A U.S.-backed ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh was in jeopardy as clashes resumed on Monday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in the mountain enclave, defying international efforts to end a conflict that has killed hundreds in the last month.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address that he wanted to resolve the conflict “by political and military means” after both sides accused each other of breaking a truce agreed hours earlier in Washington.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote earlier on his Facebook page that the Armenian side “continued to adhere to the ceasefire.”
The latest fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, erupted on Sept. 27 and is the worst in the South Caucasus since the 1990s. Two Russian-brokered ceasefires have failed to hold.
World powers want to prevent a wider war that might draw in Turkey, which voices strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia. The conflict, close to pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to international markets, has also strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies.
A third ceasefire since Oct. 10 was agreed on Sunday after separate talks in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Within minutes of its coming into force at 8 a.m. local time (0400 GMT), Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said in a statement that Armenian forces had shelled villages in the Terter and Lachin regions, located at opposite ends of the conflict zone.
Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh denied this: the defence ministry said Azeri forces fired missiles on Armenian positions on the northeastern side on the line of contact and the foreign ministry said Azeri warplanes had violated the ceasefire.
Pompeo has since left Washington, landing on Monday in India on the first leg of a five-day Asian trip.
The OSCE Minsk Group, formed to mediate the conflict and led by France, Russia and the United States, also participated in Sunday’s talks and is scheduled to meet the Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers again in Geneva on Oct. 29.