Aliyev also reasserted Baku’s right to conduct military operations in Karabakh similar to the one its armed forces conducted in early August along the Lachin corridor with the use of drones, mortars and grenade launchers.
Ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said two ethnic Armenian soldiers were killed and 19 others were wounded in the August 3 attack by Azerbaijani forces that prompted calls from the international community for de-escalation in the volatile region.
Azerbaijan claimed it had taken retributive action for the killing of an Azerbaijani servicemen by “Armenian terrorists.”
“Armenians living in Karabakh should take the right steps. They must understand that their future depends on their integration into Azerbaijani society. We live in reality. From the geographical, economic and historical points of view Karabakh is an inseparable part of Azerbaijan,” Aliyev told AzTV, as reported by Azerbaijani news website Haqqin.az.
The Azerbaijani leader claimed that those who, out of populism, talk about some status or independence for Armenians in Karabakh are “the main enemies of the Armenian people.”
“Because the Armenians living in Karabakh will not have any status, independence or advantages. They will live like all citizens of Azerbaijan. Their rights will be protected the way the rights of Azerbaijani citizens and peoples living [in Azerbaijan] are protected,” Aliyev said.
In March, Azerbaijan presented Armenia with five elements which it wants to be at the heart of a peace treaty to be signed by the two South Caucasus nations that fought a bloody six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the fall of 2020.
The elements include a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. The Armenian government, in principle, agreed to the elements, but said they should be complemented by other issues relating to the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the security of its population.
In the interview to national television Aliyev also claimed that hundreds of Armenian soldiers were withdrawn from Karabakh after Azerbaijan’s military operation on August 3. He stressed that Azerbaijan wants a full withdrawal of Armenian armed units from Karabakh. “It is Armenia’s commitment. It is reflected in the act of surrender signed by Armenia on November 10, 2020,” Aliyev claimed.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan on August 4, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stressed that there was no serviceman of the Republic of Armenia in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian side, however, does not share the view that the Moscow-brokered ceasefire that provided for the deployment of about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers in the region also stipulates that local Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh should disarm.
In his interview Aliyev also confirmed that the few remaining Armenian residents of the town of Lachin and the villages of Sus and Zabux (Aghavno) situated along the Lachin corridor will leave by the end of the month as a new route for the corridor linking Karabakh with Armenia is due to be put into use.
Aliyev claimed that under the Geneva conventions Armenian resettlers who lived in the villages after their occupation by ethnic Armenian forces in the early 1990s did so illegally and, therefore, he warned, those of them who will choose to stay might, in fact, be treated like war criminals.
“The occupying country cannot carry out illegal settlement of the occupied lands. This is a war crime. Perhaps the Armenians from Syria and Lebanon living there do not know this, but the leadership of Armenia is well aware of that. We hear news coming from there that someone says they will stay and will not leave. It is their business, but they are war criminals. They should not test our patience. Let them leave by their own will, we don’t care where they go,” the Azerbaijani president said.