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UN Mission Arrives in Karabakh Region After 30-Year Break

By Ilham Karimli October 2, 2023

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A convoy of the UN mission in Karabakh (Garabagh) region of Azerbaijan, October 1, 2023 / Trend News Agency

A mission sent by the United Nations (UN) arrived on Sunday in the Karabakh (Garabagh) region, after an invitation by the government of Azerbaijan.

The delegation mainly comprised representatives from various UN institutions and is led by a senior aid official.

During its first access to the region in 30 years, the mission will assess the situation on the ground and address the humanitarian needs of the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

Some part of the Armenian residents have voluntarily left the Karabakh region, despite Baku’s calls to stay and reintegrate. The Azerbaijani government also pledged to guarantee all fundamental rights of the Armenians living in the region.

A reporter for Al Jazeera said the people of Khankendi, the Karabakh region, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers, stated they have not been forced out of their houses and have not faced any human rights abuses by the Azerbaijani side.

The Azerbaijani authorities have been facilitating the movement of the Armenian residents who voluntarily left the region via the Lachin road. Forty buses were dispatched by Baku to the border zone upon the request of the Armenian residents’ representatives.

The government of Azerbaijan has not yet provided the number of Armenians departing the country. The Azerbaijani authorities ordered the State Migration Service to register Armenian residents of the Karabakh region to ensure their sustainable reintegration into Azerbaijani society, based on the guarantees of fundamental rights, including cultural, educational, religious, and municipal.

In the meantime, the Armenian government called the migration of Karabakh Armenians an “ethnic cleansing” by Azerbaijan. In response to Yerevan’s statements, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Hikmet Hajiyev, said Baku could not accept these accusations.

"Ethnic cleansing is a forceful action, when somebody is using force against civilians – (which is) what exactly Armenia used against us, 30 years ago," Hajiyev told AFP. "But it doesn't mean we will repeat the same. There was no single case of violence or atrocity against civilians. They attest this themselves.”

The voluntary exodus of ethnic Armenians from the Karabakh region began after the Azerbaijani military conducted anti-terror measures to neutralize illegal formations of the Armenian army in the region. The 24-hour anti-terror operation from September 19-20 disabled almost the entire military infrastructure of the separatists, leaving them no choice but to surrender.

The capitulation of the illegal Armenian armed formations in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan came on September 20 after they retreated agreeing to complete disarmament. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, in coordination with the Russian peacekeepers, has been confiscating weapons, ammunition, and military equipment from the illegal Armenian troops in the region.

Meanwhile, on September 28, the so-called leadership of the Armenian separatists in the Karabakh region announced self-dissolution.

A relevant decree was signed by the regime's self-proclaimed "president," Samvel Shahramanyan. The document states that "all institutions and organizations" of the separatist regime will be dissolved by January 1, 2024, and the so-called "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) ceases to exist."

It also called on the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region to become acquainted with the conditions of reintegration presented by Azerbaijan in order to subsequently make an independent and individual decision on the possibility of staying in (returning to) the Karabakh region.

Reintegration of Karabakh Armenians

The Azerbaijani government ordered the State Migration Service to register the region’s ethnic Armenian residents to ensure their sustainable reintegration into the Azerbaijani society in line with the laws and Constitution of Azerbaijan.

Shortly after the anti-terror measures, Baku resumed the negotiations with the representatives of Karabakh’s Armenian residents in three separate meetings. They have been submitted reintegration plans and additional programs to provide necessary humanitarian assistance.

Last week, a special government portal was launched to facilitate the reintegration process. The online platform in four languages – Azerbaijani, Armenian, English, and Russian – enables voluntary registration for ethnic Armenians wishing to live in the region in line with the laws and Constitution of Azerbaijan.

Moreover, tens of tons of humanitarian aid, containing food, hygiene products, beddings, and medicaments, have been supplied to the Karabakh Armenians by the Azerbaijani government.

Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Hikmet Hajiyev said although he could not justify the decision of ethnic Armenians to leave the Karabakh region, he could “understand and respect” that.

"If they accept Azerbaijan citizenship, we will protect and ensure their rights and their security and we will establish a municipality system so that they can govern their affairs at a local level, and religious and cultural rights will be assured," Hajiyev told AFP.

Earlier, President Ilham Aliyev said the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region are citizens of Azerbaijan and despite all the injustices and crimes the criminal Armenian regime committed against the people of Azerbaijan, Baku has never blamed the Armenian people for those crimes.

“A new historic chance has been created for ordinary people living in Karabakh. Take advantage of that chance. We are ready for this …. We propose this, and I hope that our proposal will be accepted. This proposal is based on logic, historical justice, international law and future development and is calculated for future growth,” Aliyev said in an address to the nation on September 20.