Politics

Azerbaijan set to retake control of Lachin, surrounding areas

Feature 16 August 2022
Azerbaijan set to retake control of Lachin, surrounding areas

Azerbaijan will retake control of the city of Lachin and some villages on the route between Khankendi and Armenia at the end of this month in accordance with a joint declaration signed by Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
 
Russian troops and the Armenian population will leave the areas along the route known as the "Lachin corridor," where Lachin and the villages of Zabuh and Sus are located and which was temporarily put under Russian control in accordance with the tripartite declaration signed between the three countries on Nov. 10, 2020.
 
According to the declaration, Azerbaijan would build a new road passing outside Lachin which the Armenian population in Karabakh would use on their way to and from Armenia within three years. Azerbaijan completed the 32-kilometer (20-mile) road earlier than planned.
 
Russian forces providing security on the route of the old Lachin corridor will also move the checkpoints to the new road.
 
Lachin and its villages were occupied by the Armenian army in 1992, and then Armenians brought from Syria and Lebanon were settled here in the following years. Throughout the process, Azerbaijan has declared that it sees this as a war crime and violation of the Geneva Conventions.
 
According to information from the Armenian press and social media, the Armenian population that settled in Lachin and Zabuh and Sus was warned to leave the region by Aug. 25. They will be able to settle in either Armenia or Khankendi and will receive financial assistance from Yerevan.
 
Although Armenians who leave the region were warned not to burn their homes or harm the environment, images have been circulating on social media showing some Armenians burning their houses and nearby forests.
 
While both the Armenian and Western press have been portraying Armenians to be expelled from Lachin in a disadvantaged position, they did not touch on the issue of when they settled there and who lived in these lands before. The reports did not include the information that there was no Armenian population there before the occupation and that Azerbaijanis had to leave their homeland.
 
Speaking to Azerbaijan state television on the evacuation of Armenians from Lachin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he ordered the State Committee for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons to contact the original inhabitants of the city of Lachin and the villages of Zabuh and Sus and to start work to return them to their ancestral homeland.
 
Relations between the two former Soviet countries have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Karabakh, formerly referred to as Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
 
New clashes erupted in September 2020 and the 44-day conflict saw Azerbaijan liberate several cities and more than 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.
 
Türkiye was a key backer of Azerbaijan during the 44-day Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, and ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire and sizeable Azerbaijani gains on Nov. 10.
 
In January 2021, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia agreed to develop economic ties and infrastructure for the benefit of the entire region.
 
While the ongoing diplomatic negotiations for a permanent peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the ongoing normalization process between Türkiye and Armenia have recently harbored a positive atmosphere in the region, they also heralded steps for comprehensive regional cooperation. However, as a result of the recent increase in tension in the Karabakh region, Armenia-Azerbaijan relations have turned hostile again. Türkiye has adopted a discursive position, siding with Azerbaijan and against Armenia.
 
Azerbaijan last week announced that it regained control of several strategic locations in the Karabakh region. Tensions have flared since an Azerbaijani soldier was killed in an Armenian firing in the border region of Lachin, pushing Baku to launch a retaliatory operation against Armenian forces in Karabakh. Azerbaijan has repeatedly pointed to Armenia’s failure to meet the provisions of the 2020 agreement signed by the two nations plus Russia, drawing particular attention to how Armenian armed groups have not yet pulled out of Azerbaijani territories in Karabakh.
 

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