Armenian separatists began to lay down their arms upon the arrival of the first humanitarian aid convoy. Nagorno-Karabakh Days after a ceasefire agreement negotiated by Russia ended Azerbaijan’s offensive this week.
“We are closely cooperating with Russian peacekeepers to carry out the demilitarization” of the separatists, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesperson Anar Eyvazov told reporters on Saturday in Shusha, a district located in edge of the rebel stronghold of Stepanakert.
“We have already seized weapons and ammunition,” Eyvazov said, adding that his soldiers and Russian peacekeepers were working jointly to disarm separatist fighters in the country. Nagorno-Karabakh region – home to more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians. Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive on Tuesday against the positions of ethnic Armenian rebels in what it called “anti-terrorist operation“. He demanded that they lay down their arms and that the separatist government be dissolved.
As Armenians suffer severe food and fuel shortages following a months-long de facto blockade of Azerbaijan, a humanitarian convoy from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headed to Karabakh on Saturday, the first since Azerbaijan’s military operation.
The ICRC said in a later statement that the convoy had transported nearly 70 tonnes of humanitarian supplies, including wheat flour, salt and sunflower oil, along the Lachin corridor, the only highway linking the Armenia and the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
An ICRC team also carried out the medical evacuation of 17 people injured during the fighting, the press release said.
Separately, Russia said it had delivered more than 50 tons of food and other aid to Karabakh.
More than 20 other humanitarian trucks, bearing Armenian license plates, have been lined up along a nearby road since July. Azerbaijan declared at the time that this convoy constituted a “provocation” and an attack on its territorial integrity.
Ethnic Armenian leaders said the terms of their ceasefire with Azerbaijan were being implemented and work continued on the delivery of humanitarian aid and evacuation of the wounded.
Work was underway to restore electricity supply by September 24, it said in a statement.
Armenians as “equal citizens”
The Russian Defense Ministry said that, in accordance with the terms of the ceasefire, Armenian separatists had started handing over their weapons to Azerbaijan, including more than 800 cannons and six armored vehicles. Moscow has 2,000 peacekeepers in the region.
Russia has deployed several thousand peacekeepers to the region following a brief but brutal 2020 war in which Azerbaijan retook large parts of the territory and surrounding areas from separatists.
Azerbaijan intends to integrate the long-disputed region, but ethnic Armenians have said they fear persecution and accused the world of abandoning them.
But Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, said his country wanted to integrate ethnic Armenians as “equal citizens”.
“I would like to reiterate that Azerbaijan is committed to reintegrating ethnic Armenian residents of the Karabakh region into Azerbaijan as equal citizens,” said Jeyhun Bayramov.
He added that Azerbaijan and Armenia have a “historic opportunity” to establish good neighborly relations and coexist side by side in peace. It is high time to seize this opportunity.
Supporting the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the time has come for confidence-building measures between Armenia and Azerbaijan, adding that Moscow’s troops will contribute to this .
In his speech to the UN, Lavrov accused the West of trying to impose itself as a mediator between the two countries, which he said was unnecessary.
American delegation to Armenia
Meanwhile, a US Congress delegation was in Armenia to meet with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and visited the closed border to inspect the blockade with the head of Armenia’s Syunik region.
Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan used binoculars to look across the border toward Russian peacekeeping positions, as Azerbaijani trucks could be seen carrying materials for a new highway under construction as the government secures the region.
“Certainly people are very afraid of what could happen there, and I think the world needs to know exactly what is happening,” Peters told reporters at the border.
“The Azerbaijani government told us there was nothing to see, nothing to fear. If this is the case, we should allow international observers to see for themselves,” he argued.
Anna Ohanyan, a professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, views the visit of the American delegation from “several aspects.”
“The situation is very dire in the region and the implications of the massive humanitarian crisis and the militarized end to this conflict will reverberate across the South Caucasus,” she said.
“I see the U.S. delegation’s visit as a way for the United States to try to reclaim some capacity to shape the region.”