Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: ceasefire reported after new border clashes around Nagorno-Karabakh

There was no news from Azerbaijan of a truce to stop the bloodiest exchanges between the two countries since 2020.

Russia is the pre-eminent diplomatic power in the region and has 2,000 peacekeepers there. Moscow brokered the deal that ended the 2020 fighting – dubbed the Second Karabakh War – in which hundreds were killed.

“Thanks to the participation of the international community, an agreement was reached on the ceasefire,” Armen Grigoryan, Secretary of the Armenian Security Council, was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling Armenian TV.

The announcement said the truce was in effect for several hours. The Armenian Defense Ministry said earlier that the shooting in the border areas had stopped.

Each side blames the other for the renewed clashes.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had earlier told parliament that 105 Armenian military personnel had been killed since the violence began this week.

Azerbaijan reported 50 soldiers killed on the first day of fighting. Reuters was unable to verify the accounts of both sides.

Grigory Karasin, a senior member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, told RIA that the truce was largely reached through Russian diplomatic efforts.

He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan. Putin called for calm after the outbreak of violence and other countries called for restraint on both sides.

Pashinyan said in his speech to parliament that his country had appealed to the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to help restore its territorial integrity.

“If we say that Azerbaijan carried out an aggression against Armenia, this means that it was able to extend its control over some territories,” he was quoted by the Russian TASS news agency as saying.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades for Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region recognized as part of Azerbaijan while once home to a large Armenian population.

Fighting first broke out towards the end of Soviet rule, and Armenian forces took control of large swathes of territory in and around it in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan, with the support of Turkey, largely recovered those territories in six weeks in 2020.

Since then, skirmishes have periodically erupted despite the meetings between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace settlement.

Armenia’s domestic discontent over the 2020 defeat has sparked repeated protests against Pashinyan, who has denied reports that he signed a deal with Baku.

In a Facebook post, he blamed the reports on “media vandalism directed by unfriendly forces”.

A full-blown conflict could risk dragging Russia and Turkey, destabilizing an important oil and gas pipeline corridor, just as the war in Ukraine disrupts energy supplies.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Baruer Hovhannisyan said the clashes could escalate into war – the second major armed conflict in the former Soviet Union while the Russian military focuses on Ukraine.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia, which is in a military alliance with Moscow and includes a Russian military base, of bombing its army units.

Baku said that Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jehon Peramov met with Philip Reeker, the US State Department’s advisor on the Caucasus, and informed him that Armenia should withdraw from the Azerbaijani territories.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Tuesday that Russia could either “move the pot” or use its influence to help “calm the atmosphere.”

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, in a telephone conversation with her counterparts from both countries, called for “an end to the strikes against Armenian territory.”

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