Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

YEREVAN, Armenia — Azerbaijan claimed full management of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh area Wednesday after native Armenian forces there agreed to put down their weapons following the newest outbreak of preventing within the decades-long separatist battle.

Authorities within the ethnic Armenian area that has run its affairs with out worldwide recognition since preventing broke out within the early Nineteen Nineties declared round noon that native self-defense forces will disarm and disband beneath a Russia-mediated cease-fire.

In addition they stated representatives of the area will begin talks Thursday with the Baku authorities on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev trumpeted victory in a televised handle to the nation, saying that “in simply at some point, Azerbaijan fulfilled all of the duties set as a part of native anti-terrorist measures” and “restored its sovereignty.”

On Tuesday, the Azerbaijan military unleashed an artillery barrage and drone assaults in opposition to outnumbered and undersupplied pro-Armenian forces, which have been weakened by a blockade of the area within the southern Caucasus Mountains that’s acknowledged internationally as being a part of Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan stated not less than 200 folks, together with 10 civilians, had been killed and greater than 400 others had been wounded within the preventing. He stated earlier that youngsters had been among the many lifeless and wounded.

His casualty figures couldn’t instantly be independently verified.

The hostilities worsened an already grim humanitarian scenario for residents who’ve endured meals and drugs shortages for months as Azerbaijan enforced a blockade of the street connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

1000’s of Nagorno-Karabakh residents flocked to a camp operated by Russian peacekeepers to keep away from the preventing, whereas many others gathered on the airport of the regional capital, Stepanakert, hoping to flee the area.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated in a speech to the nation that preventing decreased following the truce, emphasizing that Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh are totally liable for its residents safety.

“If peacekeepers have proposed a peace deal, it implies that they utterly and with none reservations accepted the accountability of guaranteeing the safety of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, and supply the circumstances and the rights for them to stay on their land and of their properties safely,” he stated.

Pashinyan, who has beforehand acknowledged Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, stated Armenia would not be drawn into the preventing. He stated his authorities didn’t participate in negotiating the deal, however “has taken notice” of the choice made by the area’s separatist authorities.

He once more denied any Armenian troops had been within the area, although separatist authorities stated they had been in Nagorno-Karabakh and would pull out as a part of the truce.

Protesters rallied within the Armenian capital of Yerevan for a second straight day Wednesday, blocking streets and demanding that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s transfer to reclaim management over Nagorno-Karabakh raised issues {that a} full-scale conflict within the area might resume between the 2 neighbors, which have been locked in a battle over Nagorno-Karabakh since a separatist conflict there resulted in 1994.

Throughout one other conflict that lasted for six weeks in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjoining territories that had been held for many years by Armenian forces. Greater than 6,700 folks died within the preventing, which ended with a Russian-brokered peace settlement. Moscow deployed about 2,000 peacekeeping troops to the area.

The battle has lengthy drawn in highly effective regional gamers, together with Russia and Turkey. Whereas Russia took on the mediating position, Turkey threw its weight behind longtime ally Azerbaijan.

Russia has been Armenia’s principal financial associate and ally for the reason that 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and has a navy base within the nation.

Pashinyan, nonetheless, has been more and more vital of Moscow’s position, emphasizing its failure to guard Nagorno-Karabakh and arguing that Armenia wants to show to the West to make sure its safety. Moscow, in flip, has expressed dismay about Pashinyan’s pro-Western tilt.

The Kremlin stated Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by cellphone with Pashinyan on Wednesday, welcoming the deal to finish the hostilities and begin talks between Azerbaijani officers and representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia’s Protection Ministry stated a few of its peacekeepers had been killed Wednesday, though it didn’t say what number of and whether or not it occurred earlier than or after the beginning of the cease-fire. The ministry stated the peacekeeping contingent had evacuated greater than 3,100 civilians.

The separatists’ fast capitulation mirrored their weak spot following the Armenian forces’ defeat within the 2020 conflict and the lack of the one street linking the area to Armenia.

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Europe suppose tank, stated the separatist forces, which consisted of a number of thousand poorly provided males, had been “most likely not a match for the Azerbaijani forces.”

Whereas many in Armenia blamed Russia for the defeat of the separatists, Moscow pointed to Pashinyan’s personal recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan.

“Undoubtedly, Karabakh is Azerbaijan’s inside enterprise,” stated Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Azerbaijan is performing by itself territory, which was acknowledged by the management of Armenia.”

He voiced hope that Azerbaijan would respect the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian inhabitants.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Aliyev and “condemned Azerbaijan’s determination to make use of pressure … on the danger of worsening the humanitarian disaster in Nagorno-Karabakh and compromising ongoing efforts to realize a good and lasting peace,” the French presidential workplace stated.

Macron “careworn the necessity to respect” the cease-fire and “to supply ensures on the rights and safety of the folks of Karabakh, in step with worldwide legislation.”

Azerbaijan’s presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev stated Baku is “able to take heed to the Armenian inhabitants of Karabakh concerning their humanitarian wants.”

In saying its navy operation Tuesday, Azerbaijan aired a protracted listing of grievances, accusing pro-Armenian forces of attacking its positions, planting land mines and fascinating in sabotage.

Although Aliyev insisted the Azerbaijani military struck solely navy services throughout the preventing, separatist officers in Nagorno-Karabakh stated Stepanakert and different areas got here beneath “intense shelling.”

Earlier than the cease-fire, explosions reverberated round Stepanakert each jiffy on Wednesday — some within the distance and others nearer to town. Even after the truce was introduced and the shelling might now not be heard in Stepanakert, many residents determined to remain in shelters for the remainder of the day.

Vital harm was seen within the metropolis, with store home windows blown out and autos punctured, apparently by shrapnel.

The Azerbaijani Prosecutor Normal’s Workplace stated Armenian forces fired at Shusha, a metropolis in Nagorno-Karabakh beneath Azerbaijan’s management, killing one civilian.


Related Press writers Jim Heintz and Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia; Aida Sultanova in London; and Siranush Sargsyan in Stepanakert contributed.

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