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Armenia Marks Karabakh War Anniversary


NAGORN-KARABAKH -- A serviceman of Karabakh's Defence Army fires an artillery piece towards Azeri positions during fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, September 28, 2020

Armenians observed a minute of silence, visited a military cemetery in Yerevan and attended requiem services in churches on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the start of a devastating war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The services were held at the Echmiadzin cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church and other major churches across Armenia. Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the church, presided over one of those liturgies.

The war broke out early on September 27, 2020 when Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani army captured four districts south of the Armenian-populated disputed territory as well as Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district and the town of Shushi (Shusha) before a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the hostilities on November 10.

Baku also regained control in the following weeks over the three other districts occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in the early 1990s. The truce accord negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin also led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh and the so-called Lachin corridor connecting the territory to Armenia.

According to the Armenian authorities, more than 3,700 Armenian soldiers and 75 civilians were killed during the six-week war. At least 253 others remain unaccounted for. This figure includes dozens of Armenian prisoners believed to be still held by Azerbaijan.

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits the Yerablur Military Pantheon in Yerevan on the first anniversary of the start of a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, September 27, 2021.
Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits the Yerablur Military Pantheon in Yerevan on the first anniversary of the start of a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, September 27, 2021.

Armenia and Karabakh observed at 11 a.m. local time a minute of silence in memory of their war dead.

Many of the Armenian soldiers killed in action were buried at Yerablur. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the military pantheon early in the morning. Relatives of fallen soldiers and other Armenians laid flowers later in the day.

Thousands of other people silently walked to Yerablur late on Sunday in a candlelight march organized by the main opposition Hayastan alliance. The procession was led by the bloc’s top leader, former President Robert Kocharian.

Hayastan and virtually all other Armenian opposition groups hold Pashinian responsible for Armenia’s and Karabakh’s defeat in the war. In the immediate aftermath of the Karabakh truce, most of them joined forces to stage demonstrations in Yerevan aimed at forcing the prime minister and his cabinet to resign.

Pashinian refused to quit and decided instead to hold snap parliamentary elections in June. His Civil Contract won the elections with about 54 percent of the vote, according to their official results rejected by the opposition.

Armenia - Supporters of the opposition Hayastan alliance march to the Yerablur Military Pantheon, Yerevan, September 26, 2021.
Armenia - Supporters of the opposition Hayastan alliance march to the Yerablur Military Pantheon, Yerevan, September 26, 2021.

Later in the morning Pashinian spoke by phone with Ara Harutiunian, the Karabakh president who visited a military cemetery in Stepanakert where hundreds of other fallen soldiers were laid to rest. Pashinian’s office said they discussed ongoing efforts to “overcome consequences of the 44-day Artsakh war.” It said they reaffirmed their commitment to “Artsakh’s revival and further development.”

The war anniversary was also marked in Azerbaijan whose government has acknowledged over 2,900 combat and civilian deaths.

In a speech delivered on 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.

Armenia maintains that the conflict remains unresolved because there is still no agreement on Karabakh’s status, the main bone of contention. A senior U.S. diplomat has repeatedly made similar statements in recent weeks.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in New York on Friday 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.”

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