The head of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh has said that the people of Karabakh consist of both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
“Azerbaijanis have lived in Karabakh since ancient times, and I’m sure that they will live there for many centuries more,” Bayram Safarov said in an interview with Russian newspaper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
“We were forced to flee our homes as a result of Armenia’s military aggression. Of course, this is a tragedy. Each refugee is a story, full of pain and emotion. Today the Karabakh people are scattered across 58 districts of Azerbaijan,” he told the newspaper.
“The UN and international charities helped refugees and displaced people in the early days along with the Azerbaijani government, but over time, the financial resources of Azerbaijan allowed it fully to take care of the people of Karabakh.
“I say ‘people of Karabakh’ since this term should characterize the people of Karabakh – both Azerbaijanis and Armenians. There is no such nation – the Armenians of Karabakh – just as there is no nation the Azerbaijanis of Karabakh. The Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh Region of Azerbaijan unites all Karabakhis and aims to achieve their return to their homeland.”
Asked whether he was satisfied with the role of international institutions in settling the Karabakh conflict, Safarov restated the Azerbaijani concern that some UN Security Council resolutions are implemented almost immediately, while others, such as the four resolutions in 1993 calling for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan, remain on paper.
“We have the same right to live in Karabakh as the Armenians do,” Safarov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
“We have regular meetings with the chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, take part in every possible conference and forum on the conflict. We bring to the attention of these structures our opinion and we can see over time that the opinion of these structures is changing as they have a complete picture of the conflict.”
He repeated Baku’s position that the best way to change the status quo on the conflict would be the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territory, the return home of displaced people and the confirmation of the status of Karabakh within the borders of Azerbaijan.
“If anyone thinks that over the years the desire to return home evaporates or that the new generation is used to living in different conditions, they are very wrong. Our generation still remembers the period of co-existence and can master its feelings of alienation and hatred, while the young people are growing up in conditions of hatred, as they cannot forget everything that has left them without hearth and home. The longer the occupation continues, the more the hatred will grow.”
Asked what he would like to say to his former friends, neighbours and acquaintances in Karabakh, Safarov said: “We are deeply convinced that the directly Armenian population of the territory is not interested in continuation of the conflict – they have become hostage to circumstance. It will be better for both the Armenians and Azerbaijanis if the funds going on the purchase of weapons and maintenance of the army in both countries are spent on improving the welfare of people and restoring the territory.”