(Interview by Dr Shahid Qureshi):-
In the context of recent clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces at international borders which made many international experts nervous due to the risk of spread of the conflict in the Russian, Turkish and Iranian backyards. We requested H.E. Tahir Taghizade, Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the UK for an interview to explain the situation. We asked him following questions.
What is now happening along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
These days the whole world witnesses yet another attempt by Armenia to cause military provocations across the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The ongoing military aggression is taking place against the backdrop of recent Armenian provocations of the past few months. In the midst of the global healthcare emergency, and with no respect to the UN Secretary General’s call for global truce, Armenian Government has encouraged the separatists in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh region to hold the so-called “elections” on 31 March and then held an “inauguration ceremony” in Shusha in May.
It has also pursued illegal activities related to building road infrastructure in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories in breach of international norms and principles. This is in line with a long-standing Armenian policy aimed at changing the infrastructure, demographic and social landscape, even the toponymics, of the occupied lands and with the international community now mostly preoccupied with preventing such illegal settlements in other parts of the world, Armenian actions should also draw adequate condemnations.
We consider the ongoing military flare up, as a result of which 11 Azerbaijani servicemen have lost their lives, as an attempt by Armenia to further extend the conflict zone from the Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent occupied districts and engage Azerbaijan militarily along the international border. This represents a well-designed plan to provoke Azerbaijan to react militarily and thus involve third parties, namely Collective Security Treaty Organisation members, of which Armenia is a member, in its presumed defence.
Another aspect international community should take account of is Armenia’s flagrant breach of and its long-standing policy of contempt for international humanitarian law, in particular 1949 Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Civilians at a Time of War. According to the confirmed reports, Armenian military forces continue to target Azerbaijani civilian settlements along the borderline having killed at least one Azerbaijani civilian. Clearly, this reckless action by Armenia cannot go unnoticed and deserves a firm condemnation by the international community.
Has the UK reacted to the aggression and what do you think about it?
I welcome the statement by Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued on 14 July which calls for restraint and commencement of result-oriented talks. It puts spotlight on the urgency of finding a lasting solution to the conflict. Moreover, an early day motion has been promptly tabled at the House of Commons that robustly calls for the condemnation of Armenia’s yet another act of aggression as well as for the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions. This timely and adequate reaction of the House of Commons is very much appreciated. Unlike previous occasions, I am also encouraged by relatively objective coverage of the ongoing aggression by some mainstream UK media outlets which are traditionally known to be biased against Azerbaijan.
How do you see the way out of this crisis?
I suppose the key thing will be the reaction of the international community. We expect our partners in the West, including the United Kingdom, to take a firm stand against Armenia’s actions and differentiate between the aggressor and the victim in their reactions. At a time of unprecedented global crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Armenia’s attempt to start a military aggression should be condemned by all available means. It represents disrespect to the positions of the global community and a deliberate policy to deflect its own people’s growing concerns from the Armenian Government’s failed policy to deal with the pandemic related healthcare and economic crisis within its borders.
The ongoing military aggression is also another reminder about the urgency of finding a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict without which we shall continue to see such sporadic military flare ups further aggravating security in the South Caucasus. This is a strategically vital region for Europe and the OSCE Minsk Group, which is tasked with bringing about a negotiated solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, should redouble its peace efforts to produce a much needed peaceful solution. Any other activity will be seen as the continuation of the OSCE Minsk Groups’ attempts to manage rather than resolve the conflict. Only with a concerted international reaction to Armenia’s actions and redoubling of peace efforts we can prevent an all-out war in the European neighbourhood in future. Time to move from “formal negotiations” to substantive and purpose-oriented talks is long overdue.
We Thank you for your time your Excellency