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Thousands of Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijan regains full control

An ethnic Armenian boy from Nagorno-Karabakh, looks on from a car upon arrival in Armenia's Goris, the town in Syunik region, Armenia
An ethnic Armenian boy from Nagorno-Karabakh, looks on from a car upon arrival in Armenia's Goris, the town in Syunik region, Armenia Copyright AP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov
Copyright AP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov
By Euronews with AP
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Azerbaijan pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region but many local residents fear reprisals and said they were planning to leave for Armenia.

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Thousands of Armenians have streamed out of Nagorno-Karabakh after the Azerbaijani military reclaimed full control of the breakaway region.

The Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces in a 24-hour blitz last week, forcing the separatist authorities to agree to lay down weapons and start talks on Nagorno-Karabakh's “reintegration” into Azerbaijan after three decades of separatist rule.

While Azerbaijan pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and restore supplies after a 10-month blockade, many local residents feared reprisals and said they were planning to leave for Armenia.

Over 6500 Nagorno-Karabakh residents have fled to Armenia since Sunday.

“It was a nightmare. There are no words to describe. The village was heavily shelled. Almost no one is left in the village,” said one of the evacuees in the Armenian city of Kornidzor.

AP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov
Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Armenia's Goris, the town in Syunik regionAP Photo/Vasily Krestyaninov

Moscow said that Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were assisting the evacuation.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his government was working with international partners to protect the rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“If these efforts do not produce concrete results, the government will welcome our sisters and brothers from Nagorno-Karabakh in the Republic of Armenia with every care,” he said.

Demonstrators demanding Pashinyan's resignation continued blocking the Armenian capital's main avenues on Monday, clashing occasionally with police.

Russian peacekeepers have been in the region since 2020, when a Russian-brokered armistice ended a six-week war between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinyan and many others in Armenia accused the peacekeepers of failing to prevent the hostilities and protect the Armenian population. Moscow rejected the accusations, arguing that its forces had no legal grounds to intervene, particularly after Pashinyan's recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. 

During the war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed during the earlier conflict.

In December, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, alleging that the Armenian government was using the road for mineral extraction and illicit weapons shipments to the region’s separatist forces.

Armenia said the closure denied basic food and fuel supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh’s approximately 120,000 people. Azerbaijan rejected the accusation, arguing the region could receive supplies through the Azerbaijani city of Aghdam — a solution long resisted by Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, who called it a strategy for Azerbaijan to gain control of the region.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged support for Armenia and Armenians, saying that France will mobilise food and medical aid for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, and keep working toward a ‘’sustainable peace’’ in the region.

Russia has been the main ally and sponsor of Armenia and has a military base there, but it also has sought to maintain friendly ties with Azerbaijan. But Moscow's clout in the region has waned quickly amid the Russian war in Ukraine while the influence of Azerbaijan's top ally Turkey has increased.

Erdogan arrived in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave on Monday for talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss Turkey-Azerbaijan ties and regional and global issues. Nakhchivan is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory but forms a slim border with Turkey.

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