All Round View(Peshawar): Azerbaijan said on Friday its troops have entered a district bordering Nagorno-Karabakh handed back by Armenian separatists after almost 30 years as part of a Russian-brokered peace deal to end weeks of brutal fighting in the region.
Troops moved into the district of Aghdam, one of three due to be handed back, the Azerbaijan defence ministry said, a day after columns of Armenian soldiers and tanks rolled out of the territory.
Armenia will also hand over the Kalbajar district wedged between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on November 25 and the Lachin district by December 1.
On Thursday Armenian residents of Aghdam hurriedly picked pomegranates and persimmons from trees surrounding their homes and packed vans with furniture, before fleeing before the official deadline to cede the mountainous province.
As part of last week’s peace deal, Armenia agreed to return some 15 to 20 per cent of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory captured by Azerbaijan in recent fighting, including the historical town of Shusha.
The exchange of territory was originally due to begin Sunday, with Armenians in the Kalbajar district fleeing en masse before the official deadline for Azerbaijan’s takeover.
But Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev postponed the deadline by one week over “humanitarian” considerations.
The Russian peacekeeping force of some 2,000 troops has deployed to the administrative centre of the region, Stepanakert, and set up checkpoints and observation posts along the strategic Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
While Armenians in the provinces to be handed over to Azerbaijan have left in an exodus, the Russian mission on Thursday said it had taken by bus some 3,000 residents back to Stepanakert and other regions who had fled during the six weeks of heavy shelling.
Most of Azerbaijan’s south-western district of Aghdam has been under the control of Armenian separatists since 1993.
Armenia’s health ministry said earlier this week that more than 2,400 of the country’s fighters had been killed in the fighting. Azerbaijan has not revealed its military fatalities.
After the peace accord was signed last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said total fatalities that include dozens of civilians had surpassed 4,000 people.
Russia’s decisive role in the settlement has sidelined international players the United States and France, which brokered a ceasefire in the 1990s but failed to deliver a long-term resolution.
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