Talks held on Nagorno-Karabakh’s fate as Azerbaijan claims full control

Representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani government at the negotiating table
Representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh and from Azerbaijan’s government attend talks in the city of Yevlakh, Azerbaijan, on Thursday.
(Roman Ismailov / Azertac)
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Representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani government held a first round of talks Thursday on the future of the breakaway region that Azerbaijan now says it fully controls after a military offensive this week.

The discussions in the city of Yevlakh focused on the “reintegration” of Nagorno-Karabakh, along with its ethnic Armenian population, into Azerbaijan in the decades-old conflict, according to the office of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.

Representatives from the region asked for fuel and food, and Azerbaijani officials agreed to provide humanitarian aid, including energy to heat kindergartens and schools, a statement from Aliyev’s office said. There were reports of blackouts in Stepanakert, the regional capital, and some people had to use campfires to cook what food they could find.


Nagorno-Karabakh has been deprived for months of basic supplies, including medicine, because of a blockade by Azerbaijan that severed the only road link to Armenia in the southern Caucasus Mountains region.

The quick capitulation by the separatists reflected their weakness from the continuing blockade. Another round of talks will be held soon, Aliyev’s office said.

The talks came after local Armenian self-defense forces in the region, in the southern Caucasus Mountains, agreed Wednesday to disarm and disband following a military operation launched by Azerbaijan in the decades-long separatist conflict. A Russian-mediated cease-fire ended the latest round of fighting in the region, which has run its own affairs since the early 1990s.

Aliyev declared victory in a televised address to the nation, saying his country had restored its sovereignty in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani army unleashed artillery and drone attacks Tuesday against the outnumbered and under-supplied pro-Armenian forces in the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

The fighting worsened an already grim humanitarian situation for residents who have endured shortages of food and medicine for months under Azerbaijan’s blockade of the road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.


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Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan said at least 200 people, including 10 civilians, were killed and more than 400 others were wounded in the fighting. The figures could not immediately be independently verified.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan on Thursday of violating the cease-fire agreement by firing on Stepanakert, the capital of the region, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied there had been any attack, the Azerbaijani news agency reported.

Azerbaijan’s move to reclaim control over Nagorno-Karabakh raised concerns that a full-scale war in the region could resume. Both sides have been locked in a struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh since a separatist war there ended in 1994. A second, six-week war in 2020 killed more than 6,700 people and saw Azerbaijan reclaim large parts of the region, and Russia dispatched 2,000 peacekeepers after it brokered a truce.

The United Nations Security Council scheduled an urgent meeting Thursday on the Azerbaijani offensive at the request of France.

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French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Aliyev and condemned Azerbaijan’s decision to use force “at the risk of worsening the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the French presidential office said. It added that Macron “stressed the need to respect” the cease-fire and provide guarantees for “the rights and security of the people of Karabakh, in line with international law.”

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about Azerbaijan’s military actions and was closely watching the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.


In a phone call Thursday with Aliyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin also urged that the rights and security of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh be guaranteed, according to the Tass news agency.

Aliyev apologized to Putin during the phone call for the deaths of Russian peacekeepers in the region Wednesday, the Kremlin said. Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general’s office later said that five Russian peacekeepers were shot and killed Wednesday by Azerbaijani troops who mistook them amid fog and rain for Armenian forces and that one other Russian was killed by Armenian fighters.

About 5,000 civilians had been evacuated from a camp operated by the peacekeepers, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Many others gathered Wednesday at the airport in Stepanakert hoping to flee the region.

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said the government was “ready to listen to the Armenian population of Karabakh regarding their humanitarian needs.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a speech Wednesday that fighting had decreased following the truce, emphasizing that he held the Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh fully responsible for the residents’ security.

Pashinyan, who has previously recognized Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, said Armenia wouldn’t be drawn into the fighting. He said his government didn’t take part in negotiating the deal, but had “taken note” of the decision made by the region’s separatist authorities.

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He again denied that any Armenian troops were in the region, even though separatist authorities said they were in Nagorno-Karabakh and would pull out as part of the truce.

Protesters rallied in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, for a third day Thursday, demanding that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and calling for Pashinyan’s resignation. At least 46 people were arrested Thursday night in a large protest outside the main government building in the city’s center, police said.


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“Undoubtedly, Karabakh is Azerbaijan’s internal business,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Azerbaijan is acting on its own territory, which was recognized by the leadership of Armenia.”

In announcing its military operation Tuesday, Azerbaijan accused pro-Armenian forces of attacking its positions, planting land mines and engaging in sabotage.

Aliyev insisted his forces struck only military facilities, but separatist officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Stepanakert and other areas came under “intense shelling.”

Significant damage was visible in the city, with shop windows blown out and vehicles apparently hit by shrapnel.