First Artsakh-Azerbaijan Meeting Takes Place Amid Reports of Shooting at Stepanakert

The Meeting

Today (September 21st) in the Azeri city of Yevlakh was held the first of many meetings between the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) government and the government of Azerbaijan. The meeting lasted about three hours. According to Azerbaijan’s statement on the meeting, they presented their plans for the “reintegration” of Artsakh’s Armenians within the framework of the Azeri constitution. The two sides discussed the rights and security of the Armenian population in the event of the eventual full Azeri takeover of the region.

Azerbaijan once again reiterated the need for the disarmament of the Artsakh Defence Army, emphasizing the need for this to happen quickly.

Notably, Artsakh authorities officially requested that Azerbaijan send humanitarian aid to Artsakh which includes food, fuel, and medical supplies, to which Azerbaijan stated they accepted the request. Azerbaijan also stated emergency medical and firefighting systems would be provided, as well as heating systems for schools and kindergartens.

The Azeri government statement on the meeting (From @AzerbaijanPA on Twitter).

The need for humanitarian aid arises from the Azeri blockade of Artsakh that has been ongoing since December, which has resulted in the shortage of these items. Regardless, Azerbaijan stated they would “quickly” supply these items.

Following the meeting, both sides stated that more meetings would need to be held. One of the key topics is to be security guarantees for Artsakh’s Armenian population, however Elchin Amirbeyov, an Azeri Presidential representative, has stated that “the further fate of the Armenians in Karabakh is an internal matter of Azerbaijan”, echoing previous statements by President Aliyev and other Azeri officials that such things were up to Azerbaijan.

The Shootings

Artsakh authorities and a number of journalists have accused Azerbaijan of already breaking the ceasefire established yesterday after reports of Azeri fire towards Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, began to arise. Azerbaijan has denied the allegations, but the Artsakh Defence Army as well as a number of journalists have reported periodic small-arms fire throughout the day. Video footage has also surfaced, in which fire can be heard in the background.

These incidents have, of course, taken place after the ceasefire.

Refugee Crisis

Videos have began surfacing showing vehicles lining the road towards the Lachin corridor (the sole road connecting Armenia and Artsakh) as Artsakh’s citizens await its opening, so they can leave Artsakh and go to Armenia. While there have, of course, been no official surveys on the matter many international observers expect that the vast majority of the Armenian population is going to attempt to leave Artsakh for Armenia, rather than live under Azeri administration. Many civilian populations within Artsakh have stated their intention to leave.

Already thousands of civilians have evacuated a number of towns. Some head for Lachin, some head for Stepanakert, and some head for the Russian peacekeeping base which is nearby Stepanakert, which yesterday became a temporary refuge for thousands.

As things presently stand however, the Lachin remains closed by Azeri authorities, as it has been since December.

A number of Artsakh towns remain unreachable, for a number of factors. For some, since electricity has been cut off to the region since Tuesday and internet connectivity is sparse. Several key road networks have also been seized in Azeri advances, and travel is proving to be difficult.

The town of Martakert, home to several thousand people, has reportedly been completely surrounded by Azeri forces who are not allowing those inside to leave.

Notably, very little support has been offered to the refugees by the Armenian government itself. They have stated that the ideal situation is that the Armenians of Artsakh will be able to live in their homes under Azeri administration peacefully. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has stated that presently he believes no threat exists to the safety of the populace. The PM’s office told Armenian media company Armenpress that the government “does not seek the displacement of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and believes that the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live safely and in dignity in their homes must be guaranteed”.

Additionally, however, the government did state that should the situation of the Artsakh Armenians become “impossible”, that “the necessary decisions will be taken”.

Pashinyan’s statements come amid widespread protests that have been ongoing in Armenia, particularly outside the government building in Yerevan, since the ceasefire was established yesterday. “Nikol traitor” and other anti-Pashinyan and anti-government slogans have been chanted as the protestors demand Armenia’s government to establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the Armenian population out of Artsakh.

Alleged Azeri Extradition Demands

Armenian newspaper “Hraparak” has reported that Azerbaijan has additionally presented Artsakh’s government with a list of people, both political and military individuals, that must be extradited to Azerbaijan as a pre-requisite for the opening of the Lachin corridor.

It is important to note that this has not been confirmed and the report is only from the one source. Despite this, the allegation has been reported in both Armenian and Azeri media alike.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien is a published journalist and historicist with over six years of experience in freelance journalism and research. His primary expertise is in African conflict and politics, with additional specialization in Israeli/Palestinian and Armenia/Azerbaijan conflicts. Sébastien serves as the deputy desk chief for Africa.


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