A new ceasefire in the mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh appears to be in crisis on Monday, and the Armenian peoples and Azerbaijani condemned each other for new shelling. The armistice had been agreed on Saturday, October 17, after a deal brokered by Russia a week ago failed to stop the worst battles in the South Caucasus since the 1990s. More than 1,000 people have died since the battle began on September 27th.
The Ministry of Defense in the Nagorno-Karabakh region said Monday that 19 additional troops were killed and the number of military deaths rose to 729. The battle soared to its worst level since the 1990s, when about 30,000 people were killed.
The failure to halt the battle raised fear of a humanitarian crisis and created new tensions in relations between Turkey, a strong supporter of Azerbaijan, and NATO’s allies wishing to halt the battle. Russia, which has a defense agreement with Armenia, is also at risk of falling into a regional war.
Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh, a separate territory of Azerbaijan where the Armenians live and control, said the Azeri forces were shelling their position in the northern and southern regions of the contact line that divides them. The Azeri Defense Department said Armenian troops bombarded the camp overnight in Azerbaijan’s Garanboy, Terter and Aghdam regions, and the Agjebedin region was bombarded Monday morning, according to Reuters. The report cannot be confirmed immediately, Reuters added.
The ceasefire, mediated in Moscow earlier this month, was aimed at allowing both sides to exchange the bodies of prisoners and those who died in conflict, but had little effect on the battles around the territory. Azeri authorities say the bombardment has been hitting deep within Azerbaijan, raising concerns about the security of pipelines carrying Azeri natural gas and oil to global markets. Armenia denies this.
The new ceasefire was announced on Saturday after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with Armenians and Azeri and urged both sides to watch the ceasefire he mediated a week earlier. Russia, France, and the United States are co-chairs of an organization called the Minsk Group, which helps resolve disputes under the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE).
Baku said on Saturday that 60 Azeri civilians have been killed and 270 wounded since the battle on September 27. Nagorno-Karabakh said that 710 of the soldiers were killed and 36 civilians died.