“The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian truce from October 18, 00:00 local time (October 17, 20:00 GMT),” the Armenian foreign ministry said in a statement. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry confirmed this decision in an identical statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on his Armenian and Azeri counterparts in the hours leading up to the announcement, his ministry said, urging the two sides to adhere to the deal negotiated in Moscow last week.
France also released a statement after Saturday’s announcement, saying it followed “French mediation … in coordination with the co-chairs of the Minsk group (Russia and United States)”.
The Elysee press release also called on the two parties to respect the truce “strictly”, adding that “France will pay great attention to it and remain committed to a lasting end to hostilities and a rapid start to credible negotiations”.
The announcement of the truce came hours after Azerbaijan accused Armenia of committing a war crime in a missile attack on its second town of Ganja, a charge echoed by the ally of Turkey.
Armenia has denied responsibility for the attack, which left 13 civilians – including two children – dead and dozens injured.
Images distributed by Azerbaijan showed rescuers searching for survivors under destroyed houses, including the use of sniffer dogs. Authorities spoke of extensive damage.
Armenia, for its part, reported rocket attacks by Azerbaijan, including on the main Nagorno-Karabakh city, Stepanakert, injuring at least three civilians.
On Twitter, Armenian authorities described Azerbaijan’s claim that it shot down an Armenian Su-25 plane over the Jebrail region, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh, as “disinformation”.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said earlier that it had made further progress on the front line, bringing several villages and a city under its control.
Decades of conflict
The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, a mountainous and heavily forested patch of land, is at the heart of a decades-long armed stalemate between neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Home to some 145,000 inhabitants, Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by ethnic Armenians supported by the Republic of Armenia, but is recognized as part of Azerbaijan under international law.
Azerbaijan lost control of the region in a war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago. A fragile ceasefire had been in place since 1994.
Thousands of people have fled the area, mostly inhabited by ethnic Armenians, since fighting resumed on September 27.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said more than 600 soldiers have been killed since then.
Azerbaijan has so far provided no information on the losses of its armed forces, but it says more than 50 civilians have been killed in the Armenian attacks.