Azeris declare ceasefire

Azeris declare ceasefire

An abandoned BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle in Dashalty, Nagorno-Karabakh, during the 1990s. Source: Wikimedia

Azerbaijan said yesterday (Sunday) that it would stop fighting Armenian-backed separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region after two days of violence. Armenia, however, said it was a hollow gesture as violence was continuing.

Nagorno-Karabakh, which is inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenian rebels, has been run as an independent republic with significant military and financial backing from Armenia since a separatist conflict ended in 1994. Tension along the “contact line” increased last month, leading to clashes in which dozens were killed. Both sides have reported civilian casualties and international organisations are calling for a ceasefire.

“Armenia has violated all the norms of international law. We won’t abandon our principal position. But at the same time we will observe the ceasefire and after that we will try to solve the conflict peacefully,” Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said on Azeri state television. Aliyev also said his troops had won a “great victory”, presumably referring to territorial advances made on Saturday.

Armenia said the fighting continued and Deputy Defence Minister David Tonoyan said Yerevan would provide “direct military assistance” to its allied Nagorno-Karabakh forces if required. “The statement by the Azerbaijan side is an information trap and does not amount to a unilateral ceasefire,” Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for the Armenian Defence Ministry, posted on Facebook.

Russia’s news agencies reported artillery attacks by both sides near the town of Mardakert in the north of the disputed region.

Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday that it would “cease retaliatory military actions” against separatist forces. Earlier it claimed Azerbaijan’s troops had “liberated strategic heights and settlements” in the north and east of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the past soldiers would sit in quiet trenches in the mountains and take occasional shots across the line. But Azerbaijan has spent billions of dollars of its Caspian Sea oil wealth on weaponry meaning the so-called Line of Contact between the two sides became the most militarised zone in the wider Europe, filled with tanks and heavy artillery.

The quasi-independent Nagorno-Karabakh military denounced the Azeri statement of a unilateral ceasefire as “disinformation”. However, it said it was ready to discuss a peace deal with Baku on the condition that both sides returned to positions held before the conflict broke out. “The Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces are ready to meet and discuss a ceasefire proposal in the context of restoring former positions,” the Nagorno-Karabakh military said.

Nagorno-Karabakh has a population of around 150,000 people with the conflict breaking out in the dying days of Soviet Union. Around 30,000 people had been killed by the time a ceasefire was agreed in 1994. Multiple efforts to find a permanent settlement by France, Russia and the US failed with Azerbaijan frequently threatening to take back the mountainous region.

The Azeri Defence Ministry claimed to have destroyed 10 rebel tanks and killed multiple combatants in weekend clashes. But Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed forces rejected the claims that it had suffered heavy losses, describing it as a “display of unrestrained fantasies”. They claimed to have destroyed 14 Azeri tanks and five armoured vehicles over the weekend.

“The enemy is trying to hide its helplessness, carrying out attacks with Grad rocket launchers and 152 millimetre artillery in the direction of the civilian population,” the Armenia’s Defence Ministry announced.

Intersected by pipelines and between the Caspian and Black seas, stability is a key aim for Baku and other oil and gas producers in the region.

Russia, which maintains troops, fighter jets and military helicopters in northern Armenia, has been the main negotiator over Nagorno-Karabakh and moved end the violence this weekend. Russian President Vladimir Putin called for both sides to observe the ceasefire while his foreign and defence ministers spoke by phone with their Armenian and Azeri counterparts.

“The [UN] Secretary General… is particularly concerned by the reported use of heavy weapons and by the large numbers of casualties, including among the civilian population,” a UN spokesman said.

Source 1

Source 2

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.