensive arms in the territory of Azerbaijan.
These illegal armed forces were sustained through direct military-technical, logistical and financial support by Armenia, including by abusing the Lachin road, in an attempt to fuel separatism in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan for the purposes of its revanchist policy.
The counter-terror measures demonstrated the scale of illegal militarization by Armenia despite the commitment it undertook under the Trilateral Statement to cease all military activities against Azerbaijan and withdraw its forces from Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory.
In just 24 hours more than 90 military outposts of the illegal formations were taken, 20 combat vehicles, 40 artillery pieces, 30 mortars, 6 electromagnetic warfare (EW) systems, and 2 anti-aircraft missile systems were neutralized.
No sovereign state would tolerate such a heavy illegal military presence on its soil. Nor did Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan acted fully within the rights safeguarded under international law and its Constitution to protect safety and security of all its residents.
Thus, systematic attempts by Armenia to create a new status-quo of illegal use of force and to sustain a gray zone based on the “Line of Contact logic” in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan was defeated.
Azerbaijan has been warning about the looming military adventure by Armenia for several weeks in light of its intensified military engineering works and forces buildup.
We were registering and bringing to the attention of the international community the intensive reinforcement of battle positions with military personnel, armored vehicles, artillery pieces and other firepower, raising the combat readiness level of forward units, creation of additional mobilization units, expansion of intelligence activities against Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces, as well as incursion into the positions of our armed forces to carry our sabotage by planting new landmines in already demined areas and roads used by civilians.
Systematic shelling of positions of the Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces by the armed formations of Armenia using weapons of various calibers, continued mining of our territories, fortification of battle positions, as well as increase in the number of trenches and military shelters in the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan in the past few months have further escalated the tensions.
Despite its earlier statement regarding Armenia’s recognition of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan that includes the Garabagh region, the Prime Minister of Armenia took yet another extremely provocative step by issuing a “congratulatory message” on the occasion of a so-called “anniversary” of establishment of illegal puppet structure in the territory of Azerbaijan.
This is yet another evidence that Armenia has not abandoned territorial claims against Azerbaijan, and has no intention to stop fueling separatism in our territory by all available means, including through political, military and financial support.
Illegal activity under false pretext of so-called “presidential elections” by the puppet regime created as a result of occupation by Armenia of the territories of Azerbaijan was another extremely provocative step. It made crystal clear that by these actions Armenia aimed at nullifying its previous statements on recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It demonstrated that Armenia is not engaging in negotiations on peace treaty in good faith.
Armenia’s deliberate attempts to undermine peace efforts are not isolated from its world-wide smear campaign against Azerbaijan built upon fabricated accusations of a so-called “blockade” and “humanitarian crisis”.
This campaign essentially collapsed on September 18, 2023, in view of eventual implementation of Azerbaijan’s offer of using multiple routes for delivery of goods to meet the needs of ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan.
Thus, following active diplomatic efforts by several international actors, including the Security Council members, a simultaneous delivery of humanitarian goods through Aghdam and Lachin was finally conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross after weeks of artificial delay caused by illegitimate obstructions by Armenia and its subordinate puppet regime.
Having failed to impose its fake narrative on international community through a so-called “humanitarian agenda”, Armenia resorted to military provocation the next day, September 19, 2023, hoping that a renewed tension will help its blame game against Azerbaijan.
As a result of explosion of mines planted by Armenian sabotage group on the Fuzuli-Ahmadbeyli-Shusha road, 2 civilian road constructors tragically lost their lives. 4 police officers fell victim to another mine explosion in close vicinity of the same area while attempting to inspect the mine incident site. These explosions led to serious wounding of 6 more Azerbaijani police officers.
The area where these mine explosions took place has been under regular use by Azerbaijan before. It leaves no room for doubt that the mines were recently planted by the Armenian sabotage group infiltrated into the area.
It should be noted that since August of 2022, a total of 2,728 landmines manufactured in Armenia in 2021, that is after the 2020 Trilateral Statement, were detected and neutralized in Azerbaijan. They include 1,119 landmines neutralized in the Kalbajar and Lachin districts along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border area. 1,609 landmines were detected in the Garabagh Economic Region. Since the signing of the trilateral statement in November 2020, 314 individuals have fallen victim to landmines.
In response to Armenian armed formations’ subversive acts inflicting civilian and military casualties, the armed forces of Azerbaijan launched local counter-terror measures to disarm these illegal armed formations and neutralize the imminent threat posed to safety and security of Azerbaijani civilian and military personnel.
The counter-terror measures were limited and proportionate to threat posed to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, as well as safety and well-being of our citizens.
The counter-terror measures exclusively aimed at neutralizing legitimate military targets within sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. As such, it fully aligned with the sovereign right of Azerbaijan to self-defense enshrined in the UN Charter.
Azerbaijan acted in full compliance with norms of humanitarian law. All measures were taken to avoid collateral damage on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Accusations on intentional and deliberate targeting of civilians by armed forces of Azerbaijan are baseless and false in view of photo and video evidence.
From the very first minutes, the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan has made several public statements calling on civilians to stay away from military installations. Similar notifications were sent to the Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan via mobile SMS service. This is done in view of the reckless attempt by Armenia-subordinated armed formations to deploy military equipment and installations within residential areas.
The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan announced that protection and security of administrative, social, educational, medical, religious, and other facilities would be ensured in line with laws of Azerbaijan and norms of international humanitarian law, while women, children, elderly people, people with disabilities and the sick would be rendered necessary medical aid, supplies and other assistance.
The armed forces of Azerbaijan behaved in an exemplary professional manner by using high-precision ammunition to neutralize illegal military installations only. As several video footages clearly demonstrate, the armed forces of Azerbaijan have deliberately refrained from striking legitimate military targets in order to avoid collateral damage.
In view of certain interventions before me, including the one delivered by the Armenian delegation, that replicated ungrounded accusations against Azerbaijan, I cannot but simply draw the attention of the Council that just few hours ago, the Prime Minister of Armenia in his statement dismissed all these accusations by publicly acknowledging that there is no direct threat to the civilians in Garabagh and that allegations on mass atrocities against them are not true.
From the very beginning, it was consistently communicated by Azerbaijan, including in contacts with international interlocutors, that as soon as Armenia and its subordinate puppet regime in the territory of Azerbaijan agree to put down arms and disband its illegal structures, the counter-terror measures would stop immediately.
This happened on September 20, 2023, when the acceptance of the above-mentioned conditions was confirmed through the command of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation. Consequently, the local counter-terror measures were halted effective of 13:00 Baku time.
It was specifically agreed that the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia must be fully withdrawn from the territory of Azerbaijan along with the disarmament of illegal armed formations that Armenia had formed with local Armenian residents, trained and supplied.
This agreement was reached through the Russian peacekeeping contingent which is present on the ground, and confirmed and publicly declared by the puppet structure subordinated to Armenia.
This adds to previously documented numerous facts that the Republic of Armenia was indeed militarily present on the sovereign soil of Azerbaijan and was in breach of its commitment under the Trilateral Statement to withdraw from Azerbaijan. Its attempts to deny such a presence were nothing but shameful deception of the international community.
It was also agreed that the issues pertinent to reintegration of the ethnic Armenian residents into Azerbaijan, including their rights and security in the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, would be discussed directly between their representatives and the central Azerbaijani authorities.
As I have already mentioned, the first such meeting took place earlier today and yielded initial positive results. The meetings in this format will continue.
Thus, the counter-terror measures taken by Azerbaijan achieved the set goals. This could have been done peacefully long ago, had Armenia honored its commitments under the Trilateral Statement. It is Armenia, and only Armenia, to be blamed for the fact that it did not happen.
The non-fulfillment by Armenia of its obligations on full, immediate and unconditional withdrawal of forces from the territory of Azerbaijan had been the reason for the failure of all international efforts to settle the armed conflict unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan more than 30 years ago.
Continued illegal military presence of Armenia in sovereign territory of Azerbaijan remained the most serious obstacle to a post-conflict normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as to efforts to reintegrate the ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan after the signing of the Trilateral Statement on November 10, 2020, under which the conflict was ended and completely new realities emerged in the region.
We have consistently and extensively called the attention of all involved international actors to the danger of such an illegal military presence.
Unfortunately, acknowledgment of our legitimate concerns behind closed doors was not reflected in practical steps and public messages of our interlocutors. The lack of adequate targeted reaction by international community to irresponsible warmongering statements and aggressive actions by Armenia, only contributed to this country’s sense of impunity and permissiveness that led to more military and political provocations.
But, it was a grave miscalculation.
At a time when practical implementation of disarmament and demilitarization on the ground starts, accompanied by direct dialogue between Armenian residents and central Azerbaijani officials, the consideration of the situation by international community should correspond to existing realities in order to remain relevant and helpful.
On the contrary, one-sided and biased approach driven by short-sighted political considerations or lobby connections, which mostly is at the core of calling this debate at the Security Council, is utterly counter-productive and unhelpful. Reliance on such a course of action failed on several previous occasions.
This can only lead to distracting the focus from real process of normalization, which is not in interest of either of Azerbaijan or Armenia, but please the whims of certain outside forces that continue to manipulate existing differences for their own political purposes.
Therefore, at this critical time when there is a historic opportunity to eventually establish good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan after 30-year-lasted bloody conflict, it is ever more important for entire international community, including the Security Council, to adequately comprehend the risks and threats associated with Armenia’s destructive actions, and to resolutely desist Armenia’s brazen attempts to exploit the Security Council to whitewash its internationally wrongful acts.
Despite all serious challenges stemming from Armenia’s destructive position, Azerbaijan once again reaffirms its readiness for a genuine dialogue and negotiations on the basis of equal and reciprocal respect for each other’s legitimate interests.
We once again extend our offer of a just, fair and lasting peace to Armenia, notwithstanding the unhealed wounds of its armed aggression against my country, massive devastations of our cities and villages, deliberate desecration of our holy places. We hope this offer by Azerbaijan will finally be reciprocated by this country.
On a different track, the Republic of Azerbaijan reaffirms its determination to guarantee to ethnic Armenian residents of the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan all rights and freedoms in line with its Constitution and relevant international human rights mechanisms, including those safeguarded for persons belonging to national minorities. Azerbaijan has a proud history of uniting different ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities within one nation. Ethnic Armenian residents are welcome to be part of our peaceful co-existence model.
At the same time, Azerbaijan reminds the obligation of all States under the international law on non-interference with internal affairs of other States, not undermining the integration of persons belonging to national minorities or fueling separatism in the territory of neighboring states.
Azerbaijan remains open to constructive engagement with all international partners who have genuine interest in peace, stability and well-being in our region.