Pressure builds for ceasefire as Karabakh clashes ire

DM Monitoring

BAKU: Battles raged between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday, with both sides vowing to pursue the conflict despite increasing international pressure for a ceasefire. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu landed in Azerbaijan for talks after Russia, the United States and France on Monday called for an “unconditional” halt to the fighting.
Western powers are urging Turkey, a longstanding ally of Azerbaijan, to use its influence with Baku to restore calm after 10 straight days of clashes that have claimed more than 260 lives.
The battles began on September 28 in a long-simmering territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave that broke away from Azerbaijan in the 1990s. Neither side has shown any inclination to slow hostilities despite a mounting civilian death toll.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry and Karabakh’s foreign ministry both said fighting was continuing on several fronts on Tuesday morning.
Both sides continued to claim to have inflicted heavy losses in manpower and equipment, and to accuse each of other of targeting civilian areas.
The conflict has expanded in the last few days with shelling on big cities, including the regional capital Stepanakert and Azerbaijan’s second largest city, Ganja.
After several days of heavy bombing, Stepanakert was calm on Tuesday, according to an AFP journalist in the city, with the streets nearly empty. Warning sirens rang out and the city was littered with glass and debris from previous shelling, but no explosions had been heard by mid-day.
Armenian health minister Arsen Torosyan told reporters near the border that he had seen a rocket landing very close to Stepanakert’s main hospital. “I’m not ruling out they are deliberately targeting medical facilities, which is a war crime,” he said. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry claimed on Tuesday that separatists had incurred major losses and were forced to retreat. It said an ammunition depot near Stepanakert, rocket launchers and artillery had been destroyed.
The two sides have reported 265 deaths since the fighting erupted, including more than 45 civilians, but the real total is expected to be much higher as both sides are claiming to have inflicted heavy military casualties.
Most of the confirmed deaths are from the Armenian side, which has reported nearly 220 fatalities among separatist fighters. Azerbaijan is not releasing any figures on its military deaths. Armenia is in a military alliance of former Soviet states led by Russia, which has a permanent base in the country.