People in Azerbaijan and Armenia have marked the first anniversary of the start of the six-week war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in which more than 6,600 people died and which ended with Azerbaijan regaining control of large swaths of territory.
Soldiers carrying photographs of comrades killed in the war marched through the center of the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. In Yerevan, the Armenian capital, thousands of people, including Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, went to the Yerablur military cemetery to pay respects to soldiers buried there.
Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan but had been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
Last year’s war ended when Pashinian signed a Russia-brokered cease-fire that granted Azerbaijan control of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as adjacent territories occupied by Armenians.
The truce accord negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin also led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and the so-called Lachin Corridor connecting the territory to Armenia.
Armenia says more than 3,700 Armenians and Nagorno-Karabakh residents died in the war. Azerbaijan said it lost 2,900 people.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement placing blame for the war on Armenia, saying: “One year ago today, the armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan began responsive measures to counter another military provocation from the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia.”
In a speech to mark the occasion, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev again said that Azerbaijan’s victory in the war put an end to the conflict. “Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity,” he said.
But Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said “the 44-day war was a preplanned and prepared military aggression, the purpose of which was to finally close the Karabakh issue by exterminating the Armenian population.”
Armenia maintains that the conflict remains unresolved because there is still no agreement on Karabakh’s status, the main bone of contention.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in New York on September 24 for talks hosted by the U.S., Russian, and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. In a joint statement issued after the talks, the mediators reiterated that they are ready to “continue working with the sides to find comprehensive solutions to all remaining issues related to or resulting from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”