Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev with a friend, December 13, 2016.

As Armenia and Azerbaijan edge closer to signing a peace agreement, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev proclaimed that a peace deal with Armenia remains impossible so long as they refuse to change their constitution: “They must completely abandon the ideas of reconquest, and we see that such ideas exist not only in the opposition but also in the government. All these issues, of course, need to be clarified and regulated.”

One of the most prominent proponents of the reconquest ideology is Ruben Vardanyan, who previously led the separatist regime in Khankendi, a ghost city in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan before he was arrested and imprisoned. Since his imprisonment, Vardanyan and his family have enlisted the support of European PR firms to protest the “illegal detention of Ruben Vardanyan and the offensive against the ethnic Armenian community of Karabakh.” Like all proponents of a reconquest, they want Armenia to regain control of Karabakh and are not interested in a peace agreement that will bring an end to such claims.


Shair Ramaldanov, an Azerbaijani military expert, noted: “Certain forces in Armenia and several countries are interested in further aggravating the situation. Thus, they often resort to provocations against Azerbaijan.”

Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, recently declared that the Armenian constitution will not be changed, making peace harder to achieve between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The PM is under the influence of reconquest proponents like Vardanyan, whose supporters are presently protesting against peace in the streets of Yerevan.

But Azerbaijan has not given up on the dream of signing a peace agreement with Armenia. President Aliyev indicated that Azerbaijan proposed to Armenia to jointly apply to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to cancel the 1992 OSCE Minsk Group because it is “not functioning now.”

“We will not de facto allow it to operate. It remains for it to be canceled legally, and this will show how sincere Armenia is. If Armenia prefers to maintain the Minsk Group, then their territorial claims against us will continue,” Aliyev said, adding that Armenia’s recent return of four border villages in Azerbaijan shows that issues between the two countries can be resolved peacefully through negotiations.

“If Armenia had listened to us in 2020 and returned our lands peacefully, there would be no need for the Second Karabakh War and the anti-terrorist operation,” said the Azerbaijani president. “It should be a lesson for them, and I see that they, as they say, draw conclusions from that lesson.”

For Azerbaijan, the matter of removing the reconquest of formerly occupied territories from the Armenian constitution is just as critical as it was for Israel to remove the calls for the destruction of Israel from the PLO Constitution. Without such a move, the Azerbaijanis know that a renewal of the conflict is just a matter of time – the Armenians will rearm, upgrade their military capabilities, and strike again unless the drive for the conflict is removed from the hearts and minds of the people of Armenia.

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."