Armenia, Azerbaijan agree anew to 'humanitarian ceasefire': US

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The US State Department announced on Sunday that Armenia and Azerbaijan have again agreed to respect a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, effective Monday.

A joint statement released on Sunday said that the ceasefire would take effect at 8:00 am local time (04H00 GMT) on Monday after an earlier ceasefire brought a brief lull Saturday before each side accused the other of violating it, news agency AFP reported.

On Saturday, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun met foreign ministers of the two countries and the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, the report quoted the department as saying.

Washington, along with France and Russia, is part of the Minsk Group, which was formed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to be the main mediator in the conflict.

THE NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh began on September 27. Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by Armenian separatists.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of having targeted the civilian population since the beginning of hostilities in the mountainous region.

Fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region continued on Sunday, as Armenia and Azerbaijan reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their decades-old conflict and blamed each other for hindering one after four weeks of military engagement.

On Saturday evening, Nagorno-Karabakh's military had accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling civilian settlements in the areas of Martuni and Askeran and said that battles "on all directions of the frontline" took place on Sunday morning.

In response to this, Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry alleged that Armenian forces shelled the Terter, Agdam and Aghjabedi regions of Azerbaijan.

It is the biggest escalation in years over the region that lies withiin Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.

The recent outburst of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke out on September 27, has gone on despite numerous calls for the cessation of hostilities and two attempts at establishing a cease-fire.

THE TRUCE

This is not the first time they have committed themselves to a truce, but it has not held so far.

The latest agreement came after "intensive negotiation" between Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted.

Mike Pompeo had met separately on Friday with Mnatsakanyan and Bayramov, urging them to "end the violence and protect civilians."

The State Department said the Minsk co-chairs and the foreign ministers "agreed to meet again in Geneva on October 29" to seek "all steps necessary to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict".

Earlier, Armenia and Azerbaijan had announced a cease-fire in a bid to put an end to fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh that has claimed hundreds of lives. They said that this 'humanitarian truce' effective from midnight Sunday will be the second attempt by Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish a cease-fire.

(With inputs from AFP, AP)

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