Azerbaijan hands over bodies of nearly 1,200 Armenian servicemen – presidential aide
Azerbaijan has handed over the bodies of nearly 1,200 Armenian military servicemen to the latter, said Hikmet Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration.
Hajiyev made the remarks answering questions during an online seminar on the results of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war and the prospects for regional cooperation in the post-conflict period.
The seminar was hosted by the Eurasian Center under the ‘Atlantic Council’, one of the authoritative brain centers in the US Washington. The online event was moderated by the director of the Eurasian Center under the Atlantic Council, former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst.
“As a result of the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the illegal ‘status quo’, which Armenian side had been abusing for the past 26 years, was eliminated, and after that the confrontation in the South Caucasus should be transformed into cooperation and regional integration,” Hajiyev added.
While answering the question about which side started military operations in September 2020, the presidential aide stressed that to clarify the reasons for the latest armed conflict, it’s necessary to consider the conditions that led to the war.
“After the meeting of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Dushanbe, President Ilham Aliyev, demonstrating good will, allowed the Prime Minister of Armenia to return to the issue of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after achieving stability in Armenia. However the prime minister, abusing this good will, began to issue nationalist appeals. One of them had been made during his illegal trip to the former occupied territories of Azerbaijan, when he said: ‘Artsakh’ (Armenian name of Karabakh) is Armenia and that's it," Hajiyev said.
“Besides these absurd statements made by Pashinyan, Armenian Defense Minister Tonoyan, at a meeting with the Armenian diaspora in the US, announced about the doctrine of a "new war for new territories",” assistant to the president said.
“All these statements, as well as the armed provocations of the Armenian side in the direction of Azerbaijan’s Tovuz district in July 2020, the targeted artillery shelling of civilian facilities of Azerbaijan and the positions of the Azerbaijani troops in September 2020 led to the fact that the Azerbaijani troops launched a counteroffensive along the entire front to ensure the implementation of four well-known UN Security Council’s resolutions and restore Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” Hajiyev said.
He stressed that during the armed phase of the conflict, Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that it is ready to stop military operations if Armenia immediately presents a timetable for the withdrawal of its armed forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. But this did not happen, and, finally, after Shusha city and other territories of Azerbaijan were liberated in November, Yerevan was forced to accept the conditions of Baku.
Hajiyev emphasized that Azerbaijan maintains "open dialogue and communication" with the contingent of Russian peacekeepers, adding that the representatives of this contingent do their job professionally.
In response to a question about the Armenian prisoners of war, the presidential aide stated that the aim of 62 armed Armenians who crossed the state border of Azerbaijan after signing the well-known statement on ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on November 9, 2020 was to attack the Azerbaijani positions and they even took some equipment with them.
“These are not prisoners of war, as they do not belong to the category of prisoners,” he said. “After signing the statement, Azerbaijan handed over the bodies of about 1,200 Armenian servicemen to the Armenian side.”
Hajiyev reminded the Armenian participants of the seminar that after the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, more than 4,000 Azerbaijanis are still considered missing and Armenia must provide information about them.
Hajiyev also provided the audience with information about the beginning of the conflict, including the fact that it was organized by certain circles of the former USSR, about the Sumgayit events staged by criminals such as ethnic Armenian Eduard Grigoryan.
The issues of demining the liberated territories, plans for their restoration and the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to their houses were also discussed.
Hajiyev informed that the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan are citizens of Azerbaijan and are obliged to accept the laws of Azerbaijan, its Constitution.
While answering a question about the role of the OSCE Minsk Group in the post-conflict period, Hajiyev said that the Minsk Group can help in identifying confidence-building measures between the two sides.
In conclusion, the presidential aide stated that the US companies can invest in the restoration of the infrastructure of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and, participating in this process, contribute to regional integration and the restoration of the liberated territories.