By Seymur Mammadov
After the cessation of hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1994, official Yerevan began to pursue a policy of artificially changing the demographic structure in the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions. To this end, the process of the illegal resettlement of Armenians in the occupied territories was started, which continues today.
According to Armenian sources, as well as the data, confirmed by the calculations of the OSCE mission, it is known that from the middle of the 90s of the last century to 2012, about 27 thousand Armenians were illegally resettled to the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas. It is enough to recall the statement of Levon Zurabyan – Advisor to the President of Armenia LevonTer-Petrosyan that in 1998, more than 15 thousand Armenians were resettled to the territory of Lachin district.
Frankly, in the Armenian sources, in the statements of the Armenian officials, there are often facts confirming the illegal settlement of the occupied territories. Thus, in 2010, 199 Armenian families (616 people) were resettled in the occupied Lachin region of Azerbaijan. And in the first half of 2011, another 50 families were resettled in Lachin, and by the end of 2011 the number of resettled families was increased to 300. In April 2012, Armenian media reported that over 600 Armenian families had been resettled to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
The issue of the illegal migration of Armenians to the occupied Azerbaijani territories was greatly worried and continues to worry the Azerbaijani authorities, since the Armenians did not live in these territories before the start of the conflict. Azerbaijan has repeatedly raised this issue at the level of the UN General Assembly. Finally, in 2004, after Azerbaijan put forward issues of illegal settlement of the occupied territories, illegal economic activities, destruction of historical and cultural monuments, etc., for discussion by the United Nations, the OSCE Minsk Group created a special mission to investigate these issues.
From January 31 to February 6, 2005, the OSCE fact-finding mission conducted observations in the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions. The report of the OSCE fact-finding mission confirmed the illegal settlement of the occupied Azerbaijani territories. The mission visually estimated the number of Armenians stationed in the occupied territories, and the figures obtained turned out to be very close to the figures previously provided by Azerbaijan. The mission revealed that the number of Armenians settled in the occupied territories exceeds 17,000. The same report of the OSCE fact-finding mission indicated that 8-11 thousand Armenians were settled just in the Lachin region. According to Azerbaijan, this figure exceeds 13 thousand. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs distributed a letter where they demanded to stop the process of illegal settlement of the occupied territories by Armenians and stop changing the demographic structure of the region.
Armenian authorities grossly ignored the demands of the OSCE Minsk Group and continued the policy of illegally settling Armenians in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Now the Armenian side, under the guise of a humane policy, is relocating Syrian Armenians to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Since the beginning of the war in Syria, official Yerevan has resettled more than 20 thousand Syrian Armenians in Armenia, some of which were resettled in Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions. It is not surprising that the majority of Syrian Armenians were settled in those occupied Azerbaijani regions where the Armenians did not live before the conflict. These are such areas as Kelbajar, Lachin, Djebrail, Zangilan, etc. In Nagorno-Karabakh itself, very few Syrian Armenians were settled.
Armenia is trying to settle the strategically important regions of Azerbaijan in order to demand more compensation from official Baku if in the future official Yerevan decides to return Azerbaijani lands. By the way, before there was talk of the need to apply the principle of “peace in exchange for territories”, according to which the Armenian side should return the occupied territories, but Yerevan is not yet ready and not interested in taking a step in favor of a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
The Armenian side is also not interested in Syrian-Armenians leaving Armenia and returning to their homes in Syria. Appeals by the Syrian leader Bashar Assad, who in May at a meeting with Aram I, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, called on Armenians who had left Syria to return to their homes did not even act on the Armenian authorities. Official Yerevan is trying to keep them exclusively in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, resorting to various methods, for example, distribute free land for agricultural work, provide temporary housing, and give false promises of future salary increases.
As for the Syrian Armenians who settled in Yerevan and in other cities of Armenia, many of them left this country and moved to Canada and other places. And some Syrian Armenians are gradually returning to Syria. The main reasons are high unemployment in Armenia, low salaries, lack of conditions for doing business.
Thus, all attempts by Armenia to artificially change the demographic structure in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan further complicate the negotiation process on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The relocation of Syrian Armenians to Azerbaijani territories is a serious violation of the Geneva Convention. On the one hand, that the Azerbaijani territories are occupied by Armenia, and on the other hand, the Armenian side is trying to change the demographic situation in its favor, in those territories where the Armenians had not lived before. Unfortunately, the UN and the world community are silent on all these issues. But for how long?
The writer is the director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan, an international expert club, and editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Vzglyad.az