Muhammad Asif Noor
Azerbaijan has commemorated its first anniversary of the victory against the Armenian aggression and triumph of independence to the occupied lands of Karabakh on 8th November. The war that has resulted in the death and destruction across the region due to the illegal Armenian aggressive acts, was ended with a peace deal brokered by the Russia on November 10, 2020. The war begin in September 2020 and continued till 8th November and culminated with the Peace deal. Armenian aggression at Tovuz was the main reason behind the war. This was a forceful imposition of a costly war by Armenia on Azerbaijan. However Azerbaijan stood with the international law and managed all the possibilities to resolve this issue through peaceful means. As the military intervention was imposed, Azerbaijan’s brave countrymen and women had to respond and retaliate to the aggression.
This simmering conflict dates back to 1991 when Armenia occupied internationally recognized Azerbaijani territories. The Karabakh region has always been associated with and inevitable part of Azerbaijan. But at the end of 1987, Armenia laid claims to Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in an overt manner followed by armed attacks on Azerbaijani population. During the course of conflict, 250,000 people of Azerbaijani origin were internally displaced and expelled from their lands, escalating into a bilateral armed conflict by 1991.
In September 2020, the conflict escalated again when Armenia military forces attacked Azerbaijan with full force and targeted Azerbaijani military posts and civilian population. During the conflict, Armenian forces committed grave violation of international law and human rights conventions by targeting civilians, business centers, worship places, and Azerbaijan, in return, amassed its forces against Armenia and launched counter offensive liberating several cities including hundreds of settlements and villages in Karabakh,
The recent escalation is the result of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijanis settled in the Karabakh region. In 2019, Armenia settled their nationals on lands of Azerbaijani people instigating demographic change, exploitation and depredation of natural and agricultural resources, alteration in the infrastructure, along with desecration of cultural and historical heritage. Even the European Court of Human Rights has acknowledged that Armenian nationals displaced Azerbaijani people leading to their departure and deaths.
The number and intensity of attacks increased as Armenia launched a full scale offensive by September 27, 2020. The conflict ended on November 10, 2020 followed by a cease fire but it had been a nightmare for Azeri people. By the end of October 2020, 91 Azerbaijani civilians including women, children and elderly have been killed by Armenia leaving 400 injured people amid artillery fire. During the conflict, Armenian forces indiscriminately destroyed 2406 civilian houses, 92 apartments, and 423 civilian facilities. Furthermore, public property including cars, animals, haystacks, water reserves, energy and health care infrastructure were hit by Armenian shelling.
The indiscriminate fire of Armenian forces targeted main city centers such as Ganja, second biggest city of Azerbaijan with 331,000 population, bore three ballistic missile strikes in densely populated areas. Barda, another major city 30 km away from the point of contact was hit by a prohibited type of munition targeting business centers and civilian infrastructure.
Amnesty International confirmed the use of 9M55 Smerch rockets firing 9N235 cluster munitions. Mingechevir Water Hydropower Complex in Mingechevir, fourth biggest city of Azerbaijan, was hit by missiles to disrupt electricity supplies of the region. Tartar also suffered rocket and missile strikes on schools, funeral ceremonies, civilian infrastructure and major population centers.
In the face of aggression, Azerbaijan declared counter offensive operations against Armenian counter force targets. On October 4, the Ministry of Defence, Azerbaijan warned the civilians to stay away from military installations and deployments of Armenian forces as they would be targeted by Azerbaijani soldiers. Resultantly, the brave Azerbaijani soldiers fought patriotically to defend their homeland and liberate their territories from Armenia.
The end of war reversed the title of victors from 1991-1994 conflict to Azerbaijani victory as it regained at least seven districts of Karabakh region. It gave half a million people the liberty to return to their homes after two and half decades as a large number of the population had to be displaced amid Armenian aggression in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the Armenians illegally settled in Azeri lands had to leave on short notice, giving way to Azerbaijan.
The conflict in the region had adverse effects on the peace and security landscape and regional states came forward to play a constructive role of mediation and ceasefire. If these efforts had not been made or realized, the security of the whole South Caucasus region would have been endangered by ceasefire violations, renewed tensions and military confrontation. It could disrupt regional oil production as Azerbaijan alone produces eight hundred thousand barrels of oil per year and gas for Europe and Central Asia.
Russia was the first major power to intervene and offered to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia resulting in a cease-fire agreement. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev termed the agreement a crucial step towards conflict resolution with Armenia. The Armenian President termed the agreement painful but the best possible solution of the current situation. The Armenian capitulation was celebrated in Azerbaijan.
The President of Azerbaijan is taking his personal interest in the development of war affected areas to give a better future for the displaced people. The town of Susha has been under special focus where the intense fighting took place before ceasefire. In eight months Fazuli Airport has been built. Baku wants to develop this town into a tourist destination only to dispel the impression of suffering for its residents who suffered year’s long conflict and the fiercest war in modern history. In other areas, rehabilitation work is underway to build schools, roads and medical facilities for the residents as Baku considers this victory as the end of war.
The writer is Founder Director, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies