Lachin checkpoint: A symbol of Azerbaijan's commitment to peace and stability
    A year on

    ANALYTICS  24 April 2024 - 13:04

    Murad Abiyev

    A year ago, on 23 April 2023, a border checkpoint was established on the Lachin road. The event is truly historic. In fact, it was the final signal to all intelligent people that the "miatsum" was over. The installation of the Lachin checkpoint signalled the end of unimpeded communication between Armenia and the separatists in Karabakh. From then on, all goods and people crossing the conditional border were subjected to a thorough inspection, and not a single cartridge or provocateur could enter Azerbaijani territory.

    The 44-day war left Armenia and Karabakh Armenians in shock, but they naively believed that the Russian peacekeeping contingent served as a guarantor of the inviolability of the separatists' imaginary statehood, albeit truncated. Many Armenians thought in the same spirit that the districts around Karabakh were a necessary sacrifice for the preservation of the so-called "nkr" (“Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”) and considered Shusha and Hadrut the only real loss. Heartily, they were glad that everything else had been preserved. Moreover, many Armenians sincerely believed that it was under Russian control that "Artsakh" had gained maximum security guarantees.

    Baku, by erecting the border crossing point, demonstrated to everyone that only Azerbaijan has full authority on its sovereign territory and that no one - neither important people in the offices of world powers nor soldiers of the peacekeeping contingent - has the right to prevent the exercise of this authority. Noteworthy in this sense are the words of President Ilham Aliyev during his visit to Salyan a few days before the installation of the Lachin checkpoint: "Let everyone hear this, both the leadership of Armenia and the forces behind it today - no one can influence our will. We proved it during the war and after it. If necessary, we will prove it again in any form".

    The installation of the Lachin checkpoint was thus an act of the sovereign will of the Azerbaijani state. In the most difficult geopolitical conditions, under simultaneous pressure from several great powers, Baku managed, on the one hand, playing on the contradictions between them and, on the other hand, being determined to act without regard to third forces, to place border guards at the entrance to the Karabakh region, signalling to its citizens and the whole world that nothing threatened the territorial integrity of the country.

    Of course, this move was met with a wave of "concern" in the West, which continued and still continues to fulfil its mission of defending the Armenian idea. "The United States is deeply concerned that Azerbaijan's establishment of a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor undermines efforts to establish confidence in the peace process," said Vedant Patel, Deputy Chief of Staff of the US State Department. European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel said that Azerbaijan's decision to establish a checkpoint on the Lachin road "goes against the European Union's call to reduce tensions in the region". Meanwhile, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Claire Lejeandre said: "France condemns Azerbaijan's establishment of a checkpoint at the entrance to the new road in the Lachin corridor, which contradicts the commitments made under the ceasefire agreements and damages the negotiation process."

    I have quoted the words of Western officials to remind what pressure the powers that be have exerted and continue to try to exert on Baku. It can also be concluded that the very fact of the West's harsh reaction is the main evidence of the value of Azerbaijan's steps.

    President Ilham Aliyev in June 2023, while in Lachin, said: "By establishing a border checkpoint on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on 23 April, we have finally resolved the issue of territorial integrity. Our territorial integrity had already been restored as a result of the Second Karabakh War. But the border crossing was the last point from which there was uncontrolled movement from Armenia to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and back. There is still traffic today, but it is under full control".

    Yes, the installation of the checkpoint, although significantly reduced, did not completely stop the smuggling of Armenian arms into Karabakh through the inaccessible mountain routes. The Yerevan-Khankendi criminal nexus continued to smuggle weapons and personnel from Armenian territory into Karabakh. The Karabakh land continued to be mined with Armenian mines. The explosion of several Azerbaijani citizens on these mines in September last year exhausted Baku’s patience, and on September 19–20, local counter-terrorism measures were successfully carried out in less than 24 hours, as a result of which the Armenian armed forces were forced to surrender and leave the territory of Azerbaijan. Our army entered Asgaran, Aghdara, Khojavand, Khojaly. President Aliyev raised the flag of Azerbaijan on the main square of Khankendi. Miatsum has officially given up the ghost. But in order to carry out this operation, it was necessary to prepare the ground, and in a number of measures serving this purpose, the installation of the Lachin checkpoint occupies a special place. It was she who slammed the mousetrap, into which both the leaders of the separatists and the remnants of the Armenian army fell.

    Thus, the installation of the Lachin checkpoint will be inscribed with golden letters in the majestic chronicle of restoration of territorial integrity and sovereignty of our Azerbaijan.

    İt is also worth noting that the Lachin checkpoint, since its installation, has become an embodiment of the high culture of Azerbaijani society. Karabakh residents of Armenian origin freely crossed the checkpoint on presentation of proper documents. Azerbaijani border guards treated them with the utmost courtesy, and during the mass voluntary resettlement of Karabakh Armenians to Armenia, they provided all possible assistance to people stuck in queues.

    It seems likely to us that all these people will remember this attitude, and the memory of it will become another brick in the peace building in the South Caucasus.

    This is how the checkpoint on the small Hakari River turned out to be a bridge on the road to greater peace.


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