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Press release 15 February 2018

No: 035/18, Comments by Hikmat Hajiyev, Spokesperson of MFA Azerbaijan, on continuation of Armenian aggressive separatism and occupation of Azerbaijan’s lands

This year marks the 30 years of Armenian aggressive separatism started in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in late 80s of the last century.

As is well known, since the beginning of 1988, Armenia overtly laid claim to and engaged in active support of aggressive separatism in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Azerbaijan. Those claims were preceded by the attacks on the Azerbaijanis both in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia, resulting in civilian casualties and a flood of Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons. Thus, at the end of 1980s, more than 250,000 Azerbaijanis were forcefully expelled from Armenia. More than 50.000 indigenous Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh were also subject of ethnic cleansing and brutal terror attacks.

In all, as a result of terrorist acts against Azerbaijan carried out since the late 1980s by the Armenian secret service and some Armenian organizations closely connected with it, including criminal acts against road, rail, sea and air transport and ground communications, over 2,000 citizens of Azerbaijan have been killed, the majority of them women, the elderly and children

In parallel, a number of illegal decisions were taken to institute the process of unilateral secession of Nagorno-Karabakh region from Azerbaijan.

The attempts made by the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to alter the line (or remove Nagorny Karabakh from the recognised territory of Azerbaijan) were not accepted either by Azerbaijan or by the authorities of the USSR at the relevant time. On 18 July 1988, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (faced with the request of the convocation of delegates of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of 20 February that year to join Armenia, the refusal of this by Azerbaijan on 13 and 17 June and the support of the request by Armenia on 15 June) decided to leave the territory within the Azerbaijan SSR.

On 1 December 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Armenia adopted a resolution calling for the reunification of the Armenian SSR with Nagorno Karabakh. However, on 10 January 1990, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution on the “Nonconformity With the USSR Constitution of the Acts on Nagorny Karabakh Adopted by the Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet on 1 December 1989 and 9 January 1990”, declaring the illegality of the proposed unification of Armenia with Nagorny Karabakh without the consent of the Azerbaijan. On 30 August 1991, the Azerbaijan SSR adopted a Declaration on the restoration of state independence of Azerbaijan and on 18 October 1991 and 29 December 1991, this was officially confirmed.

The unlawfulness within the Soviet legal system of attempted unilateral secession of Nagorno-Karabakh without Azerbaijan’s consent was confirmed at the highest constitutional level. Azerbaijan did not so consent, so that the definition of the territory of Azerbaijan as it proceeded to independence and in the light of the applicable law clearly included Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia’s claims as to the claimed “independence” or “reunification” of Nagorny Karabakh are contrary to the internationally accepted principle of uti possidetis and therefore unsustainable in international law.

The principle of uti possidetis establishes that Azerbaijan validly came to independence within the borders that it had under Soviet law in the period preceding its declaration of independence.

At the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist and both Armenia and Azerbaijan attained independence and were accorded international recognition, armed hostilities and attacks against populated areas within Azerbaijan intensified and escalated into a full-fledged inter-State war. As a result of war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan, a significant part of Azerbaijan’s territory, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the seven adjacent districts (Lachyn, Kalbajar, Zangilan, Gubadly, Jabrayil, parts of Fuzuli and Aghdam) and some exclaves, was occupied by Armenia. More than 700.000 Azerbaijanis from the adjacent seven regions were forcefully expelled and become target of notorious ethnic cleansing.

In order to disguise its direct responsibility for military aggression against Azerbaijan, Armenia distorts and misinterprets the principle of the people’s right to self-determination and, attempts to impose the view that this principle may be applied in the form of unilateral secession for the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Armenia has established illegal puppet regime in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan which is nothing other than occupation and aggression.

In reality, such a view has nothing in common with the principle of self-determination set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Final Act) of 1975 and other international documents. Moreover, it is abundantly clear that claims of self-determination are unsustainable when they are accompanied by egregious violations of international law, including its peremptory norms (jus cogens), such as those prohibiting the threat or use of force against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

Consequently, Armenia’s assertions cannot affect the legal position as it existed during the critical period leading up to and including the independence of Azerbaijan, nor the legal position after such independence. That the Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan was reaffirmed by the UN Security Council in its relevant resolutions on the conflict and from that time onward has been repeatedly stated at the international level. It is important to note that the resolutions of the Security Council, recognizing that Nagorno-Karabakh constitutes part of Azerbaijan and reaffirming the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory, were adopted after the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh had unilaterally declared their “independence”. The Security Council made it absolutely clear that the unilateral declaration of independence in a given situation is invalid.

Consequently, these conclusions can be drawn:

1) The principle of uti possidetis establishes that Azerbaijan validly came to independence within the borders that it had under Soviet law in the period preceding its declaration of independence. 2) These borders included the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh as affirmed by the legitimate authorities of the USSR at the relevant time. 3) Azerbaijan has not consented to the removal of Nagorno-Karabakh from within its own internationally recognised territorial boundaries. 4) Neither the purported unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia nor its purported independence have been recognised by any third state. 5) Accordingly, the actions of those in control in Nagorno-Karabakh prior to the independence of Azerbaijan offend the principle of uti possidetis and fall to be determined within the legal system of Azerbaijan. 6) The inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, are entitled to the right of self-determination within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. There is no applicable right to secession under international law. 7) The actions of those in control in Nagorno-Karabakh following the independence of Azerbaijan amount to secessionist activities and fall to be determined within the domestic legal system of Azerbaijan. 8) The actions of Armenia, up to and including the resort to force, constitute a violation of the fundamental norm of respect for the territorial integrity of states, as well as a violation of other relevant international legal principles, such as rule prohibiting the use of force.

Armenia must finally understand that the military occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan does not represent a solution and will never produce a political outcome desired by Armenia. The resolution of the conflict is possible only on the basis of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has never been and will never be a subject of negotiations. Azerbaijan remains committed to the conflict settlement process based on this understanding. Azerbaijan once again demands that the Armenian side, instead of wasting time and desperately trying to mislead its own people and the international community by searching in agony for arguments in history to justify its annexationist aspirations, which only prove the fallacy of its allegations, cease its policy of occupation and ethnic cleansing and engage constructively in the conflict settlement process, comply with its international obligations and withdraw its forces from the territories of Azerbaijan.

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