The Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh ask Azerbaijan for fuel and food to solve the human crisis | International

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The Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh asked Azerbaijan this Thursday for the urgent delivery of food and fuel to end the human crisis in the enclave after months of siege and recent Azerbaijani bombings. They did so during the first meeting between representatives of this Armenian site and the Government of Baku since the ceasefire agreed this Wednesday to end the offensive of Azerbaijani troops, whose conditions include the surrender of all Armenian military forces.

The negotiations began while the situation in Nagorno Karabakh continues to worsen. “It is a great tragedy, there are tens of thousands of people on the streets of Stepanakert [la capital] without food, without electricity, with uncertainty, with fear. The Government is trying to feed them, but our reserves are exhausted because of the blockade,” explained the Ombudsman of Nagorno Karabakh, Gegham Stepanián, in a telephone conversation with EL PAÍS. He was referring to the blockade initiated by Azerbaijan last December, which has prevented the free transit of goods to the enclave from neighboring Armenia, on which, previously, the import of 90% of the food consumed by the Karabakhs depended.

To the lack of supplies and uncertainty about the future, on Thursday morning there was added fear that fighting would return when gunshots began to be heard around Stepanakert. In several videos published on social networks, people could be seen running for shelter and a rumor spread that Azerbaijani troops intended to enter the Karabakh capital. The Ministry of the Interior of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh urged the population to remain in shelters and accused the Azerbaijani Armed Forces of violating the ceasefire. Later, both the Azerbaijani army and the Karabakh authorities denied that Azerbaijani troops were trying to enter Stepanakert, although they remain in its vicinity. On the other hand, a video appeared on social networks in which some Karabakh soldiers refuse to disarm and demobilize, as agreed on Wednesday, and assure that they will continue fighting.

The meeting between representatives of Nagorno Karabakh and the Baku government concluded without a firm agreement, but in a “positive atmosphere,” according to AZERTAC, the Azerbaijani state news agency. The Azerbaijani delegation, led by deputy and presidential representative Ramin Mammadov, explained the plans for the “reintegration” of Nagorno Karabakh into the administrative structure of Azerbaijan and underlined the importance of “rapid implementation” of the ceasefire agreement and the disarmament of Karabakh forces, although the Armenian side asked for more time to work out the details of how it will be carried out. According to the press agency, the request for humanitarian aid, fuel and food from the leader of the Karabakh delegation, David Melkumyan – a deputy of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, as the Armenians call their territory – was received “positively” by the Azerbaijanis. The parties agreed to hold a new meeting shortly.

The residents of Stepanakert have been joined by 10,000 people evacuated from around twenty towns near the front, filling the small town with people displaced by the conflict. “We have lost communication with several locations and we do not know what their situation is. There are people calling the office because they are desperately looking for their relatives,” says Stepanián.

This is the case, for example, of Martakert (Agdara in Azeri), a town of 4,500 inhabitants in the northeast of Nagorno Karabakh that has been surrounded by Azerbaijani troops. “We are waiting to understand what we should do, we don't know how long we will have to wait. “Martakert is under siege and we cannot even go to the airport,” explained a resident quoted by the Armenian media. CivilNet. Thousands of Armenians have taken refuge at the Stepanakert airport, the main base of the Russian peacekeepers deployed in the area, with the intention of fleeing, although for the moment the authorities have denied that there will be evacuations.

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Martuni (Xocavend in Azeri), a town of about 5,700 inhabitants in the southeast, has also been besieged. A nurse who is in the town told EL PAÍS that there are many injured from the fighting. “The roads to Stepanakert are closed. We do not have enough medicines and we are waiting for the Russian military to transfer the most serious patients,” she explained via WhatsApp.

More than 200 dead

The death toll on the Armenian side amounts to 200 between combatants and civilians, although it is believed that it may be higher, as contact has not been reestablished with several places in Nagorno Karabakh, communications fail and the electricity supply is poor. Azerbaijan has not made public the number of casualties suffered, but opposition media claim that it reaches 80. Russia has also suffered at least four casualties, among them that of the deputy commander of the Northern Fleet of Submarine Forces, who fell when a vehicle transporting Russian soldiers was shot by Azerbaijani soldiers on Wednesday.

The Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, telephoned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, this Thursday to apologize and reported that the commander of the responsible unit has been removed from his duties and that several soldiers have been detained. Putin, for his part, stressed the need for “consistent implementation of the ceasefire agreement.”

This Thursday, Armenia commemorated the 22nd anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union and, in a speech to the nation, its Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, asked the population for patience to achieve peace with Azerbaijan: “This path is not easy, It goes through external and internal shocks, and we must go through it for the good of independence, the State and our future.” The opposition has called for protests in Yerevan, calling Pashinián a “traitor” for not having intervened to help the Armenians of Karabakh and for giving in to Azerbaijan's demands, to which the Armenian president has responded that there are forces that intend to “drag to Armenia to a war”, but “they are not going to achieve it.”

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