Nagorno-Karabakh: Within hours of new ceasefire, Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violation

WION Web Team New Delhi Oct 18, 2020, 06.19 AM(IST)

Search and rescue teams work on a blast site hit by a rocket during the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan October 17, 2020 Photograph:( Reuters )

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The new ceasefire had been established in line with an agreements leading to ceasfire last weekend

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a new ceasefire on Saturday. However, within hours of it coming into effect, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of violating it.

'Once again violating the humanitarian ceasefire, 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,' tweeted Shuhan Stepanyan, Spokeswoman of Armenian defense ministry.

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There was no immediate reaction from Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan and Armenia said on Saturday that they had agreed to a new humanitarian ceasefire. The ceasefire came into effect from midnight (2000 GMT). The new ceasefire has been established in line with an agreements leading to ceasfire last weekend. However, the previous ceasefire did not hold and hostilities ensued soon. Both, Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of violating the previous ceasefire.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in a fight over the region of Nagorno-Karabach.

The fighting is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Both countries announced the ceasefire in identical statements.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had talked to his Armenian and Azeri counterparts by phone on Saturday and stressed that the truce that he mediated a week ago must be observed, Moscow said.

Russia, France and the United States belong to the Minsk Group, which has attempted to help resolve the conflict under the umbrella of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Nagorno-Karabakh's foreign ministry issued a statement saying it "reaffirms its readiness to maintain the terms of the humanitarian ceasefire on a reciprocal basis ... according to the Moscow statement of Oct. 10 and the agreements of Oct. 17".

Armenia speaks to Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh's behalf as Baku refuses to negotiate with the separatist authorities.

Also Read: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Where does India stand?

Yerevan says its own forces are not involved in the conflict and have not attacked Azerbaijan. Many Armenian citizens, including the prime minister's son, serve as volunteers in Nagorno-Karabakh's army.

TURKEY AND RUSSIA

The latest fighting has taken on a new element with outspoken support for Baku from its ethnic cousin Turkey, which has boosted arms exports to Azerbaijan sixfold this year. Russia is close to both sides but has a defence pact with Armenia.

Armenia on Saturday denied an Azeri assertion that it had been illegally arming Nagorno-Karabakh, and accused Azerbaijan of acting to expand Turkey's influence in the region and of using Turkish soldiers - charges both Ankara and Baku deny.

Baku said on Saturday that around 20 apartment buildings in Ganja, the second-largest Azeri city, about 25 miles (40 km) from Nagorno-Karabakh, had been hit by missiles from the enclave.

A Reuters photographer saw rescuers working at the scene on Saturday morning, and an excavator clearing the debris of houses that had almost been levelled.

"We have been living in fear for days ... We are suffering a lot," one resident of the city, 58-year-old Emina Aliyeva, told reporters. "We would rather die. I wish we were dead but our children would survive."

Armenia denied that Azeri cities had been attacked, but said Azeri drones had bombed military installations and damaged civilian infrastructure in Armenia itself.

Nagorno-Karabakh officials said at least six civilians in Stepanakert, the region's biggest city, had been wounded by Azeri shelling.

A Reuters cameraman heard several explosions in the city on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday.

"We woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning due to an awful blow ... We are scared, but we got used to it," said Lika Zakaryan, a 26-year-old resident.

Baku said on Saturday that 60 Azeri civilians had been killed and 270 wounded since the fighting flared on Sept. 27. It has not disclosed its military casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh says 633 of its military personnel have been killed, and 36 civilians.

(With Reuters inputs)