Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on Saturday to try again for a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. Shortly after it came into force, the parties have accused each other of breaking it.
“Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed on a humanitarian ceasefire from midnight on October 18,” spokeswoman Anna A. Naghdalyan of the Armenian Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter on Saturday night.
The same thing was said in one message from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly afterwards.
But just hours after the humanitarian ceasefire came into force, Armenia claims that Azerbaijan has broken it.
The spokeswoman for the Armenian Minister of Defense writes on Twitter that the Azerbaijanis started throwing artillery shells already four minutes after midnight, when the ceasefire came into force.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, for its part, reports that it was Armenian forces that first broke the ceasefire. According to the ministry, the Armenians have used grenade launchers and opened artillery fire, writes the Azerbaijani news agency APA.
The conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, on the one hand, and Azerbaijan, on the other, has escalated since the previous one. the ceasefire came into force last Saturday.
Both sides are now reporting several civilian casualties, and there have been reports that both primary schools and hospitals are among the buildings that have been demolished as a result of rocket attacks. On Saturday night, the town of Gandsja, outside the region, was also hit by a rocket attack.
– Terrible and unacceptable
– The ongoing conflict inside and outside Nagorno-Karabakh exposes children to a terrible and unacceptable strain. Countless children and families have experienced extreme psychological trauma and distress for several weeks, writes the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, in a statement on Saturday.
Background: The Road to War
– Unicef strongly encourages the immediate implementation of the ceasefire that was agreed upon by both parties.
The organization further writes that “children, families and civilians and the civilian facilities on which they depend must be protected in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law”.
The previous ceasefire, which was negotiated by Russia, was to give the two parties the opportunity to exchange prisoners and killed in the conflict. However, it has had little effect since its entry into force. Within a day, both parties accused each other of breaking it.
Tens of thousands will need help
On Saturday, VG spoke with Zara Amatuni, spokesperson for the Armenian delegation to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yerevan, Armenia.
She says that the situation is confusing, and that they are not given sufficient emergency aid while the hostilities continue.
– It is still difficult for the ICRC to provide all the necessary assistance due to the ongoing hostilities.
She estimates that many civilians will need emergency assistance in the future.
– At least tens of thousands of people on both sides will need emergency assistance next month. Among other things, they will need food, medicine and medical equipment, cash and help to rebuild infrastructure.
In addition, Amatuni points out that the ICRC will focus on information work aimed at civilians to avoid injuries and deaths as a result of unexploded ordnance from artillery attacks.
Background: Is there a solution to the conflict?
Although she already estimates that many will need help, she also says that the ICRC does not currently have a full overview of the consequences of the acts of war.
– We can not yet say anything about how serious the situation is for the civilian population, as we can when we have the opportunity to go into the areas ourselves. The ongoing fighting makes it difficult to assess the extent of the humanitarian needs and consequences.
Broken hopes for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wrote in a press release on Saturday morning that it condemns attacks that are contrary to international law.
The organization writes in a press release that they are reacting to the great civilian destruction as a result of the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.
– We have seen heavy artillery attacks on large areas that have hit the civilian population hard. This type of weapon is not made for use in densely populated areas, says regional adviser Morten Tønnessen-Krokan, senior adviser to the Red Cross in Norway.
Both the Armenian Red Cross and the Azerbaijani Red Crescent provide first aid, psychosocial support, and distribute food, hygiene items and other first aid to people on the run.
The ICRC is preparing to assist in the exchange of prisoners of war and killed soldiers on both sides, so that they can be reunited with their families. The ICRC has also delivered medical equipment to hospitals and body bags to forensic institutes, the press release further states.
According to the Red Cross, more than 4,500 people have been missing after fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh since 1992. For almost 30 years, the ICRC has repeatedly assisted the parties in such exchanges, as when the conflict escalated in April 2016, they write in the press release.
Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (H) also strongly dissociates herself from the attack on Saturday night.
– Norway is deeply concerned about the reports of civilian casualties in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Arbitrary protection of populated areas is unacceptable. We ask all parties to lay down their arms and immediately resume negotiations, she wrote Twitter Saturday.
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