Armenia and Azerbaijan ceasefire fails to hold

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a Russia-brokered ceasefire yesterday, but immediately accused each other of derailing the deal intended to end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist region in more than 25 years.

Saturday, 10th October 2020, 11:58 pm
Azerbaijan's solders walk in a formation in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Picture: Azerbaijan's DefenCe Ministry/AP
Azerbaijan's solders walk in a formation in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Picture: Azerbaijan's DefenCe Ministry/AP

The two sides traded blame for breaking the truce, which took effect at noon, with new attacks. Azerbaijan 's top diplomat said the truce never entered force.

The cease fire annou ncement came overnight after ten hours of talks in Moscow sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The deal stipulated that the ceasefire should pave the way for talks on settling the conflict.

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If the truce holds, it would mark a major diplomatic coup for Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but also cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan. But the agreement was immediately challenged by mutual claims of violations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reads a statement after he leads talks of Armenia and Azerbaijan foreign ministers in Moscow. Picture: AP

Minutes after the truce took force, the Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of shelling the area near the town of Kapan in south-eastern Armenia, killing one civilian. Azerbaijan's defence ministry rejected the Armenian accusations as a “provocation”.

The Azerbaijani military, in turn, accused Armenia of striking the Terter and Agdam regions of Azerbaijan with missiles and attempting to launch offensives in the Agdere-Terter and the Fizuli-Jabrail areas.

Azerbaijan's foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, insisted that “conditions for implementing the humanitarian ceasefire are currently missing” amid the continuing Armenian shelling.

Armenia's defence ministry denied any truce violations by the Armenian forces.

The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began September 27 and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region since a separatist war there ended in 1994. The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.

Since the start of the latest fighting, Armenia said it was open to a cease fire, while Azerbaijan insisted that it should be conditional on the Armenian forces' withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that the failure of international efforts to negotiate a political settlement left it no other choice but to resort to force.

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed the truce in Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin had brokered it in a series of calls with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Russia has previously co-sponsored peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh together with the United States and France as co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group. They haven't produced any deal, leaving Azerbaijan exasperated.

Speaking hours before the ceasefire deal was reached, the Azerbaijani president insisted on his country's right to reclaim its territory by force after nearly three decades of international talks that “haven't yielded an inch of progress”.