Khojaly Airport – a danger to aviation

Press Release: The prospective opening of the airport in Khojaly, in the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has dismayed those involved in ensuring international air safety.

Khojaly Airport was closed on 25 February 1992, after being occupied by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The airport was rebuilt during 2010–11, and its opening has already been delayed for over a year.

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, tasked with achieving a negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, previously issued a statement in which they expressed their concern that the planned opening of the airport could lead to further increased tensions.

H.E. Richard Morningstar, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, subsequently commented: “The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs said that the parties need to abstain from steps that may affect the peace process. The opening of the airport in Khojaly may create tensions in the peace talks.”

The potential opening violates international law, including several provisions of the Chicago Convention – in particular, articles 1, 2, 5, 6, 10–16, 24 and 68. Legally, Khojaly airport cannot operate, unauthorised flights through Azerbaijani airspace are not permitted, and any violations could have dangerous consequences.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised UN agency, is also supportive of Azerbaijan. Following the Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, four UN Security Council resolutions were passed requesting the immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces. Despite their non-implementation, Azerbaijani territorial integrity has been recognised and unequivocally reconfirmed by the UN and its governing bodies.

Operating flights from Khojaly Airport would represent an expansion of the Armenian military occupation into Azerbaijani airspace with potentially disastrous consequences.