By Veritas Temeliketi, Independent Analyst
Recent developments around peace building efforts in the territory formerly affected by territorial conflict in the South Caucasus suddenly have created another media outcry in some regional and other media outlets.
The issue rests in the implementation of Trilateral Statement by the Leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia of 10 November 2020, ending the 44-day war envisaging construction of new road bypassing city of Lachin and other settlements in the territory of Azerbaijan.
Minor part of the road had to be constructed in the territory of Armenia as well. Had to be…but has not been. When digging the details and separating the seeds from the chaffs, a panorama opens up a true view on stretching contractions of those who are trying to sabotage the peace that lying in the full implementation of the said Trilateral Statement.
Azerbaijan demonstrating a pattern attitude towards implementation of its commitments completed the construction of high quality new road in the part of its territory within short period of time.
The route has been determined and agreed upon through mediation of the Russian side (Russian peacekeepers deployed in the territory in accordance with the statement’s provisions).
As a result of that, return of the city of Lachin and villages of Zabukh and Sus under Azerbaijan’s control in its own territory will create conditions for safe and dignified return of tens of thousands of internally displaced persons to their homeland and, in general, will be an important step in post-conflict normalization and also in restoration of international law and justice.
However, on other side, Armenia has not taken any action on construction of just few kilometers of the road. Azerbaijan, again, considering the request of local Armenian population, has given a consent for construction and use of 4.7 km long temporary road in its territory (see the map, short part along the border), until Armenia will complete the road in its own territory.
That will create an opportunity for unhindered use of new route by Armenian population.
From one hand, there is Azerbaijan that responsibly approaches to its commitments, from other hand, Armenia that continues evading implementation of commitments resulting from Trilateral Statement, including those to unhindered commuting between western part of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.
Some media when highlighting the case, spread video content that two nations can’t live together. And that is not true again, because in accordance with information from the ground that also appeared in media, contacts of Azerbaijanis with local Armenian population have taken place during the road construction process, significant part of which conducted without observance by the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
That vividly demonstrates possibility of joint activity and direct contacts between Azerbaijani and Armenian population.
Moreover, while local Armenian population has agreed to start a new road, the Armenian government has attempted to protract the functioning of new road till the end of the next year. It shows that only Azerbaijan provides solutions for security and household problems of local Armenian population.
The question appears, why Armenian side is trying to sabotage practical efforts for peace. The answer partially lies in establishing by Armenia of illegal settlements in Lachin city, Zabukh and Sus villages during the occupation period. Ilegal settlements create responsibility for Armenia under international law as a war crime and serious breach of Geneva Conventions.
Secondly, absolute majority of illegally settled persons in the above-mentioned territories demands the Armenian government only to transfer them to Armenia. That already shows that they do not belong to that area of Azerbaijan.
Therefore, solving the situation is Armenia’s responsibility. Establishing of illegal settlements in the territories of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia, including Lachin city, Zabukh and Sus villages, construction of houses, churches etc. for illegally transferred Armenians to those areas against the background of destruction of properties, cemeteries, mosques of local Azerbaijani inhabitants are the vivid display of ethnic and religious discrimination. It is enough to go through some world media of that period back in May 1992 to understand that Lachin was inhabited by Azerbaijanis (see the excerpts).
When working on this article, another alarming news came from the area. Two Azerbaijani soldiers got injured by land mines in the Lachin district and MoD of Azerbaijan only within one week in the mid of August found and removed 1318 pieces of anti-personnel mines in the Lachin district. All the mines were produced in Armenia in 2021.
This constitutes a war crime and is a vivid proof that Armenia openly violates the Trilateral Statement signed on 10 November 2020 and has neither withdrawn its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, nor ceased its military activities against Azerbaijan.
As of now almost 232 Azerbaijanis have become victims of mines after November 10, 2020, 40 of whom killed.
Now it is clear who and why is trying to undermine the peace efforts in the region.
PS: On 26 of August 2022, Lachin city with Zabukh and Sus villages returned under control of Azerbaijan.