The ethnic Armenian leadership of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh said on Friday that there was no agreement yet with Azerbaijan on security guarantees or an amnesty after a lightening Azeri offensive forced them into a humiliating ceasefire deal.
The future of Karabakh and its 120,000 ethnic Armenians hangs in the balance: Azerbaijan wants to integrate the long-contested region, but ethnic Armenians say they fear they will be persecuted and have accused the world of abandoning them.
Baku 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 to Karabakh on Friday.
“The situation is very difficult: the people are hungry, there is no electricity, no fuel – we have many refugees,” he said.
Seven Russian peacekeeping vehicles, including large trucks, passed an Armenian checkpoint heading towards Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Azerbaijan’s lightening 24-hour military operation this week forced the ethnic Armenians of Karabakh to agree on Wednesday to a ceasefire, stoking calls for the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
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.
His country, supported by Turkey, has military superiority over Karabakh fighters. But it is unclear how many of those fighters are prepared to lay down their arms or what shape any more comprehensive agreement now being discussed is taking.
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.