YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia accused Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Friday of undermining international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after he again claimed that Yerevan and other parts of Armenia are “historic Azerbaijani lands.”
Aliyev pledged to “return Azerbaijanis” to Yerevan, Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province also known as Zangezur, and the area around Lake Sevan when he addressed a pre-election congress of his Yeni Azerbayacan party on Thursday.
“We must not and will not forget about our historic lands,” he said. “This must determine our future activity, and we are already working in that direction. Our historic lands are the Yerevan Khanate, Zangezur and Geycha.”
“This is our strategic goal and we must gradually move closer to achieving this goal,” he declared.
Aliyev has repeatedly made similar statements in the past. In 2014, for instance, he stated that Baku will eventually gain control of not only Karabakh but also parts of the “fascist” Armenian state which he said had been created on “historic Azerbaijani lands.”
Officials in Yerevan were quick to condemn his latest remarks. Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), lashed out at the “Azerbaijani sultan” later on Thursday, comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
“Before talking of historic lands you have to have a history of statehood, and the Azerbaijani state is not even 100 years old,” Sharmazanov told reporters. The birthplace of Azerbaijanis and other Turkic peoples is Central Asia, not Armenia, he said.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry, for its part, said Aliyev’s statement amounted to territorial claims to Armenia. It also demonstrated “the racist essence of the ruling regime in Baku,” a ministry spokesman was quoted by the Russian RBC news agency as saying.
President Serzh Sarkisian likewise mentioned “the latest statements coming from Baku” when he met on Friday with U.S., Russian and French diplomats seeking to broker a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict. According to his press office, Sarkisian said they highlight Baku’s reluctance to embrace a settlement advanced by the international mediators. Aliyev is also defying the mediators’ calls for preparing the Armenian and Azerbaijani societies for peace, he said.
A statement by the office also said the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group briefed the Armenian leader on their talks with Aliyev held in Baku on Wednesday. It gave no details. The mediators are due to proceed to Karabakh this weekend.