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Karabakh conflict: US-brokered truce breaks down as Yerevan, Baku trade blame

A new humanitarian ceasefire, brokered by the United States this time, has been violated within hours of coming into force in an attempt to put an end to weeks of heavy fighting in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused one another of violating the truce that wasagreed on Sunday, and came into effect on Monday morning.

Just hours later, Armenian troops began shelling villages in the Terter and Lachin regions, according to Azerbaijan Defense Ministry.

“Units of the Azerbaijani Army are fully adhering, along the entire line of contact, to the humanitarian ceasefire,” the ministry said.

Armenia-backed forces, for their part, accused Azerbaijan of launching a missile attack on its military positions on the north-eastern side on the line of contact.

In the meantime, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that his country “continues to strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime.”

The truce was announced on Sunday in a joint statement from the US State Department and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who were on a visit to Washington over the dispute.

Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to the Azerbaijani president, however, said Yerevan had violated the current truce as well as the two previous agreements — brokered by Russia.

“Armenia’s goal is to preserve the status quo based on occupation,” he said in a statement. “The Azerbaijani side is exercising restraint.”

The Armenian Defense Ministry also accused Baku of “gross violation of the humanitarian ceasefire.”

It said that “the Azerbaijani side opened artillery fire on positions of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army] in the north-eastern direction of the contact line.”

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is held by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992, when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

The conflict re-erupted in late September, becoming the worst fighting in the region in decades.

Following the flare-up, Russia brokered two ceasefires to bring an end to the deadly conflict,  but its efforts to bring peace to the mountainous region failed as Yerevan and Baku continued to violate the agreements.

Russia warns foreign powers against promoting military scenario

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned foreign players against promoting a military scenario in Karabakh, saying that the conflict could come to an end only through a diplomatic solution.

“We are calling on all the foreign players to do everything possible to prevent further promotion of the military scenario, to dampen emotions of the sides and to activate effort to create conditions for relaunching the peace process,” Lavrov said on Monday.

President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, earlier called on “global players” to step in immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire, saying that Moscow “plays a crucial role here.”

“In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia is a trusted and pro-active mediator between the conflicting sides,” he said..

The call prompted a response from Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, who warned against third parties’ involvement in the military conflict.

He said it was “very hazardous” for Yerevan to want Russian military support in the conflict.

In his latest remarks about the conflict on Monday, Aliyev threatened to use Turkish F-16 jets in case of foreign aggression against his country.

He also warned that Azerbaijan will go to the end unless Armenia withdraws from the occupied Azeri territory.

Russia a close ally to Armenia is also in talks with Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan in the conflict.

The Karabakh conflict has further strained relations between Turkey and its NATO allies, including the US, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing Ankara of fueling the fighting by arming the Azerbaijani side.

Ankara denies the allegations, saying it has as much right to be in the solution of Karabakh conflict as Russia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he hoped Ankara and Moscow could work on a solution together.

Erdogan also said Azerbaijan had a righteous demand that Turkey be included in the negotiations.

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