BAKU (AFP) – Azerbaijan’s presidential couple have made a triumphant tour of the territories recaptured from Armenian forces in fierce clashes over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that ended in Yerevan’s humiliating defeat.
Last week, Baku and Yerevan signed a Moscow-brokered peace deal that ended six weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh that left thousands dead and displaced tens of thousands more.
Under the deal that sparked celebrations in Azerbaijan and fury in Armenia, Yerevan agreed to cede swathes of the disputed region to Baku, as well as other territories controlled by Armenian separatists since a devastating war in the 1990s.
Cheering crowds greeted strongman Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva as they travelled on Monday (Nov 16) to Jebrayil and Fizuli districts, sporting military fatigues, pictures and video released on Tuesday by the Azerbaijani presidency showed.
“There will be no (autonomous) status for Karabakh. Azerbaijan is a unified country,” Mr Aliyev said as he was driving an Azerbaijani-made armoured car AzerKan through the roads of Fizuli district.
His wife – who is also the oil-rich country’s First Vice President – blew a kiss while taking a selfie on her phone. Holding hands, the couple took pictures against the backdrop of the mediaeval Khudaferin bridge at the country’s border with Iran that was under Armenian separatists’ control for nearly three decades.
Armenians “have destroyed everything here and will answer for that in international courts,” Mr Aliyev said pointing towards the panorama of the ruined town of Jebrayil.
“Look at what the villainous enemy did to the town of Jebrayil. Their goal was that Azerbaijanis never return here. But we will be living here. We are back to our native lands.”
Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan nearly 30 years ago but it has not been recognised internationally, even by Armenia.
Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists broke out in late September and persisted despite efforts by France, Russia and the United States to mediate ceasefires that collapsed as each side accused the other of violations.
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