Azerbaijan celebrates Victory Day as it liberated Shusha on Nov. 8 last year, which played crucial role in fate of Karabakh war.
ANKARA (AA) – Azerbaijan on Monday is celebrating Victory Day on the first anniversary of the liberation of Shusha, which played a crucial role in the fate of the Second Karabakh War, also known as the Patriotic War, leading to the defeat of Armenia’s leadership.
On Dec. 3, 2020, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree “on the establishment of Victory Day in the Republic of Azerbaijan” on Nov. 8.
The president had earlier declared Nov. 10 the Victory Day, when Armenia admitted defeat and put an end to the six-week-long fighting in the Karabakh region. Aliyev, however, switched the day to Nov. 8, when Shusha was liberated, since Turkey’s founding leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s death anniversary falls on Nov. 10.
Shusha, Azerbaijan’s cultural and historical capital, was liberated after 28 years thanks to the army, mainly special forces teams, as heavy weapons and ammunition could not enter the city due to its geographical and natural features.
Azerbaijani forces entered Shusha, surrounded by mountainous terrain and located on the top of a rock, with light weapons only, and destroyed the Armenian army in a close battle.
Armenian leadership had no choice but to accept Azerbaijan’s terms and withdraw from the occupied lands in the following days.
The strategic city had been occupied by Armenian forces since May 8, 1992.
Shusha, the beating heart of Karabakh, was founded by Karabakh Khan Penahali in 1752, and has produced many distinguished scientists, intellectuals and cultural icons. The city is home to numerous historical monuments.
However, most monuments and even the Shusha fortress walls were either destroyed or damaged by the occupants, and are now being repaired by the Azerbaijani government.
In January, Aliyev declared Shusha the cultural capital of the country.
– Large-scale clashes
The latest large-scale clashes erupted in the Karabakh region on Sept. 27, 2020, when the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, violating several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
Azerbaijan then launched a counter-offensive operation, later dubbed “Iron Fist,” which led to the 44-day conflict ending with the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from the nearly three-decade occupation of the Armenian forces.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions – Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Qubadli, and Zangilan.
In July last year, Armenian cease-fire violations killed 12 Azerbaijani troops – including high-ranking officers – and wounded four others, further angering Azerbaijan, which was by now at breaking point. One elderly Azerbaijani civilian was also killed.
On Sept. 21, 2020, clashes in the same region flared up again when a soldier of the Azerbaijani army was killed and another wounded.
By that time, there were four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions by many international organizations pertinent to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and demanding the withdrawal of the occupying Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied regions.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the US, was formed on March 24, 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. The co-chairs of the Minsk Group, who visited both countries periodically and met with the authorities, did nothing more than issuing warnings to the parties to abide by the cease-fire each time.
Referring to the Armenian army’s large-scale military provocations on the frontlines early on Sept. 27 last year, Aliyev stated unequivocally that those attempts to intimidate Azerbaijan “will regret” Armenia.
The country’s leader also called the provocations “another manifestation of Armenian fascism.”
– ‘Implementing UN resolutions on its own’
In fact, according to officials in Baku, Azerbaijan, which had patiently waited for justice for three decades, was implementing the relevant UN resolutions “on its own” to drive the occupying forces from its lands.
On the afternoon of the first day of clashes, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced the news that the army had liberated the first six border villages from Armenian occupation.
The ministry also pledged that if Armenian forces surrendered, prisoners of war and civilian hostages would be treated in line with the Geneva Convention and other international legal norms.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Ankara’s unwavering support for Baku and bemoaned the international community’s “double standards” in failing to condemn Armenian aggression.
He said Armenia’s latest violations along the border with Azerbaijan had shown that it was the “biggest threat to regional peace.”
“Turkey will always stand by Azerbaijani Turks by all means in their struggle to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his Azerbaijani counterpart Zakir Hasanov during a phone call.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara “stands with Azerbaijan on the field and at the negotiation table.”
Pakistan also threw its weight behind Azerbaijan following Armenia’s border violations and attacks in the region. “Pakistan stands with the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan and supports its right of self-defense,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We support Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in line with several unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolutions,” it added.
Both Turkey and Pakistan repeatedly denied the presence of their armies in Azerbaijan fighting against Armenia.
On Sept. 28 last year, partial mobilization was declared in Azerbaijan.
The first armistice on humanitarian grounds between Baku and Yerevan was reached on Oct. 10, 2020, but was violated within 24 hours, with Armenian missile attacks on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja claiming civilian lives.
Between Oct. 11-17, Armenia resumed attacks less than 24 hours after the cease-fire was declared, killing 25 people with missile attacks in Ganja, a city with a population of half a million which is located outside the frontline zone.
Another humanitarian truce on Oct. 17 was also violated by Armenian troops.
A US-brokered temporary humanitarian cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia to exchange prisoners and bodies went into effect on Oct. 26 last year. However, it was also short-lived, as Armenian forces once again violated the truce only a few minutes after it went into effect.
However, the liberation of Shusha by Azerbaijan on Nov. 8 last year was an indication that the triumph was near.
On Nov. 10, 2020, the two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement to end the fighting and start working towards a comprehensive resolution of the dispute.
Based on the trilateral statement, Agdam was liberated on Nov. 20 last year, followed by Kalbajar on Nov. 25, and Lachin on Dec. 1 without a single shot being fired.
The statement signed by Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced the construction of new transport communications connecting the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the western regions of Azerbaijan.
Later, Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed in the region.
During the six weeks of fighting, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and some 300 settlements and villages after nearly three decades of occupation.
On Jan. 11, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It included the establishment of a trilateral working group in Karabakh.
A joint Turkish and Russian center to monitor a cease-fire deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia has become operational in Karabakh since Jan. 30.
Despite the Nov. 10 deal ending the conflict, the Armenian army violated this agreement several times, as well, killing several Azerbaijani soldiers, according to the Azerbaijani authorities.