Statement by Minister Jeyhun Bayramov at the 29th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Lodz, Poland. 1 December 2022
At the outset, I would like to thank H.E. Mr. Zbignew Rau, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, for hospitality extended to the delegations at the Ministerial Council. I wish every success to our distinguished colleague H.E. Mr. Bujar Osmani of North Macedonia as the incoming Chairperson-in-Office.
This year marked with the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s participation in the OSCE, which coincided with our Chairmanship at the Forum for Security Cooperation during the first trimester. As it has been for 30 years, during our FSC chairmanship Azerbaijan was guided by strong belief that adherence to the fundamental norms, principles and commitments enshrined in the core OSCE documents, starting from the Helsinki Final Act, in particular, respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers of States, must remain the bedrock of security and stability, as well as the basis for cooperation within the OSCE.
The principle of consensus-based decision-making is clearly reflected in all major OSCE decisions. For years Azerbaijan suffered from the misuse of consensus within the Organization. Nevertheless, we always advocated for strict adherence to the letter and spirit of cooperative security, firmly underpinning the OSCE and its conflict cycle toolbox. In this regard, sending a so-called “needs assessment mission” to Armenia without consensus is a blatant violation of mandates adopted by collective will of all participating States. All OSCE institutions, including the Chairmanship and Secretariat, are established as common assets for all participating States. Failure to act accordingly undermines confidence. Azerbaijan calls upon these institutions to rectify their gross violation of their mandates.
With the end of almost 30 years-long armed conflict with Armenia, Azerbaijan has now embarked on elimination of its negative consequences. Enabling hundreds of thousands of IDPs to return to their homes in safety and dignity, and ensuring peaceful life in the post-conflict territories, are the absolute priority for the Government of Azerbaijan. The first group of families have recently returned to the Aghali village in the liberated Zangilan district of Azerbaijan, which was rebuilt based on a “smart village” concept.
Azerbaijan is also resolute to re-integrate its citizens of Armenian origin residing in post-conflict territories into its political, social and economic space, guaranteeing the same rights and freedoms with all the citizens of Azerbaijan. The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan provides the solid legal framework in this regard. Increased dialogue and contacts over past months between central Azerbaijani authorities and local ethnic Armenian residents need to be encouraged and sustained.
Contamination of liberated territories with mines laid by Armenia on a massive scale is the major impediment for the reconstruction efforts and return of IDPs. Sadly, after the signing of the trilateral statement in November 2020, 268 persons have become mine victims. 45 persons, including 35 civilians, were killed.
Failure by Armenia to provide Azerbaijan with full and accurate mine maps of all liberated territories brings new deaths and injuries. Around 55 per cent of all mine incidents took place in areas, with respect to which no minefield record was shared by Armenia.
On the contrary, Armenia continues indiscriminate planting of mines in the territories of Azerbaijan. Recently, 350 landmines were detected in the territory of Azerbaijan. All of them were produced in Armenia in 2021. The commander of the Russian peacekeeping force and the leadership of Joint Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center, as well as foreign military attaches accredited in Azerbaijan, have visited this area and inspected the minefield in question. In total, 2728 landmines, made in Armenia in 2021, have been found in sovereign territories of Azerbaijan. These mines were transferred through the Lachin road. This is a blatant abuse of this road, which was envisaged for humanitarian purposes only.
Along with large-scale post-conflict recovery, reconstruction and reintegration works, Azerbaijan has also initiated the process of normalizing inter-State relations with Armenia. Despite devastating consequences and unhealed wounds of war and occupation, Azerbaijan offered Armenia peace based on mutual recognition and respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within their state borders. For the past two years my country has been demonstrating strong political will to promote the peace agenda.
At meetings held this year in Brussels, Prague and Sochi at the highest level both sides confirmed their mutual recognition of each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. I met Foreign Minister of Armenia three times to discuss the preparation of a bilateral treaty on the inter-state relations. At our latest meeting in Washington D.C. on 7 November 2022 we agreed to expedite negotiations to that end. With this in mind, Azerbaijan has already submitted to Armenia a set of comments on the draft agreement.
Azerbaijan’s approach is clear, consistent, and is based on international law. After almost thirty years of no formal relations, the urgent necessity for the sides is to agree on a legally binding document setting the foundation for their inter-state relations. This document shall guarantee their rights as two equal sovereign states and provide a basis for addressing all issues of common interest or concern falling into the realm of inter-state relations.
Despite increased dynamism in bilateral negotiations, the progress remains rather limited in three major tracks of Armenia-Azerbaijan inter-state normalization process, namely, signing a peace treaty, delimitation of borders and opening of regional communications.
In all three dimensions, Armenia sticks to past practice of imitation rather than engaging genuinely into the process. Despite verbal commitments to the peace agenda, Armenia tries to avoid implementing the obligations it has undertaken.
Armenia has yet to fully withdraw its illegal armed formations from the territories of Azerbaijan. In a similar vein, Armenia artificially delays the restoration of transport links, including by rejecting to provide unimpeded access between mainland Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Instead, Armenia launched a smear campaign against Azerbaijan to hijack the normalization agenda and distract the attention from non-fulfillment of its commitments.
The role of certain third parties to embolden Armenia’s revanchist behavior is also cause for serious concern, as it tempts Armenia to resort to increased military provocations and warmongering rhetoric.
At a time, when the both sides have a real chance to finally move towards sustainable peace, it is essential for the international community, including the OSCE, to persuade Armenia to abandon its attempts to undermine the normalization process. Armenia should reciprocate on the constructive offer of Azerbaijan and seize the historic window of opportunity to normalize its relations with Azerbaijan and other neighboring countries. This will pave the way towards peace, security and cooperation in the region.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.