Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has stood by his claims that much of modern-day Armenia lies in “historic Azerbaijani lands.”
“I have repeatedly said and want to say once again that the territory of contemporary Armenia is historic Azerbaijani lands. There are numerous books and maps confirming that,” Aliyev said on Monday at the start of official celebrations of Nowruz, the ancient Persian New Year marked as a public holiday in Azerbaijan.
“Let those who don’t know this know this,” he added, according to Azerbaijani news agencies. “The Azerbaijani youth must know this first and foremost. Let it know that most of modern-day Armenia is historic Azerbaijani lands. We will never forget this.”
Aliyev has repeatedly made such statements in the last few years, most recently on February 8. Speaking at a pre-election congress of his Yeni Azerbaycan party, he pledged to “return Azerbaijanis” to Yerevan, Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province and the area around Lake Sevan.
Armenia condemned that statement, with President Serzh Sarkisian saying it shows that Baku is not committed to a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It was also criticized by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group urged the parties to the Karabakh conflict to avoid “inflammatory statements” in a joint statement issued on February 11. The statement failed to satisfy Yerevan. Armenian officials called for an explicit international condemnation of Aliyev’s claims.
“As expected, lack of proper international reaction to [the Azerbaijani president’s] territorial claims towards Armenia inspired him to claim larger territories,” Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, tweeted on Monday, reacting to Aliyev’s latest declaration.
The Azerbaijani leader, who inherited power from his father Heydar Aliyev in 2003, is seeking a fourth term in office in a snap presidential election slated for April 11.