Azerbaijan accused neighboring Armenia of resettling some of the ethnic Armenians fleeing the Syrian civil war in its breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“This is an act of provocation by Armenia,” Elman Abdullayev, a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, said today by phone from the capital, Baku. “Armenia is seeking to change the demographic situation in the region.”
The predominantly ethnic Armenian region broke free of Azeri control in a war that followed the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Some 30,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced during the conflict, which left Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azeri districts under Armenian control.
Syrians are seeking refuge across the Middle East from the conflict engulfing their country. More than 600,000 Syrians have escaped the country since the conflict began in March 2011, the United Nations estimates. Another 200,000 are awaiting registration or are unaccounted for, according to the International Rescue Commission.
“Syrian Armenians are refugees first of all, and it is an obligation of any civilized country to give them a home and help them,” Davit Babayan, a spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, said by phone from the regional capital, Stepanakert.
Armenia, landlocked between Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, doesn’t share a border with Syria.
About 6,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Armenia, the New York Times reported last month, adding that an estimated 80,000 of Syria’s 120,000 Armenians live in Aleppo, where rebels have been battling government forces after pushing into the commercial hub in July.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan has repeatedly threatened to use force to regain control of the territory if peace talks mediated by the U.S., Russia and France fail to produce results.