Armenia's provocation turned into a complete fiasco Hikmat Hajiyev

The August edition of the Russian magazine “Nasionalnaya oborona” (National Defense) published an interview with Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Head of the Department of Foreign Policy Affairs of the Presidential Administration Hikmat Hajiyev on the military provocation of the Armenian armed forces committed in the Tovuz direction of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on 12 July. SIA presents the interview.

- What are the reasons behind the battles at the Azerbaijani-Armenian border?

- The recent escalation at the section of the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border in Tovuz district was the result of an Armenian provocation. By committing this military escapade, Yerevan pursued a whole range of goals. They can be conditionally divided into domestic and external.

The domestic ones are connected with the deteriorating situation in Armenia against the backdrop of a difficult political and socioeconomic situation and the deplorable COVID-19 situation. As you know, in 2018 Pashinyan came to power in Armenia on a wave of populist pledges to the Armenian people. But time has shown that his government is incapable of fulfilling those promises and changing life in the country for the better. The situation with COVID-19 has explicitly demonstrated the inefficiency of the Armenian government. Therefore, against the backdrop of the ever exacerbating turmoil, the Pashinyan government seeks to divert the population’s attention from domestic problems.

Among the external reasons, I should note the significant successes of Azerbaijan in the international arena. The strengthening of our international positions, including in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, has aroused Armenia’s envy. Against this background, Armenia, pursuing a destructive policy and continuing the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, seeks to divert the attention of the international community from the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories by creating a new hotbed of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but this time on the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border. By resorting to such provocations, Yerevan is trying to create an opinion that Azerbaijan is allegedly committing attacks on the territory of Armenia, and to involve the military-political organizations it is a member of in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

In addition, one of Armenia’s goals was to create a threat to strategic international projects, such as oil and gas export pipelines and the East-West transport corridor.

We can say with full confidence that Armenia did not achieve its goals and its provocation turned into a complete fiasco.

- How did the events start unfolding from the very beginning? Who was the first to open fire? How did the Azerbaijani side act?

- The armed forces of Armenia were the first to start military operations. On 12 July, using their artillery, they attacked the positions of the Azerbaijani army. This attack was repulsed by return fire. But, as before, Armenia began to blame Azerbaijan for this provocation, citing unfounded and even ridiculous arguments. The Armenian side claims that two Azerbaijani servicemen in a UAZ vehicle allegedly tried to commit military sabotage at the border with Armenia. This, of course, is absurd and defies all logic. What modern army would attack an armed enemy using unarmored vehicles?

I want to emphasize that Azerbaijan has no military plans or goals at the state border with Armenia. With the aim of demilitarization, protection of this part of the border with Armenia was entrusted to the border troops of Azerbaijan. Escalation at the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border does not meet the interests of Azerbaijan. On the contrary, as I have already noted, the emergence of a hotbed of tension in this region is in the interests of Armenia.

- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly stated that there is a “hot line” of special telephone communication between Baku and Yerevan, through which he can call the President of Azerbaijan if necessary and resolve the arising armed incidents. Why do you think Pashinyan did not use this channel on 12 July?

- First of all, we need to clarify this issue. There is no such communication channel between the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia. There is a certain communication channel between the authorized representatives of the two countries. Experience has shown that due to the factors associated with Armenia, in particular the constant personnel leapfrog in Yerevan, this communication channel is practically ineffective. There is actually no-one to keep in touch with. This proves again that the Armenian side is insincere in what it does.

- As is known, a march took place in Baku in support of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. Tell us more about this event.

- The indignation of Azerbaijani society over the impunity of the Armenian aggression and disappointment over the ineffectiveness of international efforts to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are growing every day. It is quite obvious that as long as this impunity continues, Armenia will continue to pursue its aggressive policy and occupation of Azerbaijani territories.

The march in support of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan reflected the unshakable will of the Azerbaijani people who are in full solidarity and determined in the issue of liberating our ancestral lands from Armenian occupiers. This important event once again demonstrated the complete unity between the people and the government. The people of Azerbaijan fully support the policy of the Commander-in-Chief and President Ilham Aliyev and want the soonest restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. I want to emphasize that after the march in response to the call of the President, more than 50,000 Azerbaijani citizens registered as volunteers in the army. This once again confirms the high level of patriotic spirit in the country.

-What combat tasks did the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan resolve in the area of armed provocation at the border starting from 12 July?

- I would like to note again that Azerbaijan has no military plans or goals in the border zone with Armenia. During the recent provocation, the combat task of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces was to protect the state border and the security of the civilian population.

The Azerbaijani army gave a fitting rebuff to the enemy and reaffirmed its combat capability and high morale. Fully informed about the situation in the theater of operations, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces effectively controlled the situation. They have demonstrated broad capabilities in solving strategic and tactical tasks in the defense of the country, including the capacity to effectively use high-precision weapons and successful use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

During the hostilities, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan prevented infiltration attempts by enemy forces and quickly suppressed their firing positions from which artillery shelling of our territories was conducted. It should be noted that not only our combat positions, but also settlements with civilian population were fired from these positions, which represents a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

The Azerbaijani army succeeded in protecting its territorial integrity, the inviolability of the state border and the security of the country's citizens. We believe that this will be a good lesson for some war dogs in Yerevan who dream of a “new war for new territories”.

- What are the data on losses from the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides?

- Unfortunately, as a result of yet another act of armed aggression on the part of Armenia, 12 Azerbaijani servicemen and one civilian were killed. As for the Armenian side, I would like to note that there is a complex mechanism in the Armenian Armed Forces aimed at concealing their true losses from the public. In this matter, all the governments of Armenia acted insincerely and always deceived their people.

According to our data, given the fierce nature of the hostilities, the Armenian side has dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded. Based on past experience, we can say with full confidence that these losses will soon be presented as non-combat losses resulting from accidents and similar incidents. In addition, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that a large number of mercenaries are usually involved on the front line from the Armenian side, and the statistics of their deaths is not announced at all.

- Armenia claims that Azerbaijan is striking civilian targets. How can you comment on this?

- This is yet another lie and misinformation of the Armenian side. On the contrary, the shelling of civilian settlements has been a long-standing practice of the Armenian armed forces. As was the case in April 2016, they have again deliberately fired on civilian sites and civilian population of Azerbaijan from large-caliber weapons and heavy artillery installations. As a result of hostilities at the state border, an Azerbaijani civilian was killed, but there were no civilian casualties in Armenia. Serious damage was also caused to the civilian population, state property, including infrastructure facilities in Azerbaijan. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan has already signed an order on measures to eliminate the damage caused as a result of the shelling of Tovuz district by Armenian armed forces.

As I have already noted, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan possess modern high-precision weapons and strike only at legitimate military targets. Meanwhile, the armed forces of Armenia, using terrorist tactics, place their firing positions near or within populated areas, thereby deliberately endangering them. Therefore, it is Armenia, not Azerbaijan, that should be held responsible for the targeted shelling of civilians.

- What are the principles for a possible resolution of the current conflict at the Azerbaijani-Armenian border?

- The current escalation at the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border in Tovuz district should be viewed in the context of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia is a consequence of this conflict, armed aggression and the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia. A destructive policy, including the constant provocations on the line of contact and at the state border, demonstrate Armenia's disinterest in resolving the conflict and its desire to prolong the status quo.

The principles of the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have long been known. The conflict must be resolved on the basis of four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) of the UN Security Council of 1993, the Helsinki Final Act, within the framework of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its internationally recognized borders. There is no and cannot be any other solution.

Based on the above principles, in the process of a gradual settlement, Armenia must withdraw the occupying forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts of Azerbaijan and create all the conditions for a safe return of internally displaced persons to their homes.

- How does Azerbaijan intend to act for a fair solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?

- Azerbaijan remains committed to the political and diplomatic settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, negotiations for the sake of negotiations are unacceptable. In order to resolve the conflict, substantive negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group are required with the aim of discussing the issues of liberation of Azerbaijani territories from occupation, not an imitation of talks.

Azerbaijan insists on the withdrawal of the occupying forces of Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts of Azerbaijan and a safe return of internally displaced persons to their lands. In turn, the international community should give a clear signal to Armenia as an aggressor country that changing the internationally recognized borders by force is unacceptable.

In conclusion, I would like to once again voice the position expressed by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev at a plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club: “Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and an exclamation mark!”

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