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Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Armenia, Azerbaijan continue to trade fire, blame

Fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory is continuing despite a recent ceasefire, with the two sides repeatedly accusing each other of violating the truce.

The Armenian Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Wednesday that Azerbaijani forces had hit two Armenian military sites situated on Armenian territory. It said Armenia reserved the right to attack any military facility on Azerbaijani territory.

Azerbaijan had claimed earlier on Wednesday that it had hit two missile launch sites in Armenia that were being used as a base to target civilian areas.

The Armenian Defense Ministry rejected the claim that they were being used to target civilians.

“Those claims by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan cannot have any grounds. In fact, the military and political leadership of that country allowed itself to take aim at equipment located on the territory of the Republic of Armenia carrying out combat duty, only on the basis of assumptions,” the ministry said.

Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a humanitarian ceasefire on Saturday following 11 hours of Russian-mediated talks in Moscow. The agreement, which aimed to allow an exchange of detainees and the collection of bodies from the battlefield, fell apart on Monday due to reported Armenian shelling of Azerbaijan’s second-largest city of Ganja.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said the shellfire had left at least nine people dead and 33 others wounded, including children, less than 24 hours after the halt to fighting was supposed to take effect.

Russia urges Armenia, Azerbaijan to respect truce

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has urged the two counties to observe the recent ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Shoigu made the remark in telephone calls with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts.

The two Caucasus rivals have repeatedly accused each other of serious truce violations and crimes against civilians.

Azerbaijan to continue military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh

Separately on Wednesday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said his country was continuing a military operation to free territory in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, but it has been under Armenia’s control since the early 1990s. The territory declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991.

For years, the two neighbors have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. A ceasefire agreed in 1994 failed to end the conflict.

The recent clashes, the worst in decades, erupted on September 27, with each side accusing the other of instigating the fighting.

Nearly 600 people, including 67 civilians, have been killed since last month, according to a tally based on tolls given by both sides.

‘Only a change in Turkey’s stance can unlock Nagorno-Karabakh settlement’

Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says he believes that only a change in Turkey’s stance on the conflict can prompt Azerbaijan to halt military action in the region.

On Tuesday, Pashinyan accused Turkey of sabotaging the ceasefire and of trying to muscle its way into the wider South Caucasus region to further what he called its expansionist ambitions.

“I’m convinced that, for as long as Turkey’s position remains unchanged, Azerbaijan will not stop fighting,” he said.

The remarks came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier on Tuesday that calls for a ceasefire were reasonable but must include an Armenian withdrawal from Azeri lands.

“We find international calls for a ceasefire reasonable. But we can only see the international community’s wish to solve this issue if there is a call for Armenia to withdraw from Azeri lands as well,” Cavusoglu said at a news conference with his Swedish counterpart, Ann Linde, in Ankara.

Washington, Paris, and Moscow have led mediation over Karabakh for almost three decades as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Minsk Group, but they have failed to settle the conflict.

The sticking point is four United Nations (UN) resolutions that call for the unconditional withdrawal of military forces from the occupied territory, as Armenia prefers to maintain the status quo.

Turkey condemns the Armenian occupation of Azeri lands in Nagorno-Karabakh, vowing full solidarity with Azerbaijan. It has also repeatedly criticized efforts by the Minsk Group to achieve a ceasefire in the region, saying the group has done nothing in nearly 30 years of talks.

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