Fighting between Azerbaijan, Armenia continues, cease-fire calls rejected

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Fighting continued in and around the contested Nagorno-Karabakh enclave Saturday as the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia set seemingly impossible terms for agreeing to calls from the leaders of the US, France and Russia for a cease-fire.

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“Cease-fire ok, but on what conditions? Conditions must be that they withdraw from the territories, Aliyev said in a website statement, referring to Armenian forces. “We heard it many times, we don’t have time to wait another 30 years. The conflict must be resolved now.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenia is ready to accept a truce but only if Turkish forces leave the area, AFP reported. Ankara backs Azerbaijan but denies it has any military presence there.

Officials reported shelling and rocket fire in and around Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh said on Saturday that 51 more servicemen had been killed in the war withAzerbaijan, a sharp rise in the death toll from a week of fierce fighting.

Arayik Harutyunyan, president of the ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, said earlier he had traveled to join his
forces on the front line.

Armenia has controlled the enclave and surrounding regions -- all internationally recognized to be within Azerbaijan’s borders -- since a war in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of shelling villages nearby Saturday. The latest battles began a week ago and have provoked calls from the presidents of Russia, France and the US for a cease-fire.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan Friday and proposed restarting talks in the so-called Minsk Group, which has led peace efforts since the 1990s, his office said in a statement.

But Turkey rejected those appeals, saying the three powers were biased in favor of Armenia.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Friday in a website statement that renewed allegations of “joint actions by Azerbaijan and Turkey in the conflict raised “risks of a full-fledged war. The authorities in Baku and Ankara have denied Turkish forces are involved.

The unrecognized government Armenia backs in Nagorno-Karabakh says it’s lost 154 soldiers and 11 civilians in the latest fighting. Azerbaijan said 20 of its civilians have been killed; it hasn’t released figures on military casualties.

Aliyev has vowed to continue the military campaign until Armenian forces leave Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts that were taken during a war after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. The violence that began Sunday is more intense and widespread than at any time since Russia brokered a 1994 cease-fire to halt the war that killed about 30,000 and displaced more than a million people.

The confrontation adds to tensions between Russia and Turkey over proxy conflicts in Syria and Libya. Russia has an army base in Armenia and the two nations have a mutual-defense pact, though it doesn’t cover the disputed territory. Azerbaijan, which has close historical and linguistic ties to Turkey, hosted large-scale joint exercises with the Turkish military last month.

With Reuters

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