Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave on Monday to meet his ally, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, and discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region where thousands of ethnic Armenians are fleeing after a ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan.
Erdogan and Aliyev held a bilateral meeting and a joint press conference, where they expressed their support for each other and condemned Armenia for its role in the conflict. They also attended a groundbreaking and an opening ceremony for some projects in the region, according to the Turkish president’s office.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but was controlled by ethnic Armenians since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars over the enclave in 30 years, with Azerbaijan gaining back swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week conflict in 2020. Erdogan backed the Azeris with weaponry in the 2020 war, but said he played no part in the latest military operation.
Last week, Azerbaijan launched a 24-hour military operation to reclaim full control of Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing the Armenians to accept a ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Russia. The agreement stipulates that Azerbaijan will keep the territories it captured during the operation, while Russia will deploy peacekeepers along the border and monitor human rights and security in the region.
However, many Armenians of Karabakh do not trust Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights and fear persecution and ethnic cleansing. They have started to leave their homes and cross into Armenia through the Lachin corridor, a mountainous road that connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
According to the Armenian government, more than 2,900 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh as of Monday morning. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he expected about 120,000 civilians to leave the region for Armenia.
The exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh has sparked international concern and condemnation. The United States and other Western allies of Armenia have called for an immediate end to the hostilities and urged both sides to respect human rights and international law. Armenia has also appealed to the United Nations to set up a mission to monitor the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and protect the civilians.