Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said early Tuesday he signed an agreement with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Russia to end the war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Pashinyan said the deal was "extremely painful" for him and the Armenian people. "The decision was the result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation and based on the assessment of the best experts in the field," he said in a Facebook post.
"I believe this is the best possible solution for the current situation," Pashinyan added.
This is not a victory but there is not defeat until you consider yourself defeated. We will never consider ourselves defeated and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth," he said.
The Armenian PM's announcement came after Azerbaijan declared it had seized dozens of settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh. On Sunday, Azerbaijan said it had captured Shusha, known by Armenians as Shushi, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking Stepanakert, the city regarded as the enclave’s capital by its ethnic Armenian administration.
"A statement was signed between President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was announced about a full ceasefire and ending all military actions in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, according to state news agency TASS.
Putin was cited by state media as saying: "Karabakh agreement will help iron out issue on fair basis and in the interests of Azerbaijani and Armenian people. Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Karabakh will stay on positions they hold."
"A swap of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies is underway," the Russian leader said, speaking about a joint statement he had signed with the Azerbaijani president and the Armenian prime minister.
Putin also said Russian peace keepers will be deployed along the frontline in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have been fighting for six weeks over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The latest outburst of hostilities began September 27 and has left hundreds — perhaps thousands — dead, marking the worst escalation of fighting since the war’s end.
Azerbaijan has relied on strong support from its ally Turkey, which has trained Azerbaijani military and provided it with strike drones and long-range rocket systems. Meanwhile, Russia has a defense pact with Armenia and a military base there.
"The Azerbaijani side offers an apology to the Russian side in connection with this tragic incident," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The ministry added that the move was an “accident” and "not aimed against" Moscow and offered to pay compensation.
Russia’s defense ministry had said that on of its Mi-24 helicopters was downed over Armenia near the border with Azerbaijan, killing two crew members and injuring another.
Moscow said its helicopter was accompanying a vehicle convoy near Nakhchivan but didn't clarify the purpose of the convoy. Russia has a large military base in Armenia, but it is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from where the helicopter was shot down.
Nakhchivan is about 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said the helicopter flew at a low altitude during hours of darkness and close to the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"Helicopters of the Russian air force had not been previously sighted in the area," the statement added.
- With Agencies