The recent military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region with an ethnic Armenian majority but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has resulted in a significant refugee crisis. Armenian separatists were forced into a ceasefire after a 24-hour onslaught by the larger Azerbaijani military. Thousands of ethnic Armenians are fleeing the breakaway region, seeking refuge in Armenia.
First Refugees Arrival
Refugees began arriving in Armenia several days after the fighting ceased. As of Monday, over 6,650 people have entered Armenia, with more expected to follow. This influx of displaced individuals has raised concerns about the humanitarian situation and the challenges of accommodating such a large number of refugees.
Tragedy Strikes at a Petrol Station
On Monday, a tragic incident occurred just outside the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert. A fuel tank at a petrol station exploded, injuring more than 200 people, some with burns of varying degrees. While the exact details are still emerging, this incident adds to the hardships faced by the local population trying to leave the region.
Prime Minister’s Warning
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed concerns about “the danger of ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh and anticipated that around 120,000 civilians might leave the region for Armenia. This mass exodus highlights the urgency of the situation and the fear among residents of potential persecution.
Leaders Hail Victory
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev celebrated what they referred to as Baku’s military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh. They praised the swift operation and highlighted their commitment to the rights of civilians during the conflict. The leaders signed a deal for a gas pipeline, emphasizing their strengthened ties.
The crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh has triggered geopolitical shifts in the region. The United States expressed concern over the humanitarian conditions and called for unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations. Meanwhile, Russia warned Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan about his approach, suggesting that he had sought Western support instead of collaborating with Moscow and Baku for peace.
Decades of Conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh has a long history of conflict and changing control, with Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans, and Soviets exerting influence over the region. The First Karabakh War from 1988 to 1994 resulted in significant casualties and saw the region’s Armenians overthrow Azerbaijani control. In 2020, Azerbaijan regained territory in a second war over the region.
As the crisis continues to evolve, the plight of refugees, the delicate geopolitical balance, and the uncertain future of Nagorno-Karabakh remain pressing concerns.