Azerbaijan’s armed forces are advancing deeper into once Armenian-held territory, increasing threat of a potential upheaval into the densely populated center of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan has marked its footprints towards the south region of Nagorno-Karabakh, compounding several territories between Armenia and Iran. It was announced on October 20 that Zengilan, capital of a district in the southwest of the Armenian-occupied territories has been captured. The authorities have also claimed to capture the settlements in the provinces of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Khojavand, and Zengilan.
“Azerbaijan’s glorious Army has liberated Mollaveli, Yuxari Refiddinli and Ashagi Refiddinli villages of Fuzuli district and Sirik, Shikhlar, Mestelibeyli and Derzili villages of Jabrayil district. Long live Azerbaijan’s Army! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!” Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said on Twitter.
“The state border between Azerbaijan and Iran has been completely secured through liberation of the Agbend settlement,” he added.
Azerbaijanis have been ecstatic over the successive reports of new victories; celebratory sentiments broke out in Baku after the government released video of Azerbaijani soldiers raising their flag in Zengilan.
Armenia however, looks at the claims with suspicion and has accused Azerbaijan of exaggerating their military triumphs over Armenian regions.
“Azerbaijan’s military operations have a clear tactic, which our command is closely monitoring,” Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson said on October 20. “What I mean is that small Azerbaijani subversive groups penetrate into villages and towns, film themselves there, spread those images, which is intended to feed their society. But, unfortunately, this also affects us.”
All these events have taken place despite an official ceasefire which was meant to deescalate the situation following an agreement signed under Russian mediation on October 10. Another agreement was signed the next week which also remain ineffective in implementation.
To keep the diplomacy afloat nevertheless, the foreign ministers of both countries are scheduled to go to Washington today and meet separately with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The rival figures have also shown affinity in the matter of meeting one another.
But it is evident that developments on the battlefield are driving events far more strongly than anything agreed over the negotiation table.
Aliyev in an address to Azerbaijan on October 10, maintained a strong impression that the offensive would continue as long as it could.
“Our superiority on the battlefield is no longer a secret,” he said. “We are fighting on our own land, giving martyrs and restoring our territorial integrity. These steps will continue to be taken. Armenia must declare before it is too late that it is withdrawing from the occupied territories. After that the fighting may stop.”
In the aftermath of recent developments, tens of thousands of Armenians have fled Karabakh into Armenia since the start of the fighting, and an advance into the more populated areas like Stepanakert and Shushi would certainly result in a mass migration.