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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia-Azerbaijan truce broken minutes after deal



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Oct. 18 (BBC): Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating a humanitarian ceasefire in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both sides agreed had agreed a truce to start at midnight local time (20:00 GMT Saturday).

But an Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman said Azerbaijan broke the ceasefire after just four minutes by firing artillery shells and rockets.

Azerbaijan later said Armenia had broken the truce after two minutes.

Both countries signed a Russian-brokered ceasefire last Saturday. However, clashes continued despite that accord.

Fighting flared last month over the territory, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians. Hundreds have died.

This is the worst violence in the region since a six-year war over the territory ended with a ceasefire in 1994.

What is the latest agreement?

Both nations confirmed the humanitarian truce, although few other details were given.

Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said the decision was based on statements by the presidents of the US, France and Russia, representing the OSCE Minsk Group - a body set up in 1992 and chaired by the three countries to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Anna Naghdalyan, spokesperson for Armenia's foreign ministry carried the same statement in a tweet, adding it welcomed efforts towards a "ceasefire and de-escalation of tension" in the conflict zone.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who negotiated last weekend's accord, spoke to counterparts in both countries on Saturday and said they needed to "strictly follow" the earlier agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron agreed, saying his country would pay "close attention" to the ceasefire.

What's the latest on the ground?

"The enemy fired artillery shells in the northern direction from 00:04 to 02:45, (20:04 to 22:45 GMT Saturday) and fired rockets in the southern direction from 02:20 to 02:45," Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said on Twitter.

She later said that Azerbaijan launched an assault in the south of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday morning. "There are casualties and wounded on both sides."

Speaking with the BBC, Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said his country was not responsible for breaking the ceasefire, and accused Azerbaijan of not being interested in a de-escalation.

"This has been exactly the policy of Azerbaijan... to exchange blame and to get the licence to continue the aggression," said Mr Mnatsakanyan.

Meanwhile Hikmat Hajiyev, foreign policy chief in the presidency of Azerbaijan, blamed Armenia for the renewed fight.

"[Armenia is] misusing and misinterpreting the current ceasefire regime to reinforce their positions and to capture new territories of Azerbaijan," Mr Hajiyev told the BBC. "Yesterday they ambushed a group of Azerbaijan armed forces and tried to kill them

"These are questions that the Armenian side needs to answer," he added.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of a missile strike in the early hours of Saturday that killed at least 13 civilians and injured 45 in Ganja, a city far from the front lines.

An earlier statement by the foreign ministry accused Armenia of "deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians".

Armenian officials denied the attack, and accused Azerbaijan of attacking civilian areas.

Ms Stepanyan posted a video on Facebook, which she said showed devastation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, accusing the Azerbaijani Armed Forces of striking at civilians with missiles in areas including the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert.

Nagorno-Karabakh - key facts

  • A mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)
  • Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
  • In Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan
  • Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic Armenian
  • An estimated one million people displaced by war in 1988-1994, and about 30,000 killed
  • Separatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the 1990s war
  • Stalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefire
  • Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan
  • Russia has military bases in Armenia

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