Nagorno-Karabakh: tens of thousands of refugees continue to flow into Armenia

Armenia continues, Wednesday September 27, to welcome tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh, a week after a lightning offensive by Azerbaijan in this separatist region of the Caucasus.

Some 42,500 refugees have arrived in Armenia so far, Armenian authorities said on Wednesday – the equivalent of a third of the region’s population. Last week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced that his country of 2.9 million inhabitants was preparing to welcome 40,000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan has pledged to allow rebels who surrender their weapons to go to Armenia, and opened the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to that country on Sunday, four days after the capitulation of separatists and a cease-fire agreement. the fire which places this region of around 120,000 inhabitants, populated mainly by Armenians, under the control of Baku.

Monday evening, in the midst of an exodus, a fuel depot exploded in the enclave, leaving at least 68 dead, 290 injured and 105 people missing, the separatist authorities announced.

On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev reaffirmed the promise that the rights of Armenians in the enclave, attached to Azerbaijan in 1921 by the USSR, would be “guaranteed”.

“Russia’s complicit eye”
The European Union brought together senior French, German, Azerbaijani and Armenian diplomatic officials in Brussels on Tuesday. According to the EU press release, the discussions allowed “intense exchanges between participants on the relevance of a possible meeting of the leaders” of Armenia and Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of an informal European summit of Twenty-Seven in Granada (Spain), October 5. A long-planned summit that has not been canceled.

The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken called on Tuesday Azerbaijan to respect its commitments to protect civilians in the province and to allow access for humanitarian aid.

“The Secretary of State spoke again with President Aliyev today and emphasized the urgency of ending hostilities, ensuring the unconditional protection and freedom of movement of civilians, and ensuring access unhindered humanitarian response in Nagorno-Karabakh,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

France, for its part, called for “international diplomatic action” in the face of “Russia’s abandonment of Armenia.” Paris estimated that the “massive” exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh is taking place “under the complicit eye of Russia”, which had deployed a peacekeeping force in this region in 2020.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are two former Soviet republics which clashed militarily in Nagorno-Karabakh from 1988 to 1994 (30,000 deaths) and in the fall of 2020 (6,500 deaths). The death toll from last week’s lightning invasion is 200 dead, according to the Armenian side.

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