The breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan is set to dissolve, with its remaining Armenian residents now subject to Azerbaijani rule.
The leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh, not officially recognised as a separate state, announced that their de facto President, Samvel Shakhramanyan, has endorsed an agreement to dismantle all state institutions and organisations by January 1, 2024.
The local population is now required to “familiarise” themselves with the terms of reintegration presented by Azerbaijan.
They will need to make individual decisions about staying or returning to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The move comes in the wake of Azerbaijan’s reopening of the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
Since then, over 65,000 people have left their homes, according to the Armenian government.
There have been long queues of buses, trucks, and cars at the border, with many individuals spending more than 24 hours in their vehicles.
The mass departure follows Azerbaijan’s military offensive aimed at reclaiming the breakaway region. Local leaders ultimately accepted a surrender agreement brokered by Russia, which marked the beginning of the dissolution of their unrecognised state that had endured for 30 years.
Evacuations have been hindered by a rescue operation after a fuel depot explosion in the region on Monday night, resulting in at least 68 deaths and around 300 injuries. Over 100 people are still unaccounted for.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict dates back to the late 1980s when the region, predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians but located within Azerbaijan’s borders, sought independence.
The struggle resulted in a brutal war in the early 1990s, leading to a ceasefire in 1994, though tensions remained high. The conflict reignited in September 2020, with both sides accusing each other of aggression, eventually resulting in the reshaping of the region’s geopolitical landscape.