Azerbaijan, ethnic Armenians meet after Karabakh ceasefire

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STORY: Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians began talks on Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday (September 21).

The meeting comes after the breakaway region was forced into a surrender that has stoked calls for the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The ethnic Armenian leadership said key details, including the surrender of weapons, still needed to be worked out.

While officials from both sides sat at a small round table in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh, ethnic Armenian officials said there had been gunfire around 60 miles away in Karabakh's main city, a claim also made by Reuters sources.

Ethnic Armenians call Karabakh's main city "Stepanakert", while Azeris call it "Khankendi".

Karabakh authorities have accused Azerbaijani forces of violating the ceasefire and advised residents to stay indoors.

Pashinyan addressed citizens on national independence day.

"Peace is an environment that is free from conflicts, inter-state, inter-ethnic conflicts. This path is not easy, it goes through external and internal shocks, and we must go through this path for the sake of independence, for the sake of statehood, for the sake of the future."

He made no direct reference to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Wednesday (September 20) his "iron fist" had consigned the idea of a separate ethnic Armenian Karabakh to history.

Karabakh Armenians say they had no choice but to accept Azerbaijan's terms, after Aliyev's army broke through their lines in a 24-hour offensive.

Baku's defense ministry said the report that its forces had attacked Khankendi was "completely false".

Under the ceasefire agreement, as outlined by Azerbaijan, breakaway Armenian forces must disband and disarm.

And the region of 120,000 people must be fully integrated into Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's rapid victory represented the culmination of decades of struggle to regain control of Karabakh.

The ethnic Armenian population there broke away in a major war in the 1990s that coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On Wednesday, Aliyev said he wished to turn the Karabakh region into "paradise."

He added that Karabakh's Armenians would now have their religious and cultural rights respected.

But, nevertheless, thousands of ethnic Armenians massed at Stepanakert's airport, while others took shelter with Russian peacekeepers.

Azerbaijan's victory is yet another twist to the tumultuous history of mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh.

Known as Artsakh by Armenians, the territory is internationally recognized as part of mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, but its ethnic Armenian inhabitants are Christians.