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GORIS: Turkiye President Tayyip Erdogan is to meet his ally, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, on Monday, as thousands of ethnic Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan defeated the breakaway region’s fighters last week.

Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave - a strip of Azeri territory nestled among Armenia, Iran and Turkiye - to discuss with Aliyev the situation in the Karabakh region, the Turkiye president’s office said.

The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond its control, were forced into a ceasefire last week after a 24-hour military operation by the much-larger Azerbaijani military.

On Sunday, the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership told Reuters the region’s 120,000 Armenians did not want to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing and started fleeing the area.

As of 5 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Monday, more than 2,900 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian government said in a statement.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited early on Monday an Armenian government statement saying that more than 1,500 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabkah as of midnight (2000 GMT).

Those with fuel had started to drive down the Lachin corridor toward the border with Armenia, according to a Reuters reporter in the Karabakh capital, known as Stepanakert by Armenia and Khankendi by Azerbaijan.

Reuters pictures showed dozens of cars driving out of the capital toward the corridor’s mountainous curves. Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the enclave in 30 years - with Azerbaijan gaining back swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week conflict in 2020.

Erdogan, who backed the Azeris with weaponry in the 2020 conflict, said last week he supported the aims of the Azerbaijan’s latest military operation but played no part in it.

Armenia says more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded in last week’s Azeri operation, a hostility condemned by the United States and other Western allies of Armenia.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said it had confiscated more military equipment from Armenian separatists, including rockets, artillery shells, mines and ammunition.

The Karabakh Armenians do not accept Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights as the region is integrated. Armenia called for an immediate deployment of a UN mission to monitor human rights and security in the region.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to leave our historic lands,” David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told Reuters.

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