Azerbaijan's President Remarks On 44 Day War Anniversary
Azerbaijan Celebrates; Armenia Mourns Nagorno Karabakh
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev recently gave an address on the nation's Armed Forces Day, marking the victory of the Azerbaijani armed forces in what he called the "Great Patriotic War" of 2020, in statements that were quoted by regional press on September 20.
Aliyev’s statements followed a brief upstart of violence and then corresponding ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region earlier this week. In the recent upstart, two civilians, including a child, were reportedly killed. World leaders continue to monitor the tensions in the region following the close of the war with concern that hostilities may put pressure on the region.
Aliyev referred to the 44-Day War of 2020 in which Azerbaijan took back de jure control over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a region that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, that was under the de facto control of the Republic of Artsakh since the end of the post-Soviet conflict of 1988-1994. The region has had a primarily Armenian population in recent history.
Azerbaijan reclaimed areas it lost during the initial conflict, and as such, refers to the 44-Day war as the "Great Patriotic War."
Armenia, however, marks the anniversary each year with national mourning, calling the conflict a "criminal manifestation" of Azerbaijan's state policy, and saying that the conflict is an effort to “ethnically cleanse” Armenians from the region.
The war in 1988-1994 era saw massive massacre casualties on both sides, with some of the most notable events including the massacre and capture of Armenians at Maragha on April 12, 1992 and the massacre and mass displacement of Azerbaijanis from the village of Khojaly between February 25-26, 1992, events that UNESCO documented with artistic portrayals.
In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that condemned the "seizure" of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the siege of the city of Agdam, from the Azerbaijani Republic, the United States Department of State archived.
As part of the resolutions it adopted, the United Nations established ground rules for a ceasefire that would go on to be challenged several times throughout the last 30 years.
At the time of the 44-Day War of 2020, the region was home to 145,000 inhabitants, primarily ethnic Armenians, who were living in the occupied territory with the support of the Republic of Armenia and ethnic Armenians who live abroad. The Artsakh Republic has established a government, including a foreign affairs department, and contests that Azerbaijan has failed to meet the terms of the resolutions.
Aliyev's speech on the anniversary has received political criticism, as it was compared to the speeches of national leaders from the last century. In his address, Aliyev celebrated the "revenge" taken by his armed forces for the Azerbaijani martyrs who lost their lives in the conflict.
"A large part of the army of the Armenian state, which was illegally stationed on the territory of Azerbaijan and has not been removed to this day despite the commitment of the Armenian state, has been destroyed. Military equipment was destroyed and incapacitated," Aliyev stated, as his address was quoted by AzerNews, a local English-language media outlet in Azerbaijan.
Adding to the tensions at the close of the 44 Day war, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of failing to surrender maps that would help authorities locate landmines that were buried in the region during the conflict and the shaky stalemates of the last three decades. Azerbaijani officials have stated that "300 Azerbaijanis" have been killed due to landmines in the time since the region has been reoccupied by Azerbaijan.
In statements that were alarming to Western leadership, Aliyev gave praise to "brotherly countries" such as Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for their support during the war. Western leaders fear that Azerbaijan has close ties with the Islamic Brotherhood, and monitors the hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region with concern.
The 44-Day ceasefire agreement was reached by Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Artsakh Republic, though Artsakh was non-signatory due to lacking a legally recognized status as an autonomous zone by a United Nations member, including Armenia.