The separatists of Nagorno Karabakh announced, this Friday, September 22, that they were negotiating with Azerbaijan the withdrawal of their troops from this region whose majority Armenian population is “going underground” for fear of violence, two days after the conclusion of a ceasefire. -fire.
“Negotiations are underway with the Azerbaijani side under the auspices of Russian peacekeepers,” said the authorities of this secessionist territory, which capitulated on Wednesday after a lightning offensive by Azerbaijani forces. This should make it possible to “organize the process of troop withdrawal and ensure the return to their homes of citizens displaced by military aggression,” they continued in a press release.
The parties also discuss “the procedure for entry and exit of citizens” from Nagorno Karabakh, the separatists added. The Azerbaijanis and the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh began talks on Thursday on a “reintegration” of this region into Azerbaijan. Baku announced that a new meeting would take place “as quickly as possible”.
The “capital” surrounded
The separatists’ announcement comes at a time when the “capital” of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, is surrounded by the Azerbaijani army. “The situation in Stepanakert is horrible, Azerbaijani troops are everywhere around the city, they are on the outskirts,” Armine Hayrapetian, a spokesperson for the local authorities, told AFP in the morning.
“People fear that Azerbaijani soldiers could enter the city at any time and start massacres,” she said, assuring that Stepanakert and other regions of Nagorno Karabakh were deprived of most public services in base. There is “no electricity, no gas, no food, no fuel, no internet or telephone connections”, “people are hiding in the cellars”, said Armine Hayrapetian.
According to an adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan promised the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that it could send aid and care for injured separatist soldiers, with ambulances allowed to come from ‘Armenia. “Work is underway with Russian peacekeeping forces to recover the bodies of the fighters who remained on the ground,” he said. According to the Azerbaijani state news agency Azertag, Baku sent 40 tons of humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabakh.
According to the latest assessment of the Armenian separatists, the Azerbaijani military operation, which ended in 24 hours at midday on Wednesday, left at least 200 dead and 400 injured.
Accused of passivity towards Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian recognized Friday morning during a council of ministers that “the situation” remained “tense” in Nagorno Karabakh where “the humanitarian crisis continues”. But “there is hope of positive dynamics”, added the head of government, for whom the ceasefire which entered into force on Wednesday between the Armenian separatists and Baku is “generally” respected, despite “isolated violations” reported THURSDAY.
New protests in Yerevan
On Friday morning, people hostile to Nikol Pashinian demonstrated again in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to protest against the government’s management of the crisis in Nagorno Karabakh. The opposition parties, who criticize the Prime Minister for having made too many concessions to Baku, are calling for his resignation and several of their leaders have announced their intention to open impeachment proceedings against him in Parliament.
“People must take to the streets, Karabakh needs us,” exclaimed to AFP Lida Mkrtchyan, 43, originally from this region. “It’s a nightmare we can’t wake up from. Why don’t they open a hallway so people can leave?”
According to the Armenian police, 84 demonstrators were arrested. These arrests are in addition to those that occurred on Wednesday and Thursday following riots during which protesters threw stones and bottles in front of Nikol Pashinian’s offices. The latter called for calm, while promising to act “firmly” against the rioters. We must take “the path” to peace, even if it is “not easy”, he urged on Thursday. The head of the Armenian government also accused Russia, a contingent of which has been deployed in Nagorno Karabakh since the war in autumn 2020, of having failed in its peacekeeping mission. According to Azerbaijan, six Russian peacekeepers were killed during its offensive. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has “apologized” to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin.
The military success of the Azerbaijanis fuels fears of a mass departure of the 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, even if Armenia has promised that no mass evacuation is planned. She nevertheless said she was ready to welcome “40,000 families” of refugees. Nagorno Karabakh has already been the scene of two wars between the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Armenia: one from 1988 to 1994 (30,000 dead) and the other in the fall of 2020 ( 6,500 deaths).