Despite a ceasefire, fighting intensifies between Armenia and Azerbaijan
On Monday, Armenian and Azerbaijani defense ministries accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreed upon on Saturday morning in Moscow.
The Kremlin-brokered deal, which took over 10 hours of negotiation to finalize, was meant to bring a sustainable end to the humanitarian crisis and allow the sides to swap hostages and fallen troops over the last two weeks.
Each side accused the other of mounting new attacks.
At least ten were killed and dozens injured after missle strike hit an apartment building in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city. The attack took place a day after the ceasefire had gone into effect. In retaliation, the Azerbaijani forces reportedly shelled the administrative center of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, Khankendi (Stepanakert). Later, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said another densely populated town under Azerbaijani control, Tartar, was attacked.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed in an interview with Turkish Haber Global TV channel that the attack on Ganja was specifically ordered by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
“The military-political leadership of Armenia stands behind the missile strike on Ganja. We have information that the decision was made by Pashinyan himself,” Aliyev was quoted as saying on Monday.
“Armenia is losing, therefore it wants to take its grief and pain from the civil population,” he said.
Moscow, which monitors the developments, said the ceasefire agreement reached in Moscow on Friday had not been fully implemented.
“We see the agreement is not yet fully implemented and military operations continue. We hope our contacts with [Armenia] and our Azerbaijani counterparts will ensure the full implementation of the tripartite agreements,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was cited as saying in a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.
Accusing Azerbaijan of ceasefire violations, Mnatsakanyan said Baku “is not faithful to the ceasefire.” He also accused Azerbaijan of involving Turkey in the region and of deploying Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries in Nagorno-Karabakh. These allegations have repeatedly been denied by Ankara and Baku.
Armenia says Turkey recruited nearly 4,000 trained mercenaries were transported from Syria to Azerbaijan by Turkey. The claims have been reported on by various international media, including the Guardian and the New York Times.
Turkey extended its firm support to Azerbaijan in the new flare ups, reportedly supplying military equipments and experts to its strategic regional ally. It says it is ready to do its utmost to remove Armenian forces from the region.
Zara Amatuni from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which was ready on Saturday to facilitate humanitarian support, said the impact of the current conflict “is immense.”
“We are talking now of at least tens of thousands of people that will be needing assistance in the next few months to be able to cope with the toll taken on them because of the surge in violence,” Amatuni was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera on Sunday.
Azerbaijan said 41 Azeri civilians were killed and 207 wounded in the fighting started since 27 September. Azerbaijan has still not released numbers on military casualties.
According to figures from Nagorno-Karabakh, 429 Armenian servicemen and more than 20 civilians were killed in the fighting.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was declared independent by ethnic Armenians living there as the Soviet Union collapsed. An estimated 30,000 were killed when the conflict turned into a full-fledged war,. A ceasefire signed in 1994 under the auspices of Moscow put a fragile end to a large-scale conflict. Peace talks mediated by France, US and Russia were unsuccessful and since then, conflict is volatile, with flare-ups sporadically occurring.
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