TEHRAN (Iran News) – A Russian-brokered humanitarian cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on Sunday, a day after it was agreed, with Azerbaijan and Armenia accusing each other of serious violations and crimes against civilians.
The cease-fire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow advocated by President Vladimir Putin, was meant to halt fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces to swap prisoners and war dead, Reuters wrote.
The Moscow talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two since fighting over the mountainous enclave erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people. The enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
Both sides accused one another of breaking the cease-fire almost immediately on Saturday, and Azerbaijan gave the impression in public comments from top officials that it saw it as only a brief and temporary breathing space anyway.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of heavily shelling a residential area in Ganja, its second largest city, in the early hours of the morning, and of hitting an apartment building.
Azerbaijan said nine people had been killed and 34 wounded in the attack.
A Reuters photographer saw rescue workers in Ganja carrying one dead person from the ruins of the apartment building on Sunday morning. The structure had been almost leveled. An excavator was clearing the debris.
Buildings and cars in the immediate vicinity had also been severely damaged.
Baku says more than 40 civilians had been killed and 200 injured since the start of the conflict.
The Armenian Defense Ministry called the Azerbaijani allegations about the attack on Ganja “an absolute lie” and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell populated areas inside Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
Footage from Stepanakert showed a small brick house damaged by shelling, its windows shattered and its roof caved in. The Karabakh authorities said 429 servicemen had been killed since fighting erupted last month.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of also launching an unsuccessful rocket attack on an Azerbaijani hydroelectric power station in Mingachevir. Ethnic Armenian forces in Karabakh denied the assertion.
Arayik Haratyunyan, the leader of ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, described the situation as relatively calm on Sunday morning, but said he did not know how long it would last and that the frontline remained tense.
He accused Azerbaijani forces of trying to unsuccessfully take control of the town of Hadrut, and said the process of the two sides exchanging prisoners should have started on Sunday, but that it was unclear if and when that would happen.
Haratyunyan also said Israel is a complicit in what he called Azerbaijan’s “genocidal” war.
He said Israel authorities are well aware that the Israeli-made UAVs they sold to Azerbaijan are being used for attacks on the civilian population, according to Armen Press.
“They know and they continue supplying them,” he said, adding that Israel “is also responsible for this genocide.”
Renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war.
The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azerbaijani oil and gas to Europe.
The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a cease-fire that has been violated repeatedly.
- source : Iran Daily