While 2020 was marked for Azerbaijan by the victory in the 44-day war and the return of the occupied territories, this year will probably be remembered by active work to restore infrastructure in the liberated lands.
Azerbaijan also continued its fruitful activities in the international arena, joining important events and coming up with initiatives to overcome the consequences of the pandemic.
Throughout 2021, systematic work on demining the liberated territories continued, along with the reconstruction of infrastructure, in order to soon return the internally displaced persons to their homes.
The inauguration of the Fuzuli International Airport on October 26 became the landmark event of the year. It was built in the shortest possible time - Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered the construction of an international airport in Fuzuli in January of 2021, its groundbreaking ceremony took place on January 14, and its inauguration was held eight months later, on October 26.
Other international airports are also under construction in Lachin and Zangilan districts.
The 101-kilometer Victory Road connecting Fuzuli with Shusha was opened on November 7.
Work to create the Aghdam industrial park and the industrial park “Economic zone of the Araz valley" was launched and the implementation of the Smart Village project in the Agali village of the Zangilan district continues.
In general, the state creates favorable investment climate in the liberated lands of Azerbaijan and continues to work with entrepreneurs and government agencies to attract potential residents and investors.
Meetings and agreements
The year 2021 began with talks in Moscow on January 11 between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia, Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin, respectively, as well as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, following which the parties signed a joint statement on unblocking all transport communications and restoring economic ties in the region.
Another trilateral meeting in the same format took place closer to the end of the year, on November 26 in Sochi, which also resulted in a joint statement.
The parties reaffirmed their commitment to further consistent implementation and observance of all provisions of the statements of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021, agreed to “take steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border and work on the creation of a bilateral commission on the delimitation of the state border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia with its subsequent demarcation with the advisory assistance of the Russian Federation at the request of the parties.”
In mid-December, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels with the participation of President of the European Council Charles Michel. According to Michel, during the negotiations it was decided to proceed with the restoration of railway lines with appropriate agreements on border and customs control on the basis of the principle of reciprocity.
The parties also discussed the EU’s intention to launch an economic consultation platform to build confidence, promote peaceful coexistence and enhance economic cooperation in the region.
An important milestone in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in the outgoing year was the strengthening of fraternal relations with Turkey. In particular, the signing of the Shusha Declaration, which has become a roadmap for bilateral relations.
The document was signed on June 15 in Shusha within the official two-day visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Azerbaijan.
The declaration reflected such important issues as political, economic, trade relations, cooperation in the field of culture, education, sports, energy security, including the Southern Gas Corridor, as well as in the defense industry, mutual military assistance, cooperation in Zangazur corridor and others. The parties agreed to continue to cooperate within the framework of multilateral platforms, in particular, within the six-sided platform (3+3).
Relations with brotherly Turkey have continued to strengthen this year.
On November 12, Istanbul hosted the VIII Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, during which Ilham Aliyev was awarded the “Supreme Order of the Turkic World.”
Azerbaijan and Turkey continued joint military exercises, some of which were joined by Pakistan. In autumn, Azerbaijan hosted the Three Brothers-2021 exercises with the participation of the special forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan.
The development of relations with Pakistan will also be facilitated by the opening of a direct flight between the capitals of the two countries. Azerbaijani Ambassador to Pakistan Khazar Farhadov said that the flight between Baku and Islamabad will open in the near future.
Another strategically important partner of Azerbaijan in the region is Russia. Relations between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan have developed extremely dynamically this year. Missions of Russian entrepreneurs visited Azerbaijan several times over the year. On December 16, Baku hosted a conference “Current state and prospects of Russian-Azerbaijani economic relations in the context of integration processes.”
In 2021, Azerbaijan also took part in a number of important events in the international arena, such as the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, as well as, as part of its chairmanship, together with Serbia, organized a high-level meeting in Belgrade dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Completing the mission in Afghanistan
In August of this year, NATO announced the completion of its mission in Afghanistan and began the withdrawal of the peacekeeping contingent.
Azerbaijani troops have helped control security at Kabul International Airport after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August and were among the last to leave the country.
The Azerbaijani peacekeeping contingent of 120 people left Afghanistan on August 26.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg thanked Azerbaijan for the role that the Azerbaijani military played in ensuring the security of the Kabul airport.
Contributing to the fight against the pandemic
Azerbaijan continued to contribute to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in his speeches has repeatedly stressed the need for an equal and fair distribution of vaccines globally. This year, Azerbaijan sent COVID-19 vaccines to various countries as assistance: Bosnia and Herzegovina, the countries of Central Asia and Africa.
Suing Armenia in the UN International Court of Justice
Another important event was Azerbaijan’s appeal to the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague with a claim against Armenia. On December 7, 2021, the International Court of Justice granted Azerbaijan’s request for temporary measures to prohibit the propaganda of racial hatred by individuals and organizations operating in Armenia against Azerbaijanis. The court also ordered Armenia to take urgent measures to prevent ethnic human rights violations against Azerbaijanis.
Next year Azerbaijan intends to apply to international courts with two more lawsuits against Armenia.