Truce set up upon Armenia’s fall during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the separatist stronghold.
Azerbaijan denied allegations of breaching the ceasefire.
A tenuous ceasefire currently hangs in the balance over Nagorno-Karabakh, with Armenian separatists yielding ground to Azerbaijan’s swift offensive.
Both sides engaged in their first direct peace talks on Thursday after Azerbaijan claimed control of the disputed region.
These talks came as part of a ceasefire brokered by Russia, which led to separatist forces disarming and Azerbaijan halting its 24-hour offensive to retake the strategic territory.
Facilitated by Russian peacekeepers, the two-hour meeting was described as “constructive and peaceful” by Azerbaijan’s presidency, with both parties expressing a willingness to engage in further negotiations.
While the talks took place, sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the separatist stronghold of Stepanakert, despite the agreed-upon truce.
Azerbaijan denied allegations of breaching the ceasefire, while the breakaway authorities accused Baku of violating the agreement. Russia’s defense ministry reported “five ceasefire violations” in Shusha and Mardakert.
Later, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan faced each other during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
According to separatist reports, the crisis has resulted in approximately 200 casualties.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan declared, “There are no longer sides in the conflict, only perpetrators and victims. The conflict has escalated into a real danger of atrocities.”
His Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, accused Armenia of spreading disinformation.
The collapse of separatist resistance represents a significant victory for Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who declared the restoration of sovereignty over the region.
While Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, assured that the ceasefire was generally holding and didn’t see a “direct threat” to civilians, it sparked jubilation among Azerbaijanis.
However, in Armenia, pressure on Pashinyan has mounted due to concessions made to Azerbaijan, leading to thousands of protesters gathering outside his offices in Yerevan, expressing concerns for the fate of Karabakh’s Armenian population.
Despite the daunting challenges ahead, Pashinyan emphasized the importance of pursuing peace with Armenia’s arch-rival. While acknowledging the difficulties, he affirmed, “This path is not easy and is filled with internal and external shocks, but we must persevere.”
In recent history, Armenia and Azerbaijan have waged two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.
The ongoing situation raises concerns of a potential refugee crisis as Karabakh’s Armenian population fears displacement.