In a significant development, an agreement has been reached, with Azerbaijan claiming that it would cease hostilities in the ongoing Karabakh conflict.
The ceasefire was set to take effect at 13:00 on September 20, 2023, in a move that Azerbaijan portrayed as a crucial step towards a resolution of the ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in Nagorno-Karabakh that started yesterday.
According to the ceasefire agreement, the presumed Armenian armed forces and alleged illegal armed groups situated in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan were supposed to lay down their weapons, vacate their combat positions, and fully disarm. Azerbaijan claimed that this commitment signified a tangible step towards de-escalation. Furthermore, Azerbaijan asserted that units of the Armenian armed forces were expected to withdraw from Azerbaijani territories, and alleged illegal armed groups would be released.
In parallel, Azerbaijan asserted that the ceasefire agreement entailed the surrender of all weapons and heavy equipment. It was claimed that the entire process would unfold in a coordinated manner with the Russian peacekeeping contingent present in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan stated that this collaborative effort aimed to ensure the swift removal of claimed military assets from the conflict zone.
Crucially, Azerbaijan argued that the ceasefire agreement also paved the way for discussions on key issues it had raised. These negotiations, scheduled for September 21, 2023, in the city of Yevlakh, are supposed to address reintegration, the protection of the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, and the establishment of conditions for the local population to coexist within the framework of Azerbaijan’s Constitution. Azerbaijan claimed that these discussions would involve representatives of the local Armenian population, as well as central authorities from the Republic of Azerbaijan.
On the international front, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded an immediate cessation of operations in Karabakh. He underscored the importance of upholding the ceasefire agreement reached in 2020 and adhering to principles of international humanitarian law. Guterres expressed deep concern for the dire humanitarian situation in the region and called for urgent measures to grant unhindered access to humanitarian organizations aiding those in need. Furthermore, he urged the conflicting parties to work toward establishing a lasting peace in the region.
Tragically, the conflict had already resulted in civilian casualties among the Armenian population in Karabakh. Official statements from authorities in the region indicated 32 civilian fatalities and over 200 injuries, with two children among the casualties. Meanwhile, Ruben Vardanyan, the former state minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, raised alarms about an ongoing Azerbaijani aggression. He stated that around 100 people had been killed and hundreds injured, characterizing the situation as a large-scale operation and a potential ethnic cleansing operation. Vardanyan also voiced frustration over the lack of international attention to the conflict, noting that both Russia and the broader world had remained largely silent.