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A mosque is seen through ruins in Aghdam on Thursday, just before the formal entry of Azerbaijani forces. As part of a recent peace agreement, Armenia ceded control of several regions in and around the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
A stalemate has prevailed since 1994, with the mountainous territory under the control of ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia, while still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
With the encouragement of Turkey, which shares linguistic and historical ties with Azerbaijan, Baku launched an attempt to regain the territory in late September. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, though Azerbaijan has not release its casualty figures. International actors scrambled to try to contain the bloodshed with diplomacy — including the U.S., which brokered a cease-fire hailed by President Trump, though it quickly faltered last month.
It was Russia that finally succeeded in negotiating the latest truce, which cemented significant territorial gains made by Azerbaijan in recent weeks. In his statement Friday, the Azerbaijani president lauded the agreement as a «tremendous political success.»
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People in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, gathered Friday to celebrate the entry of Azerbaijani troops into the district of Aghdam. The territory was among several ceded by Armenian forces in a cease-fire agreement that ended more than six weeks of heavy fighting.
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But the jubilation was not shared in Armenia, where thousands of protesters last week expressed their anger and frustration with the terms of the cease-fire.
Nor was it to be found among the ethnic Armenian residents of Aghdam, many of whom reportedly fled their homes in anticipation of the Azerbaijani military’s arrival.
«We wanted to build a sauna, kitchen. But now I had to dismantle everything,» one resident told Agence France-Presse before abandoning his home. «And I’ll burn down the house with everything I own when I leave.»