The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus has been simmering for years, and the conflicting parties have been engaged in fierce fighting for the past two weeks. The situation may calm down for now.
In the worst escalation of violence in years in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus with hundreds dead, Armenia and Azerbaijan struck a ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Moscow that it should start at noon on Saturday. The Russian ministry released a corresponding statement on Saturday evening.
The ceasefire should be used to exchange prisoners of war and other imprisoned people and to transfer the bodies of dead soldiers to their homeland, he said. Further details of the ceasefire should also be agreed. Fundamental peace negotiations must take place under the leadership of the so-called Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The group is led by Russia, the United States and France, who mediate in the conflict.
Negotiations on the ceasefire in Moscow between Foreign Ministers Jeyhun Bayramov and Sohrab Mnazakanjan of the warring neighbors took more than ten hours. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin had previously urged both countries to sign a ceasefire.
Hundreds of soldiers have died in recent weeks
For almost two weeks there have been new battles with hundreds dead in Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting continued on Friday. The capital Stepanakert was also hit with missiles again, Azerbaijan claims to have conquered nine villages. In total, about 320 Armenian soldiers have died in Nagorno-Karabakh since the beginning of the fighting. Azerbaijan has so far not provided information on its own losses, but speaks of about 30 civilian casualties. There are thousands of refugees in the troubled region.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the Moscow meeting the “last chance” for a peaceful solution. However, the conflict must first be brought to a military end. Only later could one speak of a permanent political solution. Armenia must give up Nagorno Karabakh.
The conflict has been going on for decades
In a war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago, Azerbaijan lost control of the area. Nagorno-Karabakh is now inhabited by Christian Karabakh Armenians. There has been a vulnerable ceasefire since 1994.
Azerbaijan receives support from Turkey in the conflict. Foreign mercenaries and fighters from jihadist groups from the war zones in Syria and Libya are also said to be involved in the fighting. So far there is no clear evidence.
Russia has diplomatic and economic ties with both former Soviet republics. However, those with Armenia are more intense. Russia also has a military base there.