Armenia sign peace deal with Azerbaijan and Russia to end war

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced he had signed an “unspeakably painful agreement” with Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, just hours after Azerbaijan claimed it captured the region’s strategic city of Shusha.

“I have made a difficult, extremely difficult decision for personally me and all of us. I have signed a declaration with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on stopping the war starting from 01:00 (local time),” Pashinyan said in a statement posted on his Facebook page early Tuesday.

“The signed trilateral statement will become a (crucial) point in the settlement of the conflict,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised online meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The agreement came hours after ethnic Armenian officials in the disputed region confirmed that the key city of Shusha (known as Shushi in Armenia), the second-biggest city in the enclave, had been taken by Azeri forces. Azerbaijan also said on Monday it had taken dozens more settlements.

Describing the decision as “unspeakably painful for me personally and for our people”, Pashinyan said the agreement followed “an in-depth analysis of the military situation” that has seen Azeri forces closing in on Stepanakert, the region’s main city. He said the agreement was “the best possible solution to the current situation”.

The agreement, signed by Pashinyan, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, calls for Russian peacekeepers to patrol the Lachin Corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia proper and for Armenia to withdraw from other contested territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh. 

It said that Armenia would cede control over the Kelbajar region by November 15 and Aghdam by November 20. Armenians will withdraw from Lachin, except for a five-kilometer-wide corridor, by December 1. It did not directly address the status of the parts of Nagorno-Karabakh proper that Armenian forces continued to hold, including the regional capital, Stepanakert.

The agreement also provides for some sort of corridor between “mainland” Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan, but it was not clear if that would involve any transfer of territory. Russia and Armenia would “guarantee the security of transport links,” the agreement said.

Russian peacekeepers will total just under 2,000, and were flown in from Ulyanovsk. They began entering Lachin at 6 am local time, Russian media reported.

In a speech following the signing of the agreement, Aliyev said that Turkey also would play a role in peacekeeping, but there was no mention of Turkey in the formal agreement.

“The fifth paragraph of the statement reads: ‘A peacekeeping center for ceasefire control is being established to increase the effectiveness of monitoring the parties’ compliance with the agreements.’ I can say that Russian and Turkish military will work in this center. So, Turkey will officially play a role in the future settlement of the conflict and monitoring the ceasefire,” Aliyev said.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a years-long war over the region in the early 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and roughly 1 million displaced. The two sides never signed a peace treaty and on September 27 this year Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, began a campaign to retake the territories. Russia has estimated that the six-week-old war has killed thousands.

Protests broke out in Yerevan following the surrender, with crowds taking control of government buildings and beating up the speaker of parliament.