BAKU: Armenia threatens to operate Khojaly airport in occupied lands of Azerbaijan

Azernews, Azerbaijan

By Rashid Shirinov

The unresolved Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may aggravate even more as the Armenian side came up with another provocation against Azerbaijan.

Armenia has made attempts to organize flights from the Khojaly airport in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan under the guise of tourism.

This plan of Armenia to operate the airport in Khojaly is gross violation of international legal norms. This air space belongs to Azerbaijan, therefore, its use by Armenia is not possible.

The idea of Armenia to operate the Azerbaijani airport is not new – its roots were laid back in 2011. Besides Azerbaijan itself, many international organizations and foreign countries condemned Armenia's attempts to operate the airport in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Opening of the airport in Khojaly will be a blatant violation of legal norms that can damage peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry immediately responded to the Armenian provocation, calling the OSCE Minsk Group to address the issue as soon as possible.

“Azerbaijan calls on the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, responsible for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to take measures to prevent another Armenian provocation,” Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Hikmat Hajiyev told Trend on May 25.

He noted that Armenia’s plans to organize flights from the Khojaly airport in the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenian armed forces under the guise of tourism is another Armenian provocation. “Such actions seriously damage the negotiation process and deliberately serve to escalate the conflict,” said the spokesperson.

He added that the airspace of the occupied territories is the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan.

“The Khojaly airport is Azerbaijan’s property by the special code of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” said Hajiyev. “Azerbaijan banned flights in the airspace over the occupied territories, since it is impossible to ensure the safety of flights in this part of Azerbaijan’s airspace.”

The spokesman added that this position of Azerbaijan is supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the European Civil Aviation Conference.

Armenia’s attempts to use the Khojaly airport and organize illegal flights is a gross violation of the Law on Aviation of Azerbaijan, peremptory norms and principles of international law, the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, rules and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Hajiyev stressed.

He assured that Azerbaijan, using international legal means in order to prevent another provocation by Armenia, will appeal to relevant international bodies.

The State Civil Aviation Administration of Azerbaijan has also responded to the Armenian provocation. The Administration told Trend that they will take measures to prevent illegal flights from the Khojaly airport, in accordance with the Law on Aviation and Rules of Use of Airspace of Azerbaijan.

“Taking into account that the Khojaly airport is located in the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, and it is impossible to ensure full flight safety in these areas, the State Civil Aviation Administration of Azerbaijan declared this territory a forbidden zone for civil aviation in accordance with the Law on Aviation,” noted the administration.

It was also noted that official information about the prohibition of flights is also contained in the Aeronautical Information Publication of Azerbaijan.

To prevent any illegal flights in this area, measures will be taken in accordance with the Law on Aviation and the Rules of use of airspace of Azerbaijan, the administration noted.

International flights from the Khojaly airport, constructed in 1978, were prohibited after the occupation of territories by Armenia. Armenia broke out a lengthy war against Azerbaijan by laying territorial claims on the country. Since a war in the early 1990s, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions.

The town of Khojaly suffered the most mournful massacre of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. On February 26, 1992, as many as 613 civilians of the town were cruelly massacred by Armenian armed forces. Only Azerbaijan has the right to operate the Khojaly airport, after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is over, and more than a million of Azerbaijani refugees return to their homes in the region.