Armenian leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh said they’d disband their unrecognized administration and hand power to Azerbaijan after more than half the disputed region’s population fled.
(Bloomberg) — Armenian leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh said they’d disband their unrecognized administration and hand power to Azerbaijan after more than half the disputed region’s population fled.
Samvel Shahramanyan, leader of the territory’s Armenian administration, issued a decree saying it would dissolve state institutions and organizations by Jan. 1. That follows an agreement brokered by Russian peacekeepers to end an Azerbaijani military operation to bring the area back under its control.
“The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh ceases to exist,” Shahramanyan said in the decree.
More than 68,300 people have fled from the territory to Armenia as of 12 p.m., the government in Yerevan said. That’s up from 50,000 at the end of the previous day. Local officials have said 120,000 Armenians lived in Nagorno-Karabakh before Azerbaijan carried out its lightning strike to restore control.
“No Armenian will be left in Nagorno-Karabakh in the coming days,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a government session Thursday. “This is a direct act of ethnic cleansing and deportation and what we have been warning the international community about for a long time.”
Read more: Armenia Says ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Happening in Karabakh Region
Azerbaijan denies the accusations of ethnic cleansing and says it’s working on plans to reintegrate the region.
Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and those who have already left will decide if they accept the terms of re-integration offered by Azerbaijan, Shahramanyan said.
The mountainous area, which has a majority Armenian population but is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan, broke free of Baku’s control in the waning days of the Soviet Union. It has changed hands in several wars that have killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 1 million.
Senior US officials visited Baku on Wednesday. Washington is pressing Azerbaijan to allow an international monitoring mission into Nagorno-Karabakh to help ensure the security of local Armenians.
President Ilham Aliyev told Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development, and Acting Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim that he’s ready to let the United Nations into Nagorno-Karabakh in the coming days.
The European Union also called for international access to Nagorno-Karabakh for monitoring to ensure the rights of Armenians. It urged Azerbaijan to implement an amnesty.
Read more: Azerbaijan Detains Ex-Moscow Banker Vardanyan at Armenian Border
Authorities in Baku on Thursday charged former Moscow investment banker Ruben Vardanyan with financing terrorism. Vardanyan was briefly state minister in Nagorno-Karabakh unrecognized administration. Azerbaijan detained him Wednesday as he tried to cross the border into Armenia.
(Updates with new number of people fleeing, details from 9th paragraph, charges against former Karabakh leader in final paragraph.)
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