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Time for Europe to accept the new reality in the South Caucasus, say Azerbaijan MPs

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Two senior members of Azerbaijan’s parliament have met journalists in Brussels to answer questions about how they see future relations with Armenia now that their country has restored its internationally recognised sovereignty over the entire Karabakh region. One said he found it “very surprising” that European partners that had backed Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity were not “easily accepting” the new reality - writes Political Editor Nick Powell with additional reporting by Catherine Feore.

Tural Ganjaliyev, who chairs the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, was reflecting on events both after the 2020 Karabakh War and the brief conflict in September that fully restored Azeri control. Throughout the decades of Armenian control of Karabakh and surrounding areas, the international community had recognised that it was Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory.

“Before we restored our independence, some of our partners were saying they were for the entire territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. But what we have seen after the 2020 war and after the September developments is that countries in the European Union are not easily accepting the new reality, which is very surprising for us”, he said.

He was asked if more could have been done to make Armenians in Karabakh feel welcome after the fighting, as many had fled amid accusations of ethnic cleansing. He blamed “10,000 illegal armed forces of Armenia present in Karabakh” for calling on the Armenian population to leave, “we called for the Armenian population living in Karabakh to stay”.

Tural Ganjaliyev said Azeris were very proud of their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country, with some 50 ethnic groups. The Azerbaijani government has launched a website for Armenians who had left Karabakh to register to return but Armenia has blocked it. A UN mission has visited and reported no incidents against Armenians.

“We hope the Armenians will come back”, he added. “We also ask the Armenian authorities to establish a way for the 300,000 Azerbaijanis who were expelled in the 1980s to come back, it should be a two-way street. We will invite or allow UN missions, at least according to my view, to come frequently to visit this region to assess the facts on the ground”.

He was joined by Vugar Bayramov, a member of the parliamentary committee for Economic Policy, Industries and Enterprise. He said an end to conflict could have a massively positive impact not only on the economies of Azerbaijan and Armenia but also Georgia because the three countries of the South Caucasus could form a strong single market.

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Azerbaijan, Georgia and potentially Armenia form part of the Middle Corridor trade route which links Asia and Europe via the Caspian Sea, the South Caucasus and Türkiye. Mr Bayramov spoke of how an east-west transport route would benefit Armenia, both in terms of its own logistics and by helping to build a sustainable peace.

“If there is communication between Azerbaijan and Armenia, then of course, it will ensure a lasting and sustainable peace for the region” he said. That will need time, he acknowledged, but the normalisation process could be fast. He envisaged a future where Azerbaijan invested in Armenia, much as it currently does in Georgia and Türkiye.

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