Aghdam became the first territory ceded to Azerbaijan by the Armenian forces of Nagorno Karabakh on Friday after the pact that ended a brief but bloody war won by the Azeri troops. The peace agreement, negotiated by Russia, sought to settle the dispute that these Caucasus countries have maintained for decades over this region with an Armenian majority, but located in territory internationally recognized as Azerbaijani.
Among the conditions of the deal, Armenia lost control over the seven districts adjacent to Nagorno Karabakh and also over the second city of the enclave, Shusha —Or Shushi for Armenians — which is only 11 kilometers from the capital, Stepanakert. Four of the districts were already in the hands of Azerbaijan as a result of the war, but the other three were to be handed over by the Armenian troops. Aghdam is the first. The other two Kalbajar, which will be delivered on November 25, and Lachin, which will return to Azerbaijan on December 1.
“Congratulations to all the citizens of Aghdam. They are no longer refugees, they will return to their ancestral lands “Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in remarks broadcast on television after the army entered this district.
Armenia reported on Saturday the death of more than 2,300 of its soldiers in the conflict. “To date, our forensic service has examined the bodies of 2,317 military dead, including unidentified bodies“Said the spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Health, Alina Nikoghosian, on Facebook. For its part, Azerbaijan did not report the number of casualties.
Russian peacekeepers were deployed last week in Nagorno Karabakh to enforce the agreement. Some 400 soldiers arrived in the disputed territory and some 1,600 more are expected to arrive in the coming days. Vladimir Putin’s plan contemplates a five-year presence with the possibility of extending it for another similar period.
En Aghdam, local Armenians did not wait for the arrival of Baku forces to flee. Many preferred to set their houses on fire before leaving, according to journalists from the agency AFP.
In the villages of Nor Maragha or in Nor Karmiravan, within this district, the inhabitants killed the cattle, gathered their vegetables and fruits and put all their personal belongings in their vehicles and trailers with the bitter feeling of leaving their farms and orchards to the enemy.
In Aghdam, a ghost town and in ruins for 30 years, Armenian soldiers demolished their headquarters with bulldozers on Thursday before leaving. At the end of the war in the 90s, when the Armenian forces took control of part of the territory, they proclaimed the Republic of Artsakh in Nagorno Karabakh.. Then the exodus had been in the opposite direction, since the Azeri population fled from these places.
The agreement that ended the fighting is considered unacceptable to most Armenian nationalists, despite the fact that Nagorno Karabakh leaders admitted that if the war continued they could lose the entire territory. The opposition accuses Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of being a “traitor” and calls in vain for his resignation. But for now the demonstrations in the streets of Yerevan are limited to a few thousand people.
The international community has welcomed this ceasefire, but certain “ambiguities” remain about its implementation. France asked Moscow to clarify, for example, what is the role of Turkey, great supporter of Azerbaijan and sworn enemy of Armenia.
Turkey is not mentioned in the agreement that ended the fighting, but its authorities were quick to announce that they would oversee the ceasefire jointly with Russia. Anyway, the Russian president guaranteed that there will be no Turkish soldiers in Nagorno Karabakh.
With information from AFP