In the conflict over the South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan are making a fresh attempt at a ceasefire. On Sunday night at midnight local time (10:00 p.m. CEST), a “humanitarian ceasefire” should come into force. The foreign ministries of both countries announced this on Saturday evening. The authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh reported early Sunday morning (local time) that the situation along the front line had calmed down.
A week ago, both sides agreed on a cease-fire with the mediation of Russia. However, this agreement was broken shortly after it came into force. Both countries blamed each other for this.
France wants to monitor the situation closely
In the evening France welcomed the humanitarian ceasefire, which had also come about after French mediation. “This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly adhered to by both parties,” it said from the Elysée Palace. France will “follow the situation very closely” and “continue to work for a permanent cessation of hostilities and the early start of credible talks.”
Previously there had been new fights with dead and injured. Azerbaijan reported heavy attacks by the Armenian side on Saturday night on Ganja, the country’s second largest city. The civil protection ministry in the capital Baku announced that 13 people were killed in the rocket fire. Armenia also blamed the neighboring country for attacks.
Armenia denies responsibility for ganja attack
Azerbaijan spoke of 50 injured in Ganja. The bodies were found, for example, under the rubble of destroyed houses. Children are said to have been among them. Images distributed from Azerbaijan showed rescue workers looking for survivors in destroyed houses. Search dogs were also used. The authorities spoke of considerable damage.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the attack a war crime on television and threatened that the Armenian leadership would be held accountable. Armenia, however, rejected a responsibility and in return accused the hostile neighbor of being behind the attack and of using this as “propaganda” against the Armenians.
Ceasefire for humanitarian reasons
Video: Nagorno-Karabakh: Three weeks of war and no end in sight (Euronews)
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Suspicion of terrorism: man beheaded near Paris
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After the court decision: how will the Berlin curfew?
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Brexit: Johnson goes all out
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Armenia, in turn, reported rocket attacks by the Azerbaijani side, including on the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. At least three civilians were injured in Stepanakert. Both sides accused each other of having again violated the ceasefire.
In the evening, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged both sides to abide by the agreement. According to his Ministry in Moscow, he telephoned his colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia, Jeyhun Bayramov and Sohrab Mnazakanjan.
Lavrov reminded that the ceasefire also served humanitarian reasons. In addition, both sides had declared their readiness for “substantial negotiations” with the aim of reaching a peace settlement as quickly as possible, it said.
Information cannot be independently verified
The EU also again urged both sides to respect the ceasefire. “All attacks on civilians and civil facilities must come to an end,” said a spokesman for EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell on Saturday. The European Union regrets the shelling of the Azerbaijani city of Ganja.
The Foreign Office in Berlin appealed that both countries had to “immediately return to the path to a peaceful and lasting conflict resolution”. In addition, the people affected by the conflict should now receive help.
The information from the conflict region cannot be verified independently. The Azerbaijan military announced that it had shot down an Armenian fighter jet. The Armenian Defense Ministry immediately denied this and declared that it had shot down two drones from the opposing side.
Fought over mountainous region for decades
Azerbaijan reported further territorial gains at the front. Aliyev also said his military had taken control of the city of Fizuli and seven surrounding villages. This region borders on Nagorno-Karabakh and was occupied by Armenia.
The two ex-Soviet republics have been fighting for decades for the mountainous region with around 145,000 inhabitants. Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by Armenia, but under international law it belongs to the Islamic part of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan lost control of the area in a war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago. A fragile ceasefire has existed since 1994.
Thousands of people have now fled the mountain region, which is predominantly inhabited by Christian Karabakh Armenians. The Armenian Defense Ministry said more than 600 soldiers had been killed since the new fighting began on September 27. Azerbaijan has so far not provided any information on losses in its armed forces. More than 50 civilians were killed in Armenian attacks.