Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has admitted that his country started the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, despite previously insisting the opposite.
The president made the comments in a speech on Tuesday in Shusha (Shushi), a day before the second anniversary of the war’s end. The ceremony to mark ‘Victory Day’ was attended by Azerbaijan’s political elites, with the armed forces also participating in the event.
‘We are not afraid of anyone. If we were afraid of someone, we would never have started the Second Karabakh War’, Aliyev boasted.
This is the first time the Azerbaijani authorities have openly admitted to starting the 44-day war. Upon the war’s outbreak on 27 September 2020, Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of breaking the ceasefire.
In his speech on Tuesday, Aliyev went on to threaten Armenia over their alleged failure to withdraw their armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.
‘Our patience is not unlimited, and I want to warn once again that if this commitment is not fulfilled, Azerbaijan will take the necessary steps’, Aliyev said.
He also once again demanded the opening of a ‘Zangezur Corridor’. The ceasefire agreement that brought an end to the war included the reopening of transportation links in the region, including a connection between western Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan exclave.
‘Armenia has taken responsibility for the Zangezur Corridor. For two years, we have not touched the cars going from Armenia to Karabakh and back on the Lachin road. We provide free movement’, Aliyev said.
‘Armenia also undertook to ensure the road connection between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Two years have passed, and there is no feasibility study, no transport, no railway, and no highway. How long should we wait?!’
On Wednesday, the chair of the foreign relations committee of the Armenian Parliament, Eduard Aghajanyan, said Aliyev’s comments about transport links bore no relation to ongoing negotiations between the two countries.
‘Ilham Aliyev’s last destructive statements should not be connected with the negotiations conducted in Washington or in Sochi’, he said.
‘The president of Azerbaijan was not constructive in the context of the entire negotiation process, especially in the post-war period’, he added.
In his speech, the president also touched on the clashes in mid-September this year, which he said were a response to ‘Armenia’s provocations’.
‘After the 13–14 September operation, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan have been stationed at the main strategic heights in the direction of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Armenia should understand well what this means’, Aliyev said.
During the clashes, Azerbaijan took control of several positions within Armenia. Despite Azerbaijan’s claims that Armenia had started the latest fighting in September, many Western countries, including the US and France, directly blamed Azerbaijan.
In his wide-ranging speech, Aliyev touched on several topics, including claiming that Azerbaijan lost the First Nagorno-Karabakh War because of the negligence of the political leadership at that time and its attempts to come to power.
‘At that time, anti-national elements seized power, fought for power and to come to power. They handed over the impregnable fortress-like Shusha to Armenia, to the Armenians, and thus came to power’, said Aliyev.
Aliyev also referred to recent military exercises conducted by Iran on the border with Azerbaijan.
‘Our Army showed heroism, professionalism, and selflessness in the [Second Nagorno-Karabakh War]. If necessary, we will show it again. We will achieve what we want, everyone knows this, and those who conduct military training in support of Armenia on our border should also know. No one can scare us’, Aliyev said defiantly.