Artsakh’s Defense Army of is fighting not only the Azerbaijani military, but also the Turkish army, reinforced by foreign terrorist fighters and jihadists, Armenia’s permanent Representative to the OSCE Armen Papikyan said at the 1288th meeting of the Permanent Council.
“We have repeatedly raised the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and jihadist groups, which were recruited by Turkey and transferred to Azerbaijan as early as in August, to be used in the planned aggression against the Republic of Artsakh and its people,” the Ambassador said.
The Ambassador’s full remarks are provided below:
Today is the fortieth day of the aggressive war unleashed by Turkish-backed Azerbaijani armed forces with direct engagement of foreign terrorist fighters and jihadists against the Republic of Artsakh and its people. The aggression, accompanied by numerous war crimes, including deliberate targeting of hospitals, religious sites, monuments, civilian settlements and critical infrastructure, use of prohibited cluster and phosphorus munitions, as well as cruel murder of civilian captives and POWs, beheadings and mutilation of dead bodies. UNHCR Michelle Bachelet on Monday, November 2, warned that continuing indiscriminate attacks in populated areas of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, in contravention of international humanitarian law, may amount to war crimes.
Since the last meeting of the Permanent Council, Azerbaijan has continued its attacks against civilians in Artsakh despite the persistent calls of the international community and the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries. The Azerbaijani military continued indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population and infrastructure in contravention of the agreement reached on October 30 in Geneva during the meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the participation of the Co-Chairs and Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office.
Yesterday, two civilians were wounded as a result of a rocket attack on the Mother and Child Health Center in Stepanakert. Another hospital in Stepanakert was targeted while surgeons were operating on injured civilians. These cowardly attacks clearly demonstrate that the goal of the Azerbaijani military-political leadership is to inflict maximum damage on the civilian population of Artsakh, especially women and children. After each such attack, the leadership of Azerbaijan hypocritically speaks about “unfortunate collateral damage and perspectives of future peaceful co-existence”.
According to official information, as of today, 50 civilians have been killed and 148 have been wounded as a result of the Azerbaijani aggression. More than 19,000 buildings, including infrastructure and private property have been partially or entirely destroyed. Two days ago, a border village of Davit Bek in Armenia was shelled, resulting in the death of one civilian and two other wounded.
Azerbaijan keeps “conquering new heights” when it comes to violations of international humanitarian law. Yesterday, an Azerbaijani subversive group disguised as Armenian soldiers, attacked an ambulance carrying a wounded soldier, killing the medic.
This past week-end, Azerbaijan started using a new type of prohibited munition, white phosphorus, to burn down the forests around civilian settlements, including the city of Shushi, the second largest city of Artsakh. White phosphorus is a toxic material that can cause severe burns when contacted with skin. It is very difficult to put out a white phosphorus fire and it can reignite easily, even on the skin. A cloud of phosphorus can mix with moisture in the air and can form phosphoric acid, which can damage or destroy the lungs. The use of incendiary weapons in civilian areas is banned under the Geneva convention. Its use by Azerbaijan to attack civilian areas amounts to war crime.
Armenia has already officially applied to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with a request to launch an investigation into the use of chemical weapons by Azerbaijan. With the use of white phosphorus, Azerbaijan adds environmental terrorism to the long list of its war crimes. These munitions have a clear destructive effect for the environment. The forests were on fire for more than three days now.
These actions of Azerbaijan come as no surprise to the people of Artsakh and Armenia. For more than a decade, we have been raising concerns about the anti-Armenian propaganda, hatred and xenophobia at the highest political level of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani president himself when referring to Armenia and Armenian people in general did not shy away from using extremely offensive and derogatory language which had nothing to do with civilised discourse and should have deserved at least a condemnation. We also drew attention to the dehumanisation of the Armenians and the indoctrination of the Azerbaijani population from a very young age with hatred towards everything Armenian. For decades, the Azerbaijani leader has been creating a very convenient image of Armenia as an archenemy, and exploiting it as a means of continuing his dictatorial regime.
The monitoring of the Azerbaijani segment of the social media reveals that the xenophobic and hate speech against Armenians has reached an unprecedented level in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani citizens, including officials have been openly calling on social media to kill all Armenians without distinction. The anti-Armenian hatred is manifested not only in politics, but also civil society, the media, culture, academia, sports, etc. As an example: a few days ago the PR and media manager of the Azerbaijani “Qarabag” football club Nurlan Ibrahimov wrote a post on social media calling to kill Armenian women, children and the elderly. As a result, the UEFA has decided to provisionally ban this person from exercising any football-related activity with immediate effect.
Today’s war is the logical continuation of this process. However, as we have already mentioned, the new elements and factors, in particular the use of foreign terrorist fighters and jihadist groups and Turkey’s direct military-political involvement, as well sa possible more serious geo-strategic implications that continued violence might have for the region and beyond, make this aggression to stand out.
Azerbaijan claims that the war is about territories. For Turkey, who we believe to be the true mastermind and instigator behind this aggression launched on September 27, this war is about strengthening its political and military presence in Azerbaijan and projecting its power into the Caucasus.
Today, the Turkish leadership, taking advantage of the moment, under the pretext of the concept of “one nation, two states”, is actively involved in the conflict, with a view to forcing its way to the negotiating table and hoping to secure geo-political gains for itself. Therefore, Turkey cannot and should not play any role in the settlement process, since with each passing day it becomes more and more clear that, indeed, Turkey is apparently a party to the conflict, with its direct military involvement in hostilities – from planning to execution, exercising command and control over the Azerbaijani military and its general staff. Thus, it came as no surprise that the chief of general staff of Azerbaijan was dismissed in the early days of the conflict at the insistence of Turkish generals. There were also reports of his arrest. Now we hear reports of the de facto dismissal of the Minister of Defence of Azerbaijan, though without formally relieving him of his duties.
We have already provided detailed information on the number of Turkish troops, officers and military advisers, who remained in Azerbaijan after the joint drills in July-August this year. We have also informed the PC and the FSC about the military equipment that was stationed in Azerbaijan and remained there. There were also reports of Turkish commando units, 1,200 in total, who were sent to fight a guerilla war in Artsakh, and during the last week, we have seen this change of tactics in the battlefield, which makes the reports even more credible. We also see regular visits to Baku of Turkish high-level military officials, including the Minister of Defence and chiefs of various branches of the Turkish Armed Forces.
All these facts prove beyond any doubt that today the Defense Army of Artsakh is fighting not only the Azerbaijani military, but also the Turkish army, reinforced by foreign terrorist fighters and jihadists.
We have repeatedly raised the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and jihadist groups, which were recruited by Turkey and transferred to Azerbaijan as early as in August, to be used in the planned aggression against the Republic of Artsakh and its people.
We believe that Turkey’s direct role in this recruitment and deployment scheme has been proved beyond any doubt. For almost a decade, Turkey has been cultivating and nurturing 29 different terrorist groups in Syria, according to some estimates. It channeled arms and money to them, provided safe passage through its territory. For the last couple of years, we have seen the active use of foreign terrorist fighters and jihadists in Syria, in Libya and now also in Artsakh. The gross violations of human rights committed by members of these groups against the local population in Syria have been presented by relevant international enquiries and reports.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based NGO, continues to monitor the process of recruitment of terrorists and their transfer to Azerbaijan. On November 3, the SOHR announced that a new batch of nearly 230 Syrian fighters arrived in Azerbaijan, whereas at least 22 fighters have fled the fierce battles and returned to Syria.
The arrival of a new group of fighters brings the total confirmed number of Syrian fighters at the Artsakh-Azerbaijani battlefront to 2,580. 342 fighters returned to Syria after they “had given up and forgone their payments”.
And last but not least, the Defence Army of Artsakh has already captured at least two terrorist fighters, Yousef Alabet Al Haji, born in the village in Jisr al-Shughur of the Idlib province of Syria and Mehred Muhammad Alshkher, born in the Syrian city of Hama. Their interrogation revealed the exact routes and schemes used for the recruitment and transfer of FTFs and jihadists to fight against Artsakh. They have confirmed that they were recruited by Turkey to fight against “infidels”, they were promised a salary of 2,000 US dollars per month and additional 100 dollars as a reward for every severed head of the “infidels”.
I believe that other details could be communicated to our international partners through relevant channels. As a responsible member of the international community Armenia has contributed to the international efforts to combat the scorge of terrorism. We warned that the proliferation of international terrorism to the region of South Caucasus will have a dramatic effect for each and every country of the region and beyond. Therefore, it is more than obvious that we should reinforce our efforts towards eradication of terrorism, and we should particularly concentrate on stoping the financing of terrorist and jihadist groups and their supporters. In this context, we should highlight again that Turkey with its recruitment scheme, supports the terrorism.
A state, which condones and profits from the services of terrorists and jihadists, which is supported by a state, which finances and supports terrorists and jihadists, cannot claim any right to sovereignty over Artsakh and its people, who is fighting for its inalienable rights. The right to live freely and independently in its ancestral homeland. The right to development and dignified life. The right to freely exercise its religion and preserve and enjoy its language and culture. The right to its identity.
Only international recognition of the right of the people of Artsakh to exercise self-determination and create an independent State can provide the necessary political and legal remedies for ensuring the safety and security of the people of Artsakh and protection of their inalienable rights. We call on all OSCE participating States to consider this issue, taking into account all the dire consequences of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan with the support and involvement of Turkey and foreign terrorist fighters and jihadists.