Azerbaijan and Armenia continued to report violations of a Moscow-brokered cease-fire, although major military engagements appeared to remain on hold Sunday.
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Azerbaijan said at least seven civilians were killed and 33 others were injured when Ganca, the country’s second-largest city, was bombed Sunday by Armenians. Armenia and the defense ministry of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh denied firing toward Ganca, while saying two civilians were killed in the city of Hadrut.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted his counterparts from the two former Soviet republics in Moscow for negotiations that ran for more than 10 hours overnight Friday to Saturday. The cease-fire was to start at 12 p.m. local time Saturday to allow the sides to exchange prisoners and recover bodies of those killed in fighting that flared up two weeks ago.
The situation is relatively calm now along the contact line, Arayik Harutyunyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, said at a media briefing on Sunday. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported continued fighting in the south of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lavrov spoke with his colleagues again on Saturday, and they reiterated their commitment to the cease-fire, the ministry in Moscow said.
A solution will depend on compromise, and “Azerbaijan is not ready,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview with German ZDF TV channel. Armenia has said it’s defending Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination after the Armenian majority declared independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“Azerbaijan will not accept an imitation of talks like those held in the past three decades,” Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijan’s presidential foreign policy aide, said at a news conference in Baku on Saturday. He called the cease-fire a temporary measure.
Turkey, which has backed Azerbaijan in the conflict, should have a big role in the region, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Sunday, Interfax reported.
Armenia has accused Turkey of involvement in the fighting and of funneling extremists from Syria to join the combat on Azerbaijan’s side. Both Ankara and Baku have denied they’re taking part in the fighting or that Syrian militants are present.