Armenian government prepares for possible mass exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian government prepares for possible mass exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh
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Contingency plans in place following Azerbaijani offensive; uncertainty looms large for Karabakh Armenians.

The Armenian government is preparing for a possible mass exodus of Nagorno-Karabakh's (Artsakh) population to Armenia in the wake of recent Azerbaijani advances in the region, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced Friday. The information appeared in a new report by Azatutyun.

While Pashinian remains hopeful about the prospect of Karabakh Armenians continuing to live without fear in their ancestral lands, recent developments may suggest otherwise. In a turn of events, the authorities in Stepanakert agreed to disband Karabakh's armed forces as part of a ceasefire reached last Wednesday. This agreement, following two days of heavy fighting, signaled the imminent full control of Azerbaijan over this Armenian-populated territory. An overwhelming majority of the region's approximately 120,000 residents appear to be resistant to living under Azerbaijani rule.

The Armenian prime minister acknowledged the possibility of relocating these residents to Armenia during a cabinet meeting this week amid ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan. Pashinian confirmed that preparations are underway for the temporary settlement of nearly 40,000 Karabakh families, ensuring that their basic needs, including food and health care, are met.

"We are well prepared and will continue to prepare for any eventuality," he said. However, he emphasized that "the relocation of our compatriots from Karabakh is not our primary strategy. Our first priority is to ensure that the residents of Karabakh can remain in their homes and live without fear, with dignity and security.

Hikmet Hajiyev, a prominent advisor to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, recently held talks on the future of Karabakh Armenians with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other global actors. According to his statements on the X social media platform, Hajiyev conveyed that residents who want to migrate to Armenia via the Lachin Corridor, which Baku has been blocking for over nine months, are mostly relatives of military personnel.

Meanwhile, the European Union and key member states are putting pressure on Azerbaijan to act with restraint toward the Karabakh population. Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, issued a stern warning in a recent statement, stressing that any form of forced displacement of civilians would trigger a robust EU response.

In the wake of the two-day confrontation, a significant portion of Karabakh's population has been uprooted, with many seeking refuge in Stepanakert and other safe havens. However, the whereabouts of several others remain a mystery due to the ongoing disruption of transportation and communications. Recent reports highlight the desperation of many Karabakh residents to evacuate, citing concerns for their safety in the turbulent environment.

*Photo belongs to the source.