Nagorno-Karabakh: Thousands flee to Armenia

Almost 20,000 people have left Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia in fear of Azerbaijani reprisals. Meanwhile, officials said at least 68 people were killed in a fuel depot explosion in the breakaway region.

'Ethnic cleansing accusation an insult,' says Azerbaijan presidential advisor


Azerbaijan's presidential foreign policy adviser on Tuesday called Armenian accusations of ethnic cleansing, "an insult to the people of Azerbaijan." In an exclusive interview with Deutsche Wellel's Jack Parrock, President Ilham Aliyev's advisor, Hikmet Hajiyev, said that people leaving Nagorno-Karabakh "haven’t been forced" from their homes. 

Hajiyev, in Brussels for EU-hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, said, "Azerbaijan has nothing to hide" but insisted there is, "no need for any kind of international observer mission because the realities on the ground are obvious".

When pressed on whether his country was becoming a geopolitical pawn, Hajiyev concluded, "Azerbaijan was always against any kind of geopolitical competition in our region."

Death toll in gas station blast jumps to 68, nearly 300 injured


The death toll in an explosion at a crowded gas station in the Nagorno-Karabakh region earlier on Tuesday has jumped to 68, according to several news agencies citing regional officials. The number of injured has risen to roughly 290 people. One hundred people remain missing. The cause of the blast has yet to be determined. 

The government in Yerevan said that by Tuesday evening, 28,000 ethnic Armenians had fled across its border from Nagorno-Karabakh.

EU calls for transparency, Azerbaijani vision for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh


EU diplomats hosting national security advisors from Azerbaijan and Armenia – as well as those of France and Germany – in Brussels Tuesday, urged Azerbaijan to present its plan for ensuring the protection and rights of ethnic Armenians in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan last week recaptured the long-disputed enclave with a lightning offensive. Since then, more than 19,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have fled to Armenia.

"The EU stressed the need for transparency and access for international humanitarian and human rights actors and for more detail on Baku's vision for Karabakh Armenians' future in Azerbaijan", read an EU statement.

Representatives said Tuesday's meeting "allowed for intense exchanges between participants on the relevance of a possible meeting of the [Azerbaijan and Armenia] leaders" at an upcoming European summit in Granada, Spain on 5 October. 

Prior to the recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU had been involved in mediation aimed at securing a normalization of relations between the two countries.

Tuesday's EU statement went on to say that "concrete action and decisive compromise solutions are needed on all tracks of the normalisation process".  

HRW calls on Azerbaijan to admit international observers


The group Human Rights Watch (HRW) is demanding the government of Azerbaijan admit international observers to the now-defeated breakaway ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

HRW Central Europe and Asia Director Hugh Williamson said on Tuesday that the international community must pressure Azerbaijan.

"There's one very specific important thing the international community can do now. They can persuade Azerbaijan to allow an international human rights monitoring mission to be established in Nagorno-Karabakh, to monitor what is happening there, that the local ethnic Armenian population is protected."

Although 19,000 of the region's estimated 120,000 residents have already fled, Williamson voiced concern with the fate of those who have not yet fled: "Azerbaijan is an extremely authoritarian country and there are legitimate fears among the Armenian population in Nagorno Karabakh."

Asked if HRW would describe what is transpiring as ethnic cleansing, Williamson said: "It's not a phrase we're using at the moment. We're obviously very concerned about the pressure, the possible pressure ethnic Armenians are under to leave the territory."

Azerbaijan scanning for 'war criminals' among refugees


Azeri border guards on Tuesday were busy scanning the endless procession of individuals fleeing from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia in a hunt for "war criminals". 

More than 19,000 people have now taken the enclave's one exit route to safety. Amid warnings of possible ethnic cleansing, many of the region's ethnic Armenian population of 120,000 have decided to leave.

Many of those fleeing are women, children and the elderly, who are allowed to pass into Armenia without incident. Military-aged males, however, are required to be photographed as Azeri soldiers search for what they call "war criminals".

"Azerbaijan intends to apply an amnesty to Armenian fighters who laid down their arms in Karabakh, but those who committed war crimes during the Karabakh wars must be handed over to us," said an Azerbaijani government source. 

Armenia dramatically increases official refugee tally


The Armenian government on Tuesday afternoon, dramatically increased its tally of the number of refugees fleeing the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was taken back by Azeri forces in a one-day lightning offensive last week.

"At the moment, 19,000 forcibly displaced persons have crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh," said Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Khachatryan in televised remarks. 

This morning the number of those who fled stood at 13,350. Long lines of cars have been reported along the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.


19,000 refugees enter Armenia – official


At least 19,000 people have crossed into Armenia from the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenian deputy prime minister Tigran Khachatryan was cited by Russian news agency TASS as saying.

Khachatryan dated the figure to 1215 UTC on Tuesday. Hours earlier, a figure of 13,550 had been reported.

While Azerbaijani authorities insist they will ensure the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh's civilian population, ethnic Armenians have begun to flee due to fear of expulsion or reprisals after Baku retook the territory.

U.S. announces aid for Nagorno-Karabakh civilians


Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) says that Washington will provide $11.5 million (€10.9 million) in humanitarian assistance to Armenian civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

She called the situation in the region "harrowing" and said it was "absolutely critical" that independent monitors and aid organizations be given access to it.

Thousands of ethnic Armenians have fled Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan retook the territory last week.

Azerbaijan offers to treat depot explosion victims


Azerbaijan says it could treat victims of an explosion at a fuel depot that killed at least 20 and injured hundreds. Azerbaijani presidential adviser Hikmet Hajiyev was cited by media as saying that hospitals in several districts were prepared to take in a large number of patients.    (DW/dpa/Reuters/AFP)