Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sacked Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov from his position on Thursday, days after deadly clashes started on the border with Armenia.
Mammadyarov's dismissal came a day after Aliyev harshly criticized him in an online cabinet meeting saying he could not find the former minister over the weekend when the recent skirmishes began.
“We were at work after the incidents on the 12th of July… What was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with? Where was it?" Aliyev was quoted as questioning Mammadyarov´s whereabouts on Sunday when the clashes started with Armenia.
On 12 July, skirmishes resumed between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The border fighting killed at least 16, including a major general and a civilian from Azerbaijan.
Aliyev said on Wednesday that most law enforcement authorities were on duty at the time of the clash, adding that Mammadyarov was not in the office but worked from home.
“I could not find the foreign minister,” Aliyev said, adding, “I do not want to go deeper… I think that's enough.”
Mammadyarov, who had served the Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2004, was replaced by Jeyhun Bayramov, who has been serving as the Minister of Education since 2018.
Mammadyarov could not be reached for comment.
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Famed regional expert Thomas de Waal thinks the ousting of the 60 year old minister was not the right person to blame on the stalemate of the conflict.
“Yet Mammedyarov was only ever the executor of policy, not the source of it. He was a figure of continuity and common sense on the whole. Not good, not good at all,” De Waal said in his Tweet on Thursday. He also underlined that the violation of the years-long cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan is "a political decision."
The last week Aliyev criticized the OSCE Minsk Group efforts in negotiating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, calling them “meaningless”.
Mammadyarov's dismissal came two weeks after the intelligence service carried out investigative and operational measures against some officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused of abusing their posts against the interest of the state, according to the Azerbaijan State Security Service (DTX) statement on 3 July.
With Mammadyarov's dismissal, the number of dismissals toted by the Azerbaijani government as “part of reforms” and part of "the formation of a new government" has risen to six.
Some government critics say that the government wants to use these dismissals to show that it is fighting corruption, while doing nothing about real corruption.