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Aliyev raises Azerbaijani flag in Nagorno-Karabakh on official visit

16 October 2023
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev raising the Azerbaijani flag in front of Nagorno-Karabakh’s former presidential administration on 15 October 2023. Image via the Presidential Administration.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has conducted his first official visit to Khankandi (Stepanakert) since Nagorno-Karabakh surrendered to Azerbaijan in late September. This marks the first visit by an Azerbaijani leader to the city in 35 years.

Aliyev also visited Aghdara (Martakert), Khojali, and Asgaran (Askeran) on Sunday. 

Pictures shared by Azerbaijan’s presidential administration show Aliyev walking through streets of the city and raising the Azerbaijani flag in front of the region’s presidential palace, where he gave a video address.

In his speech, Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan’s ‘anti-terror operation’ — its assault on Nagorno-Karabakh on 19–20 September — ‘was inevitable’.

‘We wanted to resolve the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict peacefully’, he said. ‘Over the course of 17 years, I personally participated in numerous meaningless and fruitless negotiations’.

‘Today, I can say with full confidence that the Armenians did not intend to return even an inch of land to us. The mediators dealing with this issue actually wanted to freeze the conflict, they wanted to perpetuate the conflict.’

Aliyev’s visit came shortly after over 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh fled the region to seek refuge in Armenia after Nagorno-Karabakh’s government surrendered in September.

[Read more on OC Media: The last bus out of Nagorno-Karabakh]

While it remains unclear how many of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population have remained, Tigran Grigoryan, a Yerevan-based political analyst from Nagorno-Karabakh, cited sources as saying that as few as 50 Armenians remain in the region. 

A UN mission sent to monitor the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh after most of its Armenian population had fled to Armenia reported that only 50–1,000 Armenians remained in the region.

During his visit, Aliyev visited the region’s governmental administration buildings. 

‘Some of those who sit in high chairs in this building are currently in prison in Baku’, said Aliyev when he visited the building. ‘There was a time when they threatened us that their tanks would enter Baku and [they would] drink tea there. They were right, and their tanks are now in the Military Trophy Park, and they are drinking tea in prison themselves’.

A total of eight former officials have been detained since Nagorno-Karabakh’s surrender, including three former presidents, and Nagorno-Karabakh’s then-acting parliamentary speaker.

[Read more: Azerbaijan arrests former presidents and parliamentary speaker of Nagorno-Karabakh]

‘Three clowns who called themselves president were sitting here, threatening and insulting us’, he said. ‘This should be a lesson for everyone. For those who wish to take revenge in Armenia today. Let them remember what happened.’

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.