A cease-fire deal has been brokered between Azerbaijan and Armenia forces after two days of intense fighting, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Conflict first broke out after Azerbaijan started a military operation to “disarm and secure” Armenia’s military from Nagorno-Karabakh and began firing artillery shells into the region on Tuesday. A cease-fire has now been agreed to by both factions, and Armenian and Azeri officials will discuss Karabakh’s “re-integration” in Azerbaijan on Thursday, according to the AP.
The highly-disputed Karabakh territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is often colloquially referred to as part of Armenia as the population is largely made up of religious-ethnic Armenians.
— Siranush Sargsyan (@SiranushSargsy1) September 19, 2023
The deal was brokered in concert with the Russian peacekeeping division in the region, according to the AP. Russia, an ally of Armenia, deployed thousands of Russian peacekeepers to Karabakh in 2020.
The ceasefire could hinge on Armenia withdrawing its military forces and equipment from Karabakh and disarming local militia, according to the AP. Armenia maintains that it does not have a military presence or weapons in the region.
Footage depicted the aftermath of bombing in non-military areas in Stepanakert, the region’s capital, and Armenian officials said surrounding villages were “under intense shelling. Stepanakert residents bunkered in shelters and basements amid the bombing, and electricity was cut off and existing food shortages continued as humanitarian aid could not be distributed, according to the AP.
Dozens of military personnel and civilians were killed during the conflict, and hundreds more were injured, according to Armenian officials. Armenia’s foreign ministry said Azerbaijan’s claim that it was conducting “anti-terrorist” operations as an excuse to commit “ethnic cleansing” in the region.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on Tuesday urging that authorities protect Armenians located in Karabakh, according to the AP. They blocked streets and clashed with police, who reportedly resorted to using stun grenades.
Karabakh has been a point of contention between Armenia and Azerbaijan for dozens of years; Azerbaijan installed a blockade against the region in late 2022, preventing food, medicine and oil from being imported and starving Armenians of vital resources. A former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court labeled the blockade a “genocide” during a Sept. 6 congressional commission hearing.
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