Soldiers have hoisted the Azerbaijani flag in the final district given up by Armenia under a peace deal that ended weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Al Jazeera reported.
A convoy of Azerbaijani military trucks entered the Lachin district overnight, taking over the last of three regions around Karabakh handed over by Armenia under the Russian-brokered agreement.
AFP journalists saw soldiers raising the Azerbaijani flag over an administrative building in the town of Lachin in the early hours of Tuesday.
Armenia agreed to hand over the three districts – Agdam, Lachin and Kalbajar – as part of the November deal that stopped a conflict that had flared up between the two countries at the end of September.
Under the agreement, some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers deployed between the two sides and along the Lachin corridor, a 60km (37-mile) route through the district that connects Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert to Armenia.
Russian military vehicles accompanied Azerbaijani trucks driving along the corridor overnight and were deployed at the main crossroads in Lachin.
In a televised address on Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev celebrated the dawn of “a new reality”.
“We’ve driven the enemy out of our lands. We’ve restored our territorial integrity. We’ve ended the occupation,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh broke from Azerbaijan’s control in a war after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that left some 30,000 people dead.
The region declared independence but it was never recognised by any country, including Armenia, which strongly backs the ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan.
The peace accord signed on November 9 was reached after six weeks of fighting that saw Azerbaijan’s army overwhelm Armenian-backed forces and threaten to advance on Stepanakert.
Under the agreement, Armenia is losing control of seven districts that it seized around Karabakh in the 1990s.