Happenings on the Eve of the War
Azerbaijan tried to stay true to the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict until the very last moment. In the 26 years since the ceasefire agreement of 1994, Azerbaijan has not once resorted to any sort of provocation to disrupt the negotiations. However, Armenia did quite the opposite. The growing military, political and diplomatic provocations by Armenia in recent years are what made the war inevitable.
2016: The Four-Day April War
In early 2016 when the sides were discussing substantial plans to resolve the conflict, Armenia once again turned to military provocation, opening fire at densely populated areas along the contact line, including schools, hospitals and places of worship on 2 April, which killed 6 civilians, including children, and seriously injured another 33.
In turn, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces retaliated in kind and liberated over two thousand hectares of occupied territories of Fuzuli, Jabrayil and the former Agdere region as a result of a successful counterattack.
While the April Events demonstrated the might of the Azerbaijani Army in one respect, it also exhibited that the main causes behind the tension in the conflict zone were maintaining the status quo and the presence of Armenian troops in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and that Azerbaijan would never condone the occupation.
Although the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia held discussions in Vienna and Saint Petersburg in 2016, no progress was made due to Armenia’s unconstructive position.
2017: Provocations continue
Armenia continued its line of political and military provocations well into 2017. In June and July, as Azerbaijan doubled its efforts to urge the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the conflict and called the international community to hold substantive talks, Armenia sought to escalate the situation along the line of contact.
Armenian military units once again pushed on their aggressive string and opened intensive fire on the frontline positions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and civilian inhabitations from heavy artillery, which killed civilians Sahiba Allahverdiyeva, born in 1966, and her granddaughter Zahra Guliyeva, born in 2016, on 4 June in the village of Alkhanli, Fuzuli Region.
The international community witnessed once again that Armenia was far from being interested in a political solution to the conflict.
The provocations on the border with Nakhchivan mere days after the coup d’etat in Armenia in May 2018 were a clear sign to grasp the essence and objectives the new government fostered. The statements that followed helped to understand the intentions of the Armenian government.
On September 8, 2018, as the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan made a statement, saying ‘I see Karabakh as part of Armenia’, he steered the negotiation process to a dead end.
2019: Negotiations lose all point
On March 29, 2019, the Defense Minister of Armenia, David Tonoyan, stated in New York that their new formula is defined as a ‘new war for new territories’.
On August 5, 2019, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan announced in Khankendi that ‘Karabakh is a part of Armenia. Full stop.’ Previously Armenia discerned the international political, legal and moral responsibility behind the policy of military occupation and annexation, thus trying to cover its aggressive policy by promoting the conflict as the right of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination. This statement by Pashinyan clearly showed that the real goal pursued by Armenia was aggression.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev responded to Pashinyan’s speech at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club on October 3, 2019: ‘…he said in his speech ‘Karabakh is a part of Armenia. Full stop.’ First of all, this is a lie, to put it mildly. The international community recognizes both Aran and Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan. Even Armenia itself does not recognize this illegal body. Thus, Karabakh is Azerbaijan. Exclamation mark!’
Less than a year remained until the day when this sentence would become a national slogan for all people of Azerbaijan.
Those who understood the President of Azerbaijan, his character and the weight behind his words were able to draw conclusions from this statement. Unfortunately, the delusional Armenian leadership did not have the necessary foresight and did not refrain from further provocations.
2020: ‘Seven Conditions’ and one answer
A debate between the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan took place within the framework of the Munich Security Conference on 15 February 2020.
During these discussions, the President of Azerbaijan once again voiced Azerbaijan’s rightful position regarding the conflict to the international community to hear and put forward strong arguments based on historic facts and international law, thus demolishing Armenia’s aggressive policy and false claims.
Pashinyan’s mispronunciation of ‘Caucasian Bureau’ at the debates, on the other hand, soon became a standing joke.
Nevertheless, later the same month Pashinyan announced the ‘Munich Principles’, which contradicted the position of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. One of the conditions demanded the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh participate in the talks. The Minsk Group did not react in any way.
The so-called ‘elections’ held in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in March 2020 were another provocation. These ‘elections’, just like the ones before, were not recognized by the international community, any international organizations or states. On the contrary, they were strongly condemned and rejected.
As the Armenian Prime Minister put forward the unacceptable ‘seven conditions’ to resolve the conflict in July 2020, he clearly demonstrated the true purpose of the occupant state. President Ilham Aliyev said in this regard: ‘We have only one condition to achieve peace. Armenian armed forces must withdraw from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The entire world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan.’
2020: July-August provocations
In July 2020, Armenia initiated yet another military provocation in the direction of Tovuz on the state border with Azerbaijan. The purpose of the provocation was to create a new source of tension in the region, avert the attention from the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, involve third countries in the conflict and damage Azerbaijan’s strategic infrastructure.
The provocation killed an Azerbaijani civilian and servicemen, including several high-ranking officers. The Azerbaijani Army responded with a crushing blow to the enemy. Armenia conceded defeat by beating a path to the Collective Security Treaty Organization for military support.
Baku held a mass rally two days later to protest the killings, which were too much for a ceasefire. Despite the pandemic, many people showed up for the march, which demonstrated that the patience of the Azerbaijani people had been completely exhausted.
In August 2020, Armenia launched another military provocation and sent a sabotage group to Azerbaijan to commit terrorist acts. The group was neutralized and its leader detained on 23 August 2020, ending another provocation in failure.
There were numerous hints that displayed Armenia’s intentions to prepare for a new war against Azerbaijan, such as the adoption of an offensive military doctrine and national security strategy, the establishment of armed civilian volunteer groups willing to participate in the military operations against Azerbaijan, the Defense Minister’s call for a ‘new war for new territories’, the threats by the Armenian officials to bring down major cities and important civilian infrastructure, recruitment of mercenaries and terrorists from various countries, collection of a large supply of arms and many others.
On September 21, 2020, the President of Azerbaijan, Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement Ilham Aliyev delivered a speech at the High-Level Meeting dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the UN within the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly and stated that the aggressive rhetoric and provocations by Armenia against Azerbaijan demonstrate that they are preparing for new aggression: ‘We call on the UN and the international community to urge Armenia to refrain from another military aggression. All responsibility lies on the military-political leadership of Armenia for instigating provocations and escalation of tensions. The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict must be resolved on the basis of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity according to UN Security Council resolutions.’
As he participated in the general debates within the 75th session of the UN General Assembly on 24 September, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev once again stated that Armenia was preparing for a new war against Azerbaijan.
As the president of Azerbaijan received the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus on 25 September, 2020, he noted one more time that the findings of Azerbaijani intelligence indicate that Armenia was preparing elaborately against Azerbaijan, concentrating their military forces at the line of contact and state border: ‘If they attack us, they will regret it. I simply want to inform you, ask you to convey this to the European Commission and see what the European Commission can do to stop new provocations by the aggressor.’
But, unfortunately, the international community took no practical steps to put an end to Armenia’s successive provocations and new war plans. Encouraged by this, on 27 September, 2020, Armenia attacked the positions of the Azerbaijani Army from several directions, using heavy artillery and opening fire on residential settlements.
The Azerbaijani Army launched a counterattack in response to another attempt by Armenia for military aggression. Over the course of the 44-day war, the Azerbaijani Army destroyed the Armenian forces, brought them to their knees and liberated the occupied territories. Operation Iron Fist, carried out by the victorious Azerbaijani Army under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, will forever remain a golden page in the history of the Azerbaijani people. It forced Armenia, a country that turned occupation and glorification of Nazism into a state policy, to surrender.