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Land of fire

Opinion

October 12, 2020

A tweet message by Azerbaijan's ambassador to Islamabad H E Ali Alizada is viral on social media. The tweet shows that residents of the capital, Baku, are hoisting national flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan on the balconies of their homes. The motive behind this is to express gratitude to friendly countries.

I also have many pleasant memories of Azerbaijan, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend an international conference in Baku, accompanied by Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri and other fellow parliamentarians.

During my visit to Azerbaijan, I found that the people of Azerbaijan have a special bond of love, friendship and devotion for Pakistani citizens. There is a public perception that the leading role of Pakistan against Soviet invasion in Afghanistan resulted in the independence of Azerbaijan.

Pakistan has close relations with Azerbaijan on the diplomatic front. Pakistan is the second country after Turkey to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent and sovereign state. Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan are considered close friends. Pakistan supports Azerbaijan's principled position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Pakistan's diplomatic relations with Armenia have not yet been established due to solidarity with Azerbaijan.

Recently, the conflict in the disputed region has once again escalated and the war has spread to the cities. Worrisome reports of civilian casualties due to heavy shelling on cities are being received.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has announced that the only way to achieve sustainable peace, stability and security is to put an end to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Armenia is thwarting all such peace efforts. Leaders of the US, France and Russia are unable to find political solutions.

Historically, the two neighbouring countries have been in confrontation with each other for a long time. In the Soviet era, tensions between the two countries remained on some issues but the overall situation was calm. On the occasion of the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia waged a full-scale war against each other on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Bilateral warfare resulted in heavy casualties in both countries and forced at least one million people to migrate.

Russia's efforts led to a ceasefire in 1994 but no peace agreement was signed. There have also been calls by Azerbaijan for the evacuation of the occupied territories but no positive response was shown by the other side. Due to this, border clashes between the two countries also occurred on a frequent basis. Russia invited the leadership of the two countries to find a peaceful solution, but no progress was made. More than 350 precious lives were lost in the bloody conflict between the two countries four years ago. Technically, the two countries are still at war, as we have seen in the recent conflict.

Interestingly, Azerbaijan was known as the 'land of fire' in ancient times due to the fact that there is huge fire burning continuously in the site of Yanar Dag from the last 4,000 years. Baku, the capital city, is also famous due to its vast natural oil reserves. Even today, Azerbaijan supplies one-fifth of the world's oil consumption in the international market. Therefore, it seems to be a valid assumption that Armenia wants to seize oil reserves by expanding the scope of the war under the guise of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Today, Azerbaijan is once again engulfed in the flames of war because of its principled position. I would like to assure my Azerbaijani friends that the Pakistani people always stand by them in this critical hour. The Armenian leadership must understand that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, and that Azerbaijan's sovereignty must be respected in order to ensure regional peace and stability. It is the responsibility of every peace-loving citizen to support Azerbaijan due to its principled stand on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani