200 killed in Karabakh operation

Armenian separatists from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh joined peace talks with Azerbaijan on Thursday, after agreeing to lay down their arms following a lightning Azerbaijani military operation.

Protesters gather near the government building to support ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijani armed forces' offensive operation executed in the region, during a rally in Yerevan, Armenia on September 20, 2023 Photo: Reuters
200 killed in Karabakh operation

Baku says it has regained control over the territory for the first time in decades, with separatists agreeing to disarm in the face of clashes that they said killed 200 people.

However, gunfire rang out in the separatist stronghold of Stepanakert on Thursday despite the ceasefire with Azerbaijan’s forces that went into effect one day earlier.

Earlier on Thursday an AFP journalist saw a convoy of black cars arriving for the talks in the city of Yevlakh, some 200 km west of the capital Baku.

The convoy was accompanied by a car with a Russian flag and Russian army number plates, and images shown on Azerbaijani TV later showed the two delegations around a table next to an Azerbaijani flag.

Russia sent peacekeepers to mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 as part of a deal to end a six-week war there and President Vladimir Putin has said the peacekeeping contingent would mediate the talks.

The UN Security Council is also holding an emergency session later on Thursday to discuss the situation in Karabakh after Azerbaijan launched its operation on Tuesday and claimed victory on Wednesday.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the region.

The years of conflict have been marked by abuses on both sides, and there are concerns of a fresh refugee crisis as Karabakh’s Armenian population fears being forced out.

The collapse of separatist resistance represents a major victory for Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in his quest to bring the Armenian-majority region back under Baku’s control.

Aliyev said this week’s events “will have a positive impact on the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”

His foreign policy adviser Hikmet Hajiyev promised safe passage for the separatists who surrendered and said Baku sought the “peaceful reintegration” of Karabakh Armenians.

A separatist official said more than 10,000 people had been evacuated from Armenian communities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The EU and US had been mediating talks between Baku and Yerevan in recent months in a bid to secure a lasting peace.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Aliyev said Azerbaijan had “restored its sovereignty as a result of successful anti-terrorist measures in Karabakh.”

He claimed that most of the Armenian forces in the region had been destroyed and said the withdrawal of separatist troops had already begun.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday expressed “wholehearted support” for traditional ally Azerbaijan in a call with Aliyev.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *