A military parade has been held in the Azerbaijani capital in celebration of the peace deal with Armenia that saw Azerbaijan reclaim much of the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The agreement took force exactly a month ago and put an end to six weeks of fierce fighting between the two ex-Soviet nations over Nagorno-Karabakh. It was seen as a major victory in Azerbaijan, but prompted mass protests in Armenia, with opposition supporters demanding the ouster of the country’s prime minister over his handling of the conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.
More than 3,000 people took part in the parade on Thursday, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the event. Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan during the conflict, which it used to expand its influence in the region.
A Turkish commando brigade took part in the parade in which Turkish drones were also put on display. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev thanked Turkey for its support in his speech.
Mr Aliyev said: “From the first hours of the war, we felt the support of Turkey. This is an example of our unity, our brotherhood.”
The Azerbaijani president said the country was able to “restore historical justice” and blamed Armenia for starting the fighting.
Mr Erdogan also took aim at Armenia in his speech, and expressed hope the country would “take lessons” from the defeat and take steps that would pave the way for a new era in the region.
He said: “We hope that Armenian leaders will assess this carefully and take courageous steps to build a future based on peace and stability.”
He reiterated Turkey’s continued support for Azerbaijan: “As long as Turkey and Azerbaijan work hand in glove, they will continue to overcome all difficulties and run from one success to the next.”
In 44 days of fighting that began in late September and left more than 5,600 people killed on both sides, the Azerbaijani army advanced deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept the peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim much of the separatist region along with surrounding areas. The Russia-brokered deal took effect on November 10 and ended the violence.
Thousands in Armenia have since regularly protested, demanding that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan steps down. The country’s opposition leaders hold Mr Pashinyan responsible for failing to negotiate an earlier end to the hostilities at terms that could have been more beneficial for Armenia. They have emphasised, however, that the opposition was not pushing for an annulment of the peace deal.
As Mr Aliyev and Mr Erdogan watched the parade in Baku, several thousand people in Armenia’s capital demonstrated in front of the government building, calling for Mr Pashinyan to step down. Protesters tried to enter the building, hoping to meet with the prime minister, but were deterred by police. Dozens have been detained.