(Reuters) – Armenia called on Saturday for the immediate deployment of a U.N. mission to monitor human rights and security in Nagorno-Karabakh amid signs that aid may be arriving in the breakaway region under a fragile ceasefire.
Azerbaijan on Wednesday declared a ceasefire after forcing Armenian separatist forces to accept the full return of Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave, to Azeri control. Armenians there say they fear persecution if they remain.
Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, has been run by a breakaway administration since a war in the early 1990s amid the breakup of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan has promised to protect the Armenians’ rights but says they are free to leave if they prefer.
“The international community should undertake all the efforts for an immediate deployment of an interagency mission by the U.N. to Nagorno-Karabakh with the aim to monitor and assess the human rights, humanitarian and security situation on the ground,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said in a speech to the United Nations, according to a transcript.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, also speaking to the U.N., said his country would continue with efforts towards “advancing post-conflict peace-building, reintegration, and peaceful coexistence.”
Armenia, traditionally backed by Russia, lost a 2020 war to Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, over Nagorno-Karabakh. It has prepared space for tens of thousands of Armenians from the region, including hotels near the border, though Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says he does not want them to leave their homes unless it is absolutely necessary.
Security Council members have called for peace in the region, with a number of Armenia’s Western allies condemning the Azeri military operation.
With thousands of the Karabakh Armenians left without food, an International Committee of the Red Cross aid convoy headed toward Karabakh on Saturday, the first since Baku’s offensive.
Russia said it had delivered more than 50 tonnes of food and other aid to Karabakh.
With 2,000 peacekeepers in the region, Russia said that under the terms of the ceasefire six armoured vehicles, more than 800 small arms, anti-tank weapons and portable air defence systems, as well as 22,000 ammunition rounds had been handed by Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has held urgent talks with Armenia and Azerbaijan, said on social media, “The United States will continue its steadfast support for Armenia and its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York, Elaine Monaghan in Washington and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)
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