Erevan, 19 Sep 2023 (Lusa) – More than 7,000 civilians from 16 locations were evacuated today from Nagorno-Karabakh, following the launch of a large-scale military operation by Azerbaijan, the Armenian separatist authorities in this enclave announced.

“More than 7,000 people were evacuated from 16 locations in the regions of Askeran, Martakert, Martouni and Shushi in Artsakh”, the latter is the name given by the Armenians to Nagorno-Karabakh, declared on X (former Twitter) Gegham Stepanian, defender of human rights in the separatist region.

The Azerbaijani army claimed to have taken more than 60 Armenian positions in today’s offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region disputed with Armenia for decades, as international calls for an end to armed clashes multiply.

Nagorno-Karabakh separatists said the fighting left at least 27 dead, including two civilians, and more than 200 injured in this region, where around 7,000 residents from 16 localities were evacuated.

For its part, Azerbaijan reported that two civilians died in areas under its control.

At the beginning of the evening, the Presidency of Azerbaijan called on the troops of this separatist territory of Azerbaijan, inhabited mainly by Armenians, to lay down their arms, a condition imposed for the start of negotiations.

“The illegal Armenian armed forces must raise the white flag, hand over all weapons and the illegal regime must be dissolved. Otherwise, anti-terrorist operations will continue until the end”, said the Azerbaijani Presidency, replicating Azerbaijani diplomacy demanding a surrender “total and unconditional”.

The Azerbaijani Presidency proposed, in the event of capitulation, talks “with representatives of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh in Yevlakh”, an Azerbaijani city 295 kilometers west of Baku.

Prior to that, authorities in this disputed region called for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations.

Separatists claim that several cities in Nagorno-Karabakh, including its capital Stepanakert, are the target of “intensive shootings”, which also target civilian infrastructure.

The clashes occur “along the entire line of contact” in this territory and the Azeris use “artillery”, rockets, attack drones and planes, they stated.

As for Armenia, which denounced a “large-scale aggression” for the purposes of “ethnic cleansing”, it guaranteed that it did not have troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, suggesting that the separatists were alone fighting the Azerbaijani soldiers.

The Armenians believe that it is up to Russia, which guarantees the ceasefire that dates back to 2020 with peacekeepers on the ground, to act to “stop Azerbaijan’s aggression”.

The 2020 conflict resulted in a military defeat for Armenia, which had to cede ground to Azerbaijan in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

A ceasefire, negotiated by Russia, was concluded by these two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, without ever reaching a peace agreement.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region of Azerbaijan with an Armenian majority, declared independence from Baku following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The declaration of independence triggered an armed conflict in which separatists supported by Armenia emerged victorious.

Thirty years later, in autumn 2020, Azerbaijani armed forces reconquered two-thirds of the territory, located in the South Caucasus.

Read Also: Russian peacekeepers evacuate almost 500 civilians from Nagorno-Karabakh

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