Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAE
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar Oglu Aliyev.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in late April delivered a speech in Shusha, in the war-tormented region of Nagorno-Karabakh, proclaiming that the issue of Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization is on the agenda now. “Despite all the painful moments, despite the occupation, and despite all the atrocities committed, we believe that this is necessary for the future of the region,” Aliyev said, “So, we came up with a peace agenda.”

He explained: “We put forward a proposal consisting of five specific principles, and Armenia has accepted these five principles. Thus, the Armenian leadership has officially stated that it recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, has no territorial claims regarding Azerbaijan, and will not have any in the future. This is a crucial moment for the post-conflict period, and we intend to conduct further negotiations based on these five principles.”

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“At present, the foreign and other ministers of both countries are setting up working groups, and I think concrete talks should be initiated soon,” the Azerbaijani president noted. “The talks should not be delayed, because a peace agreement will be signed based on these five principles. Therefore, the text of the agreement can be prepared and signed soon. Thus, diplomatic relations can be established between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

Azerbaijani Rabbi Shmuel Simantov commented that “for 29 years, the Armenians did not build anything. They stole gold teeth from graves. They destroyed homes and mosques. They tried to erase the history of Azerbaijanis from Karabakh.”

“Now, Azerbaijan is doing everything to return everyone to their homes,” he continued. “After all these years, Azerbaijan’s president wants to do everything through peace and not war. So far, the Armenians did not give him the opportunity to do it. He said that we have strength, but we want peace. This is our message to Armenia and the international community.”

Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi concurred that Aliyav’s speech “shows the strength of Azerbaijan versus Armenia, maybe also Iran. It shows the Azerbaijani people how strong their president is.”

Sadi also believes the timing of the speech has significance for promoting the Azerbaijani-Israeli friendship, coinciding as it was with Israeli finance minister Avigdor Liberman’s April 24 visit to Azerbaijan, as well as the anniversary of the death of Albert Agarunovich Agarunov, who was among the defenders of Shusha. Agarunov left his vehicle to remove the bodies of dead Azerbaijani soldiers and was killed by sniper fire on the road connecting Shusha to Lachin on May 8, 1992.

“Albert Aqarunov is the most important name promoting the friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel and between the entire Jewish world and Azerbaijan. And the Azerbaijanis know to honor this Jewish soldier better than many other countries in the world,” Sadi noted.

Tarlan Ahmadov, the founder of the Azerbaijan Society of Maine, declared in April: “I believe the gathering of the Azerbaijani Diaspora and the historic speech of President Aliyev will make Mr. Liberman’s visit exceptional as the State of Israel is considered a close ally in the Middle East and beyond. In my opinion, the restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity changed the balance of regional power, and Azerbaijan became not only a transportation hub and a trans-Caspian energy resource hub, but also a political power that controls not only the South Caucuses but beyond. Azerbaijan has the potential to produce grain and transport it from Kazakhstan and Central Asia using the Caspian Sea corridor, and, hopefully, by soon opening a railroad via the Zangezur region to Turkey. This will play a large role in food and energy stability in Europe.”

Azerbaijani journalist Elnur Enveroglu noted that “this year marks the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Israel and Azerbaijan,” and pointed out that Liberman and Aliyev discussed expanding economic and trade relations as well as cooperation in the field of energy, and signing several important contracts.”

“Obviously, Azerbaijan has been a close partner of Israel and this partnership has emerged in many important aspects,” Enveroglu said.

As for the Armenians, he opined: “Armenia has changed a lot after the latest political developments, especially the recent signing of the agreement between Moscow and Baku in February. The agreement sent a clear message to the Armenians that it is better to improve relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. I also think that the latest events have caught the attention of regional countries including Russia, Iran, Armenia, Turkey, and Israel.”

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Rachel Avraham is the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”
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