Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan announce new truce plan | World news

Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced a new attempt to establish a ceasefire in their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh starting from midnight local time (8pm GMT).

It comes a week after a Russia-brokered truce frayed immediately after it took force. The two sides trade blame for breaching that deal. On Saturday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of striking its second-largest city with a ballistic missile that killed at least 13 civilians and wounded 50 others.

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.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The latest fighting that began on 27 September has involved heavy artillery, rockets and drones, killing hundreds in the largest escalation of hostilities between the South Caucasus neighbours in more than a quarter-century.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, welcomed the agreement and stressed that it should be strictly respected by both parties.

“This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly observed by both parties,” the president’s office said in a statement. “France will be very attentive to this and will remain committed so that hostilities cease permanently and that credible discussions can quickly begin.”

The Armenian defence ministry denied launching the strike, but the separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh put out a statement listing alleged “legitimate” military facilities in the city of Ganja, although they stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.

Azerbaijani officials said the Soviet-made Scud missile destroyed or damaged about 20 residential buildings in Ganja overnight, and emergency workers spent hours searching in the rubble for victims and survivors.

Scud missiles date back to the 1960s and carry a big load of explosives but are known for their lack of precision.

In a televised address to the nation, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, denounced the missile strike as a war crime and warned the leadership of Armenia that it would face consequences for the attack.

“Azerbaijan will give its response and it will do so exclusively on the battlefield,” Aliyev said.

While authorities in both Azerbaijan and Armenia have denied targeting civilians, residential areas have increasingly come under shelling amid the hostilities that have raged for three weeks.

Azerbaijani authorities said Saturday that 60 civilians have been killed and 270 have been wounded since 27 September, but they have not revealed military losses. Separatist authorities said over 600 Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and over 30 civilians have been killed in three weeks of hostilities.

Azerbaijan has insisted it has the right to reclaim its land by force after efforts by the so-called Minsk group of international mediators that comprises Russia, the United States and France failed to yield any progress after nearly three decades. Azerbaijan has actively pushed for its ally Turkey to take a prominent role in future peace talks.

Turkish Defence minister Hulusi Akar spoke on the phone with his Azerbaijani counterpart, congratulating Azerbaijan on “liberating Fizuli from the occupation” and downing Armenian jets.

The Azerbaijani military declared Saturday that they downed an Armenian Su-25 jet, a claim quickly dismissed by Armenia’s Defence ministry.

The Armenian military said they downed three Azerbaijani drones over the territory of Armenia on Saturday. Azerbaijan denied that.

Drones and rocket systems supplied by Turkey have given the Azerbaijani military an edge on the battlefield, helping them outgun the Armenian forces that rely mostly on outdated Soviet-era weapons.

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