After the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh announced the dissolution of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, a UN mission will arrive in the separatist region for the first time in 30 years. This was announced by the Government of Azerbaijan, which last week claimed the “sovereignty” of the area after a 24-hour attack. The announcement comes after the West urged Baku to allow in international observers to monitor the treatment of civilians by Azerbaijani forces. Meanwhile, the exodus is growing: more than 100,000 of the 120,000 inhabitants who were in the territory before the offensive have fled to Armenia.
It will be the first United Nations mission in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in 30 years.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan – which for decades has claimed the territory as its own and claimed to have “recovered” sovereignty over the area last week – announced this weekend that a UN delegation will arrive in Nagorno-Karabakh “in the next days”.
“Once present (in Nagorno Karabakh), the team will seek to evaluate the situation on the ground and identify humanitarian needs for both the people who have remained and those who have been displaced,” spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Friday, September 29. of the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Dujarric added that it is essential that all parties involved respect international law and that The focus of the UN mission will be the protection of the population.
Baku announced the entry of the humanitarian mission days after Western governments, such as the United States and Germany, urged that country to allow the entry of international observers to monitor the treatment that civilians in the enclave are receiving by Azerbaijani forces. .
Samantha Power, director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said last week that she had learned of “very disturbing reports of violence against civilians.” However, the Government of Azerbaijan rejects these allegations and assures its intention to “integrate” the ethnic Armenian population into its country.
However, most of the Armenians who lived in the enclave have fled in recent days, citing fears of “ethnic cleansing” by Azerbaijani troops, given the violent context between the two sides of the conflict.
But Baku refutes those accusations on which both the authorities of the enclave and Armenia, the country against which Azerbaijan has disputed the territory, have insisted.
More than 80% of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenians have fled
More than 100,000 people, more than 80% of the population that inhabited the enclave before the surrender of local troops to the Azerbaijan Army last week, have left the enclave, according to data from the United Nations refugee agency ( UNHCR) and the Armenian Government.
Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner, made an urgent appeal for international humanitarian aid. “Many are hungry, exhausted and need immediate assistance,” he warned in his X platform account.
There is no turning back (…) I cannot put my children at such risk
This September 30, Armenia also requested assistance from the European Union to manage the massive arrival of refugees. Particularly with temporary shelters and medical supplies, the Italian Prime Minister’s office reported, adding that Rome is working to promote stability in the region.
Most people leaving Nagorno-Karabakh have family or friends in Armenia, but 32,200 people will need government-run accommodation, local authorities say.
“There is no turning back (…) I cannot put my children at such risk. Now we don’t know where to go. We would like to settle in Armenia, not in the towns near the border, we have had enough of the war. “We want to live in a place where we don’t hear any more gunshots,” Naira Grigoryan, one of thousands of people who have abandoned their homes, told Reuters.
The massive departure of people had already begun after the surrender of the armed forces of the enclave on September 20 – when 24 hours had passed since the surprise attack by Azerbaijan that left at least 200 people dead – but the exodus accelerates, especially after that last Thursday, September 28, the president of the separatist territory, Samvel Shahramanyan, announced the dissolution of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, as of January 1, 2024. The end of an independence, which the enclave declared in 1991 amid of the fall of the Soviet Union.
In the last three decades there have been two major wars in the region. Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally recognized territory as part of Azerbaijan, but populated by a majority of ethnic Armenians, in a territory that has operated under autonomous government with crucial support from neighboring Armenia. The inhabitants faced the first large-scale conflict between 1988 and 1994.
In 2020, violence escalated again: Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, unleashed an attack in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian Defense Army was mobilized in front of the Azeri Army. Peace returned after 44 days of military offensives. However, from Armenia, it was interpreted as an attempt at “ethnic cleansing.”
And before the lightning operation that began on September 19, the population of Nagorno Karabakh had been resisting Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only road that connected it with Armenia, for nine months. Yerevan and leaders of the international community highlighted that this measure unleashed a humanitarian crisis, due to the shortage of food, medicine and other basic necessities.
Armenia’s requests to the UN
On September 28, Armenia asked the International Court of Justice to order Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh and to open the doors to the UN humanitarian mission, the Court said.
Last February, the International Court of Justice ordered Baku to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor, in response to the blockade. Now, Yerevan requests as an interim measure that the high court insist on the February order and warn against any direct or indirect action aimed at displacing ethnic Armenians who remain in the region.
Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of orchestrating “ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh, which President Ilham Aliyev’s government denies. Due to concerns about human rights violations, the international community has insisted that Baku host international monitoring missions.
“The (UN) visit will allow them to become familiar with the ongoing humanitarian activities, managed by Azerbaijan, in the region,” the Azeri foreign ministry stated in its September 29 statement.
“In addition, members of the group will observe the process of reconstruction of infrastructure, disarmament and confiscation of ammunition from the illegal Armenian armed forces, as well as the dangers of mines,” the statement added.
Aliyev stated, in a phone call on September 26, to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, that the Azeri Forces had only attacked “military establishments, during an anti-terrorist operation that lasted less than 24 hours and that did not injured civilians,” according to a statement from the Presidential Office of Azerbaijan.
Despite Baku’s promises, thousands distrust and continue fleeing the separatist region that for decades faced hunger and wars in the name of its independence, but which now, after 30 years, sees frustration.
With Reuters and EFE
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