Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that the Karabakh is Azerbaijan and its status must remain be unchanged. He also said that Turkey defended Azerbaijan’s “just cause” when it backed Baku in military operations against Artsakh.
“From an international legal perspective, all these territories are an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” said Putin, adding that Armenia, itself, hasn’t recognized Karabakh’s independence and based on international legal standpoint Nagorno-Karabakh is also Azerbaijan.
“This is how our position was advanced in the Minsk Group, where Russia, the United States, and France are co-chairs. For many years, we have always assumed that the seven held areas around Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijan,” Putin explained during his annual year-end press conference.
According to Putin, the Karabakh situation is “much more complicated than just simple normative assumption, including international legal ones.”
“The roots [of Karabakh] lie in an ethnic conflict, which began in Sumgait, and then spread to Nagorno-Karabakh. Here, each side has its own truth. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh once took up arms to protect their lives and dignity,” he added.
The current status of Karabakh should remain unchanged, but transportation link between Armenia and Karabakh is integral, hence the “addition” of the Lachin corridor, which was established for this purpose.
The Russian president said that discussion of Karabakh’s status should be deferred to the future, reiterating that the current status quo should remain unchanged.
In discussing Turkey’s involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh, Putin acknowledged Ankara’s support to Azerbaijan, a fact that Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev has denied or contested.
“Turkey’s position is based on, and it has been publicly stated, that Turkey defended, as they believe, the just cause of Azerbaijan, namely the return of territories that were occupied during the fighting in the 1990s,” Putin said.
He said that the situation in Karabakh had gotten out of control for many years, noting that small skirmishes throughout the years grew into a full-blown war, adding that he did not believe that “external” forces were involved in the resumption of military actions in Karabakh.
Putin highlighted the importance of the November 9 agreement, which he signed along with Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, saying that the main objective was to end the bloodshed in Karabakh
“The agreement on the cessation of hostilities is very important. Because it stopped the bloodshed, the civilians have stopped dying, this is an extremely important thing, this is fundamental. Everything else is secondary. Saving people’s lives and health is the most important task that we have solved,” he said.
Putin touched on recent ceasefire violations that have seen a standoff between Azerbaijani forces and Artsakh soldiers in two Armenian villages in Hadrut. The Russian leaders simply expressed hope that it would never happen.
“Those ceasefire outbreaks happened only once. I hope that this isolated incident will remain an isolated one, [that] all the parties will still be able to sit down at the negotiating table, whether with our mediation or with the mediation of the [OSCE] Minsk Group—it’s not really important—the main thing is that the process begins and it ends on a positive note,” he added.
“We have agreed within the framework of the trilateral statement that the hostilities will stop, and—here is a very important thing—we have agreed that the parties will remain in the positions where they were at the signing of our trilateral statement. This is where everyone should stand,” explained Putin.
There are many technical issues related to infrastructure in the region, Putin said, but they “must be dealt with in a calm atmosphere during the negotiation process,” adding that the November 9 agreement provides a foundation by stipulation that “after the ceasefire, the next stage should be a complete normalization of the situation in the region with the opening of economic and infrastructural potential, including road and rail.”