Hopes rise of Nagorno-Karabakh truce after Russian-brokered peace talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (center), Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (right) and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov were seen at the press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry during their meeting in Moscow, Russia
After two weeks of fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region following high-level talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, there were hopes of a ceasefire on Friday.
France, part of a group with Russia and the United States brokered peace talks to end the flare-up of the long conflict between the two countries, said there was a possibility of a breakthrough but that was far from certain.
"We are approaching a ceasefire tonight or tomorrow, but it is still fragile," President Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement, although a bellicose speech by the Azerbaijani president somewhat undermined the positive noise of the talks. Violent clashes, cited as the worst since the conflict ended in the 1990s, left hundreds of lives on both sides.
The conflict has also underscored Turkey's role as a new key power broker in the South Caucasus. The peace talks began after a Russian invitation to the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to strengthen influence in the region again.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he had spoken to the leaders of both countries, asking them to negotiate cessation of hostilities in order to exchange prisoners and the bodies of fallen troops.
The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a separatist, ethnically Armenian exclave within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan, flared up in late September and became the worst outbreak of hostilities since 1994, when a separatist war between Armenian forces and Azerbaijani troops ended.
Smoke rises after shelling in Stepanakert on October 9 - AFP
According to the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities and the Azerbaijani government, heavy shots were fired overnight on both sides of the conflict.
Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan recently said he was open to a ceasefire, while Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev insisted that he would not resign until the Armenian forces withdrew from the area.
In an insistent address to the nation televised late Friday, President Aliyev vowed to continue fighting until his country recaptured all of Nagorno-Karabakh when Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers met in Moscow for ceasefire talks.
He lamented years of peace talks brokered by other nations as something that "has not brought an inch of progress".
"We didn't get an inch of the occupied land back," he said. “Mediators and leaders of some international organizations have stated that there is no military solution. I do not agree with the thesis and I was right. The conflict will now be resolved by military means, and political means will come next. "
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev speaks during an address to the nation in Baku, Azerbaijan - Reuters
Mr Aliyev also said that his country's army liberated nine towns and villages in and around Karabakh, a claim that could not be verified immediately.
While the idea of conquering the ethnically Armenian enclave area by force may be inconceivable, some of the areas that Mr Aliyev allegedly recaptured are outside of Karabakh per se and are largely deserted, which Azerbaijan might keep as a sign of the current military campaign .
Turkey has become a major supporter of Azerbaijan in the past few weeks despite refusing to send combatants to Nagorno-Karabakh despite overwhelming reports of Syrian mercenaries serving with Azerbaijanis.
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, President Aliyev admitted that Turkish F-16 fighter jets stayed in his country a few weeks after joint military exercises ended, but denied Armenian reports that an F-16 had shot down one of their jets.
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