Oct 25, 2020 - World

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to U.S.-brokered humanitarian ceasefire

 Local residents by the ruins of a residential house destroyed in a night shelling attack.

Local residents examine an area destroyed in a night shelling attack in Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo: Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh beginning on Monday, the U.S. State Department said in a joint statement with the two countries' foreign ministers on Sunday.

The big picture: Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating previous ceasefires — one announced on Oct. 10 and another on Oct. 17 — almost immediately after they took effect.

  • Hundreds of soldiers and dozens of civilians have been killed since the fighting began in late September.
  • The violence is the worst the region has seen in years, and began with coordinated air and missile attacks late last month from Azerbaijan, which claimed Armenian forces had been preparing an attack (Armenia denies that).

Details: Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to abide by the terms of a Russia-brokered Oct. 10 truce, beginning at 8am.local time (12am ET) on Monday, the U.S. State Department said.

  • The Oct. 10 ceasefire was intended to allow the two sides to exchange prisoners and recover bodies.
  • "The United States facilitated intensive negotiations among the Foreign Ministers and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to move Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," the State Department said on Sunday.
  • The OSCE Minsk Group, which is led by France, Russia and the U.S., said in a separate statement that it will meet again with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Oct. 29.

The backstory: Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region of about 150,000 people that is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians but lies within the borders of Azerbaijan.

  • The countries have both claimed the territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union, fought a war over it from 1992 to 1994, and stood on the precipice of further conflict since.
  • Previous skirmishes, though numerous, have left the stalemate largely unaltered — as has a peace process overseen by the U.S., France and Russia.
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