Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev urged Muslim countries to avoid close relations with Armenia as he attended on Wednesday an emergency summit of their leaders held in response to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Addressing the summit in Istanbul organized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Aliyev again denounced Armenian “occupation” of Nagorno-Karabakh and what he called the destruction of Islamic monuments in “the historic land of Azerbaijan.”
He described as “hypocritical” Armenia’s desire to forge friendly ties with Islamic states. “Muslims of the world must be aware that an Armenia tearing down mosques cannot be a friend of Muslim countries,” he said, according to Azerbaijani news agencies.
Aliyev did not specify which Azerbaijani mosques were destroyed during or after the 1991-1994 war in Karabakh.
The region’s largest Shia mosques are located in the war-ravaged towns of Shushi (Shusha) and Aghdam. While they are in need of repairs, they were not torn down after those towns were captured by Karabakh Armenian forces. At least one of them has undergone cosmetic repairs.
The Karabakh leadership announced late last year it has contracted an unnamed Iranian company to complete the reconstruction of Shushi’s 19th century Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque.
In his speech, Aliyev also thanked countries making up the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for supporting Azerbaijan’s position on the Karabakh conflict. Three of them -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan -- refuse to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.
A joint declaration adopted by the heads of OIC member states at a 2016 summit branded Armenia an “aggressor” and called for more “coercive” measures that would help Azerbaijan regain control over Karabakh. The Armenian government responded by accusing the Muslim bloc of “completely distorting the essence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
Predominantly Christian Armenia maintains cordial relations with some OIC member states, notably neighboring Iran. The latter has had an uneasy rapport with Azerbaijan.