Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to “humanitarian ceasefire” in Nagorno-Karabakh

An Armenia Defense Ministry spokesperson accused Azerbaijan late Saturday of “violating the humanitarian ceasefire” in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh by firing artillery shells and rockets.

Details: The ceasefire began at midnight local time (4 p.m. ET), hours after the two countries accused each other of violating a week-old, Russian-brokered humanitarian truce, which was intended to allow the two sides to exchange prisoners and recover bodies. Azerbaijan did not immediately comment on the spokesperson’s claim.

  • Nagorno-Karabakh’s foreign ministry said in a statement following Saturday’s announcement that it welcomed “the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs as well as Armenia to achieve a ceasefire in the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict zone as well as to reduce tensions.”
  • “Nagorno-Karabakh reaffirms its readiness to maintain the terms of the humanitarian ceasefire on a reciprocal basis in line with the Moscow Statement of October 10, 2020, and agreement reached on October 17, 2020,” Nagorno-Karabakh’s foreign ministry added.

The big picture: Hundreds of soldiers and dozens of civilians have been killed since the recent fighting began in late September.

  • The recent violence is the worst the region has seen in years, and began with coordinated air and missile attacks late last month from Azerbaijan, which claimed Armenian forces had been preparing an attack (Armenia denies that).

The backstory: Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region of around 150,000 people that is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians but lies within the borders of Azerbaijan.

  • The countries have both claimed the territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union, fought a war over it from 1992-1994, and stood on the precipice of further conflict since.
  • Previous skirmishes, though numerous, have left the stalemate largely unaltered. So has a peace process overseen by the U.S., France and Russia.

Go deeper: Armenian Americans rally in U.S. as Nagorno-Karabakh truce frays

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with the spokesperson’s comments.

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