A senior Azerbaijani official on Monday denounced what she described as a “continuation of a hate policy against Azerbaijanis” by Armenia.
In a written statement, Azerbaijan’s Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) Sabina Aliyeva accused Armenian authorities of making “various baseless statements, forming strong negative opinions for Armenians of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis through propaganda in Armenian press and social network platforms, and raising opinions detrimental to peace and coexistence.”
“This shows Armenia is not interested in achieving peace with Azerbaijan,” Aliyeva said.
She called what is currently upheld by Armenia a “policy of Azerbaijanophobia” and argued its results could be found “more prominent in the comments of Armenian users on social media platforms.”
Stressing “the current postwar period” between the ex-Soviet republics, Aliyeva said, “Azerbaijan believes such cases inciting hatred between nations, spreading hate speech and humiliating people due to their ethnicity are unacceptable and necessary steps should be taken to prevent these trends.”
Baku has been blaming Yerevan for a gridlock in peace efforts since tensions escalated in December over a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor, the only road linking Armenia to Azerbaijan's Karabakh region, which divides the rival nations.
The mountainous region has been at the center of a decadeslong territorial dispute between the two countries. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, broke away from Azerbaijan resulting in the deaths of some 30,000 people.
The sides fought two wars to control Karabakh in the 1990s and again in 2020. Six weeks of fighting in autumn 2020 ended with a Russian-sponsored cease-fire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territories back to Azerbaijan it had illegally controlled for decades.
In April this year, Azerbaijan set up the border checkpoint at the entrance to its Lachin corridor, which Armenia alleged was a “blockade” of Karabakh. Tensions soaring over the move left another half a dozen killed from both sides since December.
Baku denied the claims, saying the checkpoint was installed in response to security threats from Armenia and citing the smuggling of weapons and ammunition to Azerbaijan's Karabakh region by Armenia. Earlier this month, it temporarily halted operations at the checkpoint pending an investigation into the Armenian branch of the Red Cross for taking part in the alleged smuggling of contraband.
The latest developments followed a monthslong protest by Azerbaijani environmental activists in response to illegal mining by Armenians, which Yerevan retorted to by making claims that it spurred a humanitarian crisis, as well as food and fuel shortages.
Azerbaijan insisted at the time that civilian transport could go unimpeded through the Lachin corridor.
In February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the U.N.’s top judicial body – had ordered Azerbaijan to ensure free movement on the road.
In addition to verbal spats, there have been frequent clashes at the two countries' shared border despite ongoing peace talks between Baku and Yerevan with Moscow's mediation, as well as the European Union and the United States.
Last week, an Azerbaijani official lamented the rejection by the self-proclaimed Armenian leaders in Karabakh of Baku's proposed path for shipments in the key corridor, arguing that it presented "a significant risk to achieving a peaceful resolution of disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia and hampers the efforts of establishing lasting peace in the region.”
Similarly, Azerbaijan on Monday said it intercepted an Armenian four-rotor helicopter over its military positions in Karabakh. "On Aug. 7, around 1:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. GMT), a DJI Mavic 3 quadcopter belonging to the Armenian armed forces tried to fly over positions of the Azerbaijani Army located in ... the Basarkechar district," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The quadcopter was detected and brought down by Azerbaijani units in the area using "special technical means,” according to the ministry.