The territory is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and, until recently, fully controlled by ethnic Armenians who have been relentlessly pushed back by the armed forces of Azerbaijan in six weeks of heavy fighting.
Under the deal, Azerbaijan will get to keep all of its territorial gains, including the enclave’s second city of Shusha/Shushi, and ethnic Armenian forces must hand over control of a slew of other territories between now and December 1.
Soon after the announcement, thousands of people streamed to the main square in the Armenian capital Yerevan to protest the agreement, many shouting “We won’t give up our land”. Some of them broke into the main government building, saying they were searching for Pashinian, who apparently had already departed.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it had started deploying 1960 servicemen, who were en route to an unnamed air base to be airlifted along with their equipment and vehicles.
The deal is likely to be seen as a sign that Russia is still the main arbiter in a region it regards as its own backyard, though the scale of Turkish involvement remained unclear and Ankara’s interest in the region has sharply increased.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, said on Facebook that he gave agreement “to end the war as soon as possible”.
The declaration has followed weeks of heavy fighting and advancement by the Azerbaijan’s forces. Baku said on Monday it had seized dozens more settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, a day after proclaiming victory in the battle for the enclave’s strategically positioned second-largest city.
“The decision is made basing on the deep analyses of the combat situation and in discussion with best experts of the field,” Prime Minister Pashinyan said on social media.
“This is not a victory but there is not defeat until you consider yourself defeated. We will never consider ourselves defeated and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth.”
On Monday, the Russian military said one of its Mi-24 attack helicopters was shot down in Armenia‘s Ararat province, near the border with Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan region, killing two crew members and severely injuring a third.
The helicopter appeared to have been shot down by a portable surface-to-air missile system fired from the ground, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement, without attributing blame.