MOSCOW (AP) – Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared that they have agreed on a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh starting Saturday at noon.
The countries’ foreign ministers said in a statement that the truce is intended for the exchange of prisoners and the recovery of the dead, adding that specific details will be agreed later.
The announcement followed 10 hours of talks in Moscow sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who read the statement. It ruled that the ceasefire should pave the way for conflict resolution talks.
The latest outbreak of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began on September 27 and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in the largest escalation of the decade-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The region is located in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian-backed forces since the end of a separatist war in 1
The talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were held at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who brokered the ceasefire in a series of appeals with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Armenia said it was open to a ceasefire, while Azerbaijan had previously conditioned a potential truce on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that the failure of international efforts to negotiate a deal left it no more. choice than to try to reclaim the territory by force.
In a speech to the nation on Friday, the Azerbaijani president said that nearly three decades of international talks “have not produced an inch of progress, not an inch of the land occupied has been returned to us.”
“Mediators and leaders of some international organizations have argued that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Aliyev said. “I disagree with the thesis and I was right. The conflict is now being resolved by military means and political means will come. “
If the ceasefire were to hold, it would mark a major diplomatic coup for Russia which co-sponsored the peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh alongside the United States and France as co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group, which is working under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The current escalation also marked the first time that Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey has taken on a high profile in the conflict, offering strong political political support. In the past, Turkey has provided Azerbaijan with state-of-the-art weapons, including drones and missile systems that have helped the Azerbaijani army overcome the breakaway forces of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian officials say Turkey is involved in the conflict and is sending Syrian mercenaries to fight on the side of Azerbaijan. Turkey denied deploying fighters in the region, but a Syrian war observer and three Syria-based opposition activists confirmed that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey’s involvement in the conflict raised painful memories in Armenia, where an estimated 1.5 million died in massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 when Ottoman officials feared that Christian Armenians would side with Russia. his enemy in World War I.
The event is widely regarded by historians as a genocide. Turkey denies the genocide deaths, saying the toll has been inflated and the victims have been victims of civil war and unrest.
Turkey’s active involvement in the conflict has worried Russia, which has a military base in Armenia. The two countries are linked by a security treaty that obliges Moscow to offer support to its ally in the event of aggression.
At the same time, Russia has been trying to maintain strong economic and political ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan and avert Turkey’s attempt to increase its influence in the South Caucasus without ruining its delicate relations with Ankara.
Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have negotiated a series of agreements to coordinate their conflicting interests in Syria and Libya and broaden their economic ties. Last year, NATO member Turkey received delivery of Russian S-400 air defense missiles, a move that angered Washington.
A ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh would allow the Kremlin to stem Turkey’s demand to expand its power in Russia’s backyard without ruining its strategic relationship with Ankara.
While Turkey aspired to participate in the Minsk Group talks as co-chair, the statement issued by Armenia and Azerbaijan contained their promise to maintain the current format of the peace talks.