Armenia has been granted more time to withdraw its troops from areas in Nagorno-Karabakh that were yielded to Azerbaijan in a ceasefire agreement signed earlier this week.
Based on the Russian-mediated deal, Armenia was meant to cede the locality of Kalbajar to Azerbaijan by Sunday, but the deadline was extended by 10 days to November 25, a consultant of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told state news agency Azertac on Sunday.
According to the report, Armenia requested more time because it was withdrawing its troops via a single road and there were congestions.
Kalbajar is the first of several localities in Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenia has to cede to Azerbaijan, according to the ceasefire agreement. It is largely being viewed as a defeat of Armenia and a victory for Azerbaijan.
Aliyev reportedly also assured protection of Christian churches and monasteries in the areas that are now to be controlled by predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan.
There were reports of Armenians living in those areas leaving their homes before the arrival of Azerbaijani forces, some even burning the down.
“We don’t want Azeris living in our homes,” an inhabitant of the village Charektar said.
Pictures showed people leaving with all their belongings, dismantling even petrol stations.
The ceasefire put an end to a flare-up in which thousands of people were reported killed since September.
Russia welcomed the continuation of the ceasefire in phone calls with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, the Kremlin said.
More than 200 people who had fled the fighting have returned to Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.
Some 2,000 Russian troops, which were being stationed over the weekend, are set to secure the ceasefire.
Armenia and Azerbaijan meanwhile continued to exchanged the bodies of dead soldiers, Armenia said.
Latest figures from authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh put the number of soldiers killed at 1,434. The Azerbaijani military has so far not provided any information about the losses in their own ranks.
Armenia’s Health Ministry on Saturday said on Facebook that more than 2,300 bodies had been forensically examined, among them those that had not yet been identified. It was not clear how many were civilians.
Yerevan and Baku have fought about the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For decades it has been largely occupied by Christian Armenian troops, but is considered by the United Nations as part of Azerbaijan.