Thousands of ethnic Armenians rushed to leave the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Wednesday after Azerbaijan’s army retook full control of the breakaway region. The United States government is increasing diplomatic efforts and humanitarian assistance to help those fleeing.
VOA Correspondent Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports.
So far, 28,000 of the 120,000 Armenians of Karabakh, a region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, have crossed the border into Armenia, a country with a population of 2.8 million.
After Azerbaijan forced Nagorno-Karabakh separatists to lay down their arms last week, it promised to protect the rights of residents in the ethnic Armenian territory, but thousands of them are suspicious and have decided to leave. Some shared their stories as they face an uncertain future in the Armenian town of Kornidzor.
“It took us about 24 hours to get here. We didn’t have a slice of bread to give the child”, says Ahahit Grigoryan, a refugee from Nagorno-Karabakh
The United Nations for International Development pledged 11.5 million dollars in humanitarian aid on Tuesday.
“Aid will be used to provide them with everything from food to physical and social support, many of them have deep psychological scars,” said Samantha Power, USAID administrator.
Many people who were trying to leave on Monday were injured in the explosion of a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh and are still in hospital receiving treatment.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that diplomatic efforts are being made at the highest levels, with the government of Azerbaijan, in order to calm the situation.
“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke again with President Ilham Aliyev today and underlined the urgent need to avoid further conflicts, that there should be unconditional protection and freedom of movement for civilians, and that humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh should not be impeded.”
The Armenian government should immediately mobilize its resources to help the displaced, Carey Cavanaugh, former co-chair of the US Minsk Group, told VOA.
“It is not a good thing for Armenia to try to meet the needs of an unexpected number of more than 100 thousand people along the border, while there is concern with only a small number who have crossed so far. I think that now we are facing a key moment and we don’t know how things will go in the following days”, he says.
At the same time, the United Nations Refugee Agency said it would continue to provide support to the Armenian government, while calling for the protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law and refugee law.