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AZERBAIJAN officially claimed control of Nagorno-Karabakh today following a deadly two-day military offensive against the Armenia-backed regional forces.
Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov claimed he reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s determination to guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh residents “all rights and freedoms” in line with the country’s constitution and international human rights obligations, including safeguards for ethnic minorities.
Azerbaijan’s forces stand accused of war crimes in their repeated assaults on the self-governing enclave.
Mr Bayramov said talks with representatives of the ethnic Armenian population in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh will continue.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said that there is now “a historic opportunity” to seek better relations with Armenia after 30 years of conflict.
But Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, who called for the emergency meeting of the United Nations security council along with France, accused Azerbaijan of an “unprovoked and well-planned military attack.”
He said that the offensive targeted critical infrastructure such as electricity stations, telephone cables and internet equipment, killed more than 200 people and wounded 400 others, including women and children.
More than 10,000 people fled their homes to escape the offensive, Mr Mirzoyan said.
“The Azerbaijani social media is full of calls to find the missing children and women, to rape them, dismember them and feed them to dogs,” he told the council.
Mr Mirzoyan said the “barbarity” of Azerbaijan’s aggression and deliberate targeting of the civilian population “was the final act of this tragedy aimed at the forced exodus of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
What Armenia has seen, he said, “is not an intent anymore but clear and irrefutable evidence of a policy of ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities.”
Mr Bayramov strongly denied the allegations of ethnic cleansing.
He said representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh asked during Thursday’s talks for humanitarian aid, including food and fuel for schools, hospitals and other facilities that government agencies will provide soon.
Mr Mirzoyan urged the security council to demand protection for civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh and to immediately deploy a UN mission to monitor the human rights, humanitarian and security situation.
He also asked it to seek the return of prisoners of war and to consider deploying a UN peacekeeping force to the region.
Protesters rallied in the Armenian capital Yerevan for a fourth day yesterday, demanding that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and calling for the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
At least 46 people were arrested in a large protest outside the main government building in the city centre on Thursday.
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