world
Friday Nov 20 2020
By
AFP

Karabakh peace deal: Azerbaijan troops enter first district handed over by Armenia

By
AFP
Fierce clashes between Azerbaijan’s forces and Armenian separatists broke out in late September in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Photo: AFP

Residents of Armenia in Azerbaijan's Aghdam district rushed to pack vans with their furniture and other belongings to leave before the official deadline of Friday to cede the mountainous province as part of the Karabakh peace deal.

Armenia was due to hand over disputed territory to Azerbaijan on Friday as part of a contentious Russian-brokered peace accord, ending weeks of brutal fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“We wanted to build a sauna, kitchen. But now I had to dismantle everything. And I’ll burn down the house with everything I own when I leave,” Gagik Grigoryan, a 40-year-old electrical worker, told AFP before abandoning his home.

Columns of tanks and troop transporters filled with waving Armenian fighters rolled out of the territory through dense fog ahead of Friday’s deadline to vacate the region.

Fierce clashes between Azerbaijan’s forces and Armenian separatists broke out in late September in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The brutal war lasted six weeks, leaving thousands dead and displacing many more.

The longstanding ex-Soviet rivals finally agreed to end hostilities last week under the framework of a Russian-brokered accord that sees Moscow deploy peacekeepers to the region and requires Armenia to cede swathes of territory.

Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and several surrounding districts captured the territory and claimed independence that has not been recognised internationally, even by Armenia, following a post-Soviet 1990s war that left some 30,000 dead.

As part of last week’s peace deal, Armenia agreed to return some 15 to 20% of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory captured by Azerbaijan in recent fighting, including the historical town of Shusha.