Last week, the nine leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), composed of former Soviet Republics, met in Astana, Kazakhstan. In attendance were the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the heads of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
At this meeting, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan confronted each other about the conflict between their countries in front of the other participants, primarily Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Aliyev’s remarks were full of falsehoods. He alleged that after the 2020 war, Armenia planted “1,400 anti-personnel mines made in Armenia…near the border with Lachin district in 2021. The roads leading from one Azerbaijani military position to another were also mined.” He claimed that “the clashes, their active phase, lasted a maximum of eight hours,” even though Azerbaijan continues violating the ceasefire to this day. He lied, saying that “Azerbaijan had no intention of occupying the territory of Armenia, as some may assume.” He ignored the fact that the Azeri army continues to remain inside Armenia’s borders since its earlier incursion on May 12, 2021.
Aliyev tried to ingratiate himself to Putin by claiming, “As a result of the mediation efforts of the Russian side, I would like to emphasize that it was the Russian side that came up with a ceasefire proposal. Some attribute this to other countries which is completely unfounded. As a result of the mediation efforts of the Russian side, the clashes, as I said, were stopped.” Aliyev was thus contradicting reports that the United States brokered the ceasefire. He also acknowledged that Azerbaijan “resolutely rejected” the offer by the European Union to place a civilian mission on the Azerbaijani side of the border. “Therefore, the mission will be located on the territory of Armenia,” he said.
Aliyev harshly criticized French President Emmanuel Macron who had made sympathetic remarks about Armenia. Aliyev complained that Macron “made insulting, unacceptable, false and provocative statements. He accused Azerbaijan of engaging in a horrific war.” Once again, Aliyev tried to ingratiate himself to Putin by telling him that Macron made “biased statements…against the Russian Federation, namely, that ‘Russia played the Azerbaijani game.’” As a result, Aliyev said he rejected any future mediating role for France in the Karabakh conflict. He also complained about “anti-Azerbaijan statements” made by the French foreign minister, the French Senate recognizing Karabakh, and a second resolution “being prepared in the French Senate in mid-November.” He blamed these developments on the influence of “the Armenian Diaspora in France.”
Aliyev accused Armenia of organizing ‘provocations’ against the embassies of Azerbaijan in France, Lebanon and the United States. He falsely claimed that “we have no doubts that the acts of terror and vandalism were organized by Armenia. Why am I saying this? Because in the 1990’s, Armenian special services carried out [in Azerbaijan] 32 terrorist acts — explosions in the subway, buses, ferries and trains. As a result of those heinous terrorist acts, more than 2,000 Azerbaijan civilians were killed!”
Aliyev then tried to turn the Karabakh conflict into a religious war accusing Armenians of an “extreme degree of hatred for the Azerbaijani people and the entire Muslim world,” forgetting that Armenia and Armenians enjoy the most cordial relations with many Islamic countries.
Aliyev lied once again by claiming that Azerbaijan has fulfilled “all the provisions of the November 2020 agreement after the war.” Dozens of Armenian prisoners of war remain in Baku jails, two years after the war. He also lied about Armenia not providing “unhindered access from Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhichevan.” However, Armenia repeatedly announced its readiness to provide such a road, while Azerbaijan has not reciprocated.
Aliyev concluded his speech by stating that his “patience” is “not unlimited,” and threatened that unless he gets what he demands from Armenia, “we will be left with no other option but to act accordingly.”
Prime Minister Pashinyan spoke next, countering Aliyev’s lies. Calling Azerbaijan’s September attack “an unprovoked military aggression against Armenia,” Pashinyan condemned Azeri soldiers for committing war crimes by executing Armenian prisoners of war in contravention of the Geneva Convention.
Pashinyan also accused Azerbaijan of intending “to occupy more territories of Armenia.” He blamed “the inadequate response of the regional security organizations [Collective Security Treaty Organization] … which has caused very sharp questions in the Armenian society.” He asked if the CSTO recognized the borders of the former Soviet Republics.
Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan is only now demanding to know the fate of missing Azeri soldiers in the Karabakh war of the 1990’s, revealing that 777 Armenians are missing from that war and 217 from the 2020 war.
Pashinyan criticized Azerbaijan for falsely describing as ‘corridor’ the agreed-upon road between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. He said that despite the fact that the 2020 agreement “clearly mentions” Karabakh, Azerbaijan claims that it “does not exist.”
Pashinyan also responded to Aliyev’s false claim that Armenia had mined Azeri territories after the 2020 war. Pashinyan stated that “such mining has taken place entirely within the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. And it is our right to take some security steps to protect the territorial integrity of our country.”
Pashinyan also contradicted Aliyev’s false claim that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was of a religious nature. Pashinyan reiterated Armenia’s close relations with many Muslim countries.
Pashinyan denied that Armenia had organized any attacks on Azerbaijani embassies in foreign countries. Where is the evidence, he asked.
Concluding his remarks, Pashinyan once again spoke about his baseless expectation of peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey, given their ongoing hostility toward Armenia. Peace cannot be achieved by one side while the other side is trying to kill you.
An enemy who is constantly attacking you and pointing a gun to your head cannot be considered a reliable partner for peace.