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Armenian FM Meets Mediators As Karabakh Fighting Goes On


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Debris of a shot down unmanned aerial vehicle is seen near Stepanakert, October 11, 2020

Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian met with Russian, French and U.S. mediators in Moscow on Tuesday as Armenia accused Azerbaijan of continuing offensive military operations around Karabakh despite a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement.

An Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said that Azerbaijani forces are again shelling and attacking frontline positions of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army. “Our troops are fighting heroically and hard,” he said in a Facebook post early in the afternoon.

“Azerbaijan continues to blatantly violate the humanitarian ceasefire and has resumed large-scale military operations along the entire frontline since early morning,” a spokesman for Ara Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, wrote around the same time.

The official, Vahram Poghosian, said the Karabakh Armenian army is “waging fierce battles” in an effort to fight back the offensive.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry insisted that its troops are not violating the ceasefire. “The Azerbaijani army is not firing any gunshots or carrying out attacks,” it said in a statement.

The ministry said in the morning that Armenian forces attacked overnight Azerbaijani army positions at some sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.”

Baku also accused them of continuing to shell Azerbaijani civilian areas north and east of Karabakh. Yerevan strongly denied.

Mnatsakanian’s meeting with the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group as well as and Andrzej Kasprzyk, the head of an OSCE mission monitoring the ceasefire regime in the Karabakh conflict zone, began at around noon. It was expected to focus on ways of ensuring both conflicting parties’ compliance with the ceasefire agreement.

Kasprzyk and the group’s U.S. co-chair, Andrew Schofer, also held a separate meeting in Moscow Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, they discussed “possible steps” aimed at implementing the ceasefire agreement that was reached by the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian foreign ministers early on Saturday.

Speaking after talks with Mnatsakanian on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expects the warring sides to “rigorously” stick to the agreement and stop hostilities. He said they should also restart “substantive” peace talks without delay. This will also be on the agenda of Mnatsakanian’s meeting with the Minsk Group co-chairs, added Lavrov.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also renewed its calls for a Karabakh ceasefire and reaffirmed its readiness to help the parties exchange prisoners of war and recover the bodies of their soldiers killed in action.

“The sides must agree on a format between themselves,” Martin Schuepp, the ICRC director for Eurasia, said in a statement. “We are in continuous discussions with them, passing proposals back and forth. Operational and logistical arrangements must be in place and the safety of our teams guaranteed for the operation to begin.”

The Russian-mediated agreement made clear that the process will be handled by the ICRC.

Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan discussed the matter with the head of the ICRC office in Yerevan on Saturday. Authorities in Karabakh said afterwards that they are ready to closely cooperate with Red Cross representatives as soon as the fighting stops.

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