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Controversial Peace Deal In Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Hits Close To Home In LA

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Earlier this week, Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement to end the fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenians refer to as Artsakh. Although the region is inside Azerbaijan's borders, mostly ethnic Armenians live there.

But there is still a dispute: Over the last two months, Azerbaijan's military has gained control of more territory. The peace agreement basically locks in some of those gains -- and costs Armenia control of some other territory as well.

Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to maintain the deal. Armenia's prime minister Nikol Pashinyan called the decision to end the conflict painful but necessary -- and in Armenia's capital, Yerevan, thousands took to the streets to protest the agreement, saying "We will not give up our land!" Protesters in Armenia upset over the deal have been calling the prime minister a "traitor" and demanding his resignation.

Meanwhile, as reported this week, some ethnic Armenians in the territory that will change hands are preparing to leave their homes.

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These developments are being closely followed in Southern California's large Armenian American community, where disappointment over the terms of the deal is also deeply felt.

“Within the Armenian community, there is an overwhelming sense of abandonment," said Alex Galitsky, communications director with the Armenian National Committee of America's western region. "For months, the Armenian diaspora has called on the United States and the international community to confront Turkey and Azerbaijan's aggression to prevent their efforts to continue the Armenian genocide. Repeatedly those calls fell on deaf ears, even as Azerbaijan perpetrated war crimes and major human rights violations against the Armenians of Artsakh."

Salpi Ghazarian, director of USC's Institute of Armenian Studies, spoke with KPCC's Take Two about how the conflict has resonated locally.

"This community, particularly here in Southern California, everybody is somehow connected," Ghazarian said. "Everybody knows, has, someone -- an uncle, a cousin, a someone -- who went to fight, who it has not been a distant war by any means. Somebody called it 'the war that came to Los Angeles.' That is kind of what this has become."

The news that Turkey was backing Azerbaijan was also deeply disturbing for local Armenian Americans, many of whom are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915.

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Last month, Armenian Americans held large rallies around Los Angeles in support of Armenia, including one that drew an estimated 100,000 people. Some Angelenos even traveled to Armenia to join the effort or provide medical and other support.


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