The ethnic Armenian leadership of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh said on Friday that there were no concrete results yet from talks with Azerbaijan on possible security guarantees or an amnesty that Baku is proposing after an offensive on the region.
Azerbaijan envisages an amnesty for Karabakh Armenian fighters who give up their arms although some have vowed to continue their resistance, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijan’s president, told Reuters.
Karabakh Armenians said agreement had not yet been reached.
“These questions must still be resolved,” David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, the president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told Reuters. “There are no concrete results yet.”
Babayan said agreement had, however, been reached for an humanitarian convoy to move from Armenia via the Lachin corridor on Friday.
Seven Russian peacekeeping vehicles, including large trucks, passed an Armenian checkpoint heading towards Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
“The situation is very difficult: the people are hungry, there is no electricity, no fuel – we have many refugees,” Babayan said of the situation in Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s lightening 24-hour military operation this week forced the ethnic Armenians of Karabakh to accept a humiliating ceasefire agreement on Wednesday that has stoked calls for the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The future of Karabakh and its 120,000 ethnic Armenians hangs in the balance: Azerbaijan wants to integrate the breakaway region but ethnic Armenians said the world had abandoned them to a fate which could include ethnic cleansing.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev vowed to guarantee their rights but said his iron fist had consigned the idea of an independent ethnic Armenian Karabakh to history and that the region would be turned into a “paradise” as part of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s claim of victory over the region ushers in yet another twist to the tumultuous history of mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, which over the centuries has come under the sway of Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans and Soviets.
It could also change the delicate balance of power in the South Caucasus region, a patchwork of ethnicities crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines where Russia, the United States, Turkey and Iran are jostling for influence.
Azerbaijani presidential foreign policy adviser Hajiyev said that Baku envisaged an amnesty for those Karabakh fighters who gave up their weapons.
“Even with regard to former militaries and combatants, if they can be classified in such a way, and even for them we are envisaging an amnesty or alluding to an amnesty as well,” Hajiyev said.
Karabakh Armenian rights would be respected as part of their integration into Azerbaijan, he said, adding that they had requested humanitarian support as well as oil and gasoline supplies. Three cargos of humanitarian help would be delivered to the region on Friday, he said.
“Currently we are seeing that some individual army groups and officers that made the public statements that they won’t come to our terms and will continue resistance,” he said.
“But we do not see that to be the biggest challenge, and big security challenge. Of course this will cause certain challenges and difficulties but not on a such a big scale.”
Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, but its Christian Armenian population has held de facto independence since breaking away in a war in the 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed.
After a 2020 war in which Azerbaijan was victorious, Armenia’s Pashinyan was forced to accept Azerbaijan’s control over a much larger territory.
Many of the 120,000 Armenians of Karabakh say they have been abandoned by Russia, the West and Armenia itself – and have repeatedly said they fear persecution at the hands of Azerbaijan, which is supported by Turkey.
Thousands of Karabakh Armenians were still massed at the local airport where some Russian peacekeepers are based, according to pictures posted on social media.
“We need to see a commitment from the international community, not its indifference,” said Ruben Vardanyan, a former State Minister of the breakaway government.
Babayan said there was no large-scale movement of people yet as the area was effectively under siege.
Armenia’s Pashinyan, who has faced protests in Yerevan calling for him to resign over Karabakh, said that the government had prepared space for a possible flow of people into Armenia but that it did not want to depopulate Karabakh.
“We must do everything… so that our compatriots, residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have the opportunity to live in their homes without fear, with dignity and safe,” he said, adding that his country was the subject of an information war.
He cautioned earlier in the week that unidentified forces were talking of a coup against him.
Russia, which has just under 2,000 peacekeepers in Karabakh, has called for calm but has been accused by some Armenians including Pashinyan of not doing enough to support Armenia.
In a video posted on social media, two men were shown throwing red paint at the Russian embassy in Yerevan.