The ceasefire continues on Friday in Nagorno-Karabakh, despite several violations, after the capitulation of Armenian separatists in the face of Azerbaijan's lightning offensive in this Caucasian enclave.
According to the latest assessment of the Armenian separatists, the Azerbaijani military operation which ended in 24 hours at midday on Wednesday left at least 200 dead and 400 injured.
This offensive by Azerbaijan, which resulted in the establishment of a ceasefire on Wednesday, was the subject of an exchange of arms between Yerevan and Baku before the UN Security Council, emergency meeting on Thursday at the request of France.
Speaking first, the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs notably affirmed that there were not "two parties in this conflict but an aggressor and a victim", and accused Baku of having launched an "unjustified and planned" offensive. .”, aiming to “finalize the ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ararat Mirzoyan also accused Baku of carrying out "intense, indiscriminate bombing and using heavy artillery, including the prohibited use of cluster munitions."
His Azerbaijani counterpart Djeyhoun Baïramov declared a “disinformation campaign” from Yerevan, which he accused of “feeding and supporting the separatists”.
Despite an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, "five ceasefire violations" were recorded "in the districts of Chucha (two) and Mardakert (three)", according to the Russian Defense Ministry in a statement.
Shots, the origin of which is not known, were also heard in Stepanakert, the separatist capital, by an AFP correspondent present on site.
However, despite "isolated violations", the ceasefire which came into force on Wednesday is "generally" respected, said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Baku and the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh say they are ready, despite everything, to continue talks on a reintegration of this secessionist territory into Azerbaijan, which began Thursday in Yevlakh, a town 295 km west of the capital, Baku.
The Azerbaijani presidency, which described the two hours of discussions as "constructive", announced that a new meeting would take place "as quickly as possible".
“The parties insisted on the need to discuss all existing problems in a peaceful environment and were part of their willingness to extend the meetings,” the separatists commented in a statement.
For his part, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday accused Russia, a contingent of which has been deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh since the last war in 2020, of having failed in its peacekeeping mission.
"I don't think we should turn a blind eye to the failure of the (peacekeeping) contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh," he said on television.
According to Azerbaijan, six Russian peacekeepers were killed in two separate incidents during Baku's offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Aliyev on Thursday “apologized” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the deaths.
Protests in Yerevan
In the central square of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Prime Minister's office denouncing a risk of "genocide" in Karabakh.
“We must save the children of Karabakh from genocide!”, could we read on a banner, among the many Armenian flags waved by the demonstrators.
“This is our day of shame. Nikol stole our homeland,” said Arkady Balayan, a 32-year-old pharmacist.
The capitulation of the separatists increased pressure on the Armenian Prime Minister, accused of not having helped them. However, the latter urged Armenians on Thursday to take "the path" to peace, even if it is "not easy."
During a telephone conversation with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Mr. Putin demanded that “the rights and security” of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh be guaranteed.
The military success of the Azerbaijanis fuels fears of a mass departure of the 120.000 inhabitants of this enclave, although Armenia has promised that no mass evacuation is planned. However, it is prepared to welcome “40.000 families” of refugees, assured Mr. Pashinian on Thursday.
More than 10.000 people, including women, children and the elderly, have already been evacuated, a separatist official said Wednesday evening.
This territory, mainly populated by Armenians, has already been the scene of two wars between the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Armenia: one from 1988 to 1994 (30.000 dead) and the other in fall 2020 (6.500 deaths).
The Editorial Board (with AFP)