Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of truce violations

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia and Azerbaijan yesterday accused each other of violating the new ceasefire announced the day before in a bid to halt the fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh that has killed hundreds, and possibly thousands, in just four weeks.

The truce that took effect yesterday morning was agreed upon on Sunday after talks facilitated by the United States (US). It was a third attempt to establish a lasting ceasefire in the flare-up of a decades-old conflict. Two previous Russia-brokered ceasefires, including one last weekend, frayed immediately after taking force, with both sides blaming each other for violations.

The new ceasefire was also challenged quickly by accusations from both sides. Azerbaijani Defence Ministry alleged that Armenian forces fired at Azerbaijani settlements and the positions of the Azerbaijani army “along the entire front, as well as on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border” using various small arms, mortars and howitzers.

Armenian military officials rejected the accusations and in turn accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling the northeastern area of Nagorno-Karabakh and other areas. Separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh also charged that Azerbaijan targetted the town of Martuni with military aviation.

Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry called claims about their use of military aviation “misinformation” and insisted that Azerbaijan was adhering to the ceasefire agreement.

The new ceasefire deal brokered by the US came out of “intensive negotiations” Washington facilitated over the weekend among the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and co-chairs of the Minsk Group, set up by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the 1990s to mediate the conflict.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian yesterday appeared optimistic about the new truce, despite the accusations from both sides.

“Despite several provocations, the ceasefire is generally being maintained. The Armenian side will continue to strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime,” Pashinian said in a Facebook post.