“Residents forbidden to burn down houses”: about Karabakh villages that will come under Azerbaijani control
Towns in the Lachin corridor will be transferred to Azerbaijan
“When a new corridor connecting Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh is put into operation, the town of Aghavno will be out of Azerbaijan’s control,” Hayk Khanumyan, Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, recently said.
This was in regard to the eviction of the Armenian population from Lachin, Sus and Aghavno (Zabukh), which are located in the Lachin corridor and will soon pass under the control of Azerbaijan. At the end of last week, it became known that on August 25 the Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, and the surrounding towns will be transferred to Azerbaijan.
During the latest escalation, Azerbaijan, through Russian peacekeepers, demanded that Armenians vacate the Lachin corridor. According to the trilateral statement, which ended hostilities in Karabakh in November 2020, three years were allotted for the construction of an alternative road to the Lachin corridor. However, Azerbaijan completed construction on its side and demanded an urgent change in the route.
The new road connecting NK with Armenia will pass through the towns of Mets Shen (Metscaladeresi), Hin Shen (Kirov) and Aghavno. It will function according to the logic of the Lachin corridor; Russian peacekeepers will be stationed here. Part of the road on the Armenian side leading to Kornidzor has not yet been built. So, for now, everyone will have to drive on a four-kilometer stretch of dirt road.
After some silence, this situation was also discussed in Armenia. The ruling political forces stated that the Armenian authorities should not be blamed for Azerbaijani provocations. The opposition claims that “we are dealing with agreements [with Azerbaijan] reached behind the backs of the people.”
About the villages which will come under the control of Azerbaijan at the end of the month, why residents were forbidden to burn their houses before leaving, and how infrastructure problems will be resolved.
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Negotiations with Azerbaijan did not produce results?
The fate of Lachin and the town of Sus was clear in November 2020. As for the town of Aghavno, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh have said until recently that they were negotiating to keep it under Armenian control.
“It is unlikely our compatriots will remain in Berdzor. As for Aghavno, we will continue our negotiations, our struggle,” President of the unrecognized NKR, Arayik Harutyunyan, said at the end of June.
Judging by how events unfolded, negotiations with Azerbaijan were unproductive.
According to Harutyunyan, “there are a hundred families in Berdzor, Sus and Aghavno. They have been preparing to leave. There is not much time – they must be ready by August 25. Where they will go is unknown.”
Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Hayk Khanumyan visited Aghavno on August 5, where he discussed evacuation issues with residents. He announced the deadline for them to leave their homes. In protest, a group of residents of Berdzor blocked the road leading to the city.
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Analysts do not consider the escalation accidental, tying it to Baku’s dissatisfaction with the negotiation process, and believe it to be directed against the activity of the West in the region
The evicted are promised rent and a certificate for the purchase of housing
Those under eviction have been promised to be placed in other regions of Nagorno-Karabakh or in Armenia, specifically in the Syunik region.
“Families who move to the Republic of Armenia will receive a certificate for buying an apartment, and priot to that, compensation for renting an apartment,” said Hayk Khanumyan.
About 25-30% of the residents of Lachin, Sus and Aghavno expressed their desire to stay in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Those inclined to move to Armenia proper aren’t sure that they will be able to buy housing for certificates of 10 million drams (less than $25,000).
Electrical supply and internet will be solved; gas more difficult
On August 25, Azerbaijan will control not only the Lachin corridor, Berdzor, Sus and Aghavno, but also the infrastructure through which gas, electricity and internet are supplied from Armenia to NK. Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh are told that these are temporary difficulties and new means will be found. But what will happen before that is still unknown.
The Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures said that work is already underway to lay high-voltage power transmission and communication lines. They are expected to be completed as soon as possible. There is no word yet on gas.
According to Hayk Khanumyan, even before the change of the corridor, most of the infrastructure passed through territory under the control of Azerbaijan. So, to resolve the issue, “negotiations and the active participation of Russian peacekeepers therein” are necessary.
The Armenian population of Karabakh has been deprived of gas since March 8 of this year. The damaged section of the gas pipeline, which supplies gas from Armenia, was located in territory that came under the control of Azerbaijan after the 2020 war. Azerbaijan did not allow it to be repaired. After ten days of negotiations, Baku restored the pipeline itself – but after the repair the blackouts began. In Nagorno-Karabakh, it is believed that a valve was installed on the gas pipeline during repairs.
“Don’t burn houses down to get compensation”
Residents of Aghavno told reporters that they had been warned not to burn their houses down or they would not receive compensation.
Hayk Khanumyan stated that he is categorically against residents destroying their homes. He cited as an example the town of Charektar in the Shahumyan district of NK. Residents set fire to their homes, and later it turned out that the town would remain under the control of Armenia. Now millions of drams have to be spent on the restoration of Charektar.
He argues that it was for this reason that the inhabitants of Lachin, Aghavno and Sus were forbidden to set their houses on fire.
The minister also said that when the new route of the corridor connecting NK with Armenia is put into operation, the towns of Aghavno, Meghvadzor, Unanavan, Melikashen and Maratuk will pass back to Armenia:
“But everything there has been looted and burned, starting from the time of the first war and ending in 2020. If the housing stock had been preserved in that corridor, we could calmly resettle people today, but today there are only charred walls and ruins.”
“Armenia is pursuing an uncertain and consistent policy”
The Hayastan opposition bloc (Armenia) issued a statement condemning the latest escalation, “Azerbaijani aggression”, and the defeatist attitude of official Yerevan. Oppositionists believe that as a result of this, “new towns are under the threat of eviction and their transfer to the enemy.”
The statement says that “the recent aggression is a manifestations of coercion, the power politics of Azerbaijan.” At the same time, Baku, according to the opposition, has once again violated the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020:
“The tripartite statement does not provide for the transfer of towns for the purpose of building a road, nor does it contain a provision that the new road should bypass the towns of Berdzor, Aghavno and Sus.”
The opposition regards the policy of the Armenian authorities as inconsistent and uncertain:
“There is no proper cooperation in any direction, whether it be with the peacekeeping forces, the co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group, or international structures in general.
“The current authorities, serving Turkish-Azerbaijani interests, in fact together with these forces, are expelling the Armenians of Artsakh from their homeland.”
Deputy Vahagn Aleksanyan answered on behalf of the ruling parliamentary party “Civil Contract”. He stated that the Armenian government should not be blamed for provocations committed by Azerbaijan.
Towns in the Lachin corridor will be transferred to Azerbaijan