Azerbaijan announced on Saturday September 23 that it would carry out a “demilitarization” forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, a secessionist region mainly populated by Armenians where Azerbaijani forces won a lightning victory at the start of the week.
“In cooperation with Russian peacekeepers, we are carrying out demilitarization” separatist troops and bring “support for civilians”declared to the press, Anar Eyvazov, spokesperson for the Azerbaijani army, in Shusha, a town in Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Baku.
“We have already seized weapons and ammunition”, he added. Hundreds of small arms as well as tanks marked with a white cross taken from the separatists were shown to journalists on this occasion. In the courtyard where the military arsenal is displayed is written in large black letters: “Karabakh is Azerbaijani. » The disarmament process “may take time”because some separatists were based in remote mountainous areas, Mr. Eyvazov continued. “The priority is mine clearance and demilitarization”he insisted.
A Russian peace contingent present on site
At one of the accesses to Choucha, a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP) saw a tank and, more generally, a strong military presence. Mortars are also positioned on a nearby hill, aimed towards Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh which, the separatists claim, Azerbaijani troops are surrounding, she also noted.
Six armored vehicles, more than 800 light weapons and around 5,000 munitions have so far been returned “in accordance with the cessation of hostilities agreements”Mosou explained on Friday while a Russian peace contingent is present in this territory where a ceasefire was concluded on Wednesday the day after the launch of the Azerbaijani assault.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities’ talks with the Azerbaijani side, which began on Thursday ” under the auspices “ of the Russian interposition force, should make it possible to“organize the process of troop withdrawal and ensure the return to their homes of citizens displaced by military aggression”the separatists said.
Azerbaijan also promised at the UN on Saturday to treat the Armenians in “equal citizens” to Azerbaijanis. “The Constitution, national legislation of Azerbaijan and the international commitments we have made are a solid basis for this goal,” declared Foreign Minister Djeyhoun Baïramov before the United Nations General Assembly.
But Armenia demanded, on Saturday, at the podium of the Nations, the sending ” immediate ” of a ” assignment ” UN monitoring. “The international community should make every effort for the immediate deployment of a UN inter-agency mission to Nagorno-Karabakh with the aim of monitoring and assessing human rights and the humanitarian and security situation on the ground”said Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, repeating accusations of “ethnic cleansing” in the secessionist region.
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“Alas, we do not have a partner for peace but a country that openly declares that “might makes right” and constantly uses force to disrupt the peace process.”he added, believing that the timetable for the lightning offensive launched at the start of the week by Azerbaijan was not “accidental”in the middle of the UN General Assembly. “The message is clear: you can talk about peace and we can go to war, and you can’t change a thing”underlined the minister.
First ICRC humanitarian aid convoy
Azerbaijan launched an operation in the breakaway region earlier this week, winning a lightning victory. This mountainous enclave, which had been attached in 1921 by Soviet power to Azerbaijani territory, had in the past been the scene of two wars between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia: one from 1988 to 1994 (30,000 deaths) and the other in the fall of 2020 (6,500 deaths). “We continue to believe that there is a historic opportunity for Azerbaijan and Armenia to establish good neighborly relations and coexist side by side in peace”said Mr. Bairamov.
A first convoy of the International Red Cross entered Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday. “The ICRC went through the Lachin corridor to bring mainly 70 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the population”, declared an official from the International Red Cross, met by AFP at the Armenian checkpoint of Kornidzor, as the convoy passed. Armenia has accused Baku since the end of 2022 of blocking this only road which connects it to Nagorno-Karabakh and thus causing significant shortages there.
The Azerbaijani military operation left at least 200 dead and 400 injured, according to Armenian separatists. And the victory won by Baku fuels fears of a departure of many of the 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Saturday, Azerbaijan assured that Armenians living in the enclave had set fire to their houses. “Armenian residents mass burn houses in Aghdara”asserted Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on X (formerly Twitter)publishing low-resolution aerial images appearing to show burned homes.
The town of Aghdara (Martakert in Armenian), located 60 kilometers from the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert, had remained under the control of Armenian separatists until Azerbaijan’s blitzkrieg offensive this week forced the rebels to agree to a ceasefire and disarmament. No comment could initially be obtained from Armenian and separatist officials. Some villagers burned their homes before fleeing to Armenia when Azerbaijan took control of large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 2020 war.
Armenian prime minister challenged
Accused of passivity towards Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian admitted on Friday that ” the situation ” remained “tense” in Nagorno-Karabakh. But “there is hope of positive dynamics”he added, noting that the ceasefire was ” globally ” respected. However, an Azerbaijani soldier was injured on Saturday during a violation of the ceasefire, announced the Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed in this enclave. During a telephone call with the Armenian Prime Minister, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, “expressed the deep concern of the United States for the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh”according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
In Yerevan, people hostile to Mr. Pashinian demonstrate every day to protest against the management of the crisis by the executive. Several opposition leaders, for their part, have announced their intention to open impeachment proceedings in Parliament against the head of government. According to the Armenian police, nineteen “protesters” were arrested again on Saturday – compared to 98 demonstrators the day before – while Mr. Pashinian calls for calm and to borrow ” the path “ peace, although it is not ” not easy “.