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Turquie et Russie veulent associer d'autres pays au Haut-Karabakh

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during a news conference following talks in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) -Le président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan a annoncé mercredi qu’il avait discuté avec son homologue russe Vladimir Poutine de la possibilité d’associer d’autres pays aux efforts visant à consolider le cessez-le-feu au Haut-Karabakh.

L’Arménie et l’Azerbaïdjan ont signé le 10 novembre sous l’égide de la Russie un cessez-le-feu qui a mis fin à six semaines d’affrontements dans l’enclave à population arménienne mais partie intégrante du territoire azerbaïdjanais.

Des soldats russes ont été déployés pour faire respecter les lignes de cet accord, qui entérine les gains territoriaux des forces azerbaïdjanaises face aux séparatistes arméniens.

La Turquie n’a pas envoyé de forces de maintien de la paix mais est convenue avec la Russie de créer un centre conjoint de surveillance du cessez-le-feu.

“Nous avons l’occasion de développer et d’élargir” ce dispositif, a déclaré le président turc. “Nous avons discuté de ces initiatives de développement et d’élargissement avec M. Poutine”, a-t-il ajouté.

Dans son esprit, la préservation du cessez-le-feu pourrait être portée “à un niveau différent” si d’autres pays s’y associaient, sans mentionner d’Etats en particulier.

La semaine dernière, la France, qui co-préside avec la Russie et les Etats-Unis le “groupe de Minsk” mis en place dans les années 1990 pour trouver une issue au conflit sur le Haut-Karabakh, a dit souhaiter une supervision internationale pour la mise en place de ce cessez-le-feu.

Paris redoute que la Turquie, allié de premier plan de l’Azerbaïdjan et critique sévère du groupe de Minsk, et la Russie ne concluent un accord pour exclure les puissances occidentales des futurs pourparlers de paix.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan a déclaré que le “malaise” exprimé par certains co-présidents du groupe de Minsk n’avait “pas la moindre importance”.

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Azerbaijan people displaced by war seek to return home, if it exists

As Azerbaijan regains control of land it lost to Armenian forces a quarter-century ago, civilians who fled the fighting decades ago wonder if they can go back home now — and if there’s still a home to go back to.

An estimated 600,000 Azerbaijanis were displaced in the 1990s war that left the Nagorno-Karabakh region under the control of ethnic Armenian separatists and large adjacent territories in Armenia’s hands. During six weeks of renewed fighting this fall that ended Nov. 10, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself and sizeable swaths of the outlying areas.

More territory is being returned as part of the ceasefire agreement that stopped the latest fighting. But as Azerbaijani forces discovered when the first area, Aghdam, was turned over on Friday, much of the recovered land is uninhabitable. The city of Aghdam, where 50,000 people once lived, is now a shattered ruin.

Adil Sharifov, 62, who left his hometown in 1992 during the first war and lives in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, knows he will find similar devastation if he returns to the city of Jabrayil, which he longs to do.

Jabrayil is one of the outlying areas regained by Azerbaijani troops before the recent fighting ended. Soon after it was taken, one of Sharifov’s cousins went there and told him the city was destroyed, including the large house with an orchard where Sharifov’s family once lived.

Nonetheless, “the day when I return there will be the greatest happiness for me,” he said.

For years, he said, his family had followed reports about Jabrayil on the internet. They knew the destruction was terrible, but Sharifov’s late mother retained a desperate hope that their house had been spared and held on to the keys.

“I will build an even better house,” he vowed.

Ulviya Jumayeva, 50, can go back to better, though not ideal circumstances in her native Shusha, a city that Azerbaijani forces took in the key offensive of the six-week war.

Her younger brother, Nasimi, took part in the battle and phoned to tell her the apartment their family fled in 1992 was intact, though mostly stripped of the family’s possessions.

“According to him, it is clear that Armenians lived there after us, and then they took everything away. But our large mirror in the hallway, which we loved to look at as children, remains,” Jumayeva said, adding: “Maybe my grandchildren will look in this mirror.”

“We all have houses in Baku, but everyone considered them to be not permanent, because all these years we lived in the hope that we would return to Shusha,” she said. “Our hearts, our thoughts have always been in our hometown.”

But she acknowledged that her feelings toward Armenians have become more bitter.

“My school friends were mostly Armenian. I never treated ordinary Armenians badly, believing that their criminal leaders who unleashed the war were to blame for the massacre, war, and grief that they brought to their people as well,” Jumayeva said.

”But after the current events, after the shelling of peaceful cities … after the Armenians who are now leaving our territories, which are even outside of Karabakh, burn down the houses of Azerbaijanis in which they lived illegally … something fractured in me. I changed my attitude toward them,” she said. “I understood that we, Azerbaijanis, will not be able to live peacefully next to the Armenians.”

While Sharifov has less to go back to, he has a more moderate view, saying the two ethnic groups with different religious traditions still have the potential to live together amicably.

“If the Armenians observe the laws of Azerbaijan, and do not behave like bearded men who came to kill, then we will live in peace,” he said. “The time to shoot is over. Enough casualties. We want peace, we do not want war.”

___

Associated Press writers Aida Sultanova in London and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.

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Pompeo welcomes Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire, urges for political solution

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts on a mask before boarding a plane at Istanbul Airport in Istanbul, Turkey November 17, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the United States welcomed the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, but urged the warring sides, Armenia and Azerbaijan, to move ahead in pursuing a lasting political solution to the conflict.

The ceasefire signed by leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on Nov. 10 halted military action in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. Some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are being deployed to the region.

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Armenia cedes disputed land to Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal

STEPANAKERT, AZERBAIJAN (AFP) – Armenia on Sunday (Nov 15) is due to begin handing over disputed territory to Azerbaijan as part of a peace accord that ended six weeks of fierce fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Residents of the Kalbajar district in Azerbaijan that was controlled by Armenian separatists for decades began a mass exodus of the mountainous province in the days leading up to the official withdrawal day.

AFP journalists saw fleeing residents pile furniture and kitchenware into vehicles before leaving for Armenia and some among the departing ethnic-Armenians said they had exhumed graves they feared would be desecrated by Azerbaijanis.

Thick plumes of smoke were rising over the valley near the village of Charektar after residents set their homes on fire preferring to leave devastation in their wake and homes that would be uninhabitable by Azerbaijanis.

A Russian peacekeeping contingent deployed this week to Nagorno-Karabakh. They set up checkpoints and positions in the region’s administrative centre, Stepanakert, as part of the terms of the accord that sees Armenia cede swathes of territory that Azerbaijan’s forces gained in the fighting.

Moscow’s peacekeeping mission, which the military said included soldiers that previously were stationed in Syria, comprises some 2,000 troops for a renewable five-year mission.

The former Soviet rivals agreed to end hostilities earlier this week after efforts by Russia, France and the United States to get a ceasefire fell through during the nearly two months of clashes.

A key part of the peace deal includes Armenia’s return of Kalbajar, as well as the Aghdam district by Nov 20 and the Lachin district by Dec 1, which have been held by Armenians since a devastating war in the 1990s.

Armenia conceded on Saturday that 2,317 fighters were killed in clashes in which both sides accused the other of targeting civilian infrastructure.

Azerbaijan has not revealed its military casualties and the real toll after weeks of fighting is expected to be much higher.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said the number of fatalities had surpassed 4,000 and that tens of thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes.

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Before departing en masse, Armenians flocked to the Dadivank monastery nestled in a gorge in Kalbajar for a final visit before it was ceded to Azerbaijan, with AFP journalists witnessing a dozen women ask to be baptised at the religious site.

Kalbajar was almost exclusively populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis before they were expelled by Armenians in the 1990s war following the break up of the Soviet Union, and a majority of the homes being abandoned previously belonged to Azerbaijanis.

The Armenian government controversially subsidised the region’s settlement by ethnic Armenians.

The peace accord with Azerbaijan has sparked a week of protests in Armenia, where demonstrations and opposition parties are calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign.

The former head of Armenia’s national security service, Artur Vanetsyan, was arrested on Saturday on charges of plotting to kill Mr Pashinyan and seize power.

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Azerbaijan has pushed for Ankara’s involvement in the settlement and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week his country would jointly supervise the ceasefire with Russia.

Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan, was widely accused by Western countries, Russia and Armenia of dispatching mercenaries from Syria to reinforce Azerbaijan’s army.

But Russia has ruled out Ankara’s direct involvement in the peacekeeping mission and instead insisted that Turkey would instead monitor the mission from an observation centre on Azerbaijan’s territory.

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Armenian PM's fate hangs in balance after Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) – The fate of Armenia’s prime minister hung in the balance on Wednesday after parliament agreed to discuss protesters’ demands for his resignation over a ceasefire that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.

People attend an opposition rally to demand the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan following the signing of a deal to end the military conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in Yerevan, Armenia November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Artem Mikryukov

The ceasefire, announced on Tuesday, ended six weeks of fighting – the worst in the mountain enclave for decades – and has been celebrated as a victory in Azerbaijan.

Thousands of Armenians protested in the capital Yerevan, demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan step down, and several hundred marched on parliament. Some chanted “Nikol is a traitor”. Others shouted: “Nikol, leave.”

Pashinyan has said he had no choice but to sign the agreement to prevent further territorial losses.

But, after protesters set a midnight deadline for Pashinyan to quit, parliament announced it would hold a special session on Wednesday evening to discuss the calls for his resignation.

The ceasefire halted military action in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated by ethnic Armenians. Under the agreement, 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are being deployed to the region.

Since the early 1990s, ethnic Armenians had held military control over all of Nagorno-Karabakh and substantial swaths of Azeri territory surrounding it. They have now lost much of the enclave itself as well as the surrounding territory.

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Pashinyan said he concluded the peace deal under pressure from his army. Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader said there had been a risk of Azerbaijan taking control of the whole enclave following the fall of its second biggest city, Shushi, known by Azeris as Shusha.

“This is a big failure and disaster,” Pashinyan said on Tuesday. He said he was taking personal responsibility for the setbacks, but he rejected calls to step down.

OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED

Seventeen political parties called Wednesday’s protest to step up demands for Pashinyan to quit.

A number of protesters were arrested, including Gagik Tsarukyan, leader of the opposition Prosperous Armenia party, according to a Facebook post by Hripsime Arakelian, a member of his party. Prosperous Armenia is the second biggest faction in parliament.

Russian peacekeepers – who are due to stay in the region for five years – started leaving Russia on Tuesday and are now controlling the Lachin corridor, a mountain pass linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, the Russian army said.

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For Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia and a military base there, securing the ceasefire deal sent a signal that it is still the main arbiter in the energy-producing South Caucasus, which it sees as its own backyard.

Turkey also flexed its muscles during the conflict, providing diplomatic support and arms supplies for Azerbaijan. It was not involved in mediating the ceasefire deal and has not contributed any peacekeepers.

But Turkey and Russia signed an agreement establishing a joint centre to monitor the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday and will work together there, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.

Though Azerbaijan has hailed the ceasefire agreement as a victory, some Azeris are frustrated that Azeri forces stopped fighting before regaining control of all of Nagorno-Karabakh. Other Azeris are wary about the arrival of peacekeepers from Russia, which dominated the region in Soviet times.

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