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Turkey’s Erdogan to meet Azeri’s Aliyev as thousands flee Karabakh

GORIS, Armenia, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will meet his ally, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, on Monday, as thousands of ethnic Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan defeated the fighters from the separatist region last week.

Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Azerbaijan’s autonomous enclave of Nakhchivan, a strip of Azeri territory sandwiched between Armenia, Iran and Turkey, to discuss with Aliyev the situation in the Karabakh region, the Turkish president’s office said.

The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond its control, were forced into a Stop the fire last week after a 24-hour military operation by the much larger Azerbaijani army.

On Sunday, Nagorno-Karabakh leaders told Reuters that the region’s 120,000 Armenians did not want to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing and began fleeing the area.

As of 5 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Monday, more than 2,900 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian government said in a statement.

Russia’s RIA news agency early Monday cited a statement from the Armenian government saying that more than 1,500 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabkah as of midnight (2000 GMT).

Those who had fuel had begun to go down. the Lachín corridor towards the border with Armenia, according to a Reuters journalist in the capital of Karabakh, known as Stepanakert by Armenia and Khankendi by Azerbaijan.

Reuters images showed dozens of cars leaving the capital towards the mountainous curves of the corridor.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the enclave in 30 years, and Azerbaijan recaptured swaths of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week conflict in 2020.

Erdogan, who backed the Azeris with weapons in the 2020 conflict, said last week that he supported the goals of Azerbaijan’s latest military operation but did not participate in it.

Armenia says more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded in last week’s Azeri operation, a hostility condemned by the United States and other Western allies of Armenia.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it had confiscated more military equipment from Armenian separatists, including rockets, artillery shells, mines and ammunition.

Karabakh Armenians do not accept Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights as the region integrates. Armenia asked for a immediate deployment of a UN mission to monitor human rights and security in the region.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to abandon our historic lands,” David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Written by Lydia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry and Gerry Doyle

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