Armenians wait to be evacuated from Stepanakert on September 26, 2023. SIRANUSH SARGSYAN / AFP
Nagorno-Karabakh is emptying of its inhabitants. Tuesday, September 26, tens of thousands of men, women and children continued to leave this enclave populated by Armenians, under the victorious gaze of Azerbaijani soldiers. According to Armenian authorities, some 28,120 refugees have already arrived in Armenia.
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On the only road leading to Armenia, an endless stream of vehicles carrying families, their belongings piled on the roofs, rushed Tuesday to the last Azerbaijani checkpoint before Armenian territory, via the Lachin corridor. On Sunday, after the lightning offensive won by Azerbaijani troops against those of Nagorno-Karabakh – the death toll of which was 200, according to the separatists – Baku reopened this border post which cut off the Armenian enclave from the rest of the world, causing the exodus.
Since Sunday evening, the influx of refugees into Armenia has overwhelmed the border town of Goris, populated by around twenty thousand inhabitants, the first stop for most of the refugees and which has become their crossroads. Last week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced that his country of 2.9 million people was preparing to welcome 40,000 refugees.
Refugees stand in Goris on September 26, 2023, before leaving for Yerevan. An endless stream of vehicles snakes along Nagorno-Karabakh’s only road towards Armenia, carrying tens of thousands of refugees now facing an uncertain future. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP
The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, called on Azerbaijan to respect its commitments to protect civilians in the province and to allow access for humanitarian aid. On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reaffirmed the promise that the rights of Armenians in the enclave would be “guaranteed”.
“The Secretary of State spoke again with the President [Ilham] Aliyev today and stressed the urgency of ending hostilities, ensuring unconditional protection and freedom of movement of civilians, and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh”said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
“Under the complicit eye of Russia”
France, for its part, called for “an international diplomatic action” face “to the abandonment of Armenia by Russia”. Paris estimated that the exodus « massif » of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh takes place “under the complicit eye of Russia”which deployed a peacekeeping force in this secessionist region in 2020.
The European Union (EU) recalled the “need for transparency and access for international humanitarian aid and human rights officials, and for more details on Baku’s vision for the future of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians in Azerbaijan ».
In the flow of Armenian refugees, Azerbaijan is looking for possible perpetrators of “war crimes”an Azerbaijani government source told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday. “Azerbaijan intends to provide amnesty to Armenian fighters who laid down their arms in Karabakh. But those who committed war crimes during the Karabakh wars must be handed over to us”explained this source.
Dozens killed in fuel depot explosion
Monday evening, in the midst of an exodus, a fuel depot exploded in the enclave mainly populated by Armenians, in Stepanakert. The toll remained uncertain Tuesday evening: Armenian separatists claim that at least 68 people are dead, 290 are injured and 105 are missing.
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The European Union (EU) brought together senior French, German, Azerbaijani and Armenian diplomatic officials in Brussels on Tuesday. According to the EU press release, the discussions made it possible to“intense exchanges between participants on the relevance of a possible meeting of leaders” of Armenia and Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of an informal European summit of the Twenty-Seven in Granada, in the south of Spain, on October 5. This summit was planned for a long time and was not canceled.
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