YEREVAN/BAKU -- The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia have signed an agreement to end fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh starting on November 10, triggering unrest in the Armenian capital as protesters stormed government buildings.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian first announced the agreement in an early morning social media post, saying he had signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on the “termination” of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh war as of 1:00 a.m. local time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev later confirmed the agreement, which will include the long-term deployment of Russian peacekeepers.
"We believe that the achieved agreements will create [the] necessary conditions for a long-term and full-fledged settlement of the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh on a fair basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azerbaijani people," Putin said of the agreement.
The announcement on November 10 comes as Azerbaijani forces have made major battlefield gains in the six-week flare up in the decades-long conflict, including reports they were approaching the region’s capital, Stepanakert.
“I made a very difficult decision for myself and for all of us,” Pashinian said on Facebook. “I made this decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation and an assessment of the people who know it best.”
Pashinian said he would provide more information in the coming days, adding that the agreement was “the best possible solution for the current situation.”
Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto ethnic Armenian leader, Arayik Harutiunian, said he had agreed with Pashinian to end hostilities with Azerbaijan “given the current dire situation” and to avoid completely losing the separatist enclave.
The backlash from the announcement was swift, with several thousand protesters angry at the government gathering in Yerevan as mobs stormed government buildings and parliament. Opposition parties called on Pashinian to resign.
Aliyev said in televised remarks that the trilateral agreement would be a crucial point in the settlement of the conflict.
"An iron hand forced him to sign this document," Aliyev said, referring to Pashinian. "This is essentially a capitulation."
Under the deal, Azerbaijan will keep territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas captured during the conflict. It also calls for Armenian forces to hand over some areas it held outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the eastern district of Agdam and western area of Kalbacar.
Armenians will also forfeit the Lachin region, where a crucial road connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The agreement calls for a 5-kilometer wide area in the so-called Lachin Corridor to remain open and be protected by around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers.
The agreement also calls for Russian border services to monitor a new transport corridor through Armenia connecting Azerbaijan to its western exclave of Naxcivan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.
Aliyev also said that Turkey, a close ally of Baku, would take part in the peacekeeping center to monitor the cease-fire.
Since fighting erupted on September 27, several thousand people are believed to have been killed on both sides. Three cease-fire agreements broke down as soon as they were to go into force.
In a major development, Aliyev on November 8 said that his country’s forces had taken Shushi (known as Susa in Azeri), offering strategic heights over Stepanakert just 10 kilometers away.
Shushi also lies along the main road connecting Stepanakert with Armenia.
Thousands of people have fled Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days to Armenia, with lines of vehicles clogging the main road connecting the enclave to Armenia.
Azerbaijan's forces in recent weeks have also retaken several regions outside Nagorno-Karabakh that had been occupied by ethnic Armenian forces.
Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops were pushed out of the region in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.
Efforts to resolve the conflict by the OSCE Minsk Group -- co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States -- have not brought any results since 1992.