Azerbaijan Extends Armenian Pullout Deadline from Disputed Area
Story Code : 898096
Residents of the Kalbajar district in Azerbaijan, which has been controlled by Armenian separatists since a 1990s post-Soviet war, began a mass exodus in the days leading up to the initial withdrawal deadline on Sunday.
But a foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said his country had extended the deadline over humanitarian considerations.
Hikmet Hajiyev said the withdrawal of "Armenian armed forces and of illegal Armenian settlers" was delayed until November 25 following an appeal from Armenia and mediation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Kalbajar's settlement by Armenians was illegal. The people who were resettled there have no property rights," Hajieyv told a news conference.
Kalbajar was almost exclusively populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis before they were expelled by Armenians in the 1990s war between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh, and a majority of the homes being abandoned previously belonged to Azerbaijanis.
AFP journalists saw fleeing residents pile furniture and kitchenware into vehicles before leaving for Armenia on the weekend.
Thick plumes of smoke rose over the valley near the village of Charektar after residents set their homes on fire, preferring to leave devastation in their wake and homes that would be uninhabitable by Azerbaijanis.
"We also moved our parents' graves, the Azerbaijanis will take great pleasure in desecrating our graves. It's unbearable, one Charektar resident said.