Azerbaijan’s military reportedly declared a unilateral cease-fire Sunday against the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-proclaimed republic occupied by ethnic Armenian armed groups.
Citing David Babayan, spokesman for the Karabakh president, the Associated Press (AP) reports that officials in Nagorno-Karabakh rejected reports of a cessation of hostilities, adding that the fighting continues.
“Fighting in what was a dormant conflict for two decades flared up over the weekend with a boy and at least 30 troops killed on both sides,” notes AP. “Each side blamed the other for Saturday’s escalation, the worst since the end of a full-scale war in 1994.”
“Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military since a war ended in 1994 with no resolution of the region’s status,” adds the report. “The conflict is fueled by long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris.”
In Talish, one of the villages that was temporarily overrun by the Azerbaijani military on Saturday, the soldiers brutally and violently killed civilian resident Valera Khalapyan and his wife Razmela in their home and then cut off their ears.
Talish is reportedly located in northeastern border of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Narek Galstyan, an Armenian political analyst, has said the actions of the Azerbaijani armed forces in Talish constitute a war crime and Azerbaijan must be held accountable, reports Armenpress.
In response to pleas from the international community, the Azerbaijan defense ministry reportedly said it will unilaterally be “suspending a counter-offensive and response on the territories occupied by Armenia.”
Without elaborating further, the ministry added it will not focus on fortifying the land that has been “liberated” by Azerbaijan.
Several areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh are also occupied by Armenian troops, AP reports.
“The sides are separated by a demilitarized buffer zone, but small clashes have broken out frequently,” it points out, adding,”The defense ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday also claimed to have restored control over a strategic area near the front line.”
Two Karabakh troops were also reportedly wounded when Azerbaijani forces shelled Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers.
AP learned from the Nagorno-Karabakh defense ministry that “Azerbaijan was using rockets, artillery and armor against the region.”
“Earlier Sunday, a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, Vagif Dargyakhly, said Azerbaijani positions came under fire overnight and that civilian areas also were hit,” adds AP.
On Saturday, Armenia reported that 18 of its soldiers were killed, while Azerbaijan said 12 of theirs had been executed.
“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Sunday to back its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict, saying that the flare-up could have been avoided if ‘fair and decisive steps’ had been taken,” notes AP.
Turkey has reportedly closed its border with Armenia, dealing an economic blow to Armenians.