Oct. 17 (UPI) — The governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to a new temporary ceasefire agreement beginning on midnight Sunday after military skirmishes and bombing of civilians escalated the conflict between the two countries.
“The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia have agreed to a humanitarian truce,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said a written statement on Saturday, as reported by the Azerbaijan-based Anadolu news agency.
Diplomats from both sides have been negotiating a ceasefire in Moscow, as part of the so-called OSCE Minsk Group made up of government officials from Russia, France and the United States. But so far, attempts to negotiate peacefully have not held.
Tensions escalated Saturday in the conflict after shelling destroyed homes and killed 13 civilians in the border town of Ganja.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev blamed Armenia and promised “revenge” for the shelling, which leveled more than 20 row houses, and killed at least two children and injured 40 people.
The Armenian war ministry denied Saturday that it was behind the Ganja air attack with Soviet-made Scud missiles. Armenians accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said Saturday that its troops advanced in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh buffer region, and had pushed out some Armenian forces. Armenians settled the area at the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, but it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Aliyev said the town of Fizuli and several other villages in the disputed region had been “liberated” and described the troops’ position as a “strategic edge,” Al Jazeera reported.
The conflict between the two nations has become more intense since Sept. 27, when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared martial law.
More than 700 people have died in the skirmishes. Over the escalating conflict, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have denied bombing civilians, while accusing each other of doing so.