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Armenia claims Azerbaijan violated fresh cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh

  • October 18, 2020

Armenian officials accused the Azeri forces of using artillery and missiles early on Sunday, despite both sides agreeing on a cease-fire that went into effect at midnight local time (2000 UTC/GMT Saturday).

“Once again violating the humanitarian cease-fire, the enemy fired artillery shells in the northern direction from 00:04 to 02:45, and fired rockets in the southern direction from 02:20 to 02:45,” said Armenia’s defense ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan.

Previously, the two countries issued a statement confirming the truce.

“This decision was taken following the statement of the presidents of the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, representing the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group,” both foreign ministries said in a statement with identical wording. 

A Russian-brokered suspension of hostilities was agreed last Saturday. The deal was aimed to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed, but it broke down quickly as both sides continued carrying out attacks, while accusing each other of violating the deal. Fighting has continued throughout the week.

Read more: EU fails to act on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

On Saturday, Azerbaijani officials said an Armenian missile struck a residential district in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, leveling homes and killing 13 civilians with 50 more wounded. 

International mediation 

The European Union, Russia and the US have all called for the fighting to stop and for peace talks to be mediated by France, Russia and the United States, whose representatives co-chair the so-called Minsk Group.

Rescue teams pick through rubble on Saturday in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan

Rescue teams pick through rubble on Saturday in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan

The body was created in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh amid a full-blown war that killed at least 30,000 people and ended without a peace treaty in 1994. 

Read more: EU voices ‘extreme concern’ over Nagorno-Karabakh breaches

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called both his counterparts in Armenia and Azerbaijan before the announcement Saturday and said both sides need to “strictly follow” last week’s cease-fire deal, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. 

French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement shortly after the announcement, calling for the cease-fire to be “unconditional and strictly observed by both parties.”

“France will be very attentive to this and will remain committed so that hostilities cease permanently and that credible discussions can quickly begin,” the president’s office said. 

Read more: Nagorno-Karabakh’s record growth in ruins amid conflict and pandemic

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians after it was seized during the war in the early 1990s.

Azerbaijan has insisted it has the right to reclaim the region by force, claiming the Minsk Group’s efforts have failed to bring progress after three decades. 

wmr,dj/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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