This article was last updated on September 25, 2023
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Exodus of ethnic Armenians
In Nagorno-Karabakh, the exodus of ethnic Armenians is in full swing. Nearly 5,000 refugees have now left the ethnic Armenian enclave. Last night, the first 1,050 refugees arrived in Armenia. These were mainly the sick, the elderly, and people who had been displaced.
Fears of ethnic cleansing
Azerbaijan gained control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region last week after a 24-hour war. Since then, residents have feared becoming victims of ethnic cleansing. According to Armenian authorities, almost all 120,000 residents want to leave the area. They have promised that anyone who wishes to leave will have that option, and they plan to distribute free fuel to facilitate the evacuations. However, not much is known about the progress of the evacuations.
Nightmare for evacuees
“It’s a nightmare,” one of the evacuees who arrived in Armenia told the AP news agency. “There has been a lot of shooting in my village. Everyone is gone.” The exodus of ethnic Armenians raises concerns about the future of the enclave.
International support and intervention
Turkish President Erdogan will discuss the situation today with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Turkey has a difficult history with Armenia and has been supporting Azerbaijan since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s support and criticism
Armenia can count on the support of Russia, although there is disappointment among the Armenian population regarding the level of support. Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan has criticized Russia for not doing enough to counter the Azerbaijani invasion. The Kremlin, however, dismisses the criticism and states that Russia is in close contact with Armenia and is supervising the evacuations.
France, with a large Armenian diaspora, also supports Armenia. French President Macron promised support to the fleeing Armenians. The German government expressed its deep concern for the ethnic Armenians and called on Azerbaijan to respect human rights.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, home to approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians. The enclave has its own government that works closely with Armenia but is not officially recognized. In 1988, the Armenians in the enclave turned against Azerbaijan and the Soviet Union, leading to a six-year, bloody war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A ceasefire was eventually reached with the mediation of Russia, but strong anti-Armenian sentiment has persisted in Azerbaijan, resulting in sporadic confrontations.
Last week, Azerbaijan launched an attack on the enclave following the deaths of four Azerbaijani soldiers and two civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. A day later, after mediation by Russia, a ceasefire was proclaimed, and the Armenian fighters laid down their arms. Experts suggest that the ceasefire effectively signifies the capitulation of the Armenians in the enclave.