Thursday, December 7, 2023

Azerbaijan says working with Russia to disarm Karabakh forces

Azerbaijan says working with Russia to disarm Karabakh forces
September 23, 2023 Web Desk

SHUSHA, Azerbaijan (AFP) - Azerbaijani soldiers and Russian peacekeepers are working jointly to disarm separatist fighters in the ethnically Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani army spokesman said Saturday.

"We are in close cooperation with the Russian peacekeepers, conducting the demilitarisation" of the separatists, spokesman Anar Eyvazov told reporters in Shusha, a district on the edge of the rebel stronghold Stepanakert.

"We have already seized weapons and ammunition," Eyvazov added three days after Azerbaijan staged a lightning offensive into the enclave, forcing the rebels to sue for peace and agree to disarm.

Russia deployed several thousand peacekeepers to the region in the wake of a brief but brutal 2020 war in which Azerbaijan reclaimed large parts of the territory and its surroundings. Those lands had been under the control of separatist forces since they won a years-long conflict in the 1990s that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Russia had been a traditional ally of Armenia in the restive region. But Moscow is now bogged down in a war in Ukraine, and refused to enter the latest fighting. The separatists agreed to disarm under a ceasefire agreement reached on Thursday.

Eyvazov said the disarmament process "can take time" because some of the rebels were based in remote mountain districts. "The priority is the mine clearing and demilitarisation," he said.