Renewed fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh threatens new U.S.-backed truce

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of violating a new U.S.-brokered ceasefire to end fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said Armenian forces began shelling Azeri military positions and villages in the Lachin and Terter region within minutes after the ceasefire went into force at 08:00 a.m. local time.

The ministry said that Armenian fighters also opened fire on three regions of Azerbaijan from Armenian territory. It said Azerbaijan was fully complying with the truce.

The Armenian Defence Ministry denied it violated the ceasefire and said the Azeri armed forces had shelled Armenian military positions on the northeastern side of the front line, breaking the ceasefire at around 9:10 a.m. local time.

“The Ministry of Defence of Armenia highlights the importance of the immediate introduction of parameters for monitoring the ceasefire and the start of the process of exchanging bodies and prisoners of war with the mediation of the International Commission of the Red Cross,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

The third truce between the warring countries was agreed upon on Sunday after U.S.-mediated talks between their foreign ministers in Washington. Russia had brokered two previous ceasefires in October, both of which failed.

Commenting on the talks, U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who just agreed to adhere to a ceasefire effective at midnight. Many lives will be saved.”

Trump had said on Sunday he would "straighten out" the conflict, which he described as easy to resolve, at an election rally in New Hampshire. It was the first time he spoke about the ongoing clashes in South Caucasus which erupted a month ago.

The current round of fighting between Armenian forces and the Azeri military is the latest flare-up centred around the breakaway state of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is located within Azerbaijan’s borders but controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Turkey has thrown its firm support behind Azerbaijan, saying it is ready to do whatever is necessary to eject Armenian separatists from the mountainous region.

Azeri President Aliyev said in an address to the nation on Monday that Azerbaijan wanted to resolve the conflict by political and military means, Reuters reported. He reiterated a demand that Karabakh forces should leave the region in order for the fighting to stop.