Statement by Hikmat Hajiyev, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 25th anniversary of the occupation of Aghdara and neighboring villages.

July 7 marks the 25th anniversary of the occupation of the town of Aghdara in Tartar region of Azerbaijan and neighboring villages by the armed forces of Armenia.

Prior to the armed aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, Aghdara was the administrative center of one of the five districts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Azerbaijan SSR. According to the latest Soviet population census of 1989, there were more than 14,000 Azerbaijanis living in 14 villages of the district, which made it the second most populous of the five administrative districts of the former NKAO, after Shusha region. The area is rich with the deposits of coal, limestone, gold and copper, lead, zinc. 75.059 hectares (44% of the area) were covered with forests, including rare and valuable species. Sarsang reservoir and the hydroelectric power plant on the river of Tartar are also in the territory of this region.

However, the occupation of Aghdara, accompanied by ethnic cleansing, led to the expulsion of the entire Azerbaijani population, the destruction and falsification of cultural heritage and the destruction of its infrastructure. Thus, among others, Ganjasar - the cloister complex of the 13th century which is the architectural masterpiece of the Albanian Christian heritage was subjected to distorting restoration with the aim of artificial armenization of this church.

These illegal actions became a continuation of the policy of falsification of historical realities and changes in the ethnic composition of the Karabakh region. One of the most striking examples of this process is the fact that in 1978 in the village of Shikharkh a monument "Maraga-150" was erected to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the resettlement of 200 Armenian families from the area of the city of Maraga in Iran to Karabakh. However, after the beginning of Armenia’s aggression, this monument was destroyed to erase the fact of relatively recent appearance of Armenians on these lands.
The Republic of Armenia and the illegal regime established in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan have been carrying out illegal activities for twenty-five years to plunder the resources of Aghdara. Natural mineral resources of Aghdara are exploited unlawfully by use of barbaric methods with the involvement of foreign legal and physical entities.

At the same time Armenia does not pay attention to maintaining the safety of the Sarsang hydroelectric plant, which poses serious danger to a number of Azerbaijani settlements along the Tartar river. The serious concern about the situation of Sarsang reservoir was unequivocally expressed in PACE resolution No. 2085 (2016).

The Sarsang reservoir was built in 1976 to provide residents of the surrounding areas with irrigation water. After the occupation of these lands, Armenia turned it into a tool of humanitarian and ecological terror. Thus, the Armenian side, deliberately opening the gutters in the winter months, creates conditions for flooding the territories inhabited by Azerbaijanians in the lower reaches of the Tartar, and in the hot summer months when there is a need for water, it does not allow using it. Consequently, Armenia poses serious challenges to provide the local population with water, carry out agricultural activities, and maintain the biodiversity of the territories. It also results in changing the structure of soils.
The Armenian side engages in such actions despite the fact that the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966), On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), UN General Assembly resolution 64/292 from July 28, 2010 and other international documents reaffirm that access to water is integral part of human rights.

The international community condemns the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan and calls for the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from all seized lands, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993), 884 (1993). Only these immediate steps in this direction can provide basis for the beginning of a political settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and conditions for the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to their homes, including in Aghdara and neighboring villages.

Attempts by Armenia to artificially maintain the status quo, which is based on the continuation of the occupation of Azerbaijan’s lands, are fraught with serious complications, the entire responsibility for which lies with the Republic of Armenia.

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