“I have been following the dramatic situation of the displaced people in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days and I renew my call for dialog between Azerbaijan and Armenia, hoping that talks between the parties… will foster a lasting agreement that will put an end to the humanitarian crisis,” the pope said during his Sunday prayer.
A lightning offensive last week led by Azerbaijan in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Kharabakh has led to an exodus of Armenian residents in the area after Baku ordered the region’s Armenian fighters to disarm and conflicting leaders signed a ceasefire agreement.
By the end of September, some 84,770 displaced people, 70% of the ethnic Armenians living in the separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh had already left the region, located in the territory of Azerbaijan, whose population was estimated at 120,000 people.
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh since that territory, with a majority Armenian population, decided to secede in 1988 from the then Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
Last September 19, Azerbaijan announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist operation” in the enclave to achieve “the withdrawal of Armenian troops” from that territory, while Yerevan denied the presence of its troops in the region and branded the operation as “aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
The next day, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that an agreement had been reached on a truce in Nagorno-Karabakh, the conditions of which include, in particular, the disarmament and disbanding of illegal Armenian formations in the region.
Representatives of Azerbaijan and the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh have since held several rounds of consultations focused on reintegration issues.
The most recent spiral of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh cost the lives of 192 Azerbaijani servicemen and injured 512 others, according to the Caucasian country’s Health Ministry.
On September 28, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Samvel Shakhramanian, announced that this rebel entity will cease to exist as of January 1, 2024.
In view of this situation Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for establishing effective mechanisms to protect Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic cleansing, and also warned that exodus might be the only way to save their lives and identity.