Thu, 21 Jan 2021

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says his troops have taken control of the first of three districts bordering Nagorno-Karabakh as part of a Russian-brokered peace agreement that ended a six-week war with Armenian forces over the breakaway region.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on November 20 that its units entered the Agdam district, one of three ringing Nagorno-Karabakh that are to be handed over to Azerbaijan after nearly three decades under Armenian control.

Crowds of people carrying national flags gathered in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, to celebrate the handover of Agdam as Aliyev announced 'major' plans for the district.

The chief of staff of the Russian peacekeeping task force in Nagorno-Karabakh said the handover operation was carried out without incident.

Photo Gallery: Azerbaijan Shows Journalists Recaptured Region Near Nagorno-Karabakh RFE/RL An RFE/RL photo correspondent was part of a group of journalists escorted into Azerbaijan's Fuzuli region by government minders. The territory was recently seized back from ethnic Armenian forces after a war over the regions in and around Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in September. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on В Контакте Email to a Friend Share on LinkedIn

As Azerbaijani troops moved into Agdam a day after columns of Armenian soldiers and tanks rolled out of the territory, Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan was fired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

Tonoyan, who had held the position since May 2018, was replaced by Vagharshak Harutunian.

Armenian villagers in Agdam were given just days to leave their homes, scrambling to pack their belongings into vehicles and emptying homes before setting structures on fire.

Photo Gallery: Scorched Earth: Ethnic Armenians Destroy Homes, Infrastructure Before Fleeing Azerbaijani Regions Many ethnic Armenians who are fleeing the regions around Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh have opted to destroy their homes after removing as much as they can carry. The destruction comes ahead of a scheduled handover to Azerbaijan of territory seized by Armenians during a war in the early 1990s. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on В Контакте Email to a Friend Share on LinkedIn

It is the latest exodus of Armenians as Azerbaijan reasserts control over its former territories under the peace deal brokered by Moscow that ended six weeks of intense fighting between the two South Caucasus neighbors.

The November 10 accord allows Azerbaijan to keep a sizable chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh captured during fighting as well as all areas ringing the mountainous enclave that had been under Armenian control.

In addition to Agdam, located east of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians must leave the western districts of Kalbacar on November 25 and Lachin by December 1. Baku captured four other districts during the conflict.

Under the deal, around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to maintain security in Nagorno-Karabakh, but critical final-status issues over the territory remain uncertain. Russian peacekeepers are also guarding the strategic Lachin Corridor, the sole road linking the region and Armenia.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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