After the latest round of combat in the long-running separatist struggle, local Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to put down their arms, and Azerbaijan declared complete authority over the region on Wednesday.
Local self-defense forces will disarm and disband under a cease-fire negotiated by Russia, according to a statement made by authorities in the ethnic Armenian enclave around noon. Since conflict broke out in the early 1990s, the territory has managed its affairs without receiving international recognition.
They added that representatives from the area will begin discussions with the Baku administration on Thursday on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.
In a televised speech to the country, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan declared victory, claiming that his country had “restored its sovereignty” and completed “all the tasks set as part of local anti-terrorist measures” in “just one day.”
The Azerbaijani army launched drone attacks and an artillery bombardment on pro-Armenian forces on Tuesday, which were outnumbered and undersupplied due to a blockade of the area in the southern Caucasus Mountains that is officially recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan.
Gegham Stepanyan, the human rights ombudsman for Nagorno-Karabakh, said that the conflict claimed the lives of at least 200 individuals, including 10 civilians, and injured over 400 more. Children were among the dead and injured, he had earlier claimed.
His casualty totals could not be independently verified right away.
The fighting exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation for locals who had been suffering from food and medicine shortages due to Azerbaijan’s enforcement of a road blockage connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia for months.
In order to escape the violence, thousands of people from Nagorno-Karabakh went to a camp run by Russian troops, while many more congregated near the airport of Stepanakert, the region’s capital.
Fighting lessened after the cease-fire, according to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who also emphasized that Russian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh are solely responsible for the protection of the region’s citizens.
Having previously acknowledged Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinyan declared that Armenia wouldn’t get involved in the conflict. He claimed that although his administration was not involved in the negotiations, it “has taken note” of the choice made by the separatist authorities in the area.
Even though separatist leaders claimed Armenian troops were in Nagorno-Karabakh and would withdraw as part of the ceasefire, he again denied there were any in the area.
For the second day in a row, protesters demonstrated in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, blocking streets and calling on the government to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesman, the United States is “deeply concerned” about Azerbaijan’s military operations. The use of force is “absolutely unacceptable,” he said, adding that the United States was closely monitoring the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Concerns were raised that a full-scale conflict between the two neighbors, who have been engaged in a fight over Nagorno-Karabakh since a separatist war there ended in 1994, could break out as a result of Azerbaijan’s move to restore authority over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan recaptured large portions of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions that had been held for decades by Armenian forces during a second battle that lasted six weeks in 2020. Over 6,700 people lost their lives in the conflict, which was resolved by a peace deal mediated by Russia. Around 2,000 peacekeeping personnel were sent by Moscow to the area.