Ethnic Armenians in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh are preparing to leave the region following Azerbaijan’s victory in the recent conflict with Armenia, a local government official said on Sunday.
The region has been a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and a bitter war between the two countries that lasted 44 days ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire this month with Azerbaijan claiming victory.
“There are those who are trying to find a place to go. We can understand it; it’s understandable,” Arayik Harutyunyan, the de facto leader of the disputed region, told Reuters.
The ceasefire agreement includes provisions for a land corridor that will connect Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave with mainland Azerbaijan, which involves transferring a roughly 300-kilometer section of the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan.
Armenian refugees and residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have begun to flow into Armenia, and some are already seeking to relocate in other countries including Russia and France.
“Our main priority is to ensure the security of people, their lives and their properties,” said Harutyunyan.
He said those who want to stay in the region will be provided with assistance and warned that those who leave will not receive benefits from the Armenian government.
The Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement also stipulates that Armenian forces must withdraw from the region and that the returns of previously displaced residents of Nagorno-Karabakh will be facilitated.