Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of derailing a Russia-brokered ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh that should end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist region in more than 25 years.
- The ceasefire should pave the way for talks to resolve the conflict
- The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed the armistice in Moscow
- However, both sides accused themselves of breaking it almost immediately
Immediately after the deal was due to go into effect at 12:00 noon on Saturday, the two sides blamed for breaking the ceasefire with new attacks.
The Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of shooting at an Armenian city and killing a civilian.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan described the alleged attacks as “hideous aggression”.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense rejected the Armenian allegations as “provocation”.
The Azerbaijani military, in turn, accused Armenia of launching rocket attacks and attempting offensives in the Agdere-Terter and Fizuli-Jabrail areas.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said that “there are currently no conditions for the implementation of the humanitarian ceasefire”.
The Armenian Defense Ministry, however, denied any ceasefire violations by its armed forces, claiming in the evening that the ceasefire would be “largely held” despite Azerbaijani “provocations”.
The ceasefire agreement was the result of ten-hour talks in Moscow overseen by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The agreement stipulated that the ceasefire should pave the way for talks to resolve the conflict.
If the ceasefire had been struck, it would have been a major diplomatic coup for Russia, which has signed a security pact with Armenia but also has close ties with Azerbaijan.
“No peace … until Armenian troops withdraw”
The most recent outbreak of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began on September 27.
Hundreds of people have died in the greatest escalation of the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
The region is located in Azerbaijan but was controlled by Armenian ethnic forces supported by Armenia.
Since the beginning of the recent fighting, Armenia has declared it was open to a ceasefire, while Azerbaijan insisted that the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh should be made conditional.
Azerbaijan argued that the failure of international efforts to negotiate a political settlement left them no choice but to resort to violence.
Foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed the ceasefire in Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered it in a series of calls with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Russia, along with the United States and France, has sponsored Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks as co-chair of the so-called Minsk Group, which operates under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
They didn’t make a deal, which is increasingly upsetting Azerbaijan.
Addressing the nation prior to the conclusion of the armistice, Aliyev insisted on Azerbaijan’s right to forcibly reclaim its territory after nearly three decades of international talks that “have not made an inch of progress”.
His aide, Hikmat Hajiyev, said the Minsk group had to come up with a concrete plan for the withdrawal of the Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There will be no peace in the South Caucasus until Armenian troops withdraw from the occupied territories,” he said.
Teen killed by iconic image among hundreds
The fight with heavy artillery, fighter jets and drones has engulfed Nagorno-Karabakh, and both sides are accusing each other of targeting residential areas and civil infrastructure.
According to the Nagorno-Karabakh military, 404 of its soldiers have been killed since September 27.
Azerbaijan did not provide details of its military casualties. Numerous civilians on both sides were also killed.
Among those killed was 19-year-old Albert Hovhannisyan, who appears in a war image that has been widespread since the current outbreak of fighting.
“The pain for me and my family is immeasurable and bottomless,” Hovhannisyan’s father said in a statement in response to dozens of social media posts celebrating his son as a “hero”.
“I realize that my Albert is not just my hero, he is the hero of all of us.”
ABC / wires