It took just minutes for the third attempt at a humanitarian ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to fray on October 26, with Armenia and Azerbaijan accusing each other of violating the truce brokered in Washington, DC at the weekend.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry alleged that Armenian forces fired at Azerbaijani settlements and the positions of the Azerbaijani army “along the entire front, as well as on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border”. Azerbaijan also accused Armenian forces of targeting its town of Terter and the Aghjabedi region. Armenian military officials in turn accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling the northeastern area of Nagorno-Karabakh and other areas. By the afternoon of October 26, “heavy battles” were taking place in the southeast of the region, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Ovannisian said, according to The Associated Press.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Facebook Live that on the eve of the ceasefire he had warned US Secretary of State that the truce would be quickly broken by Azerbaijan and that Baku would blame Armenia. He said he had asked Pompeo how the US would determine who was responsible for the likely breach, but he declined to share Pompeo’s response.
After the ceasefire was agreed, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who just agreed to adhere to a cease fire effective at midnight. Many lives will be saved. Proud of my team @SecPompeo & Steve Biegun & @WHNSC for getting the deal done!”
Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh also charged that Azerbaijan “continued missile strikes” on the region’s civilian settlements, killing one and wounding two more.
The mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 974 of their troops and over 30 civilians have been killed in the clashes so far. Azerbaijani authorities do not disclose their military losses, however they claim the fighting has killed 65 Azerbaijani civilians and wounded 300.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that according to Moscow’s information, the death toll from the fighting was nearing 5,000.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that to end hostilities Armenian forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh.
In an address to the nation on October 26, Aliyev once again hit out at the OSCE Minsk Group of mediators, co-chaired by Russia, France and the US, which has for three decades been attempting to find an answer to the Nagorno-Karabakh headache.
“For almost 30 years, co-chairs of the Minsk Group have been trying to reconcile Azerbaijan with the process of freezing the conflict,” Aliyev said. “We’re fed up with these negotiations. How long can you negotiate for?”
The Minsk Group is due to meet in Geneva on October 29. Aliyev said he wanted the meeting to be “worthwhile”, saying it needed to “speed up the resolution of the conflict”.
“So many pointless meetings have already been held in these 28 years,” he added.
Pashinian accused Azerbaijan of not being willing to compromise. “This is the main problem, which until now didn’t allow [us] to resolve the issue, because Azerbaijan wasn’t ready—and still isn’t—for compromises,” Pashinian said.
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