Nagorno-Karabakh: points of contention still open after talks

As of: September 21, 2023 7:22 p.m

After Azerbaijan’s victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, talks should focus on the “reintegration” of the region. But many points of contention with the Armenians remained unresolved. Azerbaijan is also said to have violated the ceasefire.

The conflict parties have not yet been able to reach a final agreement in talks about the future of the crisis region of Nagorno-Karabakh. “We still have a lot of questions and problems to go through,” said David Babajan, an adviser to Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-proclaimed government. His side agreed to a ceasefire with Azerbaijan.

What remains unclear, however, is the implementation of Azerbaijan’s associated demand that the ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh also give up their weapons. First, security guarantees are necessary, demanded Babajan. “They could destroy us at any time, commit genocide against us. What should we do?”

The Russian news agency RIA also reported, citing a negotiator for the ethnic Armenians, that there had not yet been a final agreement. At the same time, an Azerbaijani representative was quoted as saying that it was hardly expected that all problems could be resolved within one meeting.

Appeals from Pashinyan and Putin

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, meanwhile, called for pacification of the conflict with rival Azerbaijan. “Peace is an environment without interstate and interethnic conflicts,” Pashinyan said in a speech to the nation on the occasion of Armenia’s Independence Day. “This path is not easy, but we must take it.” One must value peace and “not confuse peace with ceasefire and truce,” Pashinyan continued.

According to the Kremlin, Russian President Putin also called on Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev in a telephone call to respect the rights of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Kremlin, Aliyev apologized for the deaths of Russian peacekeepers during fighting the previous day. Russia has deployed 2,000 soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor a ceasefire brokered in 2020.

Hundreds dead in fighting

Both sides met in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh. The talks were supposed to focus on the future of the approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan launched a broad military operation in the region on Tuesday. A day later, Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to a ceasefire following a military defeat. Hundreds of people are said to have been killed and injured in the operation, including civilians and children. The information could not initially be confirmed independently.

The Armenian side today accused the government of Azerbaijan of not adhering to the agreed ceasefire. Shots were heard in the center of the regional capital Stepanakert, representatives said. Insiders had previously reported something similar. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry immediately rejected the allegations.

People are fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh

Evacuation measures are currently underway in large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian side said that so far 5,000 civilians had been brought to safety from particularly dangerous places. Apparently many Armenians in the region fear being driven from their homeland or, if they stay, becoming the target of Azerbaijani violence.

The human rights commissioner for the internationally unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), Gegam Stepanyan, had previously spoken of the evacuation of several towns.

EU sends humanitarian aid

In order to help the displaced people in the region, the EU wants to make 500,000 euros available for humanitarian aid. The support is in addition to the 1.17 million euros that have been made available since the beginning of the year, the European Commission said. In addition to cash to cover basic needs, those affected should be offered accommodation and psychosocial support.

Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Janez Lenarcic called on all parties to the conflict to grant aid organizations unhindered and immediate access. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned Azerbaijan’s attack and called for unhindered humanitarian access. EU Council President Charles Michel had already spoken to Aliyev on the phone on Wednesday evening and criticized the use of force, according to the Council. He demanded that the government in Baku present “credible guarantees” for the rights and security of the Armenian population and declare an amnesty.

Decades long conflict

Russia is traditionally seen as the protective power of Christian Orthodox Armenia, while Muslim Azerbaijan relies on Turkey’s support. Russia had actually promised to monitor a ceasefire in the region agreed after the last Karabakh war in 2020. Many Armenians now accuse Moscow of having abandoned them and of not fulfilling its role as a protective power.

Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, but the area is predominantly populated by Armenians. In 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself independent after a referendum that was not internationally recognized and boycotted by the Azerbaijani minority.

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