On October 14, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev gave an interview to France 24 TV channel, in which he referred to the war in Artsakh and answered a number of questions. However, Aliyev made a number of false and manipulative statements during the interview.
Everyone except Aliyev has evidence on Syrian mercenaries
The France24 reporter asked Aliyev about French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that he has evidence about Syrian mercenaries, in response to which Aliyev demanded that Macron apologize. “I am still waiting for evidence. I was not presented with any evidence. No evidence has been presented to our other officials,” Aliyev said.
Note that Emmanuel Macron made a statement about sending Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan through the mediation of Turkey during the EU summit on September 30. Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (FSB), also made a statement on the transfer of mercenaries from terrorist organizations to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
A number of prestigious media outlets have reported on the presence of Syrian mercenaries in Azerbaijan. The Economist wrote on October 11 that “evidence is mounting that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian mercenaries to fight for Azerbaijan,” and CNN spoke to a Syrian man who had registered to travel to Azerbaijan. We hereby present the articles of the international media on this topic.
- CNN. Rebels from Syria recruited to fight in conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, source says
- The Washington Post. Deaths of Syrian mercenaries show how Turkey, Russia could get sucked into Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
- The Wall Street Journal. Turkish-Backed Syrian Fighters Join Armenian-Azeri Conflict
- The Economist. The Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict hints at the future of war
- BBC. Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: Azerbaijan president vows to fight on
In the Syrian press, and in the posts of the Syrian social network users, there are also photos and personal data of the mercenaries killed in Azerbaijan. The Fact Investigation Platform has also referred to the fact that mercenaries were involved in the Artsakh conflict.
Azerbaijan targets civilian infrastructure
In the interview, Aliyev stated that they are only targeting military facilities. “We never intentionally attack civilians in any town or village in the occupied territories.”
But the reality is different. From the first days of the war, the Azerbaijani armed forces also targeted civilian infrastructure. On the very first day (September 27), Azerbaijan shelled the capital Stepanakert and other cities. The first victims were civilians. An elderly woman and her 9-year-old grandson were killed in a rocket attack in Martuni on September 27. About 673 Turkish and Israeli rockets and cluster sub-munitions were found in the capital Stepanakert alone. Many residential buildings were damaged in the capital of Artsakh, schools and kindergartens were shelled. On September 29, the second day of hostilities, a 9-year-old child was killed in Artsakh as a result of Azerbaijani shelling.
Some photos from destroyed schools & kindergartens of #Stepanakert by #Azerbaijan indiscriminate & deliberate strikes.
Edu buildings have been targeted in other settlements of #Artsakh/#Karabakh, too.
Isn’t it #WarCrime?#DontBeBlind #AzerbaijaniAggression #HumanRights pic.twitter.com/PzuKnGY48i
— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) October 14, 2020
There is plenty of evidence that Azerbaijan is targeting civilian infrastructure and civilians. The journalists of the Fact Investigation Platform recently visited the shelled city of Martuni to film it. Contrary to another statement by Aliyev that Armenia is deploying military equipment near civilian infrastructure, there were no military facilities in the city of Martuni, especially in the areas damaged by the shelling.
The Azerbaijani Armed Forces use rockets with cluster warheads against the civilian population, which are prohibited by the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008), also known as the Dublin Convention. You can find evidence gathered by the Fact Investigation Platform about the use of such rockets in the city of Hadrut here. It should be noted that there were no military facilities in this area either, and the main target of the cluster bombs was the civilian population.
It should be noted that the Azerbaijani armed forces targeted not only the civilian population of Artsakh, but also the Republic of Armenia. A number of settlements in Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces were shelled.
As of October 14, 32 civilians were killed and more than 100 were injured in hostilities in Armenia and Artsakh.
On the condition of mosques in Artsakh
Speaking about the shelling of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi, Aliyev referred to the mosques in Artsakh and complained about their condition.
“What has Armenia done with our mosques in Aghdam, Fizuli, Shushi?” Not only were they destroyed, but animals are kept there. “Pigs are kept in mosques, thus hurting not only our feelings, but those of all Muslims,” he said.
In Shushi, which is the cultural center of Artsakh, there are three standing mosques: Saatli, Verin and Nerkin. The first one, built in 1883, was taken under the auspices of the Primate of the Artsakh Diocese, Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan in 2005, and he was ready to restore it. Five years later, the head of the Artsakh Tourism Department, Sergey Shahverdyan, noted that since 2008, Artsakh has spent AMD 30 million ($ 83,000) on the preservation of Muslim monuments in Artsakh. In Shushi alone, two mosques and a madrasa (religious school) have been restored. Already in 2019, the Upper Mosque (Verin) was completely restored.
As for the Aghdam mosque, it is the best preserved building in the ruined city. This is evidenced by the satellite photos of the city, and the photos of the mosque. The Aghdam mosque was “cleaned” in 2010 and partially restored.
Azerbaijan hit civilian targets after the ceasefire
Aliyev stated that after the humanitarian ceasefire agreement reached in Moscow, the Azerbaijani side did not violate it. According to him, Armenia launched attacks on their territory, after which Azerbaijan targeted “only military facilities.” “But this is natural, we have to defend ourselves,” Aliyev said.
The ceasefire was scheduled to start on October 10, starting at 12:00. On the same morning, however, the Azerbaijani side launched a large-scale attack along the border, at the same time targeting civilian settlements as well. In the morning, the Azerbaijani side also shelled the settlements of Syunik Province in Armenia. Moreover, after the ceasefire, an Azerbaijani sabotage group infiltrated the city of Hadrut, at least four civilians were shot dead – Misha Movsisyan (a boy with a disability), his mother Anahit Movsisyan, Nver Grigoryan and Artyom Mirzoyan.
On Turkish involvement
Referring to Turkey’s involvement in the war, Aliyev denied it, calling it “fake news”. “There is no Turkish military involvement. We use Turkish military equipment. It is true. But we also use military equipment from Russia, Israel and other countries.”
He denied that Turkish F-16 fighter jets were involved in the battles, but confirmed that the fighter jets remained in Azerbaijan after a joint military exercise with Turkey. “We decided to keep the F-16s on the ground. They are not in the air,” Aliyev added.
It is noteworthy that until a week ago, Aliyev’s advisor Hikmet Hajiyev denied the presence of F-16 fighter jets in Azerbaijan. Everything changed when New York Times investigative journalist Christiaan Triebert tweeted on October 7 that there were two F-16 fighter jets at Ganja Airport as of October 3. And only after Triebert published the satellite photos did Azerbaijan accept the presence of F-16s in their territory.
Moreover, according to a study by the Stratfor leading American research center, the presence of Turkish F-16 fighters in Azerbaijan indicates to Turkey’s direct military involvement in the ongoing hostilities.