MOSCOW (AP) – Azerbaijan on Sunday postponed taking control of territory ceded by Armenian troops in a ceasefire agreement. But civilians fled the area to burn down houses and call it “environmental terrorism.”
The six-week ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia has come to an end over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been under military control since 1994, and areas outside its formal territorial border. The agreement requires Azerbaijan to take control of the outlying areas. . First, Kelbazer was due to return on Sunday.
At the request of Armenia, Azerbaijan agreed to delay the acquisition until November 25. Hikmet Hajiev, aide to the Azerbaijani president, said it would be difficult to withdraw Armenian troops and civilians on a single road through the mountains that connect Kelbazar with Armenia.
After the deal was announced Tuesday morning, many of the displaced residents burned down their homes and rendered them unusable by Azerbaijanis.
“Armenians are destroying the environment and civilian property. Environmental destruction and environmental terrorism must be prevented, ”Hajiev said.
Prior to the separatist war that ended in 1994, Kelberg was the only Azerbaijani. But the area came under Armenian control and the Armenians moved inland. Azerbaijan considered their presence illegal.
“It was illegal to house and settle the Armenian people in the occupied territory of the Kelbazar region … all illegal settlements there must be evacuated,” Hajiev said.
The imminent renewal of Azerbaijani rule raised great concerns about the plight of Armenian cultural and religious sites, especially the ninth-century Armenian Apostolic Church, Dadiwank.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has sent 2,000 peacekeepers to negotiate a ceasefire, has vowed to protect Christian churches.
“Christians in Azerbaijan will have access to these churches,” Aliyev’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
Azerbaijan is about 95% Muslim and Armenian Christian. Azerbaijan has accused Armenians of destroying Muslim sites under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.
Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. At the end of the Soviet year, a movement to join Armenia emerged, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a war broke out, in which 30,000 people died and millions were displaced.
Intermittent clashes erupted after the end of the war in 1994, when international mediators failed to resolve the dispute. On September 27, the full-scale fighting resumed. Azerbaijan made significant progress and announced a week ago that it had captured the strategically crucial city of Shusha. The ceasefire agreement came two days later.
Armenia says 1,434 soldiers have been killed in fighting this year, but civilian casualties are not clear. Azerbaijan has not clarified its loss.
The ceasefire agreement and the territory session dealt a heavy blow to Armenia, prompting protests against Prime Minister Nicole Paschini. The leader of a small Center-Wright party, the head of the National Security Service, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Pashinian.
The agreement also disappointed many Armenians who had hoped for Russian support in the struggle. Russia and Armenia are part of a defense alliance, and Russia has a large military base in Armenia.
“Our nation has lost everything, our heritage, everything. We have nothing left. I can not say anything. I urge only the Russian people to help us so that others can live a better life on our own land, ”said Seda Gabrielle, who mourned the burial of a Nagorno-Karabakh soldier on Sunday in the local capital, Stepanakert. .
Ida Sultanova of London, Avet Demorian of Yerevan, Armenia, and Kostya Manenkov of Stepankert contributed to this report.