Heavy fighting continued in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, with Karabakh Armenian forces saying that they went on the counteroffensive and regained territory seized by the Azerbaijani army the previous day.
Karabakh’s Defense Army reported “fierce” clashes in the northeast of Karabakh and the southernmost section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact,” which is adjacent to Iran.
In a statement issued on Sunday morning, the army said its troops won back a “tactically important” position near the northern village of Talish. “The enemy was pushed back, suffering considerable losses,” it claimed. “Two soldiers from the Karabakh side were wounded during the hostilities.”
“Karabakh forces are also conducting successful operations at the southern section of the frontline,” the statement said, adding that they destroyed three Azerbaijani tanks and one armored personnel carrier there.
The Azerbaijani military confirmed later in the day that “Armenia tried to regain positions lost by it” but claimed to have thwarted those attempts. “The enemy also subjected settlements and other civilian facilities near the line of contact to intensive shelling,” it said.
It claimed to have destroyed as many as 10 Armenian tanks in the process. The spokesman for the Karabakh army, Senor Hasratian, denied that claim, saying that the Armenian side has lost only one tank and destroyed 14 Azerbaijani tanks since the Azerbaijani army began its offensive on Saturday morning.
Eighteen Armenian soldiers were reportedly killed and 35 others wounded on Saturday. The Azerbaijani side has acknowledged 12 combat deaths so far.
In another statement released early in the afternoon, the Defense Ministry in Baku said the Azerbaijani army has decided to “unilaterally suspend its counteroffensive and retaliatory measures against the enemy.” “If the Armed Forces of Armenia do not end their provocative actions … the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan will resume offensive operations using all weapons at their disposal,” it said, according to Haqqin.az.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry swiftly dismissed the announcement as an “information trick,” while the Karabakh army called in “disinformation” and “an imitation of ceasefire.”
The army said that even after Baku’s statement Azerbaijani troops continued to shell not only Karabakh Armenian positions but also civilians. In particular, it said, they fired on the northeastern Karabakh town of Martakert from Grad multiple-launch rocket systems and 152-milimeter howitzers.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military made clear at the same time that it is ready to “discuss” the proposed truce “in the context of the restoration of the previous positions” of the two warring sides.
The military authorities in Stepanakert began reinforcing their frontline troops on Saturday night by deploying heavy artillery and calling up hundreds of reservists. Hundreds of other Armenians, most of them veterans of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, reportedly headed to the frontline from Armenia overnight.