“Humanitarian truce” announced after deadly bombardment

“Humanitarian truce” announced after deadly bombardment
“Humanitarian truce” announced after deadly bombardment

The city of Gandja has been hit several times since the start of the conflict, notably on Sunday when a missile had already killed ten people. KEYSTONE / AP / Aziz Karimov sda-ats

This content was published on October 17, 2020 – 22:22

October 17, 2020 – 10:22 PM

(Keystone-ATS)

Armenia and Azerbaijan announced a “humanitarian truce” from Sunday. The move comes after a bombing that killed thirteen civilians in Gandja, Azerbaijan’s second city, for which President Ilham Aliyev cried for revenge.

The truce is due to take effect “on October 18 at 00:00 local time,” foreign ministries of the two countries said in separate statements. This is the second time the two sides have tried to reach a ceasefire after three weeks of fighting that left hundreds dead in Nagorno Karabakh.

The announcement comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone in the evening with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts. He insisted on “the need for strict compliance” with the ceasefire concluded last Saturday in Moscow, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed this truce, concluded “at the end of a French mediation conducted over the last days and hours in coordination with the co-presidents of the Minsk group” (France, Russia, United States). United). This ceasefire “must be unconditional and strictly respected by both parties,” added the Elysee.

Civilians killed

In Gandja, many houses were destroyed by shelling around 3 a.m. local time which killed thirteen civilians, including children, and left more than 45 injured, according to the public prosecutor. “We are going to take revenge on the battlefield,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev proclaimed in a speech.

He called his separatist enemy Nagorny Karabakh and his godfather, Armenia, alternately “dogs” and “fascists”. His Turkish ally accused Armenia of “war crimes”. The EU for its part “deplored” these strikes, and once again called on “all parties to stop targeting civilians”.

The city of about 300,000 inhabitants has been struck several times since the start of the conflict, especially on Sunday when a missile had already killed ten people.

“Legitimate targets” in Gandja

The Armenian separatists noted Saturday for their part that Gandja shelters “legitimate targets”: air base, staff of a motorized brigade, special forces, operations center of the Azerbaijani defense, fuel depots and factories of ammunition.

They also accused Azerbaijan of having attacked civilian infrastructure in Nagorno Karabakh during the night, requiring a response. Stepanakert was indeed shaken by explosions, according to AFP. In particular, a strike destroyed part of the roof of a shopping center and, further on, the windows of shops and an apartment building were shattered.

“Wild animals”

On the front, the fighting also continued. Ilham Aliev announced Saturday the capture of new territories, in particular Fizouli “city occupied for thirty years by wild animals”. This area forms one of the seven Azerbaijani districts which the separatists took control in the 1990s to form a protective glacis around the territory of Karabakh proper.

These bombings, as well as the fighting on the front line, bear witness to the powerlessness of the international community for three weeks. For a week, a humanitarian truce agreement negotiated under the aegis of Moscow has never been applied. Washington and Paris once again insisted on Friday evening on the need to stop hostilities.

Hundreds of dead

Azerbaijan has achieved territorial gains over the past three weeks without winning a decisive battle. Baku has so far not revealed the cost of the conflict, releasing no military, material or human toll.

The separatists claim to have killed thousands of men, admit having had to back down, but claim to “control the situation”. Officially, they lost around 700 men and half of the 140,000 inhabitants were displaced.

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