YEREVAN—A senior member of the Russian Duma on Monday slammed Baku’s territorial claims from Armenia, which have been amplified by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev who, as recently as last week, claimed that all of Armenia is part of “historic Azerbaijan.”
Konstantin Zatulin, the first deputy head of a Russian parliament committee on CIS, Eurasian Integration, who spoke Monday at a joint session of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign affairs and his committee in the Duma that said Aliyev’s statement stand to be criticized both on the historical and political fronts.
Speaking at a pre-election congress of his Yeni Azerbayacan party on February 10 Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev promised to “return Azerbaijanis” to Yerevan, Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province also known as Zangezur, and the area around Lake Sevan describing them as ‘historical Azerbaijani lands.’
“This is our strategic goal and we must gradually move closer to achieving this goal,” he declared. Aliyev reiterated his claims on March 19 when addressing Azerbaijanis on the beginning of Novruz, the New Year holiday.
“Apparently, Aliyev’s statement was made for his fellow countrymen, given the factor of the forthcoming presidential elections. It is not clear how someone can take it seriously,” Zatulin said. At the same time, Zatulin stressed that the Karabakh conflict can be resolved only through negotiations, and stressed the need for a balanced policy of the parties in the course of these negotiations.
At a press conference later on Monday, Zatulin reiterated his position on Aliyev’s statement, this time in a more resolute tone.
“As for [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev’s statement, I would prefer to be extra correct with this, as I know my statement will appear in the Azerbaijani media tomorrow. The much respected president of Azerbaijan has undermined his position by making statements of the kind. They were probably intended for the domestic audience just in the run-up to the [presidential] polls, but I don’t think it will be taken seriously from the historic, political or any other viewpoint. It isn’t clear at all who may seriously consider those ideas,” Zatulin added.
Zatulin also expressed Russia’s concerns over the ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), regretting at the same time that Azerbaijan abused Russia’s trust by launching offensives with Russian-made weapons.
At a news conference in Yerevan, Zatulin said they are also worried that the belligerent rhetoric “aiming to lead the peace process to a deadlock.”
“We understand that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – like many other conflicts around the globe – should have but one outcome, which is a peaceful resolution. So Russia is as always concerned lest a military settlement should apply to this particular case,” he noted.
Zatulin also reaffirmed Moscow’s commitment to guarantee Armenia’s security and defense as a strategic ally.
He added that they received additional assurances on Sunday after visiting the 102nd Russian military base stationed in the second largest city, Gyumri.
“We understand that after the eruption [of hostilities] – provoked by one of the sides in 2016 – Armenia was discontent with Russia’s move to supply Azerbaijan with weapons. We regret that Azerbaijan found no other way of using the weapons apart from violating the ceasefire along the Line of Contact. We have drawn the necessary conclusions,” the Russian lawmaker noted.
“I would like to also call your attention to the fact that Russia has equipped Armenia with modern defense supplies, which I hope you will see during the [independence] parade,” Zatulin said, adding that he and a number of other Russian parliamentarians act in support of the Russian-Armenian friendship.