Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on Tuesday to end six weeks of fierce fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in a deal Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described as “unspeakably painful” in an emotional Facebook post.
The post was the first indication of a deal, with Pashinyan saying the agreement would take effect from 1am on Tuesday (21:00 GMT on Monday) to end a conflict that has left at least 1,000 people dead.
The agreement came hours after ethnic Armenian officials in the disputed region confirmed that the key city of Shusha (known as Shushi in Armenia), the second-biggest city in the enclave, had been taken by Azeri forces. Azerbaijan also said on Monday it had taken dozens more settlements.
For a month and a half of military confrontation on the territory of Karabakh, Azerbaijan managed to take control of about 45% of the territory of this region, which does not exclude the possibility that the entire current territory of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic may be under Baku’s control before the end of this year.
Turkish Troops In Azerbaijan Permanently
Russia’s defence ministry said it had begun the deployment of 1,960 soldiers to act as peacekeepers for the next five years. Putin said they would be positioned along the frontline in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev said that Turkish peacekeepers would also be deployed.
“This is not a victory, but there is not defeat until you consider yourself defeated,” Armenia’s Pashinyan said in announcing the agreement. “We will never consider ourselves defeated and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth.”
The mood in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, was angry. Within 20 minutes of the prime minister’s Facebook post people were on the streets, later forcing their way into the main government building and parliament and calling on Pashinyan to go.
“The city is in chaos at this point,” Neil Hauer, a journalist based in Yerevan told Al Jazeera. “Everyone is incensed. There’s a great sense of betrayal.”
Hundreds forced their way into parliament’s inner chamber, occupying the seats of parliamentarians and shouting “Resign!” and “Out!”
Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since the end of a devastating conflict in 1994.
Defeat sparks crisis in Armenia
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the deal “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people”.
It comes after six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians.
The region is internationally recognised as Azerbaijani but has been run by ethnic Armenians since 1994.
It was a night of unrest and upset in Armenia’s capital, where crowds of protesters stormed government buildings and the country’s parliament.
But by Tuesday morning, that anger appeared to have died down.
Leading politicians, with the exception of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, are in talks to find a way out of this deep crisis. And this is a crisis: the defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh is a devastating one
The protesters who gathered here overnight accused the government of betrayal. They believed the fighting should have continued until the end and they were confident of victory.
But in Nagorno-Karabakh itself there was no such optimism. The leadership of the enclave earlier admitted that, had the fighting continued, the main city of Stepanakert would have been lost within days.
What has been agreed?
The peace deal took effect on Tuesday from 01:00 local time (21:00 GMT Monday).
Under the deal, Azerbaijan will hold on to areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it has taken during the conflict. Armenia has also agreed to withdraw from several other adjacent areas over the next few weeks.
During a televised online address, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to patrol frontlines. Russia’s defence ministry confirmed that 1,960 personnel would be involved and reports said planes had left an airbase at Ulyanovsk on Tuesday carrying peacekeepers and armoured personnel carriers to Karabakh.
Turkey will also take part in the peacekeeping process, according to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, who joined President Putin during the address.
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