Russia Struggles to Restore Collapsed Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
Russia’s best efforts last Friday to halt fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK below) failed to convince warring Azerbaijan and Armenia to seek resolution of deep-seated differences diplomatically.
After negotiating a temporary ceasefire with foreign ministers of both countries, Sergey Lavrov met with Armenian FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan again on Monday.
“(S)harp aggravation of the (NK) conflict” was discussed, Lavrov saying:
“Since the very first exchange of strikes, Russia has been doing all it can, both in the bilateral format and as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, for an immediate de-escalation of the conflict and a return to the negotiating table.”
Lavrov acknowledged that major differences between warring sides won’t “be resolved quickly or simultaneously,” adding:
Considerable “political negotiati(ng) is required.”
He urged both sides to engage in it without delay — to prevent things from escalating to something potentially much more serious.
On Sunday, Lavrov spoke to his Turkish counterpart Melvet Cavusoglu on continued conflict in NK.
The Erdogan regime backs Azerbaijan against Armenia. It’s supplying weapons and jihadist fighters.
Syrian President Assad called Erdogan “the main instigator and initiator of fighting in NK.”
Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan accused Erdogan of direct involvement in NK fighting by providing command and control help.
On Monday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar expressed support for Azerbaijan “to take back its (NK) lands.”
He called for Armenia to withdraw from what he described as “occupied lands.”
Israel is a major supplier of arms to Azerbaijan, reportedly including drones, loitering munitions, anti-tank missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.
Temporary ceasefire agreed to by warring sides was meant to be prelude for diplomatic talks by both sides with Minsk group countries Russia, France, and the US for something more durable.
On October 1, Erdogan expressed opposition to ceasefire, saying:
“Given that the USA, Russia and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a ceasefire.”
A temporary halt in fighting agreed to on Friday failed to take hold.
Both sides accused each other of continued attacks.
So far since September 27 when conflict erupted, hundreds of combatants and civilians were killed and wounded in the majority Armenian NK enclave that’s internationally recognized as Azeri territory.
Tens of thousands were displaced, extensive damage to civilian buildings and essential infrastructure reported.
According to an unverified report by the Armenia-backed Karabakh Human Rights Ombudsman, 5,800 private properties were destroyed, 520 vehicles, and 960 infrastructure, public and industrial objects — through October 9.
An Azeri report said Armenian attacks destroyed 1,165 houses, 57 civilian structures, and 146 public buildings.
A separate Armenian report said Azeri troops, supported Turkish special forces and Ankara-backed jihadists, tried and failed to capture the town of Hardut before ceasefire was to become effective.
After it began at midday Saturday, Azeri forces shelled the town and nearby villages, failing to seize it, the Armenian report added.
According to Armenia’s Defense Ministry, “Turkish aerial command centers, flying within the Turkish airspace, are commanding the Turkish UAV’s operating in the Azerbaijani air force.”
“UAVs, accompanied by six F-16 units, are directly attacking the peaceful population and civilian infrastructure of Artsakh (NK).”
Interviewed by RT on Monday, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian blamed Azerbaijan for initiating clashes following Friday’s agreed on ceasefire, adding:
“We should not forget…who started this stage of war. It was the Azeri side, not the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
For his part, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said talks on what he called “occupied territories” can only be about when, not whether, NK is returned to Azerbaijan.
RT correspondent Igor Zhdanov and crew reported from Hadrut.
Calling the town of about 4,000 the “least safe” place in NK, it’s a battleground both warring sides have been fighting to control.
Because of constant shelling, it’s unsafe to be outside anywhere in the town for more than a brief moment, said Zhdanov.
Sergey Lavrov called on both sides to “strictly implement” what was agreed on Friday.
He’s trying to engage Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers in further talks to halt fighting and agree to diplomatic negotiations.
He stressed that “formats of the negotiation process of the OSCE Minsk Group remained unchanged.”
Fighting continues. Azeri President Aliyev vowed to make no concessions.
It’s unclear if Lavrov can get both sides to step back from the brink or whether ongoing conflict will escalate to something more serious.
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