Armenia has begun handing over disputed territory to Azerbaijan as part of a peace deal that ended six weeks of heavy fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Residents of the Kalpazar district, which has been controlled by the Armenian community for decades, began mass exodus from the mountains in the days leading up to the official withdrawal on November 15.
But Azerbaijan on Sunday agreed to extend the deadline for the Armenians to leave in full by another 10 days.
“Azerbaijan has agreed to extend the deadline for the withdrawal of Armenian Armed Forces’ Kalpazar and illegal Armenian immigrants until November 25,” said Hikmet Hajiev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev.
He said Aliyev had agreed on humanitarian grounds to grant Armenian request for the delay following the mediation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The weather is getting worse, there is only one road in that direction … and the capacity of the road is low,” Hajiev said. Quoted As the local media say.
Residents were able to see their belongings piled up in vehicles before moving to Armenia. Some of the departing ethnic-Armenians said they had removed the graves for fear of being humiliated by the Azerbaijanis.
After residents set fire to their homes in the valley near the village of Sarekdar, thick chimneys rose – waking up and wanting to leave the disaster uninhabited.
A Russian peacekeeping team sent to Nagorno-Karabakh last week set up checkpoints and posts in the region’s administrative center, Stephankert, enforced the agreement, and executes an agreement to see Armenian forces occupy territory occupied by Azerbaijan.
Moscow’s peacekeeping mission, which the military says includes troops previously stationed in Syria, has about 2,000 troops for a renewable five-year mission.
Former Soviet rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to end the war last week after several attempts to reach a ceasefire with Russia, France and the United States collapsed during nearly two months of conflict.
Al Jazeera’s Hota Abdel-Hamid reported from Kalbazar that the area was largely abandoned as people loaded goods into vehicles and farmers raised livestock.
“There is no life left in Kalbazar. Where these people are going, what their future will be, it is still in the air,” he said. “It is a great failure, it is a shame, people are angry.”
‘They are human’
An important part of the peace agreement includes the provinces of Argentina Kalpajar and Aktam by November 20 and the return of Lachin by December 1. Hajiev said the schedule for the withdrawal of Armenians from Akhtam and Lachin remained unchanged.
After a devastating war in the 1990s everything was captured by the Armenians.
Even if the ceasefire ends the fighting, it only exacerbates racial hatred.
Fugitive resident Karo Dadevasyan, speaking after saying goodbye to his home for 21 years, noted the animosity between the two people, but said it was due to governments.
“You think I consider them [Azerbaijani] Only as enemies? Yes, they are enemies and have always been enemies for centuries. But beyond that they are human beings. This is all [the fault] Of the government, ”he said before leaving his home.
On the way to Armenia, rows of cars and lorries got stuck in traffic.
“They do not know what they are going to do next. Can they enroll their children in school? How are they going to live? They do not know. This is what people told us, ”said Abdel-Hamid.
The war on Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended in 1994, displaced millions of Azerbaijanis and Armenians to their vacant homes in Kalbazar.
Al Jazeera’s Osama bin Javed, who hails from the village of Dukana in Azerbaijan, near Kalpazar, said he was frustrated with the burning of houses when Armenian residents fled.
“Many in Azerbaijan say their homes. They say: ‘First they [Armenians] Occupied them and now they are burning them, ”he said.
It is not clear when any civilians will attempt to settle in the region, but incomes may fall, and immigrants face burned-out homes – or worse.
Akhtam, which will be replaced next week, once housed about 40,000 cities, but now has a wide range of buildings destroyed in the first war, or has since been devastated by people chasing after construction materials.
Armenia admitted on Saturday that 2,317 militants had been killed in the clashes, with both sides accusing it of targeting civilian infrastructure.
Azerbaijan has not released its military casualties and the actual death toll is expected to be much higher after several weeks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the death toll on both sides had exceeded 4,000 and that tens of thousands of people were being forced to flee their homes.
Kalpazar was almost exclusively populated by Azerbaijanis expelled by the Armenians in the war in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the Armenian government controversially subsidized the settlement of the region by regional Armenians.
The peace agreement with Azerbaijan has sparked protests in Armenia, where protesters and opposition parties have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nicole Pashinian.
Arthur Vanetsyan, former head of Armenia’s National Security Service, was arrested on Saturday on charges of plotting to assassinate a Bashinian and seize power.
Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan, has been widely accused by Western nations, Russia and Armenia of sending mercenaries from Syria to strengthen Azerbaijan’s military.
Azerbaijan has pledged to involve Ankara in immigration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his country would jointly monitor the ceasefire with Russia.
But Russia has denied Turkey’s direct involvement in the peace process, insisting that Ankara monitor the visit from a monitoring center in Azerbaijan.