Unresolved armed conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism, aggressive separatism, intolerance and discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds continue to represent the most serious challenges and are among the main obstacles to development, said Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
He made the remarks at the General Debate of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, US.
The outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda stated that there could be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development, recalling the rights and obligations of states under international law and reaffirming the need to respect the territorial integrity and political independence of states, said Mammadyarov.
Over the period passed since the last General Debate, no substantive progress has been achieved in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noted the minister.
Armenia continues to occupy the territories of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts, in flagrant violation of international law and resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 adopted in 1993 by the UN Security Council, he added.
Its engagement in the conflict settlement process is nothing but imitation, he said.
Mammadyarov noted that Azerbaijan can’t use economic potential of the occupied territories.
“The disruption of communications as a direct consequence of military occupation of territories is the serious obstacle to full-fledged socio-economic development of our country and the realization of region’s untapped economic perspective,” said the minister. “Similarly, full potential of the region for intra and trans-regional connectivity remains under-utilized.”
The humanitarian consequences of the conflict are equally harsh and necessitate urgent solutions, he said.
As a direct impact of massive displacement of people from their places of origin, close to one million refugees and IDPs continue to be deprived of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, most notably, the right to home and property, he added.
Further continuation of this situation is intolerable, added the minister.
Mammadyarov said also that Armenia’s policy and practices in the occupied Azerbaijani territories undermine the prospects of achieving a political settlement of the conflict and pose an imminent threat to peace, security and stability in the region.
Azerbaijan has made it clear on numerous occasions that the unlawful presence of the armed forces of Armenia in the occupied Azerbaijani territories is the major destabilizing factor with the potential of escalation at any time with unpredictable consequences and the main cause of tensions and incidents in the conflict zone, said the minister.
He also noted that instead of engaging in negotiations in good faith, Armenia demonstratively disrupts any attempt to settle the conflict by peaceful means.
In total disregard of the demands of the UN Security Council and in flagrant violation of international law, Armenia refuses to withdraw its troops from Azerbaijan, prevents the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani forcibly displaced persons from returning to their homes, and tries to further consolidate the status quo by altering the physical, demographic and cultural character of the occupied territories – a worrying development that was confirmed by the OSCE fact-finding missions, he added.
Moreover, Armenia frequently resorts to armed provocations trying to divert attention from the core, substantive issues of the peace process to technical aspects of the ceasefire, noted Mammadyarov.
Most recently, in early April 2016, Armenia conducted large-scale attacks against the civilian population of Azerbaijan, he said. It subjected the densely populated areas of Azerbaijan, including schools, hospitals, and places of worship, to intensive fire with heavy artillery and large-caliber weapons.
“As a result of Armenia’s reckless attacks, a large number of Azerbaijani civilians, including children, women and elderly were killed or seriously wounded,” said the minister. “Without timely use of effective civil defense measures, the number of casualties among the population would be significantly higher. Armenia also systematically mutilated the bodies of fallen Azerbaijani soldiers.”
He went on to add that during those attacks, 34 towns and villages in Azerbaijan suffered severe destructions. Substantial damages were inflicted upon private and public property, including civilian critical infrastructure. In particular, hundreds of civilian buildings, among them residential houses, schools, kindergartens, cultural centers and other civilian facilities were ruined.
Armenia’s direct and deliberate attacks against the Azerbaijani civilian population, as well as inhuman acts against Azerbaijani military servicemen, during its offensive action in April 2016, constitute yet another serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law by Armenia, noted Mammadyarov.
“By its deliberate, offensive actions, Armenia undermined the ceasefire regime established in 1994 and endangered the prospects for the political settlement of the conflict. Having received an effective response from Azerbaijan, Armenia was forced to ask for a ceasefire, which was agreed under the mediation efforts of the Russian Federation on April 5, 2016, in Moscow, at the meeting of Chiefs of Defense of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.
Despite that, it continues to violate the ceasefire, he noted adding that moreover, Armenia is amassing forces and building heavily reinforced military fortifications in the occupied Azerbaijani territories.
Armenia started intensive military activity in the occupied Aghdam district of Azerbaijan on Sept. 19, 2016, said the minister.
Armenia continues to challenge and tries to undermine the efforts of the international community, including the presidents of the OSCE MG co-chairing countries, aimed at reaching a breakthrough at the peace talks and getting Armenia’s troops out of sovereign lands of Azerbaijan, Mammadyarov said.
Mammadyarov also said that Armenia must realize that relying on the status quo and armed provocations is a grave miscalculation.
Its attempts to hypocritically mislead the international community on the root causes of the conflict by presenting themselves as a suffering side is doomed to fail, he added.
Azerbaijan expects from Armenia to halt its military build-up in the occupied territories, and engage in negotiations with Azerbaijan in good faith so as to find a political solution to the conflict, which is long overdue, said the minister.
He noted also that the conflict can be resolved only and only on the basis of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders.
The sooner Armenia reconciles with this reality and withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the earlier the conflict will be resolved, and Armenia and its population will benefit from the prospects of cooperation and economic development, he added.
Azerbaijan will spare no effort towards achieving the settlement of the conflict and ensuring peace, justice and development in the region, noted Mammadyarov.