Armenia Begins Hand Over Of Nagorno Karabakh To Azerbaijan
The warring states have agreed on a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the new pact, many Armenian areas are being transferred to Azerbaijan and the residents are fleeing.
After the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia must hand over the first contested territory to Azerbaijan on Sunday. At the beginning of the week, the warring neighboring states agreed on a ceasefire under Russian mediation after weeks of heavy fighting over the Caucasus region. The agreement stipulates that both warring parties may keep the areas in which they currently have control - it means major territorial losses for Armenia.
Armenia must surrender control of the Kalbajar district by Sunday. In the regional capital of the same name and the surrounding villages, residents were already packing their suitcases for the escape, and some villagers even set fire to their own houses. We don't want Azerbaijanis to live in our houses," stated a resident of Charektar village, according to local media. Believers also visited a famous mountain monastery in the region for the last time. After the handover of Kalbadschar, the districts of Aghdam and Lashin are to follow.
Many believers are not hiding their concerns for the churches and other symbols of the fast-disappearing Christian civilisation from Kavkazus. One comforting news is that Russian army has been obliged to protect those historic shrines. On Tuesday reporters saw four armed military vehicles standing in front of the Shusha shrine, the oldest symbol of the Armenian Christian culture.
The opposition and even President Mr. Armen Sarkissian criticised Armenian Prime Minister Mr. Nikol Pashinyan after agreeing to the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The authorities in Armenia reportedly prevented an attack on the prime minister and the rebels from taking power. The Armenian security agency informed that it arrested three individuals who planned to take control of the country by assassinating Mr. Pashinyan. Those arrested include a former director of the state security agency Mr. Artur Vanetsjan and former Republican faction leader in parliament, Mr. Vahram Baghdasarjan.
Armenia has identified 2,300 dead soldiers
Part of the agreement is also the deployment of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. They are supposed to monitor compliance with the ceasefire. Their commander, Rustam Muradow, told the Interfax agency that there was no more fighting. We don't hear any shots today. The situation is slowly stabilizing. Most of the peacekeepers have now taken up positions, including those in the Armenian-controlled capital Stepanakert. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that twelve observation posts have now been set up. Besides, the military police have started patrols.
After the arrival of the Russian peacekeeping forces, Azerbaijan and Armenia handed over several fallen soldiers. These are soldiers who died in the fighting over the city of Shusha, which was retaken from Azerbaijan, said the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. According to Armenian information, the handover of fallen soldiers will continue.
The bodies of more than 2,300 dead have already been forensically examined, the Armenian Ministry of Health announced on Facebook but some have not yet been identified. The Karabakh authorities recently put the number of soldiers killed at 1,383. With a view to censorship during martial law, the Azerbaijani military initially gave no information about the losses in their own ranks.
Meanwhile, several people who had fled the fighting returned to the Armenian-controlled capital Stepanakert. A video footage showed women and children, as well as older residents, coming in the public transport buses to Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian Defense Ministry spoke of 250 returnees.
Russia and Turkey will monitor ceasefire together
Talks between Russia and Turkey about a center to monitor the ceasefire have been suspended for the time being. They are to be continued in the coming days. This was announced by the Turkish Ministry of Defense. The negotiations had started the day before in the Turkish capital Ankara.
The agreement between the two warring countries also provides for an important point for Turkey: a corridor from Azerbaijan to its enclave Nakhichevan. This gives Azerbaijan a land connection to Turkey and Ankara access to the Caspian Sea.