Russia has criticized Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev for again publicly declaring that Yerevan and other parts of Armenia are “historic Azerbaijani lands.”
Aliyev pledged to “return Azerbaijanis” to Yerevan, Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province and the area around Lake Sevan when he addressed a pre-election congress of his Yeni Azerbaycan party on Thursday. That, he said, is a “strategic goal” of his regime.
Armenia condemned the statement, with President Serzh Sarkisian saying it shows that Baku is not committed to a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Reports about Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s speech at a congress of the ruling party have certainly been seen in Moscow,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Thursday. “We are well aware that Azerbaijan’s relations with neighboring Armenia are extremely tense. The comment in question will clearly not help to reduce the tensions.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry rejected the Russian criticism on Friday. A ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, said it runs count to Russia’s “strategic partnership” with Azerbaijan.
Hajiyev was quoted by Azerbaijani media saying that Aliyev did not lay any territorial claims to Armenia and only spoke of an eventual “return of Azerbaijanis to their historical lands.”
Aliyev has repeatedly made similar statements in the past. In 2014, for instance, he stated that Baku will eventually gain control of not only Karabakh but also parts of the “fascist” Armenian state which he said had been created on “historic Azerbaijani lands.”
The Russian, U.S. and French mediators may have referred to the Azerbaijani leader’s latest claim when they urged the parties to the Karabakh conflict to avoid “inflammatory statements” after wrapping up their latest regional tour on February 11.
Aliyev will be seeking a fourth term in office in a snap presidential election slated for April 11. The ballot will be held two days after Sarkisian completes his second and final presidential term. Sarkisian is tipped to become prime minister immediately after Armenia is transformed into a parliamentary republic later in April.
Aliyev and Sarkisian pledged to intensify the Karabakh peace process when they last met in Geneva in October. Their foreign ministers held follow-up talks in December and January.