Situation in Karabakh – Update as of 06/10/23

The files we follow: Karabakh Conflict Resolution Process, Humanitarian and Security Update in Karabakh and the Lachin Corridor, Abkhazia and South Ossetia / Georgia Conflict, Georgia – EU/ US/Russia/Ukraine Relations and Georgian Domestic Policy, South Caucasian energy, trade and transport issues, Human Rights in South Caucasus, Various foreign policies Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.

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As of 6 October, the number of people who had fled the former enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia was, according to the Armenian government, 100,632, including 11,456 registered in various health centres.

Security clashes appear to continue despite the weapons seizures announced by the Azerbaijani authorities. On 5 October, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry denounced shooting “in the direction of the settlement of Yellija in the Kelbajar region” and this was the case on 2 October also “in the direction of the settlement of Yukhari Ayrim” in the same region where “improvised explosive devices” were allegedly dropped from combat quadcopters. On 30 September, the same ministry deplored 1 death following shooting “in the direction of the Ashaghi Ayrim colony, in the Kelbajar region”. While the Armenian Ministry of Defence denounced on 2 October shootings on a “vehicle transporting food for the personnel of Armenian positions”, “in the Kut region”, later specifying the figure of 1 dead and 2 injured”.

Azerbaijan holds several former officials of the separatist entity of Nagorno-Karabakh: former “presidents” Arkady Ghukasian (1997-2007), Bako Sahakian (2007-2020), Arayik Haroutiounian (2020-2023) with David Ishkanian, former “President of Parliament” since 3 October, as well as former President Ruben Vardanian (2023) and David Babayan, former “Presidential Advisor” and “Minister of Foreign Affairs” since 28 September.

A UN mission led by Vladanka Andreeva, UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, took place on 1st October in Karabakh. This noted “no damage to civil public infrastructure, in particular hospitals, schools and housing, nor to cultural and religious structures”. Furthermore, the mission was not aware of “any report – neither from the local population interviewed nor from the interlocutors – reporting incidents of violence against civilians following the last ceasefire.“. It was said: “From the conversations the team may have had, it is difficult to determine at this stage whether local people intend to return. What is clear is that building trust is necessary, and this will take time and effort on the part of all parties.”

The Azerbaijani Presidential Administration shared the various measures taken regarding “reintegration of Armenian residents living in the Karabakh region on 2 October. These concretely guarantee the participation of residents in the work of the offices of special representatives in matters of governance, their recruitment into internal affairs bodies, tax and customs benefits to residents of the economic regions of Karabakh and eastern Zangezur, various subsidies and exemptions for farmers, the benefit of social benefits existing in the country, the right to preserve and develop their culture and their ethnocultural particularities, freedom of religion and the protection of cultural monuments etc.…

Meanwhile, Hikmet Hadjiyev, presidential foreign policy advisor, said on 30 September via X: “Non-discriminatory and non-selective humanitarian response and assistance should be the fundamental principle of humanity. This is a positive sign that the international donor community is helping Armenian civilians in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, who have also voluntarily decided to travel to Armenia and are holders of the passport of the Republic of Armenia. But a million more Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees, who were subjected to bloody ethnic cleansing following Armenia’s 30-year occupation, face complete ignorance, discriminatory and selective attitudes from the donor community” then to AFP he made these remarks relayed by France 24: “We cannot accept accusations of ethnic cleansing or genocide. […] Ethnic cleansing is action by force, when someone uses force against civilians – (this is exactly what Armenia used against us 30 years ago). But that doesn’t mean we’ll repeat the same thing. There have been no cases of violence or atrocities against civilians. They attest to it themselves. […] And there were no “Armenian” citizens in Karabakh. […] We have always considered them as Azerbaijani citizens but unfortunately an illegal separatist entity did not allow us to have direct communication with them”.

However, the European Parliament denounced “ethnic cleansing” on 5 October while asking the EU to adopt targeted sanctions against Azerbaijani government officials as well as to suspend the memorandum of understanding in the energy field, which been called “the most obvious example of political hypocrisy” by Sahiba Gafarova, Speaker of the Milli Madjlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) and a “populist, racist and Islamophobic resolution” by the Turkish MFA. And France has decided to “give its agreement to the conclusion of future contracts with Armenia which will allow the delivery of military equipment to Armenia so that it can ensure its defence”. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, who also validated live on the 8 p.m. news on France 2 on 5 October the term “ethnic cleansing” completely evaded the last question asked by the journalist asking if a real risk existed that Azerbaijan attacks the sovereign territory of Armenia.

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