• Direct Witness Mourning the loss of Armenia's "soul"
  • Caucasus Exodus of Nagorno-Karabakh population begins: "Everyone has abandoned us"

"We are proud that Azerbaijan has triumphed in such a short time," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday before Azerbaijan's recent military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh. The "triumph" alluded to the military offensive launched by Baku in this territory, officially part of Azerbaijan but populated mostly by Armenians, which has an autonomous government not recognized by any country.

The operation, which began last Tuesday, lasted barely twenty-four hours until the Karabakh authorities accepted a disarmament in exchange for the cessation of hostilities. Since then, uncertainty and fear have reigned in this region of 120,000 inhabitants, now in the hands of Baku. They fear ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijani authorities and since Sunday night, thousands have fled to Armenia by road. By midday Monday, 4,850 Armenians from the Karabakh region had crossed the Armenian border, Yerevan authorities announced.

On Armenia's western border, Erdogan visited his ally and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Monday. The meeting took place in Nakhchivan, an autonomous enclave of Azerbaijan located between Armenia, Iran and Turkey. The visit took place on the occasion of the inauguration of a gas pipeline connecting Igdir, in Turkey's Eastern Anatolia, with the enclave of Nakhchivan. It had been fourteen years since Erdogan set foot in the enclave and the meeting was loaded with symbolism and parallels between the isolation of Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan's recent victory in Karabakh.

During the press conference. Aliyev slammed Armenia, accusing it of "blocking" gas supplies to Nakhichevan for decades and calling the country an "occupier." Aliyev and Erdogan also agreed on the construction of a military equipment factory in the city and welcomed the collaboration between the two countries on defense. In 2020, Azerbaijan won the war in Karabakh and took over much of the region thanks to the support of Turkish military drones. Despite the fact that in the latest offensive Turkey has not been deployed on the ground, Aliyev said that "Azerbaijan will never forget Turkey's moral support." Aliyev also again welcomed "the surrender of the Armenian army" and reiterated that Azerbaijan will guarantee humanitarian aid to the Karabakh region. "Regardless of their ethnicity, people living in the Karabakh region are Azerbaijanis, so they will be protected by the state," he said.

However, the reality on the ground is very different. According to the Karabakh authorities, thousands of people are fleeing to Armenia for fear of a revenge of the Azerbaijani army. "We haven't taken it all with the hope of returning one day, although I doubt it will be soon," explains Vadim, a carpenter and tour guide in Stepanakert, the unrecognized capital of Karabakh. "We go to Goris (Armenian city near the Karabakh border) because we have family there. We don't know if the government will offer houses," he explains.

In Goris, his son, who studies in Yerevan and has not seen for almost a year, awaits him due to the blockade that Azerbaijan began nine months ago on the only road connecting Armenia with Karabakh, preventing the entry of civilians and the transport of food, medicine and even gasoline. For his part, the Armenian prime minister announced last week that they could treat 40,000 refugees from the Karabakh region, although he has not given details of how they will manage it logistically.

Armenia has called for the immediate deployment of a United Nations mission in the region to maintain the safety of ethnic Armenians who decide to stay in the territory. Yerevan says more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded in last week's military offensive. Baku, for its part, denies the figures.

Meanwhile, in Yerevan more than 140 people have been arrested in recent days in protests against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, whom they accuse of making too many concessions to Azerbaijan. Pashinian, for his part, says unidentified groups are seeking to stoke a coup against him.

  • Refugees
  • Turkey
  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan