Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has appeared to lay claim to modern-day Armenia while also attacking critics in the West for supporting Armenia.
‘Western Azerbaijan [Armenia] is our historical land, this is confirmed by many historical documents, historical maps, and our history’, Aliyev said on Saturday, in a wide-ranging speech to the Community of West Azerbaijanis on his 61st birthday.
‘Western Azerbaijan’ is an irredentist concept used by the Azerbaijani authorities to lay claim to the territory of modern-day Armenia.
‘The 20th century brought great tragedies for our people in this regard. In one of its first decisions, the newly established Azerbaijan People’s Republic in 1918 practically donated our historical city — Yerevan — to Armenia. It was an unforgivable step, it was treason and it was a crime. We all know this very well, and our people should know it too. We should never distort our history’, Aliyev said.
Over the years, Aliyev has frequently attacked the leadership of the first Azerbaijani Republic, to whom the opposition Musavat Party traces their roots.
Aliyev also attacked Armenia for seeking international support against Azerbaijan.
‘They still hope that someone will come and wage war against us instead of them, and they will, as always, hide behind some protector and carry out their cunning plans against us’, Aliyev said.
Western countries, especially France and the US, have grown increasingly critical of Azerbaijan. Several Western countries directly condemned Azerbaijan over the 2022 September War, as well as over the ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
[Read on OC Media: Nagorno-Karabakh under siege]
Aliyev appeared to suggest that new efforts against Azerbaijan at the UN may be imminent.
‘Today's events on the road to Lachin have caused another anti-Azerbaijani hysteria. Here, not only Armenia, but perhaps even more than them, their patrons abroad, the states behind them, have again started a smear campaign against Azerbaijan, and we, who are meeting today another provocation is being prepared against us at the UN’, he said.
‘For several days now, some countries chosen with special zeal are determined to carry out their next dirty plans against us. But they have not been able to achieve anything yet, they have been struggling for several days. They will make their efforts next week.’
Aliyev directly referenced the 2022 September War, hinting that Azerbaijan initiated the war. ‘Many important events took place this year. We had to carry out a military operation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border’, he said.
During the two-day war, Azerbaijani forces took control of several positions within Armenia that they still hold.
‘As a result of this military operation, our historical cities are now in front of our eyes through visual observation’, Aliyev said.
‘Today we see Lake Goyche [Lake Sevan] without binoculars. Firstly, I think that this is fair.’
‘Secondly, the September clashes will insure us against big problems in the future. Because revanchist forces are emerging in Armenia, whether in the government or in the opposition.'
He went on to say they were working on a ‘Return Concept’ to bring Azerbaijanis to Armenia, a process he insisted would be peaceful.
‘The day will come when our compatriots from West Azerbaijan, their relatives, children, and grandchildren will return to our historical land, West Azerbaijan. I am sure that this day will come and I am sure that the West Azerbaijanis will return to their native lands with great enthusiasm’, he said.
He added that Armenia was being ‘depopulated’ because of ‘the intolerable political situation: repressions, virtual dictatorship and economic difficulties.’
International rights groups frequently label Azerbaijan among the most autocratic countries in the world. In their latest report on political rights and civil liberties, American rights group Freedom House ranked Azerbaijan the 16th least free country in the world, well behind Armenia, which was rated ‘partially free’.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Aliyev’s words ‘once again testify that the leadership of this state is not in any way interested in establishing peace and stability in the South Caucasus.’
‘It not only openly acknowledges the use of force by means of the occupation of the self-governing territory of the Republic of Armenia, but also threatens new territorial requirements and threatens to the use of force against Armenia; openly disregarding both international law and international partners.’