Ex-FM: Azerbaijan did not accept proposal to return 5 districts, postpone issue of status of Kalbajar, Lachin, Garabagh

APA news agency has published an interview with the former foreign minister of Azerbaijan, Tofig Zulfugarov.

News.Az reprints the interview.

- The President of Russia Vladimir Putin said yesterday that according to Russia's proposal in the previous negotiations, the jurisdiction of Lachin, Kalbajar, and the former Nagorno-Karabakh would remain in Armenia, and the other 5 districts would be returned to Azerbaijan. How true is this statement?

- The proposals put forward by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group since 1996 were of this nature. This wasn’t only Russia’s proposal. So, as Putin said, in a phased version, the liberation of several districts should’ve been resolved, at the next stage, the Lachin and Kalbajar districts and the Garabagh issue should’ve been resolved. Actually, Putin didn’t say anything new. There were points related to this in Heydar Aliyev's proposals for discussion in the Milli Majlis too. The main elements of the Madrid principles consisted of that some of the occupied districts were to be liberated first. The main elements of the future agreement were offered to us in the form of a thesis, not an agreement. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia would accept some of these proposals and would not accept the other part. This situation continued for 30 years, that is, until 2020. For 30 years, the co-chairs have not offered any agreement to the parties. The only agreement that was negotiated until 1997, was the one proposed by Russia, the discussion of that agreement did not yield any results.

From what Putin said, it seems like as if Armenia wasn’t accepting, but Azerbaijan was accepting the proposal of returning 5 districts, saving the issue of Kalbajar and Lachin, the status of Garabagh to the next stage. This is a wrong impression. The Azerbaijani side especially was not accepting this. I say this with full responsibility. Because I was President Heydar Aliyev’s special representative on these issues, I know about these issues.

I want to touch on Kazan's proposals too. This wasn’t disclosed to the society. However, there wouldn’t be anything new in those proposals either. In general, the proposals of the Minsk group consisted of the liberation of 5 districts first, and then the issue of other districts. However, Azerbaijan wasn’t agreeing to these proposals. Azerbaijan accepted these theses as a basis, but then Azerbaijan would express its position on the parts of the agreement composed by the co-chairs that were unsatisfactory for us. The position of the Armenians contained the liberating of a part of the occupied districts in exchange for the independence of Garabagh. Azerbaijan did not accept this conception of Armenia and the proposal to first liberate 5 districts, then 2 districts underlying this conception. Armenia later revealed such a position that they won’t exempt any territory, de facto those territories have merged with Armenia, and they don’t need negotiations. Putin’s criticisms are related specially to this subsequent position of Armenia.

- However, Putin said that the proposals include the remaining of Lachin, Kalbajar and the former Nagorno-Karabakh under the jurisdiction of Armenia. Was there such a point in the proposals?

- Putin means temporary jurisdiction. Putin used this term to make the matter seem more reliable from a legal point of view. The essence of the Russian President’s statement is that Armenia itself is guilty of these issues. On the other hand, for some reason, Putin doesn’t say that these proposals were proposed by the three co-chair countries of the Minsk Group. The co-chairs took the same position. Even the heads of state of the countries that are co-chairs of the Minsk Group issued statements in this direction and stated that it is their joint position.

What Putin wants to say is that Armenia, which wants to move towards the West, has been treated like this for a long time. In fact, the proposal mentioned by Putin was the position of the 3 co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Although Putin's statement is related to the Garabagh issue, in fact, what is happening is a manifestation of the competition between Russia and the West.

One issue should be noted. As a result of the 44-day War in 2020, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev declared that the status quo has changed, the Garabagh issue is an internal issue of Azerbaijan, and this page is closed. President Ilham Aliyev clearly stated his position at the press conference with Putin. The President of Azerbaijan has shown that someone's opinion on this issue is a secondary issue. This is the reality.

The essence of the current struggle is different, as I mentioned above, and I wish success to both Putin and Pashinyan in this struggle.

- In general, how were President Ilham Aliyev’s position and principles regarding the liberation of the lands from occupation during his term?

- During Heydar Aliyev’s term, the state of Azerbaijan’s economic, military and political foundation was formed. President Ilham Aliyev ensured Azerbaijan’s development at a higher level based on this foundation. After achieving such development, Azerbaijan revealed its position on the Garabagh problem according to its strength and resources. For example, when we were weak, we simply didn’t raise some issues. During the term of President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev-when were stronger, we declared these issues again. In 2020, this strength reached its peak level and the President declared that the status quo had changed and the head of state stressed that the Garabagh issue is Azerbaijan’s internal issue.

One issue should also be noted. President Ilham Aliyev is a professional diplomat. The steps President takes on foreign policy are very professional and he gives statements and speeches that defend Azerbaijan’s interests. These speeches and statements based on logic, international law, and principles, of course, show their effects on processes. We already see what state the Russia-Armenia alliance is in.
I want to draw attention to one more point. Azerbaijan is the only country in the post-Soviet space that is a military ally of NATO member Türkiye. Which country in the post-Soviet space achieved this? Has this been accepted by Russia in relation to other countries? Look at what’s happening in Ukraine?! I’m not talking about the Baltic countries, that’s another topic. Armenia is being criticized for conducting training with US servicemen.

We see that Azerbaijan’s successes are the result of serious and professional policy.


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