Azerbaijan is claiming victory after its brief offensive in the breakaway region dominated by ethnic Armenians.
Azerbaijani officials and ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh have started talks in the Azeri city of Yevlakh, two days after Baku launched a new offensive in the long-troubled breakaway region.
Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Thursday showed images of delegates sitting around a table.
The rivals reached a ceasefire agreement on Wednesday that could put an end to decades of aspirations for the enclave’s independence from Baku.
Azerbaijan’s offensive in the secessionist region was aimed at restoring full control of the territory. It justified its military action, claiming that six people, including two civilians, had died due to mines placed by Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan, but the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living there dominate the region. Baku and Yerevan have been vying for control over the region for decades and have fought two wars.
Fighting on Tuesday lasted for 24 hours before separatist forces of the self-styled “Republic of Artsakh” accepted a ceasefire whose terms signalled the area would return under Baku’s control.
According to the Nagorno-Karabakh office for human rights, at least 200 ethnic Armenians died, including 10 civilians. Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the death toll.
“Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev triumphantly said in a televised speech on Wednesday, adding that his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of a separatist Armenian Karabakh to history.
The separatist Armenian forces said they were forced to accept the deal after Azerbaijani forces broke through their lines and seized a number of heights and strategic road junctions.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense also said Armenian forces in Karabakh had agreed to “lay down their weapons, abandon combat positions and military posts and completely disarm”, adding that all arms and heavy equipment were being handed over to the Azerbaijani military.
Baku had demanded that the separatist political authorities in Karabakh disband before any talks are held about the future of the region, which Azerbaijan wants to fully integrate.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence said the ceasefire will be implemented in coordination with Russian peacekeepers, while Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – who is facing calls to resign – said Yerevan was not involved in preparing the text of the truce.
“We hope that military escalation will not continue, because, in the current conditions, it is very important to ensure stability and stop combat actions,” Pashinyan said in a TV address to Armenians.
He also noted that Armenia has not had troops in Karabakh since August 2021.
Thousands have gathered at Republic Square, in the heart of Yerevan, decrying the government’s perceived failure to support Armenian separatists.