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US calls for international observers as population of Nagorno-Karabakh flees

27 September 2023
Cars queue on the road from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Image: Marut Vanyan.

The US has called for an international mission to be deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh as the region’s population flees en masse.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly made the call in a phone conversation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday.

According to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, Aliyev agreed to an observation mission and assured Blinken that ‘there will be no more military operations’, with Miller adding the US ‘expect[ed] it to stay that way’.

However, on Wednesday, Azerbaijani Presidential Assistant Hikmat Hajiyev said Baku did not see the need to deploy international observers to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The call came as it looks increasingly likely that few, if any of the region’s population will stay following Nagorno-Karabakh’s surrender to Baku last week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Armenia said that 50,000 refugees had entered from Nagorno-Karabakh, with heavy traffic reportedly remaining on the road between the region’s capital, Stepanakert and the southern Armenian city of Goris. The number represents around 40% of the region’s reported pre-war population.

The outflow began on Sunday evening as fuel supplies entered the region, following the nine-month blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh.


Many have expressed fears of what an Azerbaijani government might do to them while others simply refuse to live under Azerbaijani rule.

The Azerbaijani government has insisted their rights will be respected. 

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, expressed concerns ‘about the displacement of people’. 

The EU has boosted humanitarian funding to the region by €5 million ($5.3 million)  in response to the needs of those fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh and ongoing food, electricity, and water within Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Calls for observers

A day before the call between Blinken and Aliyev, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that had been discussions behind the scenes of the need for such a mission ‘for some time’.

‘We do believe there should be an international mission to provide transparency, reassurance, and confidence to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and the international community that the rights and security – their rights and security will be protected consistent with the public statements that Azerbaijan has made’ said Miller.

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also called on Azerbaijan to allow independent observers into Nagorno-Karabakh. She said this would be ‘proof of confidence’ that Baku was committed to the ‘security and wellbeing’ of the people in the region.

Armenia previously called for an international fact-finding mission to be sent to Nagorno-Karabakh. During a UN Security Council meeting on 21 September, a day after Nagrno Karabakh’s surrender, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said there was a need for the ‘immediate deployment of an interagency mission by the UN’. 

Moscow and Baku have repeatedly dismissed such suggestions. On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were ‘no specifics’ on whether America had contacted Russia in this regard. 

A Russian peacekeeping mission has been deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh since late 2020.

Peskov added that such a mission ‘can exist only with the consent of the Azerbaijani side’, adding they were in contact with both Yerevan and Baku, as well as ‘the ethnic Armenians of Karabakh’.

Nagorno-Karabakh surrendered to Azerbaijan on 20 September, just a day after Azerbaijan began a massive assault on the region.

As of Wednesday, the official death toll had risen to around 400 after the Azerbaijani Health Ministry reported that 192 of its soldiers had been killed. Hundreds more have been wounded.

This was compounded on Monday evening by the explosion of a fuel depot in Askeran (Asgaran), Nagorno-Karabakh. At least 68 people were reported to have died and 290 were injured as they queued for fuel in order to reach Armenia.

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