Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian separatists announced their intention to dissolve their government and fully join Azerbaijan by year-end, as over half of the region’s population flees from advancing Azerbaijani forces.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday agreed to dissolve their government by the end of the year and become a full part of Azerbaijan in the wake of Baku’s lightning offensive.

The dramatic announcement came moments after it became clear that more than half of the rebel region’s population had fled the advancing Azerbaijani forces.

Refugees stand in the back of a truck after crossing the border near Kornidzor on September 28, 2023. More than 65,000 Armenians have fled Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, Yerevan said on September 28, 2023. (Alain Jocard, AFP)

It drew the curtain on one of the world’s longest and seemingly most irreconcilable “frozen conflicts”, one that successive administrations in Washington and leaders across Europe had failed to resolve in ceaseless rounds of talks.

But it also raised the levels of anger in Yerevan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of conducting “ethnic cleansing” and called on the international community to act.

‘Ethnic cleansing’

The republic and its separatist dream have been effectively vanishing since Azerbaijan unlocked the only road leading to Armenia on Sunday.

Armenia said more than 70,000 of the region’s 120,000-strong population had piled their belonging on top of their cars and left by Thursday afternoon.

Refugees sit on the back of a truck with loaded belongings near Kornidzor on September 28, 2023. (Alain Jocard, AFP)

“This is an act of ethnic cleansing of which we were warning the international community about for a long time,” Pashinyan told a cabinet meeting.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry retorted: “Pashinyan knows perfectly well that Armenian residents are leaving Karabakh on their own volition.”

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP