A ceasefire deal, drafted by Azerbaijan and Russia, was reached with Armenia on Wednesday. The ceasefire ended a brief 24-hour series of drone strikes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by the Azerbaijani military.
The news comes as human rights groups call on the international community to declare Azerbaijan’s escalating aggression against Armenians a genocide.
Azerbaijan’s government called its strikes an “anti-terrorist operation,” alleging that the attack was in response to Karabakh Armenians’ destruction of two vehicles. Four Azerbaijani soldiers and two civilians died in the landmine attacks.
Following the Armenian surrender and agreement to the ceasefire, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev declared “absolute victory” in a televised address to the nation.
The truce included the stipulations that Armenian forces must completely leave the region and local Karabakh forces must agree to be disarmed and disbanded. However, before the ceasefire was reached, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan repeatedly said that there have been no Armenian forces in Karabakh since 2021.
The ceasefire draft “mentions the military forces of Armenia, the withdrawal of the remaining Armenian military and their equipment,” Pashinyan said in a statement this week.“This is absurd to us, since we initially said that, since August 2021, [Armenian forces] have not been on the territory of Karabakh.”
Pashinyan said of the drone strikes earlier in the week:
Azerbaijan has begun a ground operation aimed at ethnic cleansing of Karabakh Armenians. I declare that Armenia is not involved in armed actions and does not have an army in Karabakh.
In the televised address to Azerbaijan, Aliyev spoke stridently against what he called the “criminal” and “poisonous” element of “Armenian nationalists” in the region.
“After the surrender of the criminal junta, this source of tension, this den of poison, has already been consigned to history,” he said:
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. Armenian nationalists, war criminals, and the so-called leaders of Armenia and Karabakh took these people hostage and poisoned their brains. They concocted endless lies about Azerbaijan and its people… I am sure that the Armenian population living in Karabakh will soon see a change for the better. We intend to build a life together based on peace, mutual understanding, and mutual respect. We have no problems with the Armenian people. We have no enmity.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been a point of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for many years. The residents of the region, which is also known as Artsakh, number over 120,000 and have been fighting for independence from Azerbaijan since 1988.
The Azerbaijani military has imposed what human rights activists are calling a “genocidal blockade” on the only land corridor to Armenia from the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The blockade, which has been in place since December 2022, cut off access to food, medicine, gas, and other supplies.
The Azerbaijani military launched its targeted drone strikes on Tuesday morning, hitting the Nagorno-Karabakh city of Stepanakert.
Azerbaijan reportedly opened “humanitarian routes” for noncombatants to leave the affected areas. But following the drone strikes, at least two were reportedly confirmed dead and 23 were wounded. Eight of the wounded were reportedly children.
CatholicVote reported on the initial drone strikes:
The Azerbaijani government maintains that its military efforts are a response to terrorist attacks led by Armenian forces, though the Armenian government has repeatedly denied mobilizing any military forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pope Francis called for both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to “silence the weapons” following Azerbaijan’s military strikes against Armenian Christians that began on Tuesday.
“I make my heartfelt appeal to all the parties involved and to the international community to silence the weapons and make every effort to find peaceful solutions for the good of the people and respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said at his general audience on September 20. “The already critical humanitarian situation is now aggravated by further armed clashes.”
Local Armenian forces claimed on September 21 that Azerbaijan had violated the ceasefire, reporting that gunfire could be heard coming from the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert. The Azerbaijan Defense Ministry denied the allegation.