Russia signs Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan

Armenian military volunteers rest in Yerevan, Armenia 27 October 2020
It comes after six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists in the disputed region

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have signed an agreement to end military conflict over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the deal “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people”. It comes after six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians.

The region is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani, but has been run by ethnic Armenians since 1994, in that year, a truce was signed after fighting but not a peace deal, a number of ceasefire agreements have been brokered since fighting broke out again in September, but all of them have failed. The peace deal takes effect on Tuesday from 01:00 local time (21:00 GMT Monday). Under the new deal, Azerbaijan will hold onto areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it has taken during the conflict, Armenia has also agreed to withdraw from several other adjacent areas over the next few weeks, during a televised online address, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to patrol frontlines, the country’s defence ministry confirmed that 1,960 personnel would be involved, state news agency Tass reports.

Turkish soldiers will also take part in the peacekeeping process, according to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, who joined President Putin during the address. President Putin said the agreement would include an exchange of war prisoners, with “all economical and transport contacts to be un-blocked.” President Aliyev said the agreement was of “historic importance,” and amounted to a “capitulation” by Armenia. Armenian PM Pashinyan said that his decision was based on “deep analysis of the combat situation and in discussion with best experts of the field”. “This is not a victory but there is not defeat until you consider yourself defeated,” Mr Pashinyan said.

People storm government headquarters in Yerevan 10 November 2020
In protest at the deal, large crowds stormed the government headquarters in Yerevan

The Armenian leader in Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, said he gave his agreement “to end the war as soon as possible”. In the Armenian capital Yerevan, a large crowd has gathered to protest against the agreement, according to local media, they broke into parliament and government buildings, shouting “We will not give it up.” The Armenians have steadily lost territory and over the weekend Azeri forces took over the region’s second largest town Shusha, known as Shushi in Armenian, Azerbaijan has also admitted to mistakenly shooting down a Russian military helicopter over Armenia, killing two crew members and injuring a third.

People attend the funeral of seven-year-old Aysu Iskenderova who was killed on 27 October allegedly by Armenian shelling, in the village of Garayusifli near Barda, Azerbaijan, 28 October 2020. Armed clashes erupted on 27 September 2020 in the simmering territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory along the contact line of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Both sides have accused each other of shelling civilian areas

It is unclear exactly how many have died, both sides deny targeting civilians but accuse the other of doing so. Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities say nearly 1,200 of its defence forces have died in the fighting, and civilians have also been killed or injured. Azerbaijan has not released it’s military casualty figures but has said more than 80 civilians have been killed in the fighting, including 21 civilians in a missile strike on the town of Barda last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that almost 5,000 people had been killed in the fighting. Russia has a military base in Armenia, and the two countries are members of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, the treaty envisages Russia’s military support if Armenia is attacked, but it does not include Nagorno-Karabakh or the other Azerbaijani regions around it seized by Armenian forces, at the same time, Moscow also has strong ties to Azerbaijan, which is being openly backed by Turkey, a NATO member. Russia has been selling weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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