Azerbaijan declares unilateral ceasefire in Karabakh

BAKU (Azerbaijan) • Azerbaijan yesterday announced a unilateral ceasefire after the worst violence over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh in more than two decades, but Armenian forces said clashes were continuing despite international appeals to stop fighting.

"Azerbaijan, showing goodwill, has decided to unilaterally cease hostilities," Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said in a statement, warning it would "liberate all (Armenian) occupied territories" if Armenian forces "do not stop provocations".

Baku also vowed to "reinforce" strategic positions it said it had "liberated" in the region, which is controlled by Armenia but internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

But Mr David Babayan, a spokesman for the Armenian-backed rebel Defence Ministry in Karabakh, said fighting has never been halted along the front line. "Fierce fighting is under way on south-eastern and north-eastern sectors of the Karabakh front line," he said.

Earlier yesterday, Karabakh forces claimed they took back the strategic Lala-Tepe height in Karabakh which was captured by Azeri troops on Saturday. Baku denied the report, saying the height remained under its control and that rebel troops sustained "serious manpower losses".

On Saturday, fierce clashes left at least 18 Armenian and 12 Azerbaijani soldiers dead and reportedly claimed the lives of two civilians after both sides accused each other of attacks across the frontline.

Both Russia and the West appealed to all sides to show restraint.

Ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous region in a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives. The foes have never signed a peace deal despite a ceasefire in 1994.

The region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan and both sides often exchange fire.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Azerbaijan declares unilateral ceasefire in Karabakh'. Print Edition | Subscribe