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Fresh Fighting Reported In Karabakh Despite Ceasefire Agreement (UPDATED)


Nagorno-Karabakh -- A screenshot of an official Armenian video of fighting around Karabakh, October 7, 2020.

Armenia accused Azerbaijan on Saturday of continuing offensive military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone despite the entry into force of a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement reached by the two sides overnight.

The agreement reached during marathon talks held by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in Moscow was due to take effect at noon.

The Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanian, said Azerbaijani forces started attacking Karabakh Armenian army positions at a southern section of the “line of contact” at 12:05 local time. She said the Karabakh Armenian army is “taking appropriate measures to repel the enemy attack.”

The army command announced shortly before that it has ordered its troops to cease fire in line with the Moscow agreement.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said the Armenian side itself “blatantly violated” the truce agreement by attacking its troops on various frontlines.

The Karabakh Defense Army said at around 3 p.m. that its troops are now trying to “surround and destroy” what it described as an Azerbaijani commando squad that launched an incursion towards the southern Karabakh town of Hadrut. “The situation at other sections of the frontline is relatively calm,” it said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, the Armenian side reported fierce fighting at another southern section of the Karabakh frontline close to Iran. Stepanian said Azerbaijani troops are trying to make last-minute territorial gains before the anticipated ceasefire. She said they are heavily using combat drones but Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army is “repelling all enemy attacks.”

Meanwhile, reports from Stepanakert said Karabakh’s capital again came under rocket fire in the morning. RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent Naira Nalbandian reported from the city that the shelling stopped by noon.

Also, the Armenian Defense Ministry reported an Azerbaijani drone strike on a village in Armenia’s Syunik province bordering Iran. It said one person was killed as a result.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said, for its part, that Armenian forces are continuing to shell Azerbaijani towns and villages.

Later in the afternoon, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian, said efforts are being made through “all diplomatic channels” to implement the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. She gave no details.

In a joint statement issued in the early hours of the morning, the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian foreign ministers said the hostilities will be halted “for the humanitarian purposes of exchanging prisoners of war and other captives and bodies of the dead.” They said the parties will work out “concrete parameters of the ceasefire regime” later on.

The statement said Yerevan and Baku also agreed to start “substantive negotiations” on resolving the Karabakh conflict.

Speaking shortly after the announcement of the ceasefire agreement, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian said that renewed peace talks are contingent on an end to the large-scale hostilities that erupted on September 27.

“What we managed to note during the lengthy negotiations is that we need to stop the fighting … reinforce the ceasefire and only then speak about a peace process,” Mnatsakanian told Armenian Public Television.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev put the emphasis on planned negotiations, saying that they must lead to Armenian withdrawal from “occupied territories.” “The military part or its first episode has come to an end,” Aliyev said in an interview with Russia’s RBC TV channel aired on Saturday. “We are now aiming for a political settlement which will ensue that … we get what legally belongs to us.”

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