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World

Azerbaijan army enters last district handed over by Armenia

  • Clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out between the ex-Soviet rivals in late September, reigniting the long-simmering conflict over the mountainous region.
01 Dec 2020

BAKU: Azerbaijan said Tuesday its forces had entered the Lachin district, the last of three handed back by Armenia as part of a deal that ended weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The defence ministry in Baku said in a statement that "units of the Azerbaijan army entered the Lachin region on December 1" under the deal signed in early November by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.

It released a video showing a tank flying the Azerbaijani flag and leading a column of trucks into the district along a road at night.

Armenia agreed to hand over three districts around Karabakh -- Aghdam, Lachin and Kalbajar -- as part of the deal that stopped an Azerbaijani offensive that had reclaimed swathes of territory lost to Armenian separatists in a 1990s war.

Aghdam was ceded on November 20 and Kalbajar on November 25.

The peace deal saw some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers deployed between the two sides including along the Lachin corridor, a 60-kilometre (35-mile) route through the district that connects Karabakh's main city Stepanakert and the Armenian border to the south.

Clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out between the ex-Soviet rivals in late September, reigniting the long-simmering conflict over the mountainous region.

The peace deal was reached after six weeks of heavy fighting that saw Azerbaijan's military overwhelm Armenian separatist forces and threatening to advance on Stepanakert.

Under the agreement Armenia is losing control of seven regions seized during the post-Soviet war in the 1990s, which killed 30,000 people and displaced many Azerbaijanis who used to live in the area.

The separatists are retaining control over most of Karabakh's Soviet-era territory though they have lost the key town of Shusha.

Residents of Lachin cleared out frantically ahead of the handover, taking with them livestock, firewood, furniture, even plastic water pipes.

Some residents have also been burning their homes before they leave and on Monday evening AFP journalists saw two houses on the outskirts of the town of Lachin in flames, sending clouds of thick smoke into the air.