Armenia, Azerbaijan announce new attempt to establish Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced a new attempt to establish a ceasefire in their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh starting at midnight, a move that comes a week after a truce brokered by Russia s ‘is frayed immediately after its entry into force.The new deal was announced by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers following phone calls between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his counterparts. Lavrov strongly urged countries to respect the Moscow agreement.

Nagorno-Karabakh is located in Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of the Armenian forces supported by Armenia since the end of the war in 1994. The last fighting which started on September 27 involved heavy artillery, rockets and drones, killing hundreds of people in the biggest escalation of hostilities between neighbors in the South Caucasus in more than a quarter of a century.

Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but cultivated warm relations with Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, hosted high-level diplomats from both countries for more than 10 hours of talks that ended with the Saturday ceasefire agreement. But the deal immediately fell apart, with both sides blaming each other for violating it.

Large-scale fighting continued to rage throughout the week.

People gather near a rocket hit site during fighting in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Ganja town, Azerbaijan, on Saturday. (Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty Images)

In a further escalation, Azerbaijan on Saturday accused Armenia of hitting its second largest city with a ballistic missile that killed at least 13 civilians and injured 50 others.

The Armenian Defense Ministry denied launching the strike, but the separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement listing the alleged “legitimate” military installations in the town of Ganja, although they did not claim responsibility. of the attack.

Azerbaijani officials said the Soviet-made Scud missile destroyed or damaged around 20 residential buildings in Ganja overnight, and emergency workers spent hours searching through the rubble for victims and survivors. Scud missiles date from the 1960s and carry a large load of explosives but are known for their lack of precision.

In a televised address to the nation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denounced the missile strike as a war crime and warned the rulers of Armenia that they would be responsible for it.

“Azerbaijan will give its answer and it will do so exclusively on the battlefield,” Aliyev said.

Civil causalities

While Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities have denied targeting civilians, residential areas are increasingly bombarded amid hostilities.

Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, suffered heavy bombing overnight, leaving three civilians injured, according to separatist authorities.

Yury Melkonyan, 64, sits on Saturday in his house damaged by Azerbaijani artillery shelling in the village of Shosh, near Stepanakert. (The Associated Press)

Aliyev announced on Saturday that Azerbaijani forces had captured the city of Fizuli and seven villages around it, gaining a “strategic advantage”. Fizuli is one of the seven Azerbaijani regions outside of Nagorno-Karabakh which was seized by Armenian forces during the war in the early 1990s.

Azerbaijani authorities said on Saturday that 60 civilians had been killed and 270 injured since September 27, but they did not disclose any military casualties. Separatist authorities said more than 600 Nagorno-Karabakh troops and more than 30 civilians were killed.

Azerbaijan insisted on the right to reclaim its land by force after efforts by the so-called Minsk group of international mediators – including Russia, the United States and France – resulted in no progress afterwards nearly three decades. Azerbaijan has actively pushed for its ally, Turkey, to play a leading role in future peace talks.

A rescuer walks with a resident during a search in Ganja on Saturday. (Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty Images)

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke on the phone with his Azerbaijani counterpart, praising Azerbaijan for “liberating Fizuli from occupation” and for shooting down Armenian planes.

The Azerbaijani military said on Saturday it had shot down an Armenian Su-25 plane, a claim quickly rejected by the Armenian Ministry of Defense.

The Armenian army said it shot down three Azerbaijani drones over Armenian territory on Saturday. Azerbaijan has denied this.

Turkey-supplied drones and rocket systems have given the Azerbaijani military an advantage on the battlefield, helping to outrun the Armenian forces which mainly rely on obsolete Soviet-era weapons.

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