Speaking at the recent celebration of the Abraham Accords anniversary in London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the current and future benefits for participant nations as a result of the accords.
Azerbaijan, building on its long-standing policy of championing regional integration, leading major infrastructure projects and promoting prosperity through cooperation, has offered Armenia to move forward with normalization and restoring transportation and economic links.
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Yet, what we continue to witness is a pragmatic, reality-based Azerbaijani approach versus Armenia’s continued ideological and self-harming reluctance to become a fully integrated part of the region wherein it exists.
Some two months after the historic White House ceremony of signing the accords in 2020, Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity and thus fulfilled four United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Armenian troops as well as numerous other international documents.
In a bold and rare move, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev proposed full normalization to Armenia immediately after Azerbaijan’s decisive military victory and cessation of hostilities in November 2020.
This offer came despite the pain of the three-decades-long illegal occupation by Armenia, mass displacement of population and indiscriminate Armenian missile attacks against civilian cities during the 44-day war.
As a leader of an independent, rapidly growing nation, Aliyev understands that lasting peace is the best guarantee for sustainable security and development for our entire region.
Therefore, Azerbaijan presented a five-point basis for a peace agreement, which included mutual recognition of territorial integrity and delimitation of borders, among others. Notably, the proposal was initially welcomed by Armenia, not least because it is based on widely accepted norms of international law.
What is needed now is for Armenia to act and move beyond vague statements, with contradictory caveats, toward real peace. Not to delay the peace process of kicking the can down the road or playing international actors against each other, but to assume responsibility for Armenia’s own future.
What the last two years have clearly shown is that delaying the agreement has not improved Yerevan’s position but, on the contrary, made it more tenuous.
Armenia has never fully enacted its formal independence
Having foreign military bases on its soil and foreign guards protecting its borders, Armenia has never fully enacted its formal independence. Therefore, Yerevan’s desperate appeals for external support, be it from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, France or neighboring Iran, while futile, are not altogether surprising.
Still, the most obvious lesson from our region’s and Armenia’s own recent history should not be ignored. Refusing to engage in genuine peace talks and over the 30 years of conflict, Armenia has rejected numerous internationally-mediated peace proposals and outsourcing one’s sovereignty externally led to a thorough defeat and an enormous opportunity cost for generations of Armenian citizens.
While Azerbaijan is focusing on rebuilding and reviving the lands devastated by senseless Armenian occupation with the participation of international partners, including British and Israeli companies, Armenia’s delay tactics, once again, come at the expense of its own future.
Both sides have grievances, for instance, our liberated lands are among the top landmine and UXO-contaminated areas in the world and we continue discovering mass graves of Azerbaijanis summarily executed by Armenian forces.
Yet, the insistence of our Armenian neighbors to concentrate heavily on a narrow ethnocentric worldview, divisive issue and on rehashing myths from their history and the present in every conversation about a peace agreement doesn’t help anyone. Nor does it address the understandable trauma in the society following the loss in Armenia’s self-inflicted war.
Normalization is not just about economic benefits, it also provides a solid basis for healing old wounds, and overcoming enmities and estrangement between neighbors. World history offers no viable alternatives to this.
Azerbaijan’s long-standing partnership with Israel
Israel is no stranger to prolonged negotiations, delay tactics and external interference. Nevertheless, it is the forward-looking vision for shared prosperity that underpins the success of the Abraham Accords.
Many suggest that Azerbaijan’s long-standing partnership and genuine friendship with Israel served as an inspiration for the accords.
A recent and long-awaited decision of the Azerbaijani Parliament to open the embassy in Israel solidifies this partnership through a formal diplomatic presence. Moreover, as a strong supporter of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and a friend of the Palestinian people, Azerbaijan also announced the opening of a representative office in Ramallah.
With turmoil around our region growing in intensity and tensions in the wider neighborhood increasingly inflamed, it is time for Armenia to take a cue from the Accords and, for once, not miss a historic opportunity for peace by looking towards the future, rather than dwelling on its past.
The writer is Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the UK and Northern Ireland.