Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree On New Cease-Fire In Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting
Armenia and Azerbaijan say they have agreed on a new cease-fire to stop the escalating fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
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The foreign ministries of both countries posted identical statements on their websites late on October 17, announcing a halt in fighting as of midnight local time.
"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, of October 1, 2020, the statement by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group of October 5, and in line with the Moscow statement of October 10," the statements said.
The Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is a diplomatic initiative headed by France, Russia, and the United States, aimed at trying to resolve the conflict, which first erupted in 1988 in the waning days of the Soviet Union.
The latest round of fighting, which began on September 27, has killed at least 600 soldiers and civilians and is considered the worst since the 1994 cease-fire that ended all-out war between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh’s status.
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Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the mountainous territory has been controlled by ethnic Armenians, backed by Yerevan, since the 1994 halt in fighting.
The latest spasm of violence has stoked fears that the new violence could engulf the region in a wider conflict involving Azerbaijan’s biggest ally, Turkey, and Russia, which dominates the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Armenia is a member.
A cease-fire announced last week was repeatedly violated by both sides not long after it went into effect, and had all but collapsed.
Earlier on October 17, a missile hit a residential area in Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, killing 13 people and injuring more than 50, one of the deadliest killings of civilians to date.
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The strike in Ganca, about 100 kilometers north of the disputed mountainous territory, occurred at around the same time that another missile hit Mingacevir, a city east of Ganca and home to a large hydroelectric dam.
There was no word on damage or casualties in Mingacevir.
It was also unclear where the missile was fired from; Ganca is also about 100 kilometers east of the border with Armenia proper.
A missile fired directly from Armenian territory onto an Azerbaijani city would be a major escalation of the conflict, now in its third week.
Earlier this week, Azerbaijan said it had fired missiles at a missile-defense system in Armenian territory.
In a televised address on October 17, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denounced the missile strike as a war crime and warned the leadership of Armenia.
“Azerbaijan will give its response and it will do so exclusively on the battlefield,” Aliyev said.
There was no immediate comment or claim from Armenia about the accusation.
Earlier in the week, Baku and Yerevan each claimed gains in the fighting in and around the territory, which is populated by around 150,000 ethnic Armenians.
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There is no confirmed death toll from this latest fighting, but the de facto leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh has reported 633 soldiers killed.
Azerbaijan has not released any military casualty figures.
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Several dozen civilians have also been reported killed prior to the October 17 missile strike.
Armenia has accused Turkey of encouraging Azerbaijan to try to militarily resolve a problem that decades of internationally mediated talks have failed to resolve.
On October 16, Artsrun Hovhannisian, a spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry, accused Azerbaijani forces of bombarding Nagorno-Karabakh "with total disregard for the humanitarian truce."
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said a retreat by ethnic Armenian forces in the territory had left Baku’s troops with an advantage along the Line of Contact that divides the warring sides. There was no confirmation of that.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Armenian and Azerbaijani services