Armenian sappers demine a border area outside Voskepar village in preparation for its transfer to Azerbaijan, April 22, 2024

Azerbaijan Takes Control of Border Areas Ceded by Armenia

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YEREVAN/BAKU (Azatutyun.am) — Azerbaijan on Friday, May 24, took control of most of the border areas which the Armenian government agreed to hand over to Baku under last month’s controversial border deal that sparked antigovernment protests in Armenia.

Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev, who negotiated the deal on April 19 with his Armenian counterpart Mher Grigoryan, announced that Azerbaijani border guards took up positions there in the morning. Mustafayev said Azerbaijan won back a total of 6.5 square kilometers of territory that used to be occupied by four Azerbaijani villages captured by Armenian forces in 1991-1992.

For its part, the Azerbaijani army had at occupied at the time large swathes of nearby land belonging to several villages in Armenia’s Tavush province. It will not withdraw from that land in return for the Armenian territorial concessions.

Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) confirmed the completion of the first land transfer which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has described as “yet another victory” for his country. In a statement, the NSS indicated that another, more sensitive border area will be handed over to Baku by July 24.

The area is located in and around Kirants, one of the four Tavush villages affected by the Armenian withdrawal. Kirants will lose not only much of its agricultural land but also several houses and a bridge connecting it to the rest of Armenia.

Local residents say that the land transfer will also leave their community dangerously close to the new Azerbaijani border posts. Many of them staged protests late last month and early this in a bid to prevent it.

Demonstrators sit around a fire as they block a road in the village of Kirants, April 26, 2024

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Security forces cleared a protest camp in Kirants on May 2 to allow the Armenian authorities to continue preparations for the handover. They again blocked on May 19 all roads leading to the village. It has remained cordoned off since then.

The protest leader, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, and his supporters took their campaign against the “illegal” handover to Yerevan on May 9, holding rallies there to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation. Galstanyan, whose movement has been joined or endorsed by a wide range of Armenian opposition groups, is due to again rally supporters in the capital on Sunday.

Pashinyan has claimed that the unilateral concessions are necessary for preventing Azerbaijani military aggression against Armenia. He reiterated that in a televised address to the nation aired on Friday evening.

‘If our strategic vision is not real Armenia, the already difficult peace will not be possible because our environment will consider us a strategic threat,” he said.

Pashinyan’s critics say that he is on the contrary encouraging Baku to demand more territory from Armenia and use force for that purpose.

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