Azerbaijan on Tuesday began what it called an “anti-terrorist” campaign against separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, which Karabakh officials said killed dozens and wounded hundreds more.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region that lies within Azerbaijan’s borders. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is home to around 120,000 ethnic Armenians, who make up the majority of its population and reject Azerbaijan’s rule. The region has its own de-facto government which is backed by Armenia, but it is not officially recognized by Armenia or any other country.
The ceasefire was due to begin at 1 p.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) Wednesday, Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidential office announced.
“An agreement was reached on the withdrawal of the remaining units and servicemen of the armed forces of Armenia from the deployment zone of the Russian peacekeeping troops, the dissolution and complete disarmament of the armed formations,” it said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it had agreed to suspend its operation, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Azerbaijan said officials would meet representatives of the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday in the city of Yevlakh, “to discuss reintegration issues under the constitution and laws of Azerbaijan.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh presidency said its forces were “outnumbered several times over” as it attempted to defend the region from Azerbaijani troops on Tuesday.
“Regrettably, the Defense Army has casualties too, while in some parts the enemy succeeded in penetrating Defense Army outposts, capturing several heights and strategic road junctions,” it said.
“In the current situation, the international community’s actions in the direction of ending the war and resolving the situation are insufficient. Taking this into consideration, the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh accept the proposal of the Russian peacekeeping contingent’s command regarding a ceasefire,” the Nagorno-Karabakh Presidential Office said, according to Armenpress.
In a television address, Pashinyan said that the text of the agreement “erroneously mentions the Armenian Armed Forces, whereas Armenia doesn’t maintain any military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“Armenia has not had an army in Nagorno-Karabakh since August 2021. But in any case, we note this statement and that the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have accepted it,” Pashinyan said.
Armenia’s foreign ministry rejected Baku’s claims that Azerbaijani troops had come under “systematic shelling” from Armenia’s armed forces, saying in a statement Tuesday that Armenia only provides “humanitarian” assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh, rather than military.
The region has been the cause of two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past three decades. The most recent war broke out in 2020 and lasted 44 days before Moscow negotiated a ceasefire. Under the terms of this agreement, Russia deployed around 2,000 peacekeepers to the region to prevent further conflict.
However, Russia’s peacekeeping contingent has been accused of failing to implemented the ceasefire. In December 2022, Azerbaijan-backed activists established a military checkpoint along the Lachin corridor – the only road linking Nagorno-Karabkh to Armenia. The region has since been under a blockade, preventing the imports of food and medicine to residents.
A former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor said in August there is “reasonable basis to believe that genocide is being committed against Armenians” in Nagorno-Karabakh.
After Azerbaijan launched fresh missile, artillery and drone strikes Tuesday, Armenia’s Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to fulfill their obligations to protect Nagorno-Karabakh, according to state-owned Armenpress.
Asked to respond to this criticism during a media briefing on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Such accusations against us are unfounded, they are not based on anything.”
Peskov said Moscow is in dialogue with both Baku and Yerevan and continues its efforts to aide the ethnic Armenians living in Karabakh. Russia’s defense ministry said it had evacuated around 2,000 civilians from Nagorno-Karabakh overnight Tuesday.
Peskov also revealed Moscow is in the process of arranging a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. He said a conversation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev could also take place if necessary.
Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that its peacekeeping contingent is continuing to perform its duties “in aggravated conditions.”
“Prevention of bloodshed, compliance with humanitarian law in relation to civilians, as well as ensuring the safety of the Russian peacekeeping contingent are discussed,” it added.
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