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Russia-brokered ceasefire still being violated in disputed Karabakh

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Reports of fresh clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia dent hopes of a lasting ceasefire in Karabakh disputed region. (Photo by EPA)

While Baku and Yerevan reaffirm their commitment to a Russia-brokered cessation of hostilities, there are reports of fresh clashes between the two sides which dent hopes of a lasting ceasefire.

Eyewitnesses, Armenian media and Russia’s Sputnik say several blasts have hit Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh disputed region, on Saturday evening less than a day after Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire.

On the other hand, Turkey’s state-run news agency TRT World claims Armenia has struck Azerbaijan Republic’s second-largest city Ganja with missiles in violation of the ceasefire, according to local journalists.

The fresh clashes come as the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to the ceasefire in separate phone conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The two countries had earlier accused each other of violating the freshly-clinched ceasefire.

The Azerbaijani defense ministry had said that a number of populated areas were purportedly “under artillery fire by the Armenian armed forces.”

“Despite the agreement … the Armenian army tried to attack in the direction of Aghdara-Tartar and Fizuli-Jabrail. At the same time, a number of our settlements are under artillery fire by the Armenian armed forces,” it further said.

The ministry added that all the purported attacks had been “successfully prevented” by Azari forces, vowing that “adequate response measures are being taken against the Armenian army.”

Shushan Stepanyan, a spokeswoman for the Armenian defense ministry, for her part, accused “Azerbaijani units” for launching “an assault on an area called 'Karakhambeyli' at 12:05.”

She added that units of the “Artsakh defense army take appropriate measures to halt the enemy attack”, referring to the so-called Republic of Artsakh, which governs the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

On Friday evening, Lavrov had said that the two parties would “begin substantive negotiations with the aim of achieving a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.”

The international community has repeatedly called on both warring sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional truce.

The now-fragile ceasefire was to allow the two countries to exchange prisoners and recover bodies from the recent bout of fighting.

More than 300 people have died and thousands been displaced since the latest violence in the long-running conflict broke out on 27 September.

Nagorno-Karabakh is run by ethnic Armenians although it is officially part of Azerbaijan.

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