Prime Minister Pashinyan visits a wounded soldier

Third Ceasefire Broken by Azerbaijan as Death Toll Mounts

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STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources) — Fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone reportedly spread on Tuesday, October 27, to an area adjacent to Armenia’s border with Iran.

The Armenian Defense Ministry accused the Azerbaijani army of shelling its border posts and wounding several Armenian servicemen in the morning. The Azerbaijani side used artillery and combat drones, it said, adding that one of those unmanned aerial vehicles was shot down over Armenian territory.

A ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, said Armenian army units and border guards had to strike back in response. They inflicted “considerable losses” on the Azerbaijani side, she wrote on Facebook early in the afternoon.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied violating in the ceasefire in that area. It said that Armenian forces themselves opened “intense mortar fire” at its troops stationed in the Zangelan district bordering Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province and northwestern Iran.

The reported shelling took place near the Armenian-Iranian frontier which has long been protected by Russian border guards.

Russia also has up to 5,000 soldiers stationed in other parts of Armenia in line with bilateral treaties that commit Moscow to defending Yerevan against foreign aggression.

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Shortly after the outbreak of the war in and around Karabakh on September 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will fulfill its defense obligations to its South Caucasus ally. He noted at the same time that “the hostilities are not being carried out on the territory of Armenia.”

It emerged this week that the commander of Karabakh’s Defense Army, Lieutenant-General Jalal Harutiunyan, was replaced by another general, Mikael Arzumanyan, late on Monday after being reportedly wounded in action.

Karabakh authorities did not specify the circumstances in which Harutiunyan suffered the injuries. They said that his life is not at risk.

Nearly 60 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population has been forced to flee homes since the start of the war with Azerbaijan one month ago, Artak Beglaryan, Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, said on Monday, noting that an estimated 90,000 civilians have been relocated to other parts of Karabakh or have taken refuge in Armenia.

The shelling has targeted Stepanakert and most other Karabakh communities, causing extensive damage to local homes and public infrastructure. Most of Stepanakert’s remaining residents now live in basements and other bomb shelters.

Destroyed buildings in Stepanakert

According to Beglarian’s office, the fighting has left nearly 40 Karabakh civilians dead so far. One of them lived in a village near Stepanakert that was reportedly shelled on Monday despite an Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement brokered by the United States.

Beglaryan noted that his office is preparing a second report on the inhuman treatment of dead bodies of Armenian soldiers and prisoners of war by Azerbaijani armed forces. Videos circularte one injured Armenian soldier being shot point blank, while another exists of two Armenian soldiers being beheaded.

Azerbaijani armed forces fired Smerch cluster warhead at Nngi village of Artsakh, where many displaced civilians from neighboring communities had found shelter, on Monday.

‘‘As a result of the strike three women were injured, as well as a residential house was totally ruined. Other houses and infrastructures of the village suffered damages to different extent.

The fact that there are no military objects in the vicinity of that village, as well as the use of prohibited cluster missile of mass destruction in densely populated area show that the Azerbaijani armed forces had criminal intent to target the civilian population and facilities. The Human Rights Defender applies to the international community and human rights organizations to take immediate actions for adequately reacting and stopping the Azerbaijani atrocities,” Beglaryan’s statement concluded.

Armenia urged the United States on Monday to react strongly to what it called Azerbaijan’s failure to respect yet another agreement to stop the war in Nagorno-Karabakh which was brokered by Washington.

“It’s now clear that once again it has not proved possible to implement a ceasefire [agreement,]” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a video address to the nation aired in the evening. “I cannot say at this point what the reaction of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries [the U.S., Russia and France] and their presidents will be. But you must know that the Armenian side has done everything to adhere to the ceasefire.”

“I hope that official representatives of the U.S. will answer these questions. Have they clarified as a result of whose actions the ceasefire has been violated? If so, what consequences will there be for the party that has violated it?” he said.

Pashinyan charged that Azerbaijan is continuing its offensive military operations in the conflict zone because it wants to force Armenia and Karabakh to capitulate. The Armenian side has been “maximally flexible” in negotiations mediated by the U.S., Russia and France and prepared to agree to a “painful” compromise-based solution to the Karabakh conflict, he said, adding that it now has no choice but to continue fighting against the “Azerbaijani aggression.”

Russia Welcomes US Efforts

Speaking ahead of the Washington talks, Russian President Vladimir Putting Putin expressed hope that the United States will contribute to Russian efforts to get the conflicting parties to respect a ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Moscow on October 10.

A similar “humanitarian” truce agreement brokered by France on October 17 has also not been observed.

Peskov said that Moscow is continuing to closely monitor the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone. “We still believe that there can only be a peaceful solution to this problem,” said Putin’s spokesman.

On October 23, Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington.

According to Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the main subject of the discussion was the situation in Artsakh resulting from the Azerbaijani large-scale aggression. Minister Mnatsakanyan informed the US Secretary of State about the war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the hostilities, which are manifested by the deliberate targeting of the civilian population of Artsakh, humiliating treatment of civilians and prisoners of war, beheadings and murders.

Pompeo expressed his condolences

Mnatsakanyan highlighted that the Azerbaijani aggression is accompanied by the direct involvement of Turkey, which is manifested in its immediate military-technical support and transferring of foreign terrorist fighters to the region. According to Minister Mnatsakanyan, Azerbaijan’s decision to turn itself into Turkey’s zone of influence and a hotbed of international terrorism is a serious threat to regional security.

He added that the violation of the ceasefire agreements by Azerbaijan and the continuation of hostilities against the people of Artsakh once again demonstrate Azerbaijan’s goal of resolving the issue by military means.

Both sides reiterated the need for the immediate implementation of the agreements on cessation of hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, as well as the continuation of the peace process within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

President in France

President Armen Sarkissian on October 23 visited France to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. “Our objective is clear: to see the ceasefire applied,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said after Macron met with Sarkissian in Paris.

“The President [Macron] is working closely with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin for this,” tweeted Attal. “The solution to this conflict can only be found in appeasement. That is why it is imperative that Turkey cease its dangerous provocations in the region.”

Shortly after the outbreak of large-scale hostilities in and around Karabakh on September 27 Macron accused Turkey of recruiting jihadist fighters in Syria and sending them to Azerbaijan. “I urge all NATO partners to face up to the behavior of a NATO member,” the French leader said on October 1.

The situation in the conflict zone was the main focus of Macron’s talks with Sarkissian. A statement by the Armenian presidential press office said the two leaders agreed on the need for an unconditional implementation of Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreements that were brokered by Moscow and Paris earlier this month.

The statement cited Sarkissian as saying that Turkey’s military support for Azerbaijan is “further escalating the situation and endangering regional peace and stability.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that “the only country which isn’t calling for respect of the ceasefire is Turkey.”

However, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay told the CNN Turk broadcaster on October 20 that Ankara will not hesitate to send troops to Azerbaijan if such a request is made by Baku.

HRW Accuses Azerbaijan

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Azerbaijan on Friday, October 23, of repeatedly using widely banned cluster munitions in the shelling of civilian areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“During an on-site investigation in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented four incidents in which Azerbaijan used cluster munitions,” the U.S.-based group said in a report.

The report says that HRW researchers have identified the “remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-160 series cluster munition rockets” in the Karabakh capital Stepanakert and the town of Hadrut and examined damage caused by them.

“Azerbaijan received these surface-to-surface rockets and launchers from Israel in 2008–2009,” it says.

“The continued use of cluster munitions – particularly in populated areas – shows flagrant disregard for the safety of civilians,” said Stephen Goose, the head of HRW’s arms division sector.

“The repeated use of cluster munitions by Azerbaijan should cease immediately as their continued use serves to heighten the danger for civilians for years to come,” Goose said.

London-based Amnesty International also condemned the use of cluster rockets against residential areas in Karabakh following the September 27 outbreak of large-scale hostilities between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. In an October 5 statement, it described the practice as “appalling and unacceptable.”

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