As Christian civilians continue to flee the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, the president of Azerbaijan promised to protect churches when the Muslim-majority country’s forces take possession of areas formerly controlled by Armenians.
President Ilham Aliyev made the promise during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who brokered a ceasefire between the two countries last week that allows Azerbaijan to take control of the ethnic Armenian region, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
“President Aliyev said that Christian churches in Azerbaijani territories, which are returned to Azerbaijan in accordance with the trilateral statement, will also be properly protected by the state. Christians of Azerbaijan will have access to these churches,” Aliyev’s office said in a statement.
Putin is also deploying peacekeeping forces in the conflict areas after hundreds, if not thousands, of troops and civilians have been killed in the fighting since late September, the newswire added.
Azerbaijan has extended the deadline until Nov. 25 for the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces and of Armenian residents from the Kalbajar area, which had been controlled by ethnic Armenians, who are mostly Christians, for decades and is home to the Dadivank monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church, according to Voice of America.