The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries announced on Saturday evening an agreement for a “humanitarian truce” entering into force on Sunday.
The hope of a drop in tensions quickly flew away again. Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other on Sunday of having violated a new “humanitarian truce” which entered into force at midnight local time in Nagorno-Karabakh, or Nagorny Karabakh, a week after a first ceasefire concluded, but never respected. In a statement, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian forces had “blatantly broken the new agreement”, denouncing enemy artillery fire and morning attacks along the front line.
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Earlier that night, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan reported Azerbaijani artillery and rocket fire north and south of the front during the three hours following the start of the war. truce. In a statement, the Karabakh army also reported an enemy attack in the morning in the south, reporting “losses and injuries on both sides”. “But civilian infrastructure and homes were not targeted by gunfire,” Karabakh rescue services said.
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A first ceasefire not respected
On Saturday evening, the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries had announced, in two identical statements, an agreement for “a humanitarian truce from October 18 at 00:00 local time”. In Stepanakert, the separatist capital, the night was very calm. In the morning, everything was silent, as most residents fled the bombardments since the fighting resumed on September 27.
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“Our country wants to respect the truce but the others (Azerbaijanis) will not respect it. We cannot believe them, even if there is an agreement, they can easily not respect it”, argues Sveta Petrosian, 65, questioned in the deserted streets. His two sons are at the front.
The resumption of fighting three weeks ago left hundreds of people dead. After a first failed ceasefire attempt under the aegis of Moscow, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated again on Saturday. Azerbaijan has vowed to “avenge” the deaths of thirteen civilians, including children, who perished the night before in a night bombing of Gandja, the country’s second city. Many houses were destroyed by shelling which also left more than 45 injured, according to the attorney general.
The “French mediation”
The new truce comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone in the evening with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts and insisted on “the need for strict compliance” with the ceasefire concluded last Saturday. in Moscow, according to Russian diplomacy.
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Saturday, Emmanuel Macron had “greeted” the humanitarian truce. The French presidency adds that this truce was concluded “at the end of a French mediation conducted over the last days and hours in coordination with the co-presidents of the Minsk group”. “This cease-fire must be unconditional and strictly respected by the two parties. France will be very attentive to it and will remain committed so that hostilities cease durably and that credible discussions can quickly begin,” adds the French presidency.
Azerbaijan promises revenge “on the battlefield”
On Saturday in Gandja, dozens of rescuers searched for survivors with their bare hands and collected shredded human remains in black body bags, making their identification very difficult. In a speech, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pledged revenge “on the battlefield”, calling his separatist enemy and Armenia, in turn, “dogs” and “fascists”.
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Turkey for its part accused Yerevan of “war crimes”, while the EU once again called on “all parties to stop targeting civilians”. Gandja, a city of about 300,000 inhabitants, has been struck several times since the start of the conflict. The Armenian separatists had noted Saturday for their part that Gandja shelters “legitimate targets”, evoking an air base and military sites. A few hours before the strikes on Gandja, shots had targeted the towns of Stepanakert and Choucha in Karabakh.
Azerbaijan has achieved territorial gains over the past three weeks without winning a decisive battle. Baku has so far not revealed the cost of the conflict, releasing no military, material or human toll. The separatists claim to have killed thousands of men, admit having had to back down but claim to “control the situation”. Officially, they lost around 700 men, and half of the 140,000 inhabitants were displaced.