For the first time in two weeks, it was time for a ceasefire, Saturday, October 10, in the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a separatist enclave in Azerbaijan populated overwhelmingly by Armenians, where intense fighting had broken out last September 27.
The announcement of this truce of arms, made in the middle of the night by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, who orchestrated the marathon negotiations (more than ten hours) between the foreign ministers of Armenia and of Azerbaijan, entered into force at noon local time.
More than 400 officially dead
A fragile agreement, and ” for humanitarian purposes “, according to Sergey Lavrov. The fighting, after thirteen days, left more than 400 dead in this region of the Caucasus, including 22 Armenian civilians and 31 Azerbaijani. The real toll could even be much higher, with each side claiming to have eliminated thousands of enemy soldiers, and Baku not disclosing its military losses. Moreover, according to local authorities, half of the 140,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh have been displaced by the bombing.
A few hours before its establishment, and while the discussions were held in Moscow, the authorities of both parties – Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan – mutually accused each other of continuing the bombing, missile fire or drone deployments. On Friday October 9, explosions were heard in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. “A few minutes ago, Azerbaijan struck again civilian areas of Stepanakert with missiles”, tweeted, Saturday morning, Artak Belgarian, mediator of the self-proclaimed republic.
“The Armenian armed forces are heavily bombarding populated areas in Geranboy, Terter, Agdam, Agjaberdi and Fizuli. Azerbaijan takes reciprocal measures ”, said the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry in a statement.
And after the entry into force, Saturday, October 10 at midday, Yerevan and Baku continued to accuse each other of new attacks.
Exchange of bodies and prisoners
In addition, the “Specific parameters” the implementation of the agreement will be agreed later, said Sergey Lavrov. According to the head of Russian diplomacy, the ceasefire would allow “To exchange prisoners of war, other people and the bodies of those killed with the mediation and in accordance with the criteria of the Committee of the Red Cross”.
Still according to Sergey Lavrov, the two neighboring countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, have committed themselves to the Kremlin ” to substantial negotiations to quickly reach a peaceful settlement ” conflict, with the mediation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group – Russia, but also the United States and France – the main international mediator in this conflict for a quarter of a century.
The contours of these future negotiations remain extremely vague, each camp hitherto camped on positions which are at the origin of the rise in tensions in the region, self-proclaimed as an autonomous republic during a war which had made more than 30,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees in the early 1990s.
“We will return to our land anyway”
If, before the start of the talks, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinian, only said he was ready “For the resumption of the peace process”, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke in a televised speech in which he claimed to give a ” last chance “ in Yerevan to peacefully settle the conflict in the region by withdrawing its troops. “We will return to our land anyway”, he added, already announcing the capture of a city, Hadrout, in the south of the separatist enclave, and that of eight surrounding villages. Information denied by the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Saturday October 10, by a statement from the Quai d’Orsay, France however welcomed “The cease-fire humanitarian “ and called for it to be “Implemented and strictly observed in order to create the conditions for a permanent cessation of hostilities between the two countries”. The fear is to see this conflict internationalize in a region where Russians, Turks, Iranians and Westerners all have interests.
Turkey, since the end of September, has been accused of fueling tensions and of participating with mercenaries and equipment in hostilities alongside Azerbaijan, which it denies.