YERVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Nagorno-Karabakh’s president accepted Azerbaijan’s demands to dissolve all Karabakh government bodies to allow the region’s Armenian population to safely flee its homeland, exiled Karabakh officials in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
Samvel Shahramanyan signed a corresponding decree on September 28 just over a week after a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped an Azerbaijani military offensive. Under the terms of that agreement, Karabakh disarmed and disbanded its army, paving the way for the restoration of full Azerbaijani control over the territory.
Shahramanyan’s decree said that the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, set up in September 1991, will cease to exist on January 1. Some prominent Karabakh Armenians challenged the legality of the decree, raising more questions about the circumstances in which it was signed.
Shahramanyan, one of the last ethnic Armenians to leave the region, has avoided any contact with the press since arriving in Armenia along with more than 100,000 Karabakh residents.
Hunan Tadevosyan, the spokesman for the Karabakh interior ministry, said his decree was demanded by Azerbaijan and Shahramanyan signed it in order to “save human lives.” “There was no other option,” Tadevosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Aram Harutiunyan, a lawmaker representing Karabakh’s largest party, confirmed that. He said Baku warned that Azerbaijani troops will enter Stepanakert if Shahramanyan rejects the “ultimatum.”
The decree in question has still not been publicized in full. Some Karabakh politicians and public figures have said that it must be declared null and void now that Karabakh has been almost fully depopulated. Several opposition figures in Armenia have echoed their calls.
The Armenian government is unlikely to back them. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan pointedly declined to congratulate Shahramanyan when he was elected president by the Karabakh legislature in early September.