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Azerbaijan condemns Armenian ‘attempts to manipulate’ Karabakh situation

Azerbaijan on Thursday condemned what it said were Armenia’s “unacceptable” attempts to “manipulate” the situation in the Karabakh region.

“Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s attempts to manipulate the situation in the region are unacceptable,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada said in response to Pashinyan’s comments during his speech at the US-hosted Summit for Democracy a day earlier.

“It is no secret that Armenia continues its aggressive activities by portraying itself as a democracy.”

During his speech, Pashinyan assailed Baku for its “act of aggression” last September, referring to a series of deadly border clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops that left nearly 300 dead on either side.

He also accused Azerbaijan of allegedly conducting “an attempt of ethnic cleansing of Armenians” in Karabakh.

Hajizada hit back by saying that Pashinyan’s “provocative statements … indicate Armenia’s intention to deliberately disrupt the peace process … (and) revival of international efforts for peace.”

He said there is “no reason” to misinterpret the International Court of Justice’s decision regarding the Lachin road.

The Azerbaijani army took measures to “prevent Armenia’s use of dirt roads for illegal activities in the north of the Lachin road,” said Hajizada.

“Preventing the illegal activities of Armenia, which has intensified the transportation of personnel, ammunition, mines, and other military equipment … is Azerbaijan’s sovereign right,” he asserted.

Azerbaijan will take all necessary measures for this purpose, he added.

He said Pashinyan’s denial of the presence of Armenian forces in Karabakh contradicts statements made by other Armenian officials, including from the Armenian Defense Ministry.

Yerevan’s claims that it did not occupy Azerbaijani lands have been “repeatedly proven to be groundless” by UN Security Council resolutions, Hajizada said.

“The Armenian side should completely withdraw its forces from the territory of Azerbaijan in accordance with the tripartite statement,” he said.

“The Armenian side should give up its territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Instead of inviting international organizations to Azerbaijan and interfering in the internal affairs of our country, it should fulfill its obligations,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it has taken control of a “vast border area” and several strategic heights and roads in the Lachin area.

Tensions have been growing over Armenian military movements in the region, which Azerbaijan has denounced as a “gross violation” of trilateral agreements between the two countries and Russia.

On March 5, Baku said two of its soldiers were shot dead by Armenian forces when they tried to stop vehicles for an inspection on the Khankendi-Khalfali-Turshsu road.

​​Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

In the fall of 2020, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages, and settlements from Armenian occupation after 44 days of intense fighting that ended with a Russian-brokered peace agreement.

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