Azerbaijan and Armenia have accused one another of violating the terms of a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The ceasefire, which was initiated by President Vladimir Putin, was aimed at halting fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeri forces swap prisoners and war dead.
It was reported that within minutes of the truce on Saturday October 10, 2020, both sides began to accuse one another of breaking it.
The Armenian defence ministry accused Azerbaijan of shelling a settlement inside Armenia, while ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh alleged that Azeri forces had launched a new offensive five minutes after the truce took hold.
Azerbaijan said enemy forces in the disputed region were shelling Azeri territory. Both sides have consistently denied each others’ assertions about military activity.
Later on Saturday, seven loud explosions rocked Stepanakart, the main city in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under the international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
But ethnic Armenians, who make up the vast majority of the population, reject the Azerbaijani rule and have been running their own affairs with Armenia’s support since a devastating war in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Earlier on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who helped mediate the ceasefire talks in Moscow, said in a statement the truce had been agreed on humanitarian grounds.
The International Committee of the Red Cross would help make the truce work, he said.
“The specific terms of the ceasefire still need to be agreed,” said Lavrov, who said the two rivals had also agreed to enter into what he called substantive peace talks to be held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, meanwhile, told Russia’s RBC news outlet that the warring parties were now engaged in trying to find a political settlement, but suggested there would be further fighting ahead.
“We’ll go to the very end and get what rightfully belongs to us,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov also said the “humanitarian ceasefire” would only last for as long as it took for the Red Cross to arrange the exchange of the dead.