Armenia and Azerbaijan agree on cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh
MOSCOW - With the mediation of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, starting on Saturday afternoon, after two weeks of fierce fighting in the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist region in a quarter of a century.
Countries' foreign ministers said in a statement that the ceasefire will exchange prisoners and salvage the dead, adding that specific details will be agreed later.
The announcement came after ten hours of talks in Moscow, sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who read the statement. It was determined that the ceasefire should pave the way for talks to resolve the conflict.
Russia has signed a security pact with Armenia, but has also maintained close ties with Azerbaijan.
The latest outbreak of fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces began on September 27 and left hundreds of people dead. This was the biggest escalation in the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
The region is located in Azerbaijan but was controlled by Armenian-backed armed forces.
Talks between the Armenian Foreign Ministers and Azerbaijan were held at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who brokered the ceasefire in a series of appeals with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Armenia said it was open to a ceasefire, while Azerbaijan had previously made a possible ceasefire conditional on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The current escalation also marked the first time Azerbaijan's ally Turkey played a major role in the conflict and provided strong political support.
In recent years, Turkey has equipped Azerbaijan with state-of-the-art weapons, including drones and missile systems, which have helped the Azerbaijani military outperform Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist forces in recent fighting.
Turkey's high standing in the conflict worried Russia, which has a military base in Armenia. The two countries are linked by a security treaty that obliges Moscow to offer assistance to its ally if it comes under aggression.
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At the same time, Russia has tried to maintain strong economic and political ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan and stave off Turkey's attempt to increase its influence in the South Caucasus without ruining its delicate relations with Ankara.
Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have negotiated a number of agreements to coordinate their conflicting interests in Syria and Libya and to develop their economic ties. Last year, NATO member Turkey received Russian S-400 air defense missiles, which angered Washington.
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