Azerbaijan held discussions with Armenian separatists on Thursday following a military operation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The conflict had escalated but a ceasefire agreement was reached on September 20, leading to fighters agreeing to lay down their arms, DW reports.
The talks occurred in Yevlakh, which is over 200 km (125 miles) west of Baku, the Azerbaijani capital. The dialogue was a result of the ceasefire agreement facilitated by Russia, which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced, asserting that Azerbaijan had gained complete control of the Armenian-majority enclave. Vehicles bearing Russian flags and number plates were also present at the discussions in Yevlakh.
Azerbaijan's focus in the talks is on the integration of Nagorno-Karabakh. President Aliyev has expressed the intention to respect the religious and cultural rights of the Armenian population in Karabakh, considering them as Azerbaijani citizens.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged "wholehearted support" for Azerbaijan after a conversation with Aliyev.
During the talks, ethnic Armenians reported gunfire in Nagorno-Karabakh's main city, Stepanakert, alleging a ceasefire violation by Azerbaijan. However, Azerbaijan denied these claims and attributed them to disinformation.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced the evacuation of 5,000 Karabakh Armenians from dangerous areas by Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Aliyev, emphasizing the need for Armenian security in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Aliyev expressed regret over the death of Russian servicemen in recent days of fighting.
The UN Security Council convened a meeting on Nagorno-Karabakh due to humanitarian concerns. The US expressed apprehensions about the humanitarian situation in the region following Azerbaijan's offensive. European Council President Charles Michel urged Azerbaijan to ensure the safety of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, emphasizing the humanitarian needs of the people there.
Armenian Ambassador Andranik Hovhannisyan told the UN Human Rights Council that "ethnic cleansing" was occurring in Nagorno-Karabakh, characterizing it as a "crime against humanity." He highlighted the plight of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh who were cut off from evacuation due to Azerbaijan's blockade of the only lifeline connecting with Armenia.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have engaged in two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh since the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991. The separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh reported "at least 200 killed and more than 400 wounded" since Azerbaijan's offensive began, while Azerbaijan labeled its operations as "anti-terrorist." Armenians opposed the ceasefire and called for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation.
Pashinyan disassociated himself from the truce negotiated between the Armenian separatists and Azerbaijan, emphasizing the challenging path to peace and the need for Armenia to be "free of conflict." However, he did not specifically mention Nagorno-Karabakh in his speech.