Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of violating new ceasefire deal

Armenians lighting candles in a church in Yerevan last Saturday for their countrymen killed during fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The truce agreed to last Saturday came into force at midnight after a week-old Russian-brokered
Armenians lighting candles in a church in Yerevan last Saturday for their countrymen killed during fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The truce agreed to last Saturday came into force at midnight after a week-old Russian-brokered ceasefire failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BAKU/YEREVAN • Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other yesterday of violating a new humanitarian truce in fighting over the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, hours after it was agreed.

The ceasefire agreed to last Saturday took effect at midnight after a week-old Russian-brokered truce failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s. At least 750 people have been killed since fighting began on Sept 27.

At 1010 GMT, the Azeri Defence Ministry said the Aghdam region, adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, was under Armenian shelling. It said that, overnight, Armenian military units opened fire from large-calibre weapons along the border. Yerevan has denied this.

The Armenian Defence Ministry said the Azeri army had fired twice during the night and used artillery, accusing Baku of rejecting its request to withdraw the wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

"This step... was categorically rejected by Baku," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Baku called the statement misinformation.

The Azeri Defence Ministry said: "The enemy fired at the vicinity of the Jabrayil city, as well as the villages of this region... using mortars and artillery." It added that the Azeri army "took adequate retaliatory measures".

The ministry said Azeri military units downed an Armenian Su-25 warplane "which was attempting to inflict airstrikes on the positions of the Azeri army in Jabrayil region". Yerevan swiftly denied that.

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azeri forces had launched an attack on the enclave's military positions and that there were casualties and wounded on both sides.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountain territory that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians. The ceasefire earlier this month was aimed at letting the sides exchange detainees and the bodies of those killed in the clashes, but it had little impact on the fighting around the enclave.

The new ceasefire was announced last Saturday after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked to his Armenian and Azeri counterparts by phone and called on both sides to observe the truce that he mediated a week ago.

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.

Baku said last 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 staff have been killed. It also said at least six civilians in Stepanakert, the region's biggest city, had been wounded by Azeri shelling.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of violating new ceasefire deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe