Arepresentative of the separatist, unrecognized regime of Karabakh announced Thursday that it would dismantle itself. The unrecognized “republic” will cease to exist by Jan.1, 2024, the person said.
The move comes after Azerbaijan carried out a lightning offensive to reclaim full control over its region and demanded that Armenian seperatists in Karabakh lay down their weapons and the separatist “government” dismantle itself.
Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was illegally run by separatists for about 30 years and was liberated from Armenia in a 2020 war.
The head of the seperatists issued a “decree” ordering the dissolution of all so-called state institutions by the end of the year. The document said residents should “familiarize themselves with the conditions of reintegration” offered by Azerbaijan and make “an independent and individual decision” on whether to stay. Separatist leader Samvel Shakhramanyan also said that an agreement struck with Azerbaijan would ensure the “free, voluntary and unhindered passage” for all those who wanted to leave.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday said the rights of the Armenian minority living in Karabakh would be protected “within the framework of the country’s legislation and international obligation.” During a meeting with a U.S. delegation, Aliyev emphasized that like other ethnic minorities living in Azerbaijan, Armenians’ rights would be ensured within the framework of the country’s legislation and international obligations, Azerbaijan’s presidential office said in a statement. Aliyev received the U.S. president’s special representative and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim, and the U.S. State Department’s Senior Adviser for Caucasus Negotiations Louis Bono. They exchanged views regarding the current situation in the Karabakh region, following Azerbaijan’s counterterrorism measures.
The president said military equipment, ammunition and military supplies had been seized, adding that military representatives accredited in the country and representatives of the U.N. Resident Coordinator Office had viewed the weapons and military equipment, the statement added. The statement further added that Aliyev said that civilians remained unharmed throughout the counterterrorism operations, with the focus solely on targeting unlawful Armenian armed groups and military installations. Aliyev mentioned that discussions about reintegration are in progress between Azerbaijan and the Armenian population’s representatives in Karabakh. “Underlining that the work to restore the infrastructure in the area is being implemented, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan had sent humanitarian aid to the Armenian residents,” said the statement. Aliyev also expressed Baku’s readiness to arrange a visit by the U.N. Resident Coordinate Office, which is accredited in the country, to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in the near future.
A counterterrorism operation that began on Sept. 19 allowed Azerbaijan to reclaim full control over Karabakh. Following the operation that ended with separatists laying down their arms, Azerbaijan and separatist representatives have held two rounds of talks on the reintegration of Karabakh and its ethnic Armenian population into Azerbaijan.
Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan that came under the illegal control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan liberated parts of Karabakh and surrounding territory that Armenian forces had illegally occupied during the earlier conflict.
Azerbaijan said on Wednesday it had detained a former separatist leader of Karabakh while he was trying to enter Armenia.
The state border service said Ruben Vardanyan, a businessperson who headed the Armenian separatist regime from November 2022 until February 2023, had been handed over to officials in Baku after being detained on the road to Armenia. It also released a photograph of Vardanyan, who was born in 1968, being flanked by two security officers, who were holding him by the arms. It was not immediately clear what charges Vardanyan might potentially face.
On Thursday, David Babayan, former “foreign affairs minister” of the separatists in Karabakh, announced on a social media post that he would leave Karabakh for Baku as Azerbaijan “demanded” his arrival to the Azerbaijani capital for an investigation.