In the bloody conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan have made another attempt to end the fire. It took effect Sunday evening, but was brittle only a few hours later.
Both sides accused each other of violating the ceasefire. Armenia spoke of casualties on both sides after new attacks from the Azerbaijani side. Previously, there have been international calls to end the fighting and return to the negotiating table.
About a week ago, the hostile countries reached an armistice brokered by Russia. However, this agreement was broken shortly after its entry into force. The warring factions blamed each other for this – and also for the flaring up of new fighting in late September.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday evening made an urgent appeal to his colleagues in Armenia and Azerbaijan to adhere to the agreement. Moments later, the foreign ministries of both countries immediately declared a “humanitarian ceasefire”.
Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other
But all that evening, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Defense in the capital Yerevan said there had been rocket and artillery fire from the other side. Azerbaijan has launched an attack in the south of the conflict zone on the border with Iran. There were deaths and injuries. The Foreign Ministry announced that Armenia would “take all necessary steps” to force Azerbaijan to make peace.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, in turn, accused Armenia of “gross” violation of the agreement. Accordingly, the city of Cebrayil and several villages previously controlled by Azerbaijan are said to have been shelled by the Armenian side. Azerbaijan then “retaliated,” he said.
Lavrov reminded the warring parties that the ceasefire was also for humanitarian reasons, according to his ministry. According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, a proposal to rescue the injured during the night was “strictly” rejected by the Azerbaijani side.
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Before it took effect, France welcomed the ceasefire, which had also come about after French mediation. “This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly enforced by both sides,” he said from the Elysée Palace. France will monitor the situation very closely “and” will continue to work towards a permanent cessation of hostilities and an early start of credible negotiations. “
The two ex-Soviet republics have been fighting for decades for the mountainous area with about 145,000 inhabitants. Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by Armenia, but belongs to the Islamic part of Azerbaijan under international law. In a war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago, Azerbaijan lost control of the area. A fragile ceasefire has existed since 1994.
On Saturday there were already new fights with dead and wounded. Azerbaijan reported heavy attacks from the Armenian side on Ganja, the country’s second largest city. Authorities say 13 people were killed and 50 injured in the rocket fire. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the attack on television a war crime and threatened to hold the Armenian leadership to account.
673 soldiers dead since the start of the new fighting
Armenia accused its belligerent neighbor of being behind the attack itself and using it as “propaganda” against the Armenians. Yerevan authorities reported missile attacks by the Azerbaijani side, including on Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin called on both countries to “return immediately to the road to peaceful and lasting conflict resolution”. A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “All attacks against civilians and civilian facilities must end.”
Thousands of people have since fled the mountain area, which is mainly inhabited by Christian Karabakh Armenians. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said on Sunday that 673 soldiers had been killed since the new fighting began on Sept. 27. Azerbaijan has so far failed to provide information on losses in its armed forces. About 60 civilians were killed in Armenian attacks. (dpa)