Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that his country achieved all goals during the 24-hour “anti-terrorist measures” in Nagorno-Karabakh and “restored its sovereignty.”
In his address to the nation, Aliyev emphasized that the armed forces of Azerbaijan “would have gone to the end” if “the illegal armed groups in Karabakh had not laid down their arms.”
“The process of withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan has already begun. At the same time, the process of disarmament of Armenian illegal armed groups in Karabakh is underway,” the head of state noted.
Aliyev also said that during the “anti-terrorist measures” of the Azerbaijani army in Karabakh, “the civilian population was not harmed, civilian objects were not hit, but enemy military infrastructure and equipment were destroyed.”
According to the President of Azerbaijan, during negotiations in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh, which will take place on Thursday, September 21, the Armenian representatives will be presented with a plan for the reintegration of Karabakh. “All the rights of the Armenians of Karabakh will be ensured, we will turn Karabakh, including Khankendi, into a paradise,” he added.
At the end of his speech, Aliyev said: “No one can speak to us in the language of dictatorship and ultimatum. Let no one forget this. Just as no one forgets that Karabakh is Azerbaijan!”
On the afternoon of September 19, Azerbaijan announced the start of “anti-terrorist measures” in areas of Nagorno-Karabakh populated by ethnic Armenians. The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army (a military structure operating in the unrecognized “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”) reported that on September 19 at around 11:10 am, the Azerbaijani military violated the ceasefire in the Askeran region by using a mortar. Immediately after this, residents of the Armenian regions of Karabakh began reporting heavy artillery shelling.
Baku stated that this operation is a response to the sabotage that the Karabakh military allegedly committed on the 58th kilometer of the Akhmedbeyli-Fuzuli-Shushi highway. They are alleged to have planted an anti-tank mine in the area, killing two civilians. The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army said it regards Baku’s statements “as another piece of disinformation.”
As a result of the “anti-terrorism measures” launched by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, seven civilians were killed, including the mayor of the city of Martuni Aznavour Saghyan. Also, according to the Karabakh authorities, 35 people were injured of varying degrees of severity.
On Wednesday, September 20, the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities decided to cease fire. The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan confirmed that an agreement had been reached on the “suspension of anti-terrorist measures” in Karabakh on September 20 from 12:00 Moscow time. The agency reported that this was done after “an appeal from representatives of the Armenian residents of Karabakh, received through the Russian peacekeeping contingent.”
The territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has been going on since the late 1980s. The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, with the support of Armenia, declared secession from the Azerbaijan SSR, and in September 1991 announced the creation of the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”.
During the armed conflict of 1988–1994, 30 thousand people died in the separatist region. Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent regions of Azerbaijan came under the de facto control of the Armenian armed forces. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly ethnic Azerbaijanis, became refugees and internally displaced persons.
The “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” is not officially recognized by any UN country, including Armenia. In 1993, the UN adopted four resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the Karabakh region and recognition of the territory as part of Azerbaijan.
After another escalation of the situation at the end of September 2020, Azerbaijan returned to its control the areas around Nagorno-Karabakh and took the ancient and symbolically significant city of Shusha (Shushi in Armenian). The day after the capture of Shushi, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a ceasefire statement in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under the terms of the agreement, Armenia and Azerbaijan are assigned the territories where troops were located at the time the document was signed. A Russian peacekeeping mission is stationed along the contact line.
After this, Azerbaijan began a blockade of areas of Karabakh populated by ethnic Armenians: checkpoints were set up on the only road that did not allow any cargo, including food and humanitarian aid, to enter the region. Residents of Armenian areas of Karabakh have reported hunger in recent weeks.