Ethnic Armenians accept Russia’s ceasefire plan after Azerbaijan invades Nagorno-Karabakh




CNN

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh accepted a ceasefire proposal presented by Russian peacekeepers on Wednesday, a day after Azerbaijan launched a military operation in the disputed region.

Azerbaijan launched a “counter-terrorism” campaign against separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, which local officials said had killed hundreds of people by Wednesday night, with the death toll reaching at least 200. , including 10 civilians, and more than 400 have been injured. The ombudsman’s office in the Armenian-controlled territory said.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region bordering Azerbaijan. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is home to around 120,000 ethnic Armenians, who make up the majority of its population and reject Azerbaijani rule. The region has its own de facto government supported by Armenia, but is not officially recognized by Armenia or any other country.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidential office announced that the cease-fire was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. local time (5 a.m.) on Wednesday.

“An agreement was reached on the withdrawal of the remaining units and personnel of the Armed Forces of Armenia from the area of ​​deployment of Russian peacekeepers, the disbandment and complete demobilization of armed formations,” it said in a statement.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it had agreed to suspend its operation, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Azerbaijan said officials would meet with representatives of the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday in the city of Yulakh, to “discuss issues of reintegration under the constitution and laws of Azerbaijan.”

Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidency said its forces were “many times greater” as it tried to defend the region from Azerbaijani troops on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the defense forces have also suffered casualties, while in some parts the enemy has managed to infiltrate defense force posts, capture several heights and strategic road junctions,” he said.

“In the current situation, the actions of the international community towards ending the war and resolving the situation are insufficient. According to the Armenian Press, the Nagorno-Karabakh Presidential Office said that taking this into account, the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh called for a ceasefire. Accepted the proposal of the command of the Russian peacekeeping force.

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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his government had no role in brokering the deal.

In a televised address, Pashinyan said the text of the agreement “wrongly mentions the Armenian armed forces, while Armenia maintains no military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“As of August 2021, Armenia does not have troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. But in any case, we note this statement and the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have accepted it,” Pashinyan said.

Armenia’s foreign ministry rejected Baku’s claims that Azerbaijani soldiers had come under “systematic shelling” by Armenia’s armed forces, saying in a statement on Tuesday that Armenia only considers Nagorno-Karabakh “humanitarian” rather than military. provides assistance on a “basis”.

Later, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh had been “successful” in restoring Azerbaijan’s “territorial integrity”.

In a national address on Wednesday, the president praised Azerbaijan’s military for showing “bravery and professionalism in difficult terrain” and achieving “military successes in all directions.”

Aliyev said he ordered Azerbaijani troops to destroy military targets, not civilian infrastructure. According to Aliyev, more than 100 tanks and armored vehicles and 200 artillery and anti-aircraft weapons were inside Nagorno-Karabakh during the operation.

He said Azerbaijan accepted the ceasefire but accused Armenia of initially violating the agreement. He said Armenian troops began withdrawing at 6:05 p.m. UTC (2:05 p.m. ET).

The region has been the cause of two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past three decades. The latest war began in 2020 and lasted 44 days before Moscow negotiated a ceasefire. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia deployed approximately 2,000 peacekeepers to the region to prevent further conflict.

However, Russian peacekeeping forces have been accused of failing to enforce the ceasefire. In December 2022, Azerbaijani-backed activists established a military checkpoint along the Lachen Corridor – the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Since then, the region has been under a blockade, preventing residents from importing food and medicine.

A former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said in August that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that genocide is being committed against Armenians” in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Saranoosh Sargsyan/AP

Children taking refuge during the shelling of Stepanakert by Azerbaijan on Tuesday night.

After Azerbaijan launched fresh missile, artillery and drone strikes on Tuesday, Armenia’s Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to fulfill their responsibilities to protect Nagorno-Karabakh. , according to the official Armenian press.

Asked to respond to the criticism during a media briefing on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Such accusations against us are baseless, they are not based on anything.”

Peskov said Moscow was in talks with both Baku and Yerevan and was continuing its efforts to help ethnic Armenians living in Karabakh. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had evacuated about 2,000 civilians from Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday night.

Peskov also revealed that Moscow is arranging a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. He said while talking to the Azerbaijani President It can also be done if needed.

Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that its peacekeeping force was carrying out its duties “under serious conditions”.

It added that discussions were held on the prevention of bloodshed, compliance with humanitarian law in respect of civilians, as well as ensuring the safety of Russian peacekeepers.

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