Turkish president will visit Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave in a show of solidarity with his ally.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived to a meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev as thousands of ethnic Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku defeated the breakaway region’s fighters in a military operation launched on September 19.
The visit to Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave on Monday is to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Turkish president’s office.
State media said Erdogan, who will hold a bilateral meeting and a joint press conference with Aliyev, will also attend a groundbreaking and an opening ceremony in the region.
The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond its control, were forced into a ceasefire last week after a 24-hour military operation by the much larger Azerbaijani military.
The majority of Karabakh Armenians do not accept Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights as the region is integrated.
Valery Airapetyan, a Nagorno-Karabakh resident who spoke to Al Jazeera, is one of those.
“We found a litre of gasoline, ran away and came here. Shall we go so that the young people are killed along the way?” he said.
As of 5am (01:00 GMT) on Monday, more than 2,900 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian government said in a statement.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Sunday that he expected about 120,000 civilians to leave the region for Armenia in fear of “the danger of ethnic cleansing”.
Armenia has called on the UN to set up a mission to monitor human rights and security in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Decades of fighting
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in a region that has come under the control of Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans and Soviets over centuries.
Following the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917, it was claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia. It was designated an autonomous region within Azerbaijan before the USSR collapsed.
After the fall of the USSR, the region’s Armenians overthrew Azerbaijani control in the First Karabakh War, which led to a conflict that killed tens of thousands in several years to follow.
Azerbaijan gained back swaths of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a 2020 war, in which Ankara gave weaponry support to Baku.
Erdogan expressed last week his support for Azerbaijan’s latest military bid.
According to Yerevan, more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded in last week’s Azeri operation, which was slammed by Western countries.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has blamed Russia for failing Armenia. He is facing protests and calls for resignation in his country for failing Nagorno-Karabakhis.