A temporary ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia that came into effect Saturday after almost two weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region appears fragile, with both countries accusing each other of violating the terms of the agreement amid reports of casualties.
Azerbaijani authorities said Sunday four women were among at least nine people killed when a residential building compound was hit during an Armenian bombardment of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city.
The attack most likely came from the ethnic Armenian enclave in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Hikmet Hajiyev, an adviser to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
Armenia described allegations that its forces had attacked Ganja and caused civilian casualties as “absolute lies” and asserted that two people were killed by an “Azerbaijani subversive group” in the village of Hadrut. Azerbaijan denied that.
The accusations come after the ceasefire, which was announced after talks in Moscow that were brokered by Russia, came into effect at midday local time (4 a.m. ET) on Saturday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a readout that the ceasefire was called “for humanitarian purposes,” allowing for the exchange of prisoners and the bodies of the deceased. It added that the parameters of the agreement would be agreed on separately.
At a press conference in Baku on Saturday, Hajiyev accused Armenia of “violating” the agreed terms.
“Azerbaijan has no claims to the territory of any other state. The goal is to ensure our territorial integrity. If Armenia continues its provocations to violate the ceasefire, Azerbaijan must respond,” Hajiyev said.
This followed an earlier statement from the country’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday that the Armenian army had fired artillery against “a number” of its settlements and had tried to launch an attack towards Aghdara-Tartar and Fizuli-Jabrail.
Armenia denied that it had breached the agreement, denouncing the claim as a “fabrication” and instead alleging that Azerbaijani forces were attacking the city of Hadrut.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense’s spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said: “The statement of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense about firing in direction of Tartar and Aghdam regions of Azerbaijan is another fabrication.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is located inside the borders of Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians, accused Baku of violating the agreement, adding that Azerbaijan sought to use negotiations “as a cover to prepare itself for further military actions.”
France, which has demanded “an immediate end to hostilities” since fighting broke out between the countries on the morning of September 27, hailed the “humanitarian ceasefire agreement.”
In a statement issued by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Paris urged both parties to adhere to the agreement so that a “permanent cessation of hostilities” could follow.
The ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia came the day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet spoke of the suffering that the conflict was inflicting on civilians.
“It is deeply worrying that in recent days we have seen populated areas reportedly targeted and shelled with heavy weaponry in and around the conflict area,” she said.
Bachelet added that both sides had to “uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, abiding by the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution and avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, which has long said it will retake the territory.
CNN’s Aren Melikyan, Arzu Geybulla, Gul Tuysuz, Mary Ilyushina,Taylor Barnes and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.