Nagorno-Karabakh: Azerbaijan’s Aliyev hails surrender of ethnic Armenians

Image source, Russian MOD

Image caption,

Russia said it had evacuated 2,000 ethnic Armenians from villages near the fighting

Azerbaijan’s president has declared that his country’s sovereignty has been restored over Nagorno-Karabakh after a 24-hour military offensive against ethnic-Armenian forces.

Ilham Aliyev praised the heroism of Azerbaijan’s army hours after Karabakh forces agreed to surrender.

Some 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in the South Caucasus enclave, recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan now intends to bring the breakaway region under full control.

Its military launched an “anti-terror” operation on Tuesday, demanding that Karabakh’s forces raise a white flag and dissolve their “illegal regime”. With no means of support from neighbouring Armenia, and after an effective nine-month blockade, the ethnic Armenians soon capitulated.

Karabakh officials said at least 32 people were killed, including seven civilians, and another 200 wounded.

Azerbaijan’s army said it had captured more than 90 positions from the ethnic Armenians before both sides announced that a complete cessation of hostilities had been agreed through Russian peacekeepers, starting at 13:00 local time (09:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Under the terms of the truce, local Karabakh forces commit to being completely disbanded as well as disarmed. There is also a commitment to Armenian forces pulling out, even though Yerevan denies having any military presence there.

Azerbaijan’s presidency said officials would meet Karabakh’s Armenian representatives for talks on “issues of re-integration” in the Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh on Thursday. President Aliyev said Azerbaijanis had nothing against the population, only their “criminal junta”.

Yevlakh is some 100km (60 miles) north of Karabakh’s regional capital, Khankendi, known as Stepanakert by Armenians.

Image source, Artsakh Public TV

Image caption,

Women and children are among the 32 dead and 200 wounded in Karabakh, local authorities say

Marut Vanyan, a journalist in Karabakh, said many families had spent Tuesday night in basements: “I didn’t sleep and I didn’t eat. It’s calm now but it’s a strange feeling. Right now, what we need to do is stop this bloodshed and understand what to do next.”

Russia said its peacekeepers had evacuated 2,000 people from Karabakh villages since the offensive had begun.

As the ceasefire was announced, Karabakh officials appealed to residents to remain in shelters and not to leave for the local airport, adjacent to a Russian peacekeeping base. However, a crowd of civilians had soon gathered close to the airport and as darkness fell hours later it was unclear what support they would have.

Caucasus specialist Thomas de Waal of Carnegie Europe said the terms of the ceasefire and the coming talks were very much on Azerbaijan’s terms and left ethnic Armenians looking unprotected.

“This looks like the end of a 35-year-old project, some would say a century-old project, of the Armenians of Karabakh to secede from Azerbaijan,” he told the BBC. “We’re probably, unfortunately, seeing a project whereby the Azerbaijanis offer so little to the Karabakh…

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