Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region has issued a statement in connection with remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Nov. 13.

“We, as the Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, declare that the voicing of such statements by such an experienced diplomat as Sergey Lavrov causes serious regret and surprise,” reads the statement.

“Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, speaking last month at the plenary session of the 16th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi city, clarified this issue by saying that there is no concept of “people of Nagorno-Karabakh”,” the statement said. “There is a population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which before the start of the conflict consisted of the Azerbaijani and Armenian people with equal rights. Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as population of the other seven Azerbaijani districts occupied as a result of Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan, was subjected to ethnic cleansing.”

“As part of the OSCE Minsk process responsible for resolving the conflict, the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh are identified as interested parties,” reads the statement. “The documents of authoritative international organizations related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, never reflected the concept of “people of Nagorno-Karabakh”, either.”

“We would like to remind that in 2019, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, where Russia is also represented, made two visits to the region and in both final statements for each visit separately noted that they met with the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Azerbaijani community said in its statement.

“Statements voiced by Sergey Lavrov at the briefing are regrettable because he doesn’t emphasize the right to return to their homes of over a million Azerbaijani refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and Azerbaijan’s seven surrounding districts,” reads the statement.

“As for which solution is acceptable for Azerbaijan, it consists in restoring Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, recognized by the entire international community, returning refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes, including to Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Azerbaijani community said. “This is a requirement of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Helsinki Final Act.”

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov himself, while speaking at international events, demands compliance with the UN Charter and the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, and criticizes other states because of this,” reads the statement.

“We, as the Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, once again declare that over 80,000 Azerbaijani members of our community are waiting for the day when they return to their homes,” the Azerbaijani community noted. “We expect co-chairing states mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as influential international organizations to take a fair position. Only after that peace will be established in Nagorno-Karabakh, and, as before, Azerbaijanis and Armenians will be able to live in peaceful conditions within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders.”

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.

The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts.