Nagorno-Karabakh’s breakaway government to dissolve itself as thousands of Armenians flee

Key Points
  • Over 70,000 ethnic Armenians have already fled Nagorno-Karabakh, reports say.
  • The self-declared breakaway state will cease to exist from 1 January 2024.
  • Azerbaijan says it does not want the exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Thursday they were dissolving the breakaway statelet they had defended for three decades, where more than half the population has fled since Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive last week.
In a decree issued by its unrecognised leader, Samvel Shahramanyan, they said their self-declared state – which is not recognised as an independent state by the United Nations – would “cease to exist” by January 1, in what amounted to a formal capitulation to Azerbaijan.

Some 70,500 people had crossed into Armenia by early Thursday afternoon, Russia’s RIA news agency reported, out of an estimated population of 120,000.

“Analysis of the situation shows that in the coming days there will be no Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Interfax news agency quoted Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying. “This is an act of ethnic cleansing.”

Azerbaijan says it does not want the mass exodus of Armenians

Azerbaijan denies that accusation, saying it is not forcing people to leave and that it will peacefully reintegrate the Karabakh region and guarantee the civic rights of the ethnic Armenians.

Ethnic Armenians say they do not trust that promise, mindful of a long history of bloodshed between the two sides including two wars since the break-up of the Soviet Union. For days they have fled en masse down the snaking mountain road through Azerbaijan that connects Karabakh to Armenia.

Azerbaijan’s ambassador to London, Elin Suleymanov, told Reuters in an interview that Baku did not want a mass exodus from Karabakh and was not encouraging people to leave.

He said Azerbaijan had not yet had a chance to prove what he said was its sincere commitment to provide secure and better living conditions for those ethnic Armenians who choose to stay.

Russia and the West monitoring the situation in Karabakh

The Kremlin said on Thursday it was closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in Karabakh and said Russian peacekeepers in the region were providing assistance to residents. It said Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans to visit Armenia.

Ethnic Armenians fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh region rest on a roadside after crossing the border with Azerbaijan, near the village of Kornidzor. Source: EPA / Anatoly Maltsev

Western governments have also expressed alarm over the humanitarian crisis and demanded access for international observers to monitor Azerbaijan’s treatment of the local population.

Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said this week she had heard “very troubling reports of violence against civilians”.

Azerbaijan said Aliyev had told her at a meeting on Wednesday that the rights of ethnic Armenians would be protected by law, like those of other minorities.

Source link