By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Armenia says more than 100,000 people have fled Nagorno-Karabakh since Azerbaijan’s seizure of that breakaway territory a little over a week ago, while Yerevan has appealed to a UN court to stop Baku from allegedly targeting ethnic Armenians there.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s office told journalists early on September 30 that authorities had registered 81,827 of the 100,437 people who had left Nagorno-Karabakh so far — the latter representing more than three-quarters of the higher estimates of the territory’s entire population.
The update came hours after Armenia said it had filed a suit with the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prevent the targeting of ethnic Armenians amid signs of a roundup by Baku amid the massive exodus a week after Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh in a lightning offensive.
Armenian officials and outsiders have expressed fears of ethnic cleansing and international calls have escalated for help to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has urged ethnic Armenians to stay and has invited UN agencies to send a mission “to become acquainted with the current humanitarian activities being carried out by Azerbaijan in the region.”
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on September 30 that its forces were taking “retaliatory measures” after one of its soldiers was killed by an Armenian Army sniper on the border between the two countries.
Armenia denied the accusation, saying the claim “does not correspond to reality.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said late on September 29 that the United Nations will send a mission this weekend to Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory but was controlled by ethnic Armenians with Yerevan’s support for decades since the waning years of the Soviet Union.
Dujarric said the UN mission will mainly assess humanitarian needs in a region to which it had not had access “in about 30 years.”
“The government of Azerbaijan and the UN have agreed on a mission to the region. The mission will take place over the weekend,” Dujarric told reporters.
Both sides have expressed hope that a more durable peace agreement between the longtime Caucasus archfoes might be reached ahead of a possible meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in connection with European-wide meetings in Granada, Spain next week.
But Azerbaijani authorities have detained several key figures from the ethnic Armenian leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenians refer to as Artsakh.
The Artsakh leadership has already announced that it would cease to exercise authority over the territory by the end of this year, a bitter pill for Armenians who have made control of Nagorno-Karabakh a national priority.
European and other Western governments meanwhile have been responding to Armenia’s calls for assistance to help it deal with the influx of refugees. The office of Italy’s prime minister said in a statement that Armenia has asked the EU for temporary shelters and medical supplies, adding that Rome is working to promote stabilization in the region.
European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said “urgent, continuous, unhindered humanitarian support” is needed to support the people who are still in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as those who have left.
The EU supports the work of the Red Cross, he said, saying that the European Commission announced an additional 5 million euros in humanitarian aid to help those displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and those in vulnerable situations in the region. He also said it is important that the UN mission be able to enter the area in the next few days.