Azerbaijan says cease-fire achieved with separatists in Karabakh

Azerbaijan says cease-fire achieved with separatists in Karabakh

In less than 24 hours, Baku and the troubled region’s armed separatists reached a cease-fire and agreed to start reintegration talks, dissipating fears of a third Karabakh War

Armenian separatists in Karabakh have agreed to a cease-fire that will take hold at 1 p.m. local time, the Azerbaijani presidency announced Wednesday on the second day of a military operation, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.

The armed Armenians also accepted Baku’s proposal for talks to integrate the disputed region into Azerbaijan, the presidency said.

After months of rising tensions in the Armenian-populated Karabakh in the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan this week sent troops backed by artillery strikes into the region to “restore constitutional order” in the region.

“Issues raised by the Azerbaijani side on reintegration, ensuring the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh … will be discussed at a meeting between representatives of the local Armenian population and the central authorities of the Republic Azerbaijan,” separatist authorities said Wednesday.

“They will take place in the city of Yevlakh on September 21.”

The cease-fire comes after less than 24 hours of Azerbaijan’s anti-terrorist operation in the troubled territory targeting illegal armed forces.

Armenia occupied large swathes of Karabakh in a war that unfolded as the Soviet Union collapsed. Azerbaijan took most of it back in a six-week conflict in 2020, ended by a Russian-brokered truce.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev earlier on Wednesday had warned the operation would continue until the separatists lay down their arms after the U.S. called on Baku to halt hostilities and Moscow urged both sides to stop the bloodshed in the disputed region.

Citing “increasing provocations” by the Armenian armed forces in recent months, and the so-called regime’s “presidential election,” Aliyev said Baku had to start anti-terrorist measures to prevent those actions.

The Azerbaijani army does not target civilians and infrastructure facilities, and only destroys legitimate military targets, he assured.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held calls with both Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, urging Azerbaijan to “immediately cease military actions” and de-escalate the situation.

In a readout of the call, the U.S. Department of State said that Aliyev “expressed readiness” to stop hostilities and hold a meeting with representatives of Karabakh.

Blinken told Pashinian in their call that Armenia has Washington’s full support.

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, called “for an immediate end to the fighting” after the European Union, France and Germany condemned Azerbaijan’s military action.

Türkiye expressed support for Baku’s operation “to preserve its territorial integrity,” with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying: “We have supported the negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia from the beginning. However, we see that Armenia has not fully seized this historic opportunity.”

Armenia needs to keep its pledges, including respect for the Zangezur corridor, Erdoğan told Tuesday’s UNGA summit in New York.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry too urged the sides to continue their “comprehensive negotiation process,” which is “the only way to establish peace, security, prosperity and permanent stability in the region.”

Aliyev later thanked Erdoğan for his solidarity in Azerbaijan’s “rightful cause.”

Russia and the South Caucasus

Russia – distracted by its own war in Ukraine – is seeking to preserve its influence in the region, crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines, in the face of greater activity from Türkiye.

Moscow called early on Wednesday on both sides to stop the bloodshed and hostilities and return to implementing the 2020 cease-fire agreement.

“We urge the conflicting parties to immediately stop the bloodshed, stop hostilities and eliminate civilian casualties,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its Telegram messaging platform.

Relations between Russia and Armenia – traditional allies – have frayed badly since President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and further deteriorated in recent months over what Armenia says is Moscow’s failure to fully uphold the 2020 cease-fire deal.

Armenia, which had been holding periodic peace talks with Azerbaijan, including questions about Karabakh’s future, condemned Baku’s “full-scale aggression” against the people of Karabakh and accused Azerbaijan of shelling towns and villages.

Azerbaijan said its intention was to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories, (and) neutralize their military infrastructure.”

Baku on Tuesday also assured a humanitarian corridor was established on the Lachin road – the only land route connecting Armenia to Karabakh – and other directions for the evacuation of Karabakh civilians.