Turkey’s Fidan holds call with Armenia’s FM amid exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

The phone call marks the first high-level contact between Ankara and Yerevan following the Azerbaijani offensive in the Nagorno-Karabakh region last week.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan held a phone conversation on Wednesday amid a massive Armenian exodus from the Nagorno-Karabakh region following Azerbaijan’s offensive.

The two foreign ministers discussed current regional developments, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency reported, citing Turkish Foreign Ministry sources. No further details were shared about the call, the report added.

The conversation marks the first known high-level contact between Ankara and Yerevan since the Azerbaijani offensive against the Armenia-linked separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region last Tuesday. While Western powers and Russia denounced the offensive, Turkey expressed its full support behind Baku. Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in the Azeri exclave Nakhchivan bordering Turkey.

The phone call comes amid a massive Armenian refugee exodus from the Nagorno-Karabakh region to neighboring Armenia. As of Wednesday, the number of ethnic Armenians who fled the region — which is home to nearly 150,000 — exceeded 50,000, said the Armenian prime minister’s press secretary, Nazeli Baghdasaryan.

The 24-hour-long Azerbaijani offensive, which resulted in Armenian separatists in the region surrendering their weapons, killed at least 392 people from both sides.

Azerbaijan’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that 192 Azerbaijani soldiers and one civilian died during its self-proclaimed “counterterror operation.”

The Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights commissioner office, which is linked to the Armenian separatists in the region, last week said the death toll on their side was at least 200, including 10 civilians. Commissioner Gegham Stepanyan said they also received over 600 calls from people who are searching for their loved ones.

The hostilities also exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation on the ground, as main supply routes to Armenian-populated areas had been largely cut off prior to the offensive.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday stressed the need to provide unhindered humanitarian access during a phone call with Aliyev, urging him to allow an international observer mission into Nagorno-Karabakh.

“He called on President Aliyev to provide assurances to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh that they can live securely in their homes and that their rights will be protected,” a State Department readout said.

Wednesday’s conversation marked the second contact between Mirzoyan and Fidan, after the latter’s takeover of the post in June. Ankara and Yerevan have been engaged in normalization talks since 2021 in a bid to establish diplomatic ties and open the land border between the two countries. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was among the foreign leaders who attended Erdogan’s inauguration in June. Pashinyan’s calculus in the normalization talks is believed to be partly relying on hopes that Ankara would use its influence on Baku to rein in the Turkish-backed Azeri military’s advances in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Turkey sealed off its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan after the Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh regions. The predominantly Armenian-majority region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

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