President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Christian churches and monuments in the territories that came under Baku’s control after the escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh will be protected by the state, according to the statement released by the Azerbaijani leader press service on Saturday.
“President Aliyev said that in accordance with the trilateral statement, Christian shrines in the territories returned to Azerbaijan will be properly protected. Christians living in Azerbaijan will be able to use these churches,” the text says.
Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The area experienced flare-ups of violence in the summer of 2014, in April 2016 and this past July. Azerbaijan and Armenia imposed martial law and launched mobilization efforts. Both parties to the conflict reported numerous casualties, among them civilians.
On November 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan signed a joint statement on a full ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, starting from November 10. Under the peace deal, the Azerbaijani and Armenian forces will remain at their current positions while Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to the region.
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.