Armenia, Azerbaijan agree on ceasefire to end renewed deadly border clashes – National

Armenia and Azerbaijani A senior Armenian official said that a ceasefire had been negotiated to end an outbreak of fighting that left 155 soldiers on both sides dead, a senior Armenian official said early Thursday.

Armen Grigoryan, secretary of the Armenian Security Council, announced the truce in a televised statement, saying it took effect a few hours earlier, at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT) Wednesday. An earlier ceasefire that Russia brokered on Tuesday quickly failed.

Hours before Grigoryan’s announcement, the Armenian Defense Ministry reported that the shelling had stopped but made no mention of a ceasefire.

There was no immediate comment from the government of Azerbaijan.

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The ceasefire declared after two days of fierce fighting, marking the biggest outbreak of hostilities between the two longtime rivals in nearly two years.

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Late on Wednesday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Armenia’s capital accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of betraying his country by trying to appease Azerbaijan and demanding his resignation.

Armenia and Azerbaijan blame the hostilities, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression and Azerbaijani officials saying their country is responding to Armenian shelling.

Pashinyan said 105 of his country’s soldiers had been killed since fighting broke out early Tuesday, while Azerbaijan said it lost 50. Azerbaijani authorities said they were ready to unilaterally hand over the bodies of up to 100 Armenian soldiers.

The former Soviet states have been locked in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian-backed Armenian forces since the war. The secessionist war there ended in 1994.

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During the six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan regained large swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and neighboring territories held by the Armenian army. More than 6,700 people died in the fighting, which ended in a peace deal brokered by Russia. Moscow has deployed about 2,000 troops to the area for peacekeeping missions under the agreement.

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Pashinyan said on Wednesday that Azerbaijani forces had occupied 10 square kilometers (nearly 4 square miles) of Armenian territory since the fighting began.

He told lawmakers that his government had asked Russia for military assistance under a treaty of friendship between the countries and also requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

“Our allies are Russia and the CSTO,” Pashinyan said, adding that the collective security treaty stipulates that aggression against one member is aggression against all.

“We do not consider military intervention as the only possibility, as there are political and diplomatic options,” Pashinyan said, speaking in his country’s parliament.

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He told lawmakers that Armenia was ready to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in a future peace treaty, provided it relinquished control of the areas in Armenia that its forces had Occupy.

“We want to sign a document that many people will criticize, denounce and call us traitors, and they may even decide to dismiss us, but we would be grateful if Armenia get a lasting peace and security due to it,” said Pashinyan.

Some in the opposition see the statement as a sign that Pashinyan is willing to comply with Azerbaijan’s demands and recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of angry protesters quickly descended on government headquarters, accusing Pashinyan of treason and demanding his resignation.

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Pashinyan angrily denied reports alleging that he had signed an agreement to accept Azerbaijan’s demands as an “information attack”. Grigoryan, secretary of the Security Council, denounced the protests in Yerevan, describing them as an attempt to destroy the state.

Arayik Harutyunyan, leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, responded to the uproar by saying that the region would not agree to join the Azerbaijan bloc and would continue to push for its independence.

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As tensions rose in Yerevan, Moscow made a delicate balancing act seeking to maintain friendly relations with both nations. It has close economic and security ties with Armenia, home to a Russian military base, but also maintains close cooperation with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Some observers see the outbreak of fighting as an attempt by Azerbaijan to force the Armenian government to faster implement some of the provisions of the 2020 peace agreement, such as the opening of transport corridors across its territory. its territory.

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“Azerbaijan has a greater military potential, and so they try to dictate to Armenia and use force to promote the diplomatic decisions they want,” said Sergei Markedonov, a Russian expert on the South Caucasus region. , wrote in a comment.

Markedonov noted that the current outbreak of hostilities occurred when Russia was forced to withdraw from parts of northeastern Ukraine following the Ukrainian counter-offensive, adding that Armenia’s request for assistance had leaving Russia in a precarious position.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of other CSTO members discussed the situation in a call late Tuesday, calling for a swift end to hostilities. They agreed to send a delegation of top officials from the security alliance to the region.

On Friday, Putin will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where the two plan to attend the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group co-chaired by Russia and China. treat. The Armenian government said Pashinyan, who will also attend the summit, would not appear because of the country’s situation.

In Washington, a group of pro-Armenian lawmakers lobbied the Biden administration. US Representative Adam Schiff, the influential Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and four other members of Congress have called on the White House and State Department to “unequivocally condemn the actions of Azerbaijan and cease all support” to Azerbaijan.

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Aida Sultanova in London, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Nomaan Merchant in Washington and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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