Protestors gather in downtown Yerevan, Armenia, on Sept. 20, 2023, as separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s authorities announced they would cease hostilities, signaling the end of an “anti-terror” operation launched just one day earlier by Azerbaijan’s forces in the breakaway region. / Credit: KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images
CNA Staff, Sep 20, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Ethnic Armenians in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, have agreed to lay down their arms and dissolve their military forces following a short but intense Azerbaijan offensive on Sept. 19.
Though internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is made up almost entirely of Christian ethnic Armenians who claim self-sovereignty under the auspices of the Republic of Artsakh.
The Azeri attack — labeled “counterterrorism measures” by the Azeri government — included rocket and mortar fire on both military and civilian targets, according to Artsakh authorities.
During the attack close to 100 Armenians were killed, including civilians, and several hundred were wounded, according to a statement from former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan to Reuters.
The attacks forced over 10,000 people, including women, children, and elderly, to evacuate their homes, according to the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This week’s escalation was the first indication of large-scale outright military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020. Christian Armenians have been trapped, without food or medicine, behind the Lachin Corridor blockade for months sparking outrage among human rights activists who say Azerbaijan is engaged in ethnic cleansing.
On Wednesday the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan said that “an agreement has been reached as of 13:00, 20 September 2023, to stop the anti-terror measures.”
The terms of the agreement, according to the Azeri Defense Ministry, were that all “illegal armed groups lay down their arms, withdraw from their battle positions and military outposts, and are subjected to complete disarmament” and “simultaneously, all the ammunition and heavy military equipment is handed over.”
The Azeri government also demanded the withdrawal of all “formations of Armenia’s armed forces stationed in the Karabakh region,” though Armenia denies it has any forces stationed inside Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a Wednesday press briefing, Azeri Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fariz Rzayev said that “as a result of the counterterrorism measures taken by the Azerbaijani armed forces, the agreement was reached today for the full demilitarization, disarmament, and disbandment of the remnants of the regular forces of the Republic of Armenia, which were still illegally deployed in the sovereign territories in the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
According to the defense ministry, the disarmament is to be conducted with the supervision of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in the region.
Reuters reported that the Artsakh Republic also agreed to the disarmament, saying: “In the current situation, the actions of the international community to end the war and resolve the situation are inadequate. Considering all this, the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh accept the proposal of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to cease fire.”