As Armenians Burn Homes, Will Azerbaijan Protect Churches?

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Fate of Dadivank monastery among the many questions amid delayed transfer of territory under Nagorno-Karabakh armistice deal.

Editor’s note: CT’s complete coverage of Armenian Christians is here.

MOSCOW (AP) — Azerbaijan on Sunday postponed taking control of a territory ceded by Armenian forces in a cease-fire agreement, but denounced civilians leaving the area for burning houses.

The cease-fire ended six weeks of intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and territories outside its formal borders that had been under the control of Armenian forces since 1994. The agreement calls for Azerbaijan to take control of the outlying territories. The first, Kelbajar, was to be turned over on Sunday.

But Azerbaijan agreed to delay the takeover until November 25 after a request from Armenia. Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said worsening weather conditions made the withdrawal of Armenian forces and civilians difficult along the single road through mountainous territory that connects Kelbajar with Armenia.

After the cease-fire was announced on Tuesday, many distraught residents preparing to evacuate set their houses ablaze to make them unusable to Azerbaijanis who would move in.

Prior to a separatist war that ended in 1994, Kelbajar was populated almost exclusively by Azerbaijanis. But the territory then came under Armenian control and Armenians moved in. Azerbaijan deemed their presence illegal.

“The placement and settlement of the Armenian population in the occupied territory of the Kelbajar region was illegal … All illegal settlements there must be evicted,” Hajiyev said.

The imminent renewal of Azerbaijani control raised wide concerns about the fate of Armenian cultural and religious sites, particularly Dadivank, a noted Armenian Apostolic Church monastery that dates back …

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