Former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov spoke in an interview with Minval.az about what processes are unfolding now and what they will lead to.
This is not about negotiations, but about addressing practical issues. It is good that the process has started, because a whole range of issues have accumulated. Azerbaijan has expressed its willingness to resolve the problems of Armenians living in the Karabakh economic region. The process of reintegration must begin, and I think this is normal. We can only wish that the process will be successful.
Describe the prospects of the process.
In any region, there is a range of socio-economic issues: gas, water supply, social security issues, property rights, confirmation of real estate rights. In short, a whole range of issues that are not political. This experience is necessary because it will mean practical actions to eliminate the aftermath of the conflict. There can be problems along the way: there will be forces hindering the process, but these obstacles should not stop it. For example, Ruben Vardanyan and those who want the conflict to continue, can organize a rally, protests, wave slogans. But what happens after the rally? People go home, where they need gas, electricity, water, a permanent job, stability and security. That is, people are most concerned about socio-economic problems.
Do you think Azerbaijan has a plan to reintegrate the Armenian population of Karabakh? Can we assume that the Azerbaijani government will offer them temporary socio-economic privileges?
I do not think we should go that way. We should provide them with the same rights and opportunities as other citizens of Azerbaijan.
But they do not have Azerbaijani money yet, do they?
We have to make it so that they need manats. And to do this, we need to have their gas, electricity, water and other things coming from Azerbaijan. It is necessary to launch a property re-registration mechanism. Because their property is not registered on the basis of Azerbaijani laws. Therefore, it is illegal. Then people themselves will live where it is convenient for them. Migration is free now, Azerbaijanis work in Russia, in other countries. So do Armenians. It is up to Karabakh Armenians to decide whether to stay or leave. Everything is resolved in a civilized way. I do not expect the Armenians to want to stay en masse after this war. But they will definitely want to sell their real estate and leave, rather than abandon it.
Speaking in Geneva, Ararat Mirzoyan said that Azerbaijan is pursuing a slow genocide policy, pushing Armenians out of the region. Could Azerbaijan face international pressure?
You see, Armenians like to call everything that involves them “genocide”, including a flu epidemic. In that case, the Armenian authorities can be accused of committing genocide against their own people, because the outflow of population from the territory of the country is the highest. There is nothing to accuse the Azerbaijani side of. There are certain economic and social conditions, there are standard needs: these issues should not be politicized. It is possible that Armenians will want to sell their houses, and some may want to buy them, while others may not. A person should have the right to sell their property, and the price will be determined by the market.
The Armenians pursued a different policy, they carried out ethnic cleansing. They violated property rights, human rights and other rights of Azerbaijanis. We, on the other hand, intend to move the process to the legal field. I will not be surprised if some of the Armenians leave as a result of this. Their claims should not be against Azerbaijan, but against those who pushed them to confront Azerbaijan.
What are your thoughts on the outcome of Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Azerbaijan? What nuances did he hint at?
There are many points to consider in the speech of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. For example, with regard to the checkpoint in the Lachin corridor, I believe this issue is under discussion. My understanding is that the Russian side does not want to openly admit that it has agreed in principle to this control, it understands Azerbaijan’s concerns. Probably some model has already been worked out.
A model for controlling the cargo movement has been agreed upon. To be honest, I find this insufficient. I believe that one of the important conditions is to control the moving persons and their treatment of Azerbaijani laws. If they commit illegal actions, they should be put on the list of undesirable persons. So, in my opinion, even though Lavrov says that a checkpoint is not envisaged, it does not mean there will not be one. There are many things that are not envisaged in the November 10, 2020 statement, such as the continued presence of Armenian armed groups, the continued occupation of Gazakh territories, the lack of progress on the issue of the Zangezur corridor, and so on. Many conditions are not being fulfilled. In this case, Azerbaijan is at the stage of discussing the issue of the checkpoint.
In my opinion, the model could be as follows: control is exercised by Azerbaijani government agencies, and security issues are handled by the peacekeepers until the expiration of their term. This is the model that can satisfy all parties. My understanding is that there is agreement on the control of cargoes, but not on the control of persons. Because that would allow Azerbaijan to completely eliminate the anti-Azerbaijani activities that Armenia is carrying out in Khankendi together with its politicians, who are trying to earn points on that. Including Russia, who does not want the conflict to be completely resolved. But we will gradually force these issues.
There is information that the EU has offered Azerbaijan a solution to the checkpoint issue through private European companies. How feasible is this scenario?
This kind of scenario was proposed in Abkhazia for the transit of cargo through Abkhazia to Armenia even before the 2008 war. I do not think that Azerbaijan will agree to this scenario. This is not what we won the war for. We should say clearly and explicitly: “We intend to fully restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and we do not intend to make any exceptions.”
Translated from Minval.az