Azerbaijan Reveals ‘Reintegration’ Strategy for Depopulated Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians

YEREVAN – Azerbaijan disclosed its plan to reintegrate the ethnic Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh a day after their significant migration to Armenia, which resulted in near-complete depopulation of the area.

Following the mass movement, Stepanakert officials confirmed the evacuation of the last group, leaving behind only the Karabakh leadership, a rescue team, and a few vulnerable civilians.

Subsequent to this exodus, Armenia’s government revealed that the number of Karabakh Armenians who migrated since Azerbaijan’s mid-September offensive reached 100,520. Nazeli Baghdasarian, a government representative, remarked, “This indicates a halt in the migration, leaving behind primarily officials and a small portion of the local populace.”

Historically, prior to this mass movement, Karabakh’s population was about 120,000, a number that encompasses the 10,000 Armenians who had previously fled due to the 2020 war and others restricted from returning due to Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin corridor.

For those concerned about vulnerable individuals left in Artsakh, Gegham Stepanian, Karabakh’s human rights spokesperson, urged them to reach out to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Zara Amatuni, representing ICRC in Yerevan, affirmed their commitment to assisting such individuals. The ICRC has reportedly been contacted by numerous refugees inquiring about family members they lost touch with during the exodus.

This mass movement facilitated the full Azerbaijani assumption of control over Karabakh. While Azerbaijan’s leaders reject the notion of “ethnic cleansing,” they have expressed commitment to safeguarding the rights of Armenians choosing to reside under Azerbaijani jurisdiction.

On Monday, Baku unveiled a five-point plan for the reintegration of these individuals, emphasizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. The plan also states that representatives appointed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will govern the region.

Notably, last week, several former Karabakh officials were detained by Azerbaijani forces while transiting through the Lachin corridor. Azerbaijan has expressed intentions to apprehend roughly 300 present or past Karabakh leaders, among them three previous presidents. Samvel Shahramanyaan, the current president, is reportedly in discussions with Azerbaijani officials to ensure the safe departure of prominent Karabakh Armenians.

Russian news agency, TASS, reported ongoing discussions between the two sides, with the three former presidents still in Stepanakert as of Monday noon.

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