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Home » Karabakh Separatists Say They Are Implementing Withdrawal Deal As Aid Arrives Through Lachin

Karabakh Separatists Say They Are Implementing Withdrawal Deal As Aid Arrives Through Lachin

by Azat Machavariani
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Nagorno-Karabakh‘s ethnic Armenian separatist leaders on September 23 said they are implementing the terms of a cease-fire agreement made three days earlier with Azerbaijani officials, including evacuations of injured civilians to Armenia with the help of Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The separatists said that, as part of the September 20 agreement, aid was to be delivered from Armenia to Stepanakert — the de facto capital of the breakaway region under ethnic Armenian control — through the Lachin Corridor, for decades the main link between Karabakh and Armenian.

Also as part of the agreement, separatists said, talks would take place on “the political future” of the region, which has an estimated population 120,000 people, many of whom are now suffering from shortages of food, fuel, and electricity.

The separatists’ statement also said work was under way to restore power to the region, with a target date of September 24.

Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh reported that Karabakh separatists in the ethnic-Armenian populated territory have begun handing over their weapons as part of a deal worked out with Baku following Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive this week.

Russian peacekeepers said that more than 800 firearms, grenades, mortars, anti-tank guided missiles, and anti-tank missile systems had been handed over, and the process would continue over the weekend.

The deal was worked out during a meeting between representatives of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population and Azerbaijan held in the western Azerbaijani city of Yevlax on September 22.

The separatists had earlier said that they are in Russian-mediated talks with Baku to organize the withdrawal of their forces.

A witness told Reuters that an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid convoy was seen at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border early on September 23 for the first time since Baku seized the region.

The Red Cross said it was supplying fuel, blankets, and 28,000 diapers in the initial shipments to the territory.

AFP journalists and ICRC officials at the border confirmed on September 23 that Red Cross aid had entered the region along the Lachin Corridor.

The aid group’s vehicles “have passed through the Lachin Corridor to bring to the community around 70 metric tons of mainly humanitarian supplies and food supplies,” ICRC spokeswoman Zara Amatuni told AFP, speaking in Kornidzor at the final checkpoint on the Armenian side of the border.

Armenian civilians have begun gathering at the Kornidzor checkpoint in hopes of receiving news of relatives in Karabakh, AFP reported.

U.S. Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who is leading a congressional delegation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, called for international observers to monitor the situation and said people in Karabakh were “very fearful.”

“I am certainly very concerned about what’s happening in Nagorno-Karabakh right now. I think there needs to be some visibility,” Peters told reporters.

Peters had earlier condemned the Azerbaijani government’s “military aggression and violence toward the Armenian people.”

“The Azerbaijani government has made it clear, their goal is to erase the historic presence of Armenians in this region,” he said during his visit to the region.

Azerbaijan has claimed that the 24-hour offensive on September 19-20, which it describes as an “anti-terrorist operation,” has brought the breakaway region back under its control.

The offensive was halted on September 20 after Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership accepted a proposal by the Russian peacekeeping mission, although sporadic fighting has been reported.

Baku has said it envisages an amnesty for Karabakh Armenian fighters who give up their arms and seeks to reintegrate the territory’s ethnic Armenian population. Some separatist fighters have vowed to continue to resist Azerbaijani control.

“I wish to reiterate that Azerbaijan is determined to reintegrate ethnic Armenian residents of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan as equal citizens,” Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov said in a speech to the UN General Assembly on September 23.

Yerevan’s response to the Azerbaijani offensive has led to protests in the Armenian capital, with opposition leaders seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and accusing the government of inadequate support for Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic-Armenian population.

Pashinian has expressed hope that Karabakh Armenians will be allowed to return to their homes, while saying that Yerevan would accept an influx of ethnic Armenians if they chose to leave the territory.

Anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan and at least two other cities over the past two days have led to the detention of scores of people who expressed anger that Pashinian’s administration had not done more to prevent Azerbaijani forces from accomplishing their swift victory in the Karabakh region.

Authorities said more than 80 people were charged in the capital with disobeying police orders on September 22, and reports said at least a further 20 people were detained on September 23.

Armenian opposition groups, led by a so-called National Committee, claimed that more than 350 supporters had been detained. The group called for Pashinian to resign his office.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Pashinian in a phone call on September 23 that Washington continues to support Armenia’s “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” and that it has “deep concern for the ethnic Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken “underscored the United States is calling on Azerbaijan to protect civilians and uphold its obligations to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and to ensure its forces comply with international humanitarian law.”

Pashinian and many Armenians blame Russia — which traditionally has served as the Caucasus nation’s protector in the region — for failing to use its peacekeeping force to protect ethnic Armenians in Karabakh.

During a special meeting of the UN Security Council this week, council members including the United States and Russia called for peace, while Armenian and Azerbaijani officials traded barbs.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as Azerbaijan’s but has had de-facto independence since breaking away in a war in the 1990s.

During a short but bloody war in 2020, Azerbaijan recaptured much of the territory as well as seven surrounding districts that had been controlled since the 1990s by ethnic Armenians with Yerevan’s support.

Source : RFERL

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