Sun, 24 Jan 2021

Azerbaijan has been moving further into territory it retook from Armenian forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, after a Russian-brokered peace deal on November 9. FRANCE 24 reports from the city of Agdam - formerly an industrial hub, now reduced to rubble - where the cost of rebuilding looks colossal.

Agdam was an Azerbaijani city once home to some 40,000 people before it fell to Armenian forces in 1993 during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war. Three decades on, Azerbaijani forces have retaken it.

But they have returned to find that a single mosque is the only building still standing in the city - with houses stripped bare.

"How is it possible to destroy a town like this, to destroy all these houses?" said Kasimov Mehmetoglu, a member of political party New Azerbaijan. "You should have seen what it was like at the time, it was beautiful, modern. They knew they were never going to live here. They couldn't live here, they destroyed everything."

Demining is an urgent priority as well as rebuilding: Agdam is riddled with mines, as are all the other buffer zones Azerbaijan retook in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "We estimate that it will take 3 to 5 years for people to be able to come back and live here, but 15 years to remove every last mine," said Idriss Ismayilov, who works for the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action.

Azerbaijani authorities estimate the damage to retaken areas at over $100 billion (€84 billion), and is preparing massive compensation lawsuits against Armenia.

Analysts said the Russian-brokered deal to end the conflict benefitted all the players concerned - Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey - except Armenia.

Click on the video player above to watch FRANCE 24's report.

Orginally published on France24

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