The breakaway government of Nagorno-Karabakh has announced it will dissolve itself and that the unrecognised republic will cease to exist by 2024, formally ending more than 30 years of separatist rule.
The president of Armenia’s self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Samvel Shahramanyan, signed a decree to dissolve all state institutions by 1 January 2024, Karabakh Armenian authorities said in a statement. The republic would cease to exist from that day, the decree said.
More than half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population has fled to Armenia in what the country has described as “ethnic cleansing” after a 24-hour blitz last week by Azerbaijan to reclaim full control over the breakaway region.
The decree also said the local population must “familiarise themselves with the conditions of reintegration presented by the Republic of Azerbaijan” and make “an independent and individual decision” on whether to stay or leave the region.
The assault by Azerbaijan’s army forced local authorities to agree to lay down weapons and start talks on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh, which declared independence in 1991, was run by ethnic Armenian authorities for about 30 years.
A spokesperson for the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, said on Thursday that more than 70,000 poeple from Nagorno-Karabakh had crossed into the country – more than half of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians believed to be living in Karabakh before the latest round of fighting.
Many more are anticipated to follow in the coming days, with Armenian officials saying that they expected most ethnic Armenians to leave the enclave.
Many of those leaving have said they fear persecution at the hands of Azerbaijan, worries that will only grow after the arrest of several high-profile officials from Karabakh.
Border officials on Wednesday detained Ruben Vardanyan, the former state minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh republic, as he tried to cross the border into Armenia. Vardanyan has since been brought to Baku and charged with financing terrorism and other crimes.
“This is a direct act of ethnic cleansing, something we had long been warning the international community about,” Pashinyan said at a government sitting.
He also called for “international actions” to undertake “concrete actions” against Azerbaijan. “If no relevant political and legal decisions follow the statements, the condemnations become acts of giving consent to what’s happening,” he said.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, previously urged Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, to refrain from further hostilities in the region, provide assurances to its residents and allow access to an international observer mission.
“I think we’re going to see the vast majority of people in Karabakh leaving for Armenia,” said Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Europe thinktank. “They are being told to integrate into Azerbaijan, a country that they’ve never been part of, and most of them don’t even speak the language and are being told to dismantle their local institutions. That’s an offer that most people in Karabakh will not accept.”
Azerbaijani officials meanwhile called on ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to stay and be part of “a multi-ethnic Azerbaijan”.
Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Britain, said he understood why many civilians were frightened, but that those who chose to stay would benefit from planned rebuilding and infrastructure projects.
Source: The Guardian