A shaky ceasefire between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh entered into force on Saturday after a deal was struck in Moscow between Baku and Yerevan to allow prisoners and the bodies of the dead to be exchanged, Reuters informs.
It was not immediately clear how long the ceasefire, which began at midday local time, would last and how effective it would be. There were reports from both sides of continued fighting in the run-up, and the two countries also alleged serious breaches after it got underway.
The Moscow ceasefire talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two sides since fighting over the mountainous enclave erupted on Sept. 27, killing hundreds of people. The enclave is internationally-recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who helped mediate between the two sides, said in a statement in the early hours of Saturday after more than 10 hours of negotiations that the ceasefire had been agreed on humanitarian grounds.
The International Committee of the Red Cross would help make the truce work, he said.
“The specific terms of the ceasefire still need to be agreed,” said Lavrov, who said Armenia and Azerbaijan had also agreed to enter into what he called substantive peace talks.
Those talks would be held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, he said.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov did not speak to reporters in Moscow after striking the ceasefire deal.
But Mnatsakanyan later paid tribute on Armenian state TV to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he said had played a key role in making sure the talks happened and had personally intervened to help get an agreement.
Turkey, which has strongly backed Baku, welcomed the deal but said much more was needed.
“The humanitarian ceasefire is a significant first step but will not stand for a lasting solution,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement. “Turkey emphasized that it will support any solution approved by Azerbaijan. Turkey will continue to stand by Azerbaijan in the field and at the table.”