Exodus of Karabakh Armenians continues

Thousands of ethnic Armenians have left the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the last days, following the short Azerbaijani military operation on 19 September, and the decision of the de facto authorities of the territory to acquiesce to the Azerbaijani demands to disarm.

Official Armenian sources said that by Monday (26 September) at 20.00 hours, 28,120 persons had crossed over to the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Of these 3,253 were provided with temporary accommodation - the rest saying that they were making their own arrangements.

The painful exodus was further exacerbated on Sunday evening with an incident at a petrol station just outside Stepanakert, the administrative capital of Karabakh, where many were waiting to fill their cars with petrol for the journey to Armenia. It resulted in an explosion that killed 68 persons and left many others badly burnt.

The international community is currently mobilising humanitarian aid for the incoming refugees, as well as for those remaining in Karabakh.

The new situation has also resulted in unprecedented co-operation between the Azerbaijani authorities and the de facto Armenian authorities in Karabakh. Following the incident at the petrol station 15 Fire Engines of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations travelled to Stepanakert to help put out the fire. Baku also sent emergency medical supplies.

Observers think that these steps by Baku, and others including the provision of fuel and food supplies, may help calm fears amongst the Armenian community of Karabakh of Baku's intentions. But given the long history of conflict and animosity, and the thousands killed on both sides over the last four decades, restoring trust will take a very long time. In the meantime, the exodus of Armenians from Karabakh is likely to continue.

source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Armenians of Karabakh prepare to leave