Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday announced a new attempt to establish a ceasefire in their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The new truce took effect at midnight, but neither side provided a timeline for how long it would last.
The ceasefire comes a week after a Russia-brokered truce failed immediately after it took force. The two sides blame each other for breaching that deal.
The new agreement was announced by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers following phone calls between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his counterparts. Lavrov strongly urged the countries to abide by the Moscow deal.
The terse statements issued by the foreign ministries late Saturday described it as a “humanitarian truce” to allow prisoners and the remains of the dead to be exchanged.
But the intense fighting leading up the announcement raised questions of whether this ceasefire would be any more durable than the deal reached after 10 hours of talks in Moscow last weekend, which failed to end the fierce conflict along the front line.
France said it mediated the latest ceasefire in the days and hours leading up to Saturday’s announcement, in coordination with Russia and the United States.
“This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly observed by both parties,” the office of President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a statement. “France will be very attentive to this and will remain committed so that hostilities cease on a lasting basis and that credible discussions can quickly begin.”
Any halt in the conflict would be welcome for people in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, in the volatile southern Caucasus region between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
The war has already killed more than 600 Armenian soldiers, scores of civilians and an unknown number of Azerbaijanis. It has threatened to spiral into a wider regional conflict, with the potential to further draw in Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally; Russia, which has a mutual defense agreement with Armenia; and even the region’s southern neighbor, Iran.
Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnically Armenian region that is part of Azerbaijan under international law but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994.
The previous war over Nagorno-Karabakh, in the early 1990s, killed some 20,000 people and displaced about a million, most of them Azerbaijanis. Years of tensions since then between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region’s status erupted into open warfare on September 27, with Azerbaijan seeking to take control of the territory by force.
On Saturday, Azerbaijan said 14 people were killed in the city of Ganja, the country’s second-largest, in an overnight missile attack by Armenia.
The capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, had also been attacked overnight Friday.
The latest fighting that began on Sept. 27 has involved heavy artillery, rockets and drones, killing hundreds in the largest escalation of hostilities between the South Caucasus neighbors in more than a quarter-century.
With inputs from The Associated Press and The New York Times
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