Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: The EU must act now
The EU must apply pressure on Armenia to respect the ceasefire and abandon the illegal occupation of occupied regions of Azerbaijan, says Azay Guliyev.
Azerbaijan has recently been subject to its worst hostilities since the 1994 truce, which ended a war in which Armenian-backed fighters seized the Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding regions from Azerbaijan.
Last weekend, Armenian troops grossly violated this ceasefire and attacked Azerbaijani settlements and refugee camps. This shelling of Azerbaijan positions along the contact line with heavy weapons, including artillery, is not the first provocation we have faced since the truce of 1994, nor will it be the last.
Yet their worrying scale of the violation reminds us one thing; as long as the unlawful deployment of Armenian armed forces on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan continues, we will not achieve peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
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This is important, as our stability greatly affects the EU; our main oil pipelines delivering energy to Europe are situated less than 50 km from the contact line.
As part of a geopolitically complex region, bordering countries such as Iran and Russia, we are strategically tied to the EU in many ways.
Together with the West, Azerbaijani forces have participated in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. They also played a key role in the repatriation of the NATO mission from Afghanistan.
More importantly, as one of the rare Muslim countries that adheres to secular principles, Azerbaijan is engaged in the fight against radicalisation and religious extremism.
In view of these strategic ties, it is encouraging to see the EU, the Council of Europe and other international organisations voicing concerns over the upsurge in violence, which has cost the lives of 38 Azerbaijani citizens - 31 Azerbaijani servicemen and seven civilians - in recent days. However, this is not sufficient.
It is not enough to be concerned when civilians are dying, houses and public properties are being damaged and transmission lines are being cut in our villages.
It is not enough when the international community turns a blind eye to the artificially-altered demographics taking place in the Armenian-occupied territories and views the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict differently than any other conflict in the former Soviet space, be it in Crimea, South Ossetia or Transnistria.
Azerbaijan is committed to using peaceful means to settle the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. Once again, it was Azerbaijan that showed goodwill and initiated a unilateral ceasefire.
Yet what has the internationally community actually done in concrete terms besides showing its concern?
I am worried to hear from my European colleagues that they are afraid to take sides in this conflict, although it is perfectly clear which side should be taken, without further delay; The one that represents international law, fairness and justice.
A number of UN Security Council resolutions have condemned the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories, reaffirming its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The UN resolutions affirm that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan and demand "immediate, complete and unconditional" withdrawal of "occupying forces" from the territories of Azerbaijan.
The unacceptable nature of this status quo has repeatedly been pointed out by the presidents of the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group; The United States, Russia and France.
Armenia has ignored these calls, rejecting every initiative that has been put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group. This once again proves that the Armenian government in Yerevan is not genuinely interested in a political solution to the armed conflict.
I call on the EU to demand that Armenia respect the ceasefire, ceases the illegal occupation of Azerbaijan's territories and creates the necessary conditions required for more than one million Azerbaijanis to return to their homes.
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