Armenia hands over territory to Azerbaijan
December 1, 2020 - The Russian-brokered peace deal – seen as a major victory for Azerbaijan – sets up a staggered withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azeri districts surrounding the enclave by December 1.
The cease-fire ended six weeks of intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and territories outside its formal borders that had been under the control of Armenian forces since 1994. The agreement calls for Azerbaijan to take control of the outlying territories.
The first, the Kalbajar district, was to be turned over on Nov 15, but Azerbaijan agreed to delay the takeover until Nov 25 after a request from Armenia. Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said worsening weather conditions made the withdrawal of Armenian forces and civilians difficult along the single road through mountainous territory that connects Kalbajar with Armenia.
After the agreement was announced on Nov 10, many distraught residents preparing to evacuate set their houses ablaze to make them unusable to Azerbaijanis who would move in.
Prior to a separatist war that ended in 1994, Kalbajar was populated almost exclusively by Azerbaijanis. But the territory then came under Armenian control and Armenians moved in. Azerbaijan deemed their presence illegal.
The imminent renewal of Azerbaijani control raised wide concerns about the fate of Armenian cultural and religious sites, particularly Dadivank, a noted Armenian Apostolic Church monastery that dates back to the ninth century.
On the other hand, Turkey’s government submitted a motion to parliament on Monday seeking its approval to deploy peacekeepers to monitor the cease-fire agreement.
Russian officials have said that Ankara’s involvement will be limited to the work of the monitoring centre on Azerbaijani soil, and Turkish peacekeepers would not go to Nagorno-Karabakh.