Azerbaijan’s troops have taken control of Shushi in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in his address to the nation broadcast on state television on Sunday.
“The date of November 8 will go down into our country’s history forever. The Armed Forces have taken control of Shushi,” Aliyev said.
According to the president, Shushi had been under occupation for 28 years. “We clinched this victory on the battlefield, not at the negotiating table. The talks turned out to be senseless,” Aliyev said.
Meanwhile, Armenian Defense Ministry Representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan rejected Aliyev’s statement on taking the strategic city in the Nagorno-Karabakh republic under control. “The battles in Shushi continue, wait and trust our army,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both parties to the conflict have reported casualties, among them civilians. Three ceasefire agreements had been reached but shortly after the conflicting sides traded blame for violations.
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them. Talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been ongoing since 1992 under the OSCE Minsk Group, led by its three co-chairs – Russia, France and the United States.
Shushi is both a major objective and the key to the offensive launched on September 27 by Baku.
On the one hand, this historic city formerly inhabited by the two communities, which was an important Azerbaijani cultural center before being conquered by Armenia, is perceived by each camp as the “Jerusalem of Karabakh”, a political and religious symbol.
On the other hand, Shushi is a strategic fortress town, surrounded by stone walls and erected at the top of a mountain which dominates Stepanakert, the “capital” of the Armenian “Republic of Artsakh” – self-proclaimed in 1991 and not recognized by the international community.