Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to a cease-fire after talks he hosted in Moscow. Lavrov (center) is pictured with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov (left) and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian.

Russia Says Azerbaijan, Armenia Agree on Cease-Fire in Nagorno Karabakh

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MOSCOW (RFE/RL) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 10 that Azerbaijan and Armenia have agree to a cease-fire from noon on October 10 and “substantive” peace talks aimed at ending the latest bout of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The announcement came early on October 10 after 12 hours of talks in Moscow between the Russian foreign minister and the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Lavrov said the cease-fire would allow for the exchange of prisoners and the bodies of people who have been killed in clashes over the last two weeks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

The International Committee of the Red Cross will be an intermediary in the talks, he said. The sides said the talks would be “substantive negotiations with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.”

As the foreign ministers began their session on October 9, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he was giving Armenia a “last chance” to resolve the conflict peacefully.

“The conflict is now being settled by military means and political means will come next,” he warned, saying nearly three decades of international talks “haven’t yielded an inch of progress, we haven’t been given back an inch of the occupied lands.”

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Nagorno Karabakh is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. But it has been under the control of Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire brought an end to the separatist war that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Since then, Nagorno Karabakh has been populated and governed by ethnic Armenians, leaving hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from the region as internally displaced war refugees for more than a quarter century.

Zaur Shiriyev, a South Caucasus analyst for the International Crisis Group, says there is a “very visible lack of support” from the Azerbaijani population for going back to peace talks in the hope of returning the internally displaced people to their homes in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Shiriyev says Azerbaijanis “demand” from Aliyev “not to return to ‘fruitless’ talks, but to continue the war, which finally promises real results.”

“Therefore, the international calls for ceasefire are broadly seen as an attempt to disrupt Baku’s success and do not find support in the Azerbaijani public,” Shiriyev says.

The hostilities — the largest escalation of the decades-old conflict since a shaky cease-fire was reached in 1994 — have increased concern that a wider conflict could drag in regional power Turkey, which is Azerbaijan’s closest ally, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.

The defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto government said on October 9 there was intense fighting to the south of Stepanakert, the region’s largest city.

The previous day, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of shelling a historic cathedral perched on a strategic clifftop in Shushi (known as Susa in Azeri), just a few kilometers south of Stepanakert.

Residents of the town said the Holy Savior Cathedral sustained exterior and interior damage after being hit twice within several hours.

Also known as the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the 19th century building is part of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Russia’s Health Ministry said two Russians wounded in shelling were airlifted to Moscow on October 9 and were in satisfactory condition.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AFP, AP, dpa, RIA Novosti, and RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani and Armenian Services

 

 

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