President of Azerbaijan Says "Nagorno Karabakh" No Longer Exists
President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, May 10, 2021. Photo: courtesy of president.az
On May 10th 2021, the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev visited Nakhchivan, an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan which is disconnected from the rest of the country by the southern tail of Armenia.
Aliyev’s visit included the unveiling of plans to add an extra runway to Nakhchivan’s international airport, the opening an agricultural centre, and a check-in to see the three-storey concrete shell of a building that will eventually house Nakhchivan’s new state-of-the art ‘ASAN Khidmat’ building – home to a plethora of widely admired e-governmental services. The president also travelled east to the historic town of Ordubad having inaugurated a newly upgraded highway that leads there from Julfa – Nakhchivan’s main border crossing point for trade with Iran. In Ordubad, Aliyev visited several sites including the train station. Ordubad – a place of renewed significance, is location very close to the Armenian frontier, meaning this will be the first stop within Nakhchivan of train services from Baku. At least, that is, once the line has been restored after three decades of disuse due to the ‘frozen’ conflict. Reopening direct connectivity between the Nakhchivan exclave and the rest of Azerbaijan was one of the important achievements of the peace deal mediated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that ended the Second Karabakh War in November 2020.
Speaking about the still-touchy process of peace-building following that war, Aliyev reminded TV reporters in Nakhchivan that there is, in fact, no longer a territorial unit called “Nagorno Karabakh.” Though seen by some Armenian commentators as provocative, this stance is nothing new. Indeed, technically Azerbaijan has considered the former Soviet-era autonomous entity of Nagorno Karabakh to have been abolished way back in November 1991. However, until 2020’s Second Karabakh War, that abolition was only on paper. The name “Nagorno Karabakh” lived on in common parlance as an inaccurate moniker for the self-declared Armenian republic which combined most of former Soviet-era Nagorno Karabakh AO with large swathes of occupied Azerbaijan.
Since November 2020, Russian peacekeepers have been in place throughout much of the former Nagorno Karabakh region where Armenians continue to reside. Armenia maintains that there remains a need to clarify some sort of a political status for the former Nagorno-Karabakh AO. "Since the war [of autumn 2020], I have said this repeatedly. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved… The conflict has been resolved and I think it is unhelpful to return to this issue. This is how I understand it: on November 10, a document was signed on the de facto settlement of the conflicts" Aliyev said.
In the interview he goes on to say: “This is not just a ceasefire document, some people want to frame it this way. Let them open their eyes and see how many items are listed there. A ceasefire document contains one article - a ceasefire, that’s it. But there are many articles there. There are items that cover many issues, including the opening of communications. If the conflict has not been resolved, how can communications be opened? If the conflict has not been resolved, then why did the Prime Ministers and leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia meet and agree to terms?”
Azerbaijan and Armenia, with mediation by the Russian President Vladamir Putin, signed a document on the night of November 9, 2020 to put an end to the 44 day war. The agreement endorsed Azerbaijan’s military gains and the restoration of its territorial integrity.