STEPANAKERT — A United Nations mission has arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh following an Azerbaijani takeover of the mountain enclave that resulted in the exodus of the region’s Armenian population. An Azerbaijani presidential spokesman said the mission arrived early on October 1 to assess the humanitarian needs in the region.
The mission is meant to “assess the situation on the ground and identify the humanitarian needs for both people remaining and people that are on the move,” a UN spokesperson told reporters last week.
Nearly all of Karabakh’s estimated 120,000 residents have fled the territory for Armenia in recent days.
“Of course, it looks like a bad joke, and it’s very strange to send a mission there now,” David Akopyan, the former head of the UN Development Program in Syria, told CivilNet by phone. “It probably mostly will be useless.”
“But,” Akopyan stressed, “that is not to dismiss the mission overall,” pointing out it could be the first step to setting up a longer-term, more permanent UN presence on the ground.
UN officials may also have the chance to document possible evidence of alleged violence against civilians committed by Azerbaijani forces during their lightning offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh last month, Akopyan added.
Karabakh officials dismissed the visit as a formality. Hunan Tadevosyan, spokesperson for Nagorno-Karabakh’s emergency services, said the U.N. representatives had come too late and the number of civilians left in the regional capital of Stepanakert could be “counted on one hand.”
“I did volunteer work. The people who were left sheltering in the basements, even people who were mentally unwell and did not understand what was happening, I put them on buses with my own hands and we took them out of Stepanakert,” Tadevosyan told News.am.
“We walked around the whole city but found no one. There is no general population left,” he said.