KABUL (Pajhwok): Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed on Saturday to a ceasefire, promising to begin “substantive talks” on the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, says a media report.
Bitter fighting in the central Asian region has claimed hundreds of lives, forced thousands to flee and stirred fears of a full-blown war that could suck in regional powers Turkey and Russia.
Speaking after 11 hours of Moscow-mediated talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the warring sides had agreed to a ceasefire from “12 hours 00 minutes on October 10 on humanitarian grounds”.
It was not immediately clear whether the pause in fighting would come into effect at noon in Moscow or the local time in Karabakh.
During the ceasefire, mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the parties will exchange bodies and prisoners, said Lavrov, reading from a statement.
“Concrete parameters of the ceasefire will be agreed separately,” the statement added. The diplomat said Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to start negotiating a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute.
“Azerbaijan and Armenia begin substantive negotiations with the purpose of achieving a peaceful settlement as soon as possible,” Lavrov told reporters. Such talks would be mediated by France, Russia and the US.
Renewed fighting over Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke from Baku’s control in the early 1990s, has claimed some 400 lives and forced thousands from their homes.
The heavy clashes erupted late last month, with each side blaming the other for the biggest outbreak in violence since a 1994 ceasefire left the status of Karabakh in limbo.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has repeatedly vowed to use his military to retake the breakaway province, said earlier talks represented a historic opportunity for Armenia.
“We are giving Armenia a chance to settle the conflict peacefully,” he said. “This is their last chance.”
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country was “ready for the resumption of the peace process” led by international brokers.
Heavy clashes continued into Friday, defence officials of both nations said, with further civilian deaths reported, even after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the Moscow meeting and appealed for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.