Winter 1994 (2.4)
Excerpts from Aliyev's UN speech
September 29, 1994
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a sense of both consternation and pride that I address you from the podium of the most authoritative international forum. For the first time the President of an independent Azerbaijan is representing his country to the international community, a country that is recognized by this community and has joined it as an equal among the equals . . .
Ladies and gentlemen, if, for the majority of you, the notion of "war" and "armed conflict," is, fortunately, associated with history or with the events taking place far away from your homes, for my people this is a cruel reality and bloody workaday routine.
Nagorno-Karabakh and the Question of "Self-Determination"
For six years, the flame of war has been blazing through the land of Azerbaijan. The Republic of Armenia, under the pretext of realization of the right for self-determination of an ethnic group of Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, is openly carrying out plans on annexation of the territories of our state, forcibly changing our state borders and expelling the Azerbaijani population from their homes.
All this is cloaked in an arbitrary interpretation of the "rights of people for self-determination" as the right of any ethnic community to self-proclaim its independence and join another state. Such interpretation of the right for self-determination blatantly contradicts the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of a state. All the attempts to make self-determination an absolute guaranteed right have resulted in cruel conflicts that we, ourselves, have witnessed and which have been experienced in the other parts of the globe.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Boutros-Ghali, has expressed his concern on this issue by saying that "If every ethnic, religious and linguistic group will demand their statehood, then there will be no limits to divisions; and peace, security and economic well being in the world will be even harder to achieve".
I fully share the opinion of distinguished Mr. Boutros Ghali when he says that "we cannot allow self determination, territorial integrity and sovereignty of states within the framework of the present world system-both equally valuable and important principles-to oppose each other".
Being aware of the fact that the international community is insufficiently and sometimes unilaterally informed about the events in our region, I would like to brief you on the real situation.
Armenia's Occupation of Azerbaijan
The Republic of Armenia started intensive military activities against our Republic by creating a powerful military build-up on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. With their occupation of the city of Shusha and the Lachin region, the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh was completed and about 50 thousand resident Azerbaijanis were ousted. Using Nagorno-Karabakh as a springboard, Armenian armed forced began occupying another six regions of Azerbaijan-Kelbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil, Zangelan and Gubadly-situated just as the Lachin region was, outside the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomy. This newly occupied territory was four times larger than that of Nagorno-Karabakh.
As a result of their aggression, more than 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan is now under occupation by the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia. I must mention here immense losses that Azerbaijan has incurred: more than 20 thousand people have been killed, about 100 thousand wounded or handicapped, 6 thousand have been taken prisoner and more than one million-about 15% of the population-have become refugees, many of whom are living in tents. In their very own country, these Azerbaijanis are deprived of shelter and are suffering from heat, cold and epidemics, and experience incredible shortages of basic life goods. There are approximately 700 towns and villages that have been leveled in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Nearly all houses, schools, hospitals, and ancient monuments have been burned down and looted.
I think there is no need to prove that here we are not dealing with the "realization of the right for self-determination" but with a gross violation of international law in the form of aggression against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of a UN member State.
Tragic Loss by War
This war creates unbearable conditions for my people, aggravates social tension, and hampers implementation of economic and political reforms which are aimed at democratizing the Azerbaijani society.
As a result of the war, the Azerbaijani people have suffered incredible material damage, amounting to billions of US dollars. As for the moral damage inflicted on human fates and lives, the sorrow and pain of my people can hardly be compared with anything known.
Of course, blood is being shed not only in Azerbaijan but in other conflict areas of the world. And people must not remain indifferent to tragic events wherever they are taking place. Collective efforts should be imposed not only to hinder the escalation of armed conflicts but to achieve just and lasting resolutions.
Security Council's Credibility at Stake
Ladies and gentlemen, during the last two years, the United Nations' Security Council has adopted four resolutions and its President has presented six statements in connection with the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by armed forces of the Republic of Armenia.
In all these resolutions the Security Council has confirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, and emphasized inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territories, strongly demanding immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from all the occupied regions of Azerbaijan along with the return of refugees to places of their permanent residence.
But all these decisions up to now have been completely ignored by the Republic of Armenia. Moreover, Armenia continues to build up its military presence on the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Additionally, the Security Council has failed to put into use any mechanism for implementing the adopted resolutions. Here we are faced with the question-to what extent is the Security Council consistent and resolute, and to what degree are they willing to apply their powers to each concrete case?
Non-compliance with the decisions of the Security Council does not serve to the UN interests; in fact, it may undermine the world community's confidence in its ability to carry out its main objective-the maintenance of international peace and security.
Relying on CSCE Negotiations
Experience accumulated in the process of settlement of regional conflicts shows that the efforts aimed at implementing the resolutions are a success only when endorsed by the political-military means envisaged in the UN Charter.
The duty of the most authoritative international organization before the world community is to take effective measures with respect to aggressor-states which blatantly violate norms of international law.
In regard to settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, we are relying on the authority of the organization of the CSCE (Conference on the Security and Cooperation of Europe).
The Minsk Group was created by the CSCE for the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. It has proceeded from the necessity of evacuation of all the occupied territories and the complete withdrawal of the occupying forces beyond the boundaries of Azerbaijan. It has insisted on the respect for Azerbaijan's sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders.
However, numerous mediation efforts by the CSCE have not, unfortunately, yet brought about any tangible, concrete results due to the lack of appropriate mechanisms.
Cease-Fire Must Lead to Reliable Peace
Today, we are seeing evidence of only the first positive result. At the cost of enormous efforts and owing to the active mediating mission of the Russian Federation and the CSCE Minsk Group, a cease-fire has been achieved in the conflict zone. For more than four months the fighting and bloodshed has stopped. We greatly appreciate all this. But the situation still remains very complicated and the truce is very fragile.
The Republic of Armenia puts forward an illegitimate condition of exchanging part of the occupied Azerbaijani territories for the independent status of Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Azerbaijan Republic. Armenia demands that it be allowed military presence in this Azerbaijani region and the right to control Shusha and the Lachin region. This implies consolidation and annexation of Azerbaijani territories.
Armenia completely excludes the restoration of demographic boundaries in Nagorno-Karabakh which existed at the beginning of the conflict; and disallows the return of the Azerbaijani population to this region, including to one of our ancient centers of Azerbaijani culture-the town of Shusha.
Armenia's demands totally ignore the UN Security Council Resolutions, by proposing the deployment of an international separation force along the perimeter of the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, thus attempting to freeze the situation and to make us hostages of their annexationist policy.
Azerbaijan's Conditions for Resolving Conflict
The position of the Azerbaijan Republic has always been constructive and peace-loving. Despite all the damage inflicted upon us, we propose peace to the Armenian side on the basis of international law, justice and humanity. We are prepared to provide for guarantees to the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. We stand for the restoration on mutual basis of communications in the region, including the humanitarian corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. We are also prepared to discuss the status of Nagorno-Karabakh within the Azerbaijan state.
However, there are norms and principles which are everlasting to us, namely our sovereignty and territorial integrity, evacuation of all the occupied territories by their troops, and the return of refugees to their homes, including 50 thousand Azerbaijani refugees to their native land in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan Republic, adhering to a peaceful political settlement, considers that only by eliminating the consequences of aggression via implementation of the Security Council resolutions will it be possible to carry on stable and productive negotiations which will result in a durable, stable cease-fire and ensure the security for the whole population of the region.
Resolve for Peace
Here we count on the assistance of the world community in ensuring the realization of the coordinated peaceful decisions on condition of having a precise mandate of peace keepers in accordance with the international norms.
We greatly appreciate the agreement reached on a cease-fire even though we realize that it is not peace yet, but it creates the necessary conditions for rapid achievement. On several occasions we have voiced our firm resolution to observe the cease-fire regime until the peace agreement can be worked out and the total cessation of military conflict can be reached. Today, I once again declare this from the high rostrum of the United Nations.
We support the peacekeeping activities of the CSCE Minsk Group and the Russian Federation. We stand for consolidation of their efforts against any kind of competition in the process of settlement of the conflict. The competition of this kind could only complicate the achievement of peace equally needed by the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Our demands on complete evacuation of all occupied Azerbaijani territories are legitimate, they are in full conformity with the UN Security Council Resolutions. The attempts of annexation of any regions are unacceptable for us and contradict the norms of international law.
As a result of a war thrust upon us, an extremely difficult humanitarian situation has emerged in the Republic. Each seventh person in our country of seven-million (one in every seven people) is a refugee who does not have home, work or means of existence. Suffering from harsh miseries, many refugees and displaced persons are still living in tent camps. Severe conditions of winter, lack of necessary food and medicines have created a threat of epidemics and famine among the most vulnerable group of the population. Trying to overcome the tragedy of our internal refugee crisis has become one of the major concerns of the Azerbaijani state.
International organizations and a number of states have responded to the urgent appeal of our Republic and we express our most sincere gratitude to the Governments of Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark, which have become the largest donors of the UN programs on humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan.
We are thankful to the governments of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries for considerable humanitarian assistance within the framework of bilateral relations.
We are also grateful to the office of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), International Red Cross Society, UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and numerous other non-government organizations (NGOs) that have rendered priceless assistance to the refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan . . .
Ladies and gentlemen, the Azerbaijani people have placed their confidence in me by electing me the President of a young, independent state. Today I have been honored to convey to you its innermost aspirations.
I leave this high rostrum of the General Assembly with a hope that the voice of my people will be heard by you and that it will pave a way to your hearts.
Thank you for your attention.
From Azerbaijan International (2.4) Winter 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.