Azerbaijan has criticised a statement by the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, in which she described parts of the speech of President Ilham Aliyev at the 6th Congress of the New Azerbaijan Party as unhelpful.
Answering a journalist question at the regular press brieifng on Thursday (15 February), Zakharova said "In Moscow, of course, there were reports of the speech of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the congress of the ruling party. We know perfectly well that Azerbaijan's relations with neighboring Armenia are extremely tense. This statement clearly does not help reduce tension."
In a swift reaction on Friday (16 February), the spokesperson of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Hikmet Hajiyev described the comment as "controversial". "Given the strategic partnership and high-level dialogue between Azerbaijan and Russia, we do not consider it appropriate for such a comment on the statement of the head of state to be made in this manner," Hajiyev noted.
Hajiyev said the policy being pursued by President Ilham Aliyev serves to ensure regional peace and security, strengthen regional cooperation and eliminate potential regional risks.
"During the 6th Congress of the New Azerbaijan Party, the Azerbaijani president talked about the return of the Azerbaijanis to their historical lands, rather than the return of Azerbaijan's historical lands. The speech of the head of state has been widely disseminated in various languages, including Russian," he said.
Hajiyev noted that the mass exodus of Azerbaijanis from Armenia at various times in history, especially in the late 1980s, as well as the destruction of the material-cultural heritage of the indigenous Azerbaijani population in Armenia, has been proven through historical facts and documents.
"Why should the peaceful return of the Azerbaijani people to their historical lands bother someone? Ensuring the return of people to their native lands and places of permanent residence is indicated as one of the fundamental rights by resolutions of the UN and relevant international organizations, as well as OSCE documents related to the settlement of various conflicts. In accordance with UN Security Council's resolutions, one of the important components of the process of resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is ensuring the return of more than a million Azerbaijanis, who were subjected to ethnic cleansing, to their historical lands," he said.
Commonspace.eu political editor said that Russia and Azerbaijan usually prefer not to wash their dirty linen in public, but on this occasion they opted to do so. The dispute is about what exactly President Aliyev said at the 6th Congres of the New Azerbaijan Party. Did he say that historical Azerbaijani lands, including Yerevan should be returned to Azerbaijan, or did he say that Azerbaijanis should be able to return to their historical lands, including Yerevan?
The website of the President of Azerbaijan carries the speech of the president in English. He is quoted as saying
"I should also note that we must not forget and are not forgetting our historical lands. This should be a guide for our future activities, just as we are working in this direction today. Our historical lands are the Erivan Khanate, Zangezur and Goycha. The younger generation and the whole world must know this. I am glad that fundamental research papers are being developed, films produced and exhibitions organized in connection with this issue, the history of our ancestral lands. In the coming years, we should be more active in this direction, exhibitions and presentations should be held in different parts of the world because Erivan is our historical land and we, the Azerbaijanis, must return to these historical lands. This is our political and strategic goal, and we must gradually approach it."
photo: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova described parts of a speech of President Aliyev as "controversial" at a press briefing on 15 February (picture courtesy of the press service of the president of Russia).
Bakhtadze later tweeted that talks centred on Georgia's new wave of reforms and the EU's continued support for Georgia's European path.