The New York Times
Published: September 05, 1993
The Government of Azerbaijan said today that Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh had seized Goradiz, a key town on the Iranian border.
International aid workers warned that such an advance could trigger a flood of refugees into Iran.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in Baku, the capital, that Armenian forces had captured Goradiz early today. The capture of Goradiz would cut off the exit route of up to 230,000 refugees by blocking the one highway linking the southwest region to Baku, 250 miles east, a spokesman said.
“This was the only road to safety for thousands of refugees fleeing the Armenian enemy,” he said.
Thousands of refugees have already fled the war zone and are camping in the scrub-covered fields and desert closer to Baku. With Goradiz in Armenian hands, the only remaining route out of the region for refugees would be to cross the Aras River into Iran.
But a spokesman for the Armenian enclave denied that Goradiz had fallen and told reporters in the Armenian capital that there had been no military activity in the region.
Michael Tschanz, an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baku, could not confirm the town’s capture, but he warned of a new flow of refugees.
“The situation in southern Azerbaijan is very serious,” Mr. Tschanz said by telephone. “If Goradiz has fallen, this means the refugees do not have any other exit route left. Refugees will try to go to Iran but the Aras river is wide and deep and I don’t know if they will be able to swim across.”
Azerbaijani reports say a series of towns in the southern part of the country have fallen to Armenian forces in the last week, including Gubadli and Cebrayil. Zengilan, on the southwestern rim of Azerbaijan and bordering Armenia, has been shelled throughout the week, the reports added.
Thousands of people have died in five years of fighting between Azerbaijanis and Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that has declared independence from the former Soviet republic.
Azerbaijan’s Parliament has dropped objections to direct talks with the breakaway Armenians, the Itar-Tass news agency said. The Azerbaijani Government has until now insisted that Armenia is behind the fighting and must answer for the separatists’ actions.
“The Azeris are fighting on two fronts,” Mr. Tschanz, the Red Cross official, said. “According to our information, Armenians from Armenia have crossed the border and occupied some villages of Zengilan.”
The Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh expelled Azerbaijani residents from the enclave this year and have advanced to the west and south into Azerbaijani territory, alarming Iran and Turkey.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that Armenian attacks on Azerbaijan had threatened the security of Turkey, adding that Turkish reinforcements had been sent to the border with Armenia and put on alert.
Turkey, which sides with Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan, has so far stayed clear of military intervention in the war and supports international mediation to solve the dispute.
Moreover, the Turkish Government says Iran is deploying troops near the border with Azerbaijan and is demanding that a security zone be set up for refugees. Iran has urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle their dispute. (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/05/world/azerbaijan-claims-armenians-seized-a-key-town.html)