Western Azerbaijan: Imminent return to ancestral lands
Baku offers peace concept to Yerevan
ANALYTICS 31 January 2023 - 11:34
The other day the council of the Western Azerbaijan Community approved a fundamental document: the Concept of Return to Western Azerbaijan which suggests the "Great Return" of Azerbaijanis to the territory of present Armenia from where they were evicted during different periods of the past century from 1905 to 1991.
Brief background: established in 1989 as the Azerbaijan Refugee Society and called the Western Azerbaijan Community, the organisation is dedicated to the protection of the rights of Azerbaijanis expelled from the territory of present-day Armenia. However, its mission is not limited to the return of the Azerbaijani population to their homeland - the community aims to consolidate efforts to safeguard the interests, rights, development, and security of Azerbaijanis living there.
What the concept of Western Azerbaijan entails
In contrast to the inhumane Armenian ideology, based on violence and terror against other peoples, especially the Turks, the Concept of Return to Western Azerbaijan is exclusively peaceful and based on international law, national legislation, and facts that serve to restore historical justice. At the same time, the Concept envisages the realisation of Azerbaijan's strategic goals related to the corridor between the East Zangazur economic region and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Given the threatening factor of Armenian aggression, the return of our compatriots to their historical lands is certainly a complex process, the implementation of which will require considerable time and the use of diplomatic tools to put pressure on Armenia. In the case of Karabakh, Azerbaijan solved the long-standing problem militarily, relying on four UN Security Council resolutions and a number of other documents confirming the territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijan's borders and calling on Armenia to de-occupy the occupied territories. Now our country has to do an enormous job, using all possible international platforms for this, activating the media, as it actually did during the 44-day war in 2020.
Azerbaijan has something to present to the international community. The country's scientists, lawyers, and political scientists have already prepared an appropriate historical and political evidence base, which can significantly improve the international community's correct perception of this problem and contribute to an objective assessment of the essence of what is happening.
It should be noted that during the meeting with a group of intellectuals from West Azerbaijan in December last year, President Ilham Aliyev emphasized that Azerbaijan intends to restore the rights of its countrymen by peaceful means.
"We want to ensure our rights through peaceful means. Once again I want to say that all conventions recognize this right. So in order to achieve this we must be more active, including in international arenas. When were the Armenian people relocated to our lands? We all know this very well. When were they resettled to Karabakh? When were they moved to Zangazur? Who resettled them? How were they resettled and for what purpose? We know all this very well. They have never had a state on our territory, in the South Caucasus. If there ever was a state - we do not know whose state they are trying to ascribe to themselves - it was not here. That is why we have to present it in a purposeful way, in an orderly manner, and in a proper form. I am confident that we will achieve this," President Aliyev said.
This is the main message that was addressed to Armenia and the international community. This is also quite logical, as Azerbaijan has, even during the occupation of its territories, expressed sincere commitment at various levels to peaceful methods of settling the Karabakh conflict through substantive negotiations with Armenia, and the same concept of peace is proposed by Baku in the post-conflict period for the final normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.
On the multifaceted role of the Western Azerbaijan Community
Given that the new Concept has been approved by the Council of the Western Azerbaijan Community and that it plays a primary role in its promotion, consider the main points of the document. Based on its inalienable right to return enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Refugee Convention and other important international instruments, the Community considers its primary objective to create conditions for the return of Azerbaijanis expelled from the territory of present-day Armenia to their native lands and to ensure their individual and collective rights to return there. The key point is that the Community will play an active role in the return process as the legitimate representative of the Western Azerbaijanis and as an interested party will make efforts to engage in dialogue and cooperation with relevant states and international organisations to have their claims recognised as legitimate. An important detail is that the Community insists on the need to consider the restoration of the rights of the Western Azerbaijanis in the context of regional security and the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Conceptually, the position of the Western Azerbaijan Community on the main topics of return is as follows: it will play a central role in all phases of the repatriation process and will continue to do so after it has been completed. Its primary task is to put the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the territory of present-day Armenia on the international community's agenda as an unprecedented injustice and a threat to international peace and security. In this regard, the Community should make efforts to ensure that the issue of creating conditions for the return of Azerbaijanis expelled from Western Azerbaijan is reflected as an Armenian obligation in the peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan. And this is an absolutely logical solution. The community is expected to establish contacts with the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as with the states that are permanent members of the UN Security Council, regional countries and other relevant states and organisations, which is also envisaged in the international legal framework for the return of our compatriots to Western Azerbaijan. Also, according to the concept, Armenia must make its national legal framework available to the Azerbaijani community, i.e. ensure equal rights for Azerbaijanis with Armenians, give them the opportunity to study in their native language, use the Azerbaijani language in the legislative, executive and judicial bodies, etc. And this condition, among others, is aimed at fully ensuring the protection of Azerbaijanis' rights. Overall, the concept declares that Azerbaijanis expelled from Western Azerbaijan have the right to live in their homeland, and this right is eternal, inviolable, absolute, and decisive.
Security is a matter of trust
The fact that security issues have a special place in the system of international and regional relations is well known and rightly so. It is therefore not surprising that, in view of the systematic violence perpetrated by Armenia against Azerbaijanis, the community considers it important that an international security mission with an appropriate mandate, consisting of representatives of trusted countries, is deployed on the territories intended for the return of Western Azerbaijanis. According to the Concept, the mandate and capabilities of the international mission will depend on the security situation. As a threat assessment requires the collection and analysis of information, the community looks forward to the assistance of the Azerbaijani government in this matter. Moreover, the mission should be deployed prior to the return of Azerbaijanis to Western Azerbaijan and act as long as the community deems it necessary.
The document also devotes space to property issues. In particular, it is noted that Armenia is responsible for offences against Azerbaijanis, including property issues. In this regard, the Armenian government should ensure the return of property and communal lands belonging to Azerbaijanis and pay compensation for property damage and losses caused by the obstruction of the use of the property. In addition, the Armenian government should pay all costs related to the restoration of Azerbaijani property rights and take other necessary measures. In the same context, the restoration and protection of Azerbaijan's cultural heritage are also addressed: the community will work to achieve, with UN specialised agencies, an assessment of the state of Azerbaijani cultural heritage in Armenia, developing a list of destroyed and destroyed examples of cultural heritage and ensuring Armenia's commitment to their restoration and protection.
A step towards reconciliation
The concept is that Western Azerbaijanis are prepared to live peacefully alongside Armenians resettled in their homeland from other countries. It is clear that the difficult truce process takes time and the community, therefore, considers respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the elimination of double standards to be important aspects of the truce and will therefore work to end Armenian policies of hatred and discrimination against Azerbaijanis, immediately stop glorifying those who have committed crimes against Azerbaijanis, and ensure that monuments to military and political figures and terrorists involved in the persecution of Azerbaijanis are removed. The perpetrators of such offences must be brought to justice. Changes in the original geographic names must also be repealed. And after the return of the Azerbaijani population to their homeland, the community will continue its consolidated efforts to ensure the interests, rights, development, and security of Azerbaijanis, and to this end will continue the dialogue and mutual activities with the Republic of Azerbaijan, foreign states and international organizations, as well as the Armenian government and public.
A little historical factology
In order not to be unsubstantiated, here are some historical facts which give Baku the unconditional right to force Yerevan to fulfill its demands regarding the return of our compatriots to Western Azerbaijan.
The expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the territory of present-day Armenia, where they once constituted an absolute majority, ended in 1991. As a result of ethnic cleansing, this territory is now populated exclusively by Armenians. Azerbaijanis were particularly brutalized there in 1905-1906s, 1918-1921s, 1948-1953s, and 1987-1990s. In 1918-1921s, such artificial administrative formations as "The Republic of Armenia", and "Republic of Mountainous Armenia" appeared as a result of these policies of USSR times, and during the Stalinist period, many regions were transferred to Armenia, including Zangazur, where Azerbaijanis were the predominant population. Later, in the 1987-1990s, more than two hundred thousand Azerbaijanis were deported from Armenia. The historical and cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis, including museums, monuments, mosques, and cemeteries, was systematically destroyed in what is now the Republic of Armenia, geographical names were changed, and racial discrimination against Azerbaijanis had by then become systematic and severe.
A separate mention should be made of the fact that those involved in ethnic cleansing and other crimes against Azerbaijanis and their "exploits" are glorified in Armenia at the state level, and monuments are erected in the centre of Yerevan to ardent nationalists such as Garegin Nzhdeh. All these facts indicate that Armenia's hostile stance towards Azerbaijan is still a component of state policy and that the notions of peaceful co-existence and good neighbourliness are alien to it. Even after the resounding defeat in the 44-day war in Karabakh, the Armenian side is resisting the establishment of sustained stability and security in the region, remaining committed to the policy of war and terror.
Today Azerbaijan is once again giving Armenia an opportunity to reconsider its hostile policy and to move towards a peaceful settlement of relations, renouncing its claims on the territory of a foreign state. Yerevan must finally realize that the process of Azerbaijanis' return to Western Azerbaijan is imminent, as is the final withdrawal of the remnants of Armenian gangs from Karabakh. And the development of the Concept for the Great Return of our compatriots to the ancestral Azerbaijani territories is yet another strategic document that provides a legal basis to return to the country what rightfully belongs to it and was once forcibly appropriated by Armenia with the help of supporters of the notorious idea of "Great Armenia", about which they still dream in and outside the "land of stones".
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