AZERBAIJAN has invited a United Nations mission to visit Nagorno-Karabakh “in the coming days”, the foreign ministry said yesterday, amid a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region following a lightning Azerbaijani military offensive.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric confirmed that a UN mission, led by a senior UN aid official, would travel to Nagorno-Karabakh this weekend – the world body’s first access to the region in about 30 years. “While there the team will seek to assess the situation on the ground and identify the humanitarian needs for both people remaining and the people that are on the move,” Dujarric told reporters yesterday, urging all to respect international law.
“The focus will be on humanitarian and also, as part of that, on issues of protection,” he said. The United States and others have called on Baku to allow international monitors into Karabakh due to concerns about possible human rights abuses.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, something Baku strongly denies. Activities “The visit will allow (the mission) to become acquainted with the current humanitarian activities being carried out by Azerbaijan in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
“In addition, the group members will be shown the process of rebuilding certain infrastructure, disarmament and confiscation of ammunition from illegal Armenian armed forces, as well as the dangers posed by mines,” it said.
Earlier, an Azerbaijani government official said media would also be allowed to visit the region, which is internationally viewed as part of Azerbaijan but which had been run by an ethnic Armenian breakaway state since the 1990s. Armenia’s government estimated that nearly 93,000 Armenians – or more than three quarters of Karabakh’s population – had crossed onto its territory as of yesterday afternoon, despite Baku’s promises to protect their civil rights if they stayed.
While insisting that Armenians will be protected, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of an independent ethnic Armenian Karabakh to history. Aliyev told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call on Tuesday that his forces had targeted only “military facilities ... during the anti-terror measures, which lasted less than 24 hours, and civilians were not harmed”, according to a statement from the Azeri president’s office.