Armenia reports truce after new clashes with Azerbaijan

Armenia's Defence Ministry earlier said skirmishes in border areas have stopped. PHOTO: AFP

TBILISI, Georgia - A senior Armenian official said late Wednesday a truce was agreed with Azerbaijan after two days of violence linked to a decades-old dispute between the ex-Soviet states over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

There was no word from Azerbaijan about a truce.

Russia is the pre-eminent diplomatic force in the region, with some 2,000 peacekeepers there. Moscow brokered the deal that ended the 2020 fighting - dubbed the second Karabakh war - in which hundreds died.

Russian news agencies quoted Mr Armen Grigoryan, secretary of Armenia's security council, as telling Armenian television: "Thanks to the involvement of the international community, an agreement has been reached on a ceasefire."

The announcement said the truce had been in effect for several hours.

Armenia's Defence Ministry earlier said skirmishes in border areas have stopped.

Each side blames the other for the fresh clashes.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan previously told Parliament that 105 Armenian servicemen have been killed since the violence began this week.

Azerbaijan reported 50 military deaths on the first day of fighting.

Mr Grigory Karasin, a senior member of Russia's Upper House of Parliament, told the RIA news agency that the truce was clinched largely through Russian diplomatic efforts. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Mr Pashinyan, he said.

Mr Putin appealed for calm after the violence erupted and other countries called for restraint on both sides.

In his address to Parliament, Mr Pashinyan said his country appealed to the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation to help restore its territorial integrity.

"If we say that Azerbaijan has carried out aggression against Armenia, it means that they have managed to establish control over some territories," Russia's Tass agency quoted him as saying.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave recognised as part of Azerbaijan while being home to a large Armenian population.

Fighting first erupted towards the end of Soviet rule. Armenian forces took control of large swathes of territory in and around it in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, largely retook those territories over six weeks in 2020.

Skirmishes have since erupted periodically despite meetings between Mr Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev aimed at clinching a comprehensive peace settlement.

Domestic unhappiness in Armenia about the 2020 defeat has prompted repeated protests against Mr Pashinyan, who dismissed reports he has signed a deal with Azerbaijan.

In a Facebook post, he blamed the reports on "informational sabotage directed by unfriendly forces".

A full-fledged conflict would risk dragging in Russia and Turkey, and destabilise an important corridor for oil and gas pipelines just as war in Ukraine disrupts energy supplies.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan told Reuters the clashes could escalate into a war - a second major armed conflict in the former Soviet Union while Russia's military is focused on Ukraine.

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