BAKU-Twenty-four hours after Azerbaijan’s army launched an offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic-Armenian forces have agreed Russian terms for a ceasefire. One of the key demands that Karabakh forces have accepted is a proposal for complete disarmament.
Some 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in the South Caucasus enclave, recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan.
Three years ago, Azerbaijan recaptured areas in and around Karabakh and on Tuesday demanded a full surrender.
Karabakh officials say at least 32 people have been killed, including seven civilians, and another 200 wounded since the Azerbaijani military launched what it called “anti-terror” operations. Azerbaijan’s presidency said officials would meet Karabakh’s Armenian representatives for talks on “issues of re-integration” in the Azerbaijani town of Yevlakh on Thursday.
The town is some 100km (60 miles) north of Karabakh’s regional capital, Khankendi, known as Stepanakert by Armenians. Leaders in the enclave said in a statement that through mediation carried out by Russian peacekeepers an agreement had been reached on a complete cessation of hostilities from 13:00 local time (09:00 GMT). Azerbaijan said it had captured more than 90 positions from the ethnic Armenians since the fighting erupted.
Karabakh officials appealed to residents to remain in shelters and not try to leave for the local airport, adjacent to a Russian peacekeeping base. However, a crowd of civilians had soon gathered close to the airport.
Russia said earlier that its peacekeepers had evacuated 2,000 people from Karabakh villages since the offensive had begun. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has made clear his government was not involved in the ceasefire text, insisting that Russian peacekeepers have full responsibility for the safety of the local population. On Tuesday he accused Azerbaijan of “ethnic cleansing” in Karabakh. Under the terms of the truce, local Karabakh forces commit to being completely disarmed and disbanded. There is also a commitment to Armenian forces pulling out, even though Yerevan denies having any military presence there.
Azerbaijan’s presidential envoy Elchin Amirbekov told the BBC that Russian peacekeepers had helped facilitate the ceasefire: “I think they have to be counted on for the implementation part.”