Azerbaijan on Tuesday strongly condemned the Armenian defense minister's "unauthorized" visit to Azerbaijani territory, terming it a "military-political provocation."
"Armenian Defense Minister Arshak Karapetyan illegally visited the territory of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily deployed," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Karapetyan's visit was "deliberately held" ahead of the anniversary of the trilateral agreement signed by Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on Nov. 10 last year, the ministry said.
His "unauthorized entry ... into the territory of Azerbaijan, holding meetings with illegal Armenian formations, and expressing views on their combat readiness is a military-political provocation," it added.
"The political and military leadership of Armenia, grossly violating the provisions of the trilateral statement, attempts to destabilize the situation in the region and overshadow the activities of Russian peacekeepers," read the statement.
"Instead of drawing conclusions from the complete defeat in the 44-day war in Karabakh, adapting to the new geopolitical situation in the region, and strengthening peace and security, the military leadership of Armenia tries bad military adventurism."
The ministry said Karapetyan's visit "once again demonstrates that Armenia continues to directly support irregular Armenian military units, aggressive separatism and terrorist acts on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan."
It warned that Azerbaijan will take "necessary measures ... to prevent aggressive separatism and terrorist acts" if Armenia fails to cease such actions.
Tens of thousands marched across Azerbaijan's capital on Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the country's victory in the six-week battle over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev declared Nov. 8 as Victory Day to mark the capture of the strategic city of Shusha by Azerbaijani forces. The city's capture forced Armenia to accept a Russia-brokered truce two days later.
“We have restored our dignity,” Aliyev said. “We will live forever as a victorious country and a victorious nation. If any force in Armenia looks askance at us or engages in revanchist tendencies, it will see our fist.”
Armenia should consider the hand extended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliyev for peace as an opportunity to be seized, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also said Tuesday.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
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 counteroffensive 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 Armenian forces.
During the conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years. Prior to that, about 20% of Azerbaijan's territory was under illegal occupation.
On Nov. 8, Azerbaijan celebrated Victory Day on the first anniversary of the liberation of Shusha, the pearl of Karabakh, which played a crucial role in the fate of the war, officially labeled as The Patriotic War, leading to the defeat of Armenian forces.
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-range battle.
The Armenian leadership had no choice but to accept Azerbaijan's terms and withdraw from the occupied lands in the following days.
On Nov. 10, 2020, the two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement to end the fighting and start working toward a comprehensive resolution of the dispute.
Two months later, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.
A joint Turkish-Russian center was also established to monitor the postwar truce. Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal.
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