Karabakh Armenians say details of deal with Azerbaijan still need to be worked out

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The ethnic Armenian leadership of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh said on Thursday that it had agreed a ceasefire with Azerbaijan but that key details, including the surrender of weapons, still needed to be worked out.

David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, the president of the self-styled ‘Republic of Artsakh,’ told Reuters that Karabakh Armenians felt abandoned by Russia, the West and Armenia.

He said many important issues had not yet been agreed with Azerbaijan, which sent troops backed by artillery strikes into Armenian-controlled Karabakh on Tuesday in an attempt to bring the breakaway region to heel by force.

“We have agreement on the cessation of military action, but we await a final agreement – talks are going on, we’ll see” Babayan, said by phone. “We need to talk through many questions and issues.”

“There has not been a final agreement yet,” Babayan said.

Under a ceasefire agreement, outlined a day earlier by Azerbaijan and the Russian Defence Ministry, which has peacekeepers on the ground, ethnic Armenian forces are meant to disband and disarm.

But when asked about giving up weapons, Babayan said his people could not be left to die and so would need security guarantees first.

“A whole host of questions still need to be resolved,” said Babayan. “We do not know what guarantee of security our people will get – this needs to be resolved.”

“At any moment they could destroy us, engage in genocide against us – do you Reuters understand this? The West is silent, Russia is silent, Armenia is silent. What should we do?”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday said his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of a breakaway ethnic Armenian Karabakh to history.

He said he was ready to peacefully integrate Armenians living there into his own country’s structures while preserving their right to practice Christianity.

Babayan scolded the world for leaving his people at the mercy of Azerbaijan.

“It feels like Constantinople in 1453 – we are besieged and surrounded,” he said.

“The overwhelming majority of the people here do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan – I do not know what will happen.”

“Karabakh has been left on its own: Russian peacekeepers practically don’t fulfil their obligations, the democratic West turned away from us, and Armenia also turned away.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn)