Talks between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh in the Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh have ended, Azerbaijani news agencies reported on Thursday.
The talks came after the breakaway region was forced into a surrender that stoked calls for the resignation in Armenia of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for failing to protect the territory.
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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev declared victory over the mountainous region on Wednesday, saying his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of a separatist Armenian Karabakh to history after a lightening 24-hour military operation.
Under the ceasefire agreement, as outlined by Azerbaijan, breakaway Armenian forces must disband and disarm, and the region will be integrated as part of Azerbaijan.
“After the surrender of the criminal junta, this source of tension, this den of poison, has already been consigned to history,” Aliyev said in an address to the nation on Wednesday night.
“The Armenian population of Karabakh can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I said this before, and I want to repeat it: the Armenian population of Karabakh are our citizens.”
Aliyev said that “war criminals” had tried to poison the brains of 120,000 Karabakh Armenians, who, he said, would now live in paradise and have their religious and cultural rights respected.
But thousands of Armenians massed at the airport in Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh known as Khankendi by Azeris. Others took shelter with Russian peacekeepers in the hope of being flown out.
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.
Known as Artsakh by Armenians, the territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, which is mainly Muslim, but its inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenians, who are Christians.