Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist as of January 1

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The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have issued a directive to disband the region’s governmental institutions by the end of this year, stating that the separatist state will cease to exist as of January 1, 2024. This decision was formalized through a decree signed by the separatist president Samvel Shakhramanyan on Thursday. It comes in the wake of a military operation by Azerbaijani forces last week, which prompted more than half of the enclave’s 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents to flee to Armenia.

The decree references the ceasefire agreement reached last week, which marked the end of hostilities. According to the agreement, Azerbaijan will permit the “free, voluntary, and unimpeded movement” of Nagorno-Karabakh residents.

Azerbaijan initiated a military offensive on September 19, leading separatist authorities to announce their surrender and agree to a ceasefire brokered by Russia the following day. Despite assurances from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev about safeguarding the rights and security of ethnic Armenians, decades of conflict, distrust, mutual animosity, and violence have left many Nagorno-Karabakh residents doubtful about the prospects of the region’s peaceful reintegration into Azerbaijani territory.

In recent days, lengthy queues of vehicles have formed on the road connecting the region to Armenia, as a continuous stream of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh has sought refuge in Armenia. Armenian authorities reported on Friday that over 65,000 of them have already reached Armenia.

While the separatist enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, including by Armenia, it has been predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians who have aspired to reunify with Yerevan since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Following the declarations of independence by Azerbaijan and Armenia in the 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh became the focal point of two wars. In 1994, Armenians gained full control of the territory and several surrounding districts. Azerbaijan did regain control of a significant portion of the territory it had lost in previous conflicts with Armenia in 2020.

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