We have recently seen how a conflict entrenched in time and space has erupted again to threaten the peace of the Caucasus; the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Almost immediately the different global media have rushed to present analysis and data on a conflict that has gone unnoticed for decades by Western audiences. At Quixote Globe we have had the honor of being able to ask the Azerbaijani diplomatic corps directly about what are the reasons that from their point of view cause the conflict. The interview has revealed a dimension of the conflict that is not reflected in the western media.
Unfortunately in Spain there is not much knowledge about the country of Azerbaijan, so when you look at the map the first question is forced Why is there a part of Azerbaijan on the other side of Armenia?
The reason why the country is divided and in the middle is Armenia is to look back to the beginning of the 20th century, when Russia and Persia had an agreement between the two countries since 1813 and 1828. Both the first one in 1813, the Treaty of Gulistan, and the second one in 1828, the Treaty of Turkmenchay, divided territories of Persia and added them to Russia. In 1828, our country has always been of interest to other countries, both in terms of territory and resources. It is known that Azerbaijan has many energy and natural resources. The interests of Russia and Persia in the region have always been evident. Although on the map the Nakhichevan area is separated from Azerbaijan, previously, including present-day Armenia, it belonged to the Republic of Azerbaijan. When we see it now on the map it seems that they are two separate countries, and it is because Russia's policy has been directed to divide Azerbaijan even more, in order to make the country weak and to be able to control it more through imposed directives. Therefore, because of Armenia's annexation of the southern zone, a line of separation can be seen on the map. There was no country like Armenia, it is a country that was formed within the territory of Azerbaijan. Today Nakhichevan is an autonomous region that belongs to Azerbaijan, it has a border with Turkey, with Iran, and with Armenia at present. Unfortunately, with this war that we have been hearing about for thirty years, the direct line of contact with Azerbaijan has been lost. For that reason when they fly our airplanes from Baku or from other places of the country they have to pass by Iran to arrive at Nakhichevan, it is very dangerous to fly directly from our territory to Nakhichevan.
According to this vision, Armenia's institutions are all newer than Azerbaijan's institutions, in historical terms.
Of course, they are newer. However, when you ask them they will tell you something different. I always say that there is official data, that with documents they can prove to whom the territories currently occupied by the Armenian armed forces belong; these are Karabakh and seven territories adjacent to it.
What are the concrete reasons for the conflict that has been going on for decades?
As ambassador of Azerbaijan in Spain, and as a citizen of Azerbaijan, I want to clarify one thing; Azerbaijan is a peaceful country, Azerbaijan does not want wars. It is not a country in favor of being at war with anyone, but more importantly, Azerbaijan is not part of other countries' territories. Azerbaijan tries to explain through negotiations, through diplomatic channels, that the armed forces of Armenia are occupying our territory. These territories should be recognized as occupied. Armenia has always claimed that we do ethnic cleansing against Armenians. But Azerbaijan does not do such a thing against Armenians, in fact, Azerbaijan protects its territories according to the right of territorial integrity, of its sovereignty. We do not belong to the territories of the Armenians. To this day, there are four UN Security Council resolutions that are alienated from our position, and as we want to show the international community, these resolutions call for the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from these territories. Thirty years asking for this, and the Armenians accepted the resolutions in 1993, but in those years Armenia has not taken any steps towards peace, towards negotiations... they have not wanted to return the territories and allow the people to return to their homes. It is always said that Armenians lived in Karabakh, but in reality both Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived there. And Azerbaijan can officially say that it has the capacity to ensure the security of the entire population of Karabakh, both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, within the Karabakh region, within the territory of Azerbaijan. But Armenia wants to manipulate this whole situation, deceiving its own people by saying that it is Armenian territory and that they have to populate it and live in a way. But notice that there is no development within the occupied territories, there is no enterprise of any country. And in reference to this it should be noted that no country, including Armenia, has recognized the self-proclaimed Republic of Karabakh. It is as if this republic did not exist in the rest of the world.
A strange situation. It is a territory, within Azerbaijan, but with a majority Armenian population. How does a territory of Azerbaijan have an Armenian majority?
As I said at the beginning, Armenians in the territory of Karabakh had become part of Russia, on the part of other territories, apart from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. It is a long-term policy that over the years the Armenians could manipulate the Azerbaijanis. It is a policy designed by Russia, one must tell the truth about how events have been, there is no reason to hide something that everyone knows. That is why the population of Armenians is on a par with the population of Azerbaijanis in the region. But they lived in peace, normally, there was no conflict. Armenians had been accepted into the Azerbaijani bosom, into our territory, into Karabakh. We have nothing against the Armenian people, we know that they have nothing to do with what their rulers do. But these rulers since 1988 began their policy of ethnic cleansing within the territory of Azerbaijan, in Karabakh. They started displacing the Azerbaijani people, then they started killing. So right now we have a big, serious, complicated conflict. It's a situation where Armenia has the solution in its hands. That's why the fact that Armenians are living in the region doesn't mean that the region was part of Armenia. Armenians had moved from other parts of Russia, and other territories, to live alongside Azerbaijanis. Most likely it was a migration policy with long-term objectives, such as creating the conflict we are now experiencing. Who could have thought at that time that Russia would make such policies against Azerbaijan?
So the Republic of Karabakh has a somewhat strange nature also within international politics, since no one has recognized it. Who is the architect of this republic? Who is behind it?
Since it is not recognized by any other country, one can think that it is a mystical imagination of the Armenian government. It is an idea framed in the Great Armenia, which imagines expanding its borders from Yerevan to Baku. This is how the government of the self-proclaimed republic publicized it; that they were going to take their borders from Khankendi (Stepanakert) to Baku. Evidently the leaders of this self-proclaimed republic are separatists. Some separatists with an imaginary that frames occupying and killing the neighboring town.
Who finances this republic?
In a speculative manner, one can have the intuition that there are countries behind it, one can even think of the Armenian diaspora throughout the world. There are large Armenian communities in France, the United States, Russia ... and it is clear that they support this separatist regime. However, this is a speculative idea, since I cannot say who, or what countries, may be financing the self-proclaimed republic.
In the last few days, Azerbaijani society has been very mobilized, and they have been demanding that the government take action and take Karabakh militarily. What were the reasons for the population to make this decision just now?
It has been a movement of the people of our country in reaction to the events that happened in July of this year, 2020. The clashes took place on the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the direction of Tovuz. In order to clarify these mobilizations, one must be aware of the tension that was present at the border in July. It is not the same as now on the border of the occupied territories. What happened in July was a new provocation on the part of Armenia, and consisted of an artillery attack against the border of Azerbaijan. On July 15 and 16, the population expressed their desire to go to war against Armenia and put an end to this occupation. One can imagine how fed up the population is with this policy of ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijanis. That is why the images belong to the month of July. What is happening now in the images of Baku and other peoples of Azerbaijan, the people, with their impetus, are enlisting in the armed forces of the country. More and more people want to go to the border with their armed forces to fight against the armed forces of Armenia to liberate their ancestral territories. That's the fundamental difference between what happened in July and what's happening right now.
Apart from the feelings of the population, it is known that different gas and oil pipelines pass through the region to transport it to Europe. To what extent can these interests be behind all the conflict we are seeing?
Through the territory of Azerbaijan, although not only through Azerbaijan, many conduits go to Georgia, then to Turkey, then to Albania, and then to Europe. Azerbaijan participates and has a percentage in these energy projects, and there are some pipelines that pass through the security strip of the occupied territories. On the western part of the country, important oil pipeline lines pass that aim to reach Italy; this is the Southern Gas Corridor. The project includes the Trans Adriatic (TAP)2 and Transanatolian (TANAP) gas pipelines. By the way, the Spanish company Enagas has 16% of the project, so Spain has a company participating in this project. By provoking these attacks, Armenia is threatening the energy security of the European Union. For this reason, we want to make it clear to the EU and the international community that we are not responsible for this war that we are currently experiencing, that is to say, all responsibility lies with the leaders of the government of Armenia. Azerbaijan fights within its occupied territories, Azerbaijan does not belong to the territory of Armenia. Azerbaijan does not fight against the civilian population, Azerbaijan respects international law, respects the 1949 Geneva Convention, and is fighting directly against the armed forces of Armenia, not against the civilian population of Armenia. Given that so many important energy pipelines pass through conflict zones, security concerns are normal, and the EU, as well as other countries in the region, should also be concerned.
If the conflict becomes longer and more serious, how could it affect Azerbaijan's economy?
We know that any war affects in some way the economic and social life of any country. War wastes a lot of resources. But Azerbaijan has natural and financial resources. That's why it's going to do everything to liberate its occupied territories, and it's not going to worry about what's going to happen to its economy. Taking into account the situation, and knowing that the population of Azerbaijan is ten million, while that of Armenia is less than three million, apart from knowing the moral situation of the Armenians, who know that they are occupying our territory, I am sure that our president, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, has guidelines to bring this war to an end and to liberate all the territories. Azerbaijan has many resources, military, natural, and financial, to continue this war. We are not worried about the economic situation; we have resources.
When it comes down to it, we're not just talking about a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What other countries in the region have interests in the conflict? What regional alliances are there?
Around this conflict there are countries like Iran, like Russia, like Georgia, like Turkey... it is not a secret that there are interests in these situations. There are always interests. Any country has interests of third parties in relation to its domestic or foreign policy. Who third parties support or stop supporting is already a matter of these third countries. You have seen leaders of Turkey expressing their support for Azerbaijan, Turkey has always announced that it is on the side of Azerbaijan. The two countries have fraternal ties, we have cordial and direct relations. Besides, we have common objectives in the international community. That is why Turkey tries through the appeal to the international community to get closer to Azerbaijan's position. Turkey seeks an international legal solution to this situation, not a solution in which it merely calls for a ceasefire with Armenia. Azerbaijan did not start the war. There are four UN resolutions that say who is the occupier and who is the occupied. That is why Turkey supports Azerbaijan morally. It is understandable and makes sense because of cultural and ethnic affinities, and they do it because there is a legal reason to liberate the territories. It is the legal basis and the brotherhood that supports us, not only because we are one nation and two states, it is because Azerbaijan's position is just, that is why Turkey is on our side. But I want to make it clear to the Spanish people that the Turkish armed forces are not participating in the contest. Armenia is contaminating the information by claiming the opposite, it is trying to confuse third countries to help the Armenians directly in order to end the war. But there is no evidence that the Turks are fighting the Azerbaijanis on the battlefield against the Armenians. This information is a strategy of the Armenians to involve the countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, including Russia, in their assistance.
We have seen images of how the Azeri army is handling state-of-the-art military drones, but there is no evidence of similar arms development in the country.
Azerbaijan has the right to strengthen its armed forces even further, and to do so at a high level; it is a national right. Like any other country, it has the right to buy arms to defend its national interests. Moreover, since we are living in the current situation of war with Armenia, Azerbaijan has to buy arms from other countries and strengthen its armed forces. This is normal. Any country does it, and the countries that suffer from war do it with more need. What happens is that Armenia is afraid that Azerbaijan is using powerful drones and similar weapons. We make counteroffensives, we respond to Armenian attacks properly. We do not do anything against the civilian people of the Armenians, nor do we want to, nor will we. Our call to the Armenian government is to let our territories free, and thus the war ends. If they want to end the war, let them sit down and negotiate. If they want to continue with the war, Azerbaijan is ready; we have the right, we have the morale, we have the support of our people, we have regional alliances, and we have the resources.