Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev offered to let the United Nations into Nagorno-Karabakh as the US pressed him over security for Armenians in the region to stem an exodus that’s approaching half of the declared population.
(Bloomberg) — Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev offered to let the United Nations into Nagorno-Karabakh as the US pressed him over security for Armenians in the region to stem an exodus that’s approaching half of the declared population.
More than 50,000 people have fled from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the government in Yerevan said, up from 28,000 at the end of the previous day. Local officials have said 120,000 Armenians lived there before Azerbaijan carried out last week’s military offensive to take full control of the area.
Aliyev told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call that he’s ready to organize a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh by the UN representative in Baku, the Azerbaijani state news service Azartac reported.
While Azerbaijan rejects Armenian allegations of “ethnic cleansing” in the territory, the US is pushing for Aliyev to allow an international monitoring mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to help ensure the security of its population.
“We do believe there should be an international mission to provide transparency, reassurance and confidence,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Tuesday, saying Blinken had raised the issue with Aliyev in their call.
US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power and Acting Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim met with Aliyev in Baku on Wednesday, a day after they visited Armenia to witness the flood of people crossing into the country from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev said the Armenians’ rights would be upheld within Azerbaijan’s law and international obligations, and that dialogue continues with Nagorno-Karabakh representatives on integrating them into the country, according to a readout from his office. A visit by the UN representative will be organized in “the near future,” the statement said.
The Foreign Ministry in Baku said the offer to allow UN officials to visit Nagorno-Karabakh was Aliyev’s response to the US request for an international mission.
The European Union also called for international access to Nagorno-Karabakh for monitoring to ensure the rights of Armenians. It urged Azerbaijan to implement its commitment to an amnesty.
Germany is watching events in Nagorno-Karabakh “with utmost concern,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Together with our partners, we will work hard to send observers as soon as possible.”
Former Moscow investment banker Ruben Vardanyan, who was briefly state minister in Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian administration, was detained as he tried to cross the border into Armenia, Azerbaijan’s state border service reported Wednesday. He was taken to Baku, officials said.
Indications of the intensity of the fighting in last week’s two-day operation to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh also emerged Wednesday. The Defense Ministry in Baku said 192 servicemen and one civilian were killed and 511 troops were wounded in the operation.
Nagorno-Karabakh said it would “completely disarm” its defense forces and accept rule by Azerbaijan under an accord to end the fighting that was reached with Russian mediation, opening a new phase in one of the world’s most intractable territorial disputes.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than a million displaced in the struggle for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a largely Armenian population but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
The region’s Armenian population declared independence as the Soviet Union collapsed and controlled the territory until Azerbaijan took part of Nagorno-Karabakh and reclaimed seven surrounding districts in a 2020 war with Armenia that ended when Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered a cease-fire.
–With assistance from Lyubov Pronina and Iain Rogers.
(Updates with Aliyev meeting US officials in sixth paragraph)
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