Azeri President Ilham Aliyev declared victory over the enclave on Thursday, saying it was fully under Baku’s control and that the idea of an independent Nagorno-Karabakh was finally confined to history.
He promised to guarantee the rights and security of Armenians living in the region, but years of hate speech and violence between the rivals have left deep scars.
Thousands of ethnic Armenians massed at Stepanakert Airport after the ceasefire was agreed, ostensibly fearing a crackdown.
Many in Nagorno-Karabakh say they have little trust in any reintegration process.
“Integration in this situation means nothing else than captivity,” said Yani Avanesyan, a doctoral researcher at Artsakh State University; Armenians have self-styled Nagorno Karabakh as the Republic of Artsakh.
“I don’t know anybody here, any Armenian in Nagorno-Karabakh that could imagine being integrated and being safe at the same time,” said journalist Siranush Sargsyan, speaking from Stepanakert, the de facto capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, called Khankendi by Azerbaijan.
Officials from Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh met on Thursday to discuss security guarantees and humanitarian assistance. But as of Friday, no deal had been reached, besides the entry of a humanitarian convoy into the region.
Separatist authorities said at least 25,000 people had been forced from their homes due to the offensive, with most communication lines cut off.
Witnesses in Stepanakert told Al Jazeera that people were sleeping in shelters and on the streets without food, electricity and fuel.
The humanitarian aid group HART, which has been active in the region for 30 years, warned of a humanitarian catastrophe due to a nine-month blockade, which has stretched supplies.
In December last year, Baku closed off the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, causing a dire humanitarian crisis.
Residents said they felt alarmed when they heard the separatist forces were surrendering; displaced people were out on the streets clinging onto their bags, while crowds flocked to the airport of Stepanakert, an area controlled by Russian peacekeepers.
Artak Beglaryan, an ex-state minister of the self-styled Artsakh and head of the human rights ombudsman during the 2020 war, called for global support.