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Nagorno-Karabakh surrenders to Azerbaijan

Stepanakert on 19 September 2023. Photo: Siranush Sargsyan.

The government of Nagorno-Karabakh has accepted Azerbaijan’s terms and agreed to dissolve their armed forces and integrate into Azerbaijan, following an offensive by Azerbaijan into the region that began on Tuesday.

Just before 13:00, the authorities in Stepanakert said they had accepted a ceasefire proposed by the Russian peacekeeping contingent in the region. The terms included the ‘disbandment and complete disarmament’ of the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Their statement said that issues related to the integration of the region into Azerbaijan and the rights and security of its Armenian population ‘within the framework of the Constitution of Azerbaijan’ would be discussed at a meeting in the central Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh on Thursday, and ‘during subsequent meetings’.

It also stipulated the withdrawal of the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia. Armenia has denied any military presence in the region since the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

The agreement follows 24 hours of intense fighting across the entire line of contact. Dozens of people are confirmed to have been killed and hundreds wounded, with the true cost still being counted. Several settlements, including the capital Stepanakert, came under artillery fire, and there were reports that Azerbaijani troops had been making fast advances into Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani forces launched a massive assault on the region on Tuesday, aiming to ‘restore constitutional order’ and demanding the complete surrender and dissolution of the government in Stepanakert

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the Armenian armed forces were not involved in the fighting. Both on Tuesday and following the ceasefire agreement on Wednesday, he said that Azerbaijan’s main aim was to draw Armenia into the war, warning that Armenia’s own sovereignty and independence were at stake.


Several Western countries, including the US, Germany, and France, as well as the European Union, condemned Azerbaijan’s attack and called on them to immediately cease their offensive. Azerbaijan responded to these statements with defiance.

Russia did little to prevent the fighting, calling only on both sides to show restraint. The Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh did not intervene. The Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday evening that several of their peacekeepers were killed after one of their vehicles came under fire. They stated that they did not know who opened fire and that Russian and Azerbaijani investigators were on the scene.

Prior to the announcement of the ceasefire, Nagorno-Karabakh’s President Samvel Shahramanyan said the government would be forced to take steps to ensure the physical safety of the population because of the ‘inadequate’ response from the international community.

Azerbaijani presidential advisor Hikmat Hajiyev held a press briefing following the ceasefire in which he outlined what he said would be the integration process of Nagorno-Karabakh and its residents.

He said Azerbaijan was ready for tomorrow’s ‘initial contact’ in Yevlakh and that ‘broader discussions will be held within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan’. 

‘Azerbaijan once again declares that it is ready for a smooth reintegration process. We are ready to respond to the humanitarian demands of the population. We are ready to provide stability and security in a short period.’

He also said that social programmes would be implemented for Armenian residents in Stepanakert and that Azerbaijani government structures would open branches in Stepanakert.

He said Armenians would be able to hand over their weapons at prepared stations, and that Azerbaijan was ‘committed’ to the peace process with Armenia.

Hajiyev also said that a UN Security Council meeting planned for Thursday was ‘unnecessary’ and would not ‘bring any benefit to the peace process’.

In a televised speech on Wednesday evening, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev celebrated his country’s victory stating that Azerbaijan had restored its sovereignty. 

He also boasted of the military equipment Azerbaijan had destroyed and said the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh could now ‘breathe easy’.

He also vowed to hold ‘elements of the criminal regime’ responsible for war crimes committed during the conflict.

‘Some have already received their deserved punishment, and others still will’, he said, adding that ‘the Armenian people know that my word is my word.’

Aliyev also praised Armenia for not intervening, stating that it had ‘unexpectedly shown political competence’.

There has continued to be little reaction from Russia to the situation. The speaker of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that Russian peacekeepers were ‘doing everything necessary to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the population of Nagorno-Karabakh’.

He once again blamed Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the Azerbaijani offensive, as Russian officials had done repeatedly the previous day.

The Russian President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, reacted by dismissing fears of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, Ria reports.

Officials in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have warned that Azerbaijan may attempt to ethnically cleanse the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, warnings echoed by some Western officials and human rights groups.

As of Wednesday evening, there were widespread reports of thousands of local residents gathering at the airport in Stepanakert. 

 Azerbaijani officials, including President Ilham Aliyev, have in recent years used increasingly bellicose language towards the region’s Armenian population, telling them if they did not agree to Azerbaijani rule, they must leave.

The Armenian Migration Service said they were currently meeting to discuss the possibility of organising the entry of residents of Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia.

On Wednesday afternoon, thousands of people gathered in Yerevan, demanding Pashinyan’s resignation, following a similar protest the previous day. Wednesday’s protest was organised by several opposition groups and opposition figure Andranik Tevanyan, an ally of former president Robert Kocharyan. 

The war came following a 9-month blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, with Azerbaijani forces taking control and blocking the only route connecting the region with Armenia. Prior to the Azerbaijani offensive, there were widespread reports of chronic shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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