Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says exodus quantities to ‘ethnic cleaning’, a declare Azerbaijan strongly rejects.
An ethnic Armenian exodus has practically emptied Nagorno-Karabakh of residents since Azerbaijan attacked and ordered the breakaway area’s fighter teams to disarm, the Armenian authorities has mentioned.
Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, mentioned on Saturday that 100,417 individuals had arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, which had a inhabitants of roughly 120,000 earlier than Azerbaijan reclaimed the area in a lightning offensive final week.
A complete of 21,043 automobiles have crossed the Hakari Bridge, which hyperlinks Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, since final week, Baghdasaryan mentioned. Some lined up for days as a result of the winding mountain street that’s the solely path to Armenia turned jammed.
“The velocity of it has caught everybody, together with the Armenian authorities and the UN abruptly,” mentioned Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith.
The departure of greater than 80 % of Nagorno-Karabakh’s inhabitants raises questions on Azerbaijan’s plans for the enclave that was internationally recognised as a part of its territory. The area’s separatist ethnic Armenian authorities mentioned Thursday it will dissolve itself by the top of the yr after a three-decade bid for independence.
Pashinyan has alleged the ethnic Armenian exodus amounted to “a direct act of an ethnic cleaning and depriving individuals of their motherland”.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of International Affairs strongly rejected the characterisation, saying the mass migration by the area’s residents was “their private and particular person resolution and has nothing to do with pressured relocation”.
Nonetheless, Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC chief prosecutor, instructed Al Jazeera that it’s “apparent” what is going on is ethnic cleaning, saying that “the authorized description is named genocide.”
“It’s an excuse that the Azerbaijan authorities saying, ‘oh, [leaving] was voluntary after they had been bombing them and had been ravenous them to demise for months,’” Ocampo mentioned.
Throughout three many years of battle within the area, Azerbaijan and the separatists backed by Armenia have accused one another of focused assaults, massacres and different atrocities, leaving individuals on each side deeply suspicious and fearful.
Whereas Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, most are fleeing as a result of they don’t belief Azerbaijani authorities to deal with them humanely or assure their language, faith and tradition.
“Not one of the individuals we’ve spoken to believe within the Azerbaijan authorities’s declare that their safety could be assured in the event that they determined to remain,” mentioned Smith, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Yerevan.
“They’re frightened as a result of they worry, regardless of Azerbaijan’s assurances, they worry they are going to be handled because the losers and the Azerbaijanis will are available in because the victors,” he mentioned.
The workplace of Italy’s prime minister mentioned on Saturday that Armenia has requested the European Union for help to assist it cope with refugees arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Years of combating
Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry mentioned afterward Saturday that one in all its servicemen was killed by sniper fireplace from Armenian forces within the border district of Kalbajar, however the alleged incident was swiftly refuted by Armenia.
Interfax information company cited the Armenian Defence Ministry as saying the report was incorrect, with out giving additional particulars.
After six years of separatist combating led to 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh got here below the management of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. Then, throughout a six-week conflict in 2020, Azerbaijan took again elements of the area within the South Caucasus Mountains together with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed earlier.
In December, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Hall, the one street connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, accusing the Armenian authorities of utilizing it for illicit weapons shipments to the area’s separatist forces.
Weakened by the blockade and with Armenia’s management distancing itself from the battle, ethnic Armenian forces within the area agreed to put down arms lower than 24 hours after Azerbaijan started its offensive. Talks have begun between officers within the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities on “reintegrating” the area into Azerbaijan.