The continued bombing undermines hopes for the endurance of the truce in Nagorno Karabakh

Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno Karabakh and the Azerbaijani army exchanged charges on Sunday for not adhering to a truce that came into effect on Saturday, and by continuing to bomb civilian sites.

On Sunday afternoon, no exchange of prisoners or bodies was announced, and it is one of the provisions of the humanitarian ceasefire that was negotiated in Moscow and is supposed to take effect from Saturday 08:00 GMT.

Azerbaijan accused the Armenian separatists of not respecting the terms of the armistice, and talked about the bombing of Gandja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan, and the killing of nine civilians.

In a tweet, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denounced “a flagrant violation of the ceasefire” and a “war crime”.

“The Armenian armed forces do not respect the humanitarian truce and continue missile and artillery strikes on cities, villages and Azerbaijan,” Waqif Diyargahli, spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, told France Press.

“The Azerbaijani forces are violating the ceasefire agreement by launching attacks on the south with armored vehicles and missiles,” Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Shushan Stepanyan said. 

The separatist units firmly destroyed the hostile actions”.

In Gandja, AFP journalists saw Azerbaijani paramedics lifting the rubble of a destroyed building and pulling out two bodies from under it.

In total, nine apartments were destroyed, according to witnesses, by a strike at 02:00 local time (2200 GMT) in the city.

Akefeh Permova (64 years), who had a bruise around her eye, recounted that “a room fell on my face, I covered my eyes and another one fell. 

I said to myself, what is this and I could not see anything, everything was covered in a cloud of dust”.

“They are brutal, not human,” said 68-year-old Zagit Aliyev. 

War must take place with soldiers and we are civilians. 

We were sleeping”.

For their part, the Armenian separatist authorities in Nagorno Karabakh denied the bombing of Gandja.

On Sunday morning, Armenian separatist leader Arayik Harutyunyan indicated that his forces respect the “ceasefire agreement,” citing a “calmer situation” than the previous day.

The provincial capital, Stepanakert, witnessed at least three rounds of bombing during the night, according to AFP journalists. In the afternoon, artillery strikes could be heard from far from the front line.

On Monday, Armenian Foreign Minister Zahrab Manatsakyanian returns to Moscow, who fought with his Azerbaijani counterpart the negotiations that led to the armistice.

He will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his spokeswoman confirmed to AFP, and he is also scheduled to meet representatives of the Minsk Group (Russia, France and the United States), but the date has not yet been set.

The Turkish and Russian foreign ministers called, according to a Russian statement after a phone call, to “the necessity of strict respect for all provisions” of the agreement.

The European Union expressed its “grave concern” at the violation of the ceasefire in Karabakh.

For his part, Pope Francis denounced “a truce that appears very fragile”.

The European Union’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell announced on Sunday that the European Union expresses its “grave concern” over the ceasefire violations in the Nagorno Karabakh region.

“We have seen with great concern reports of continuing military activities, especially against civilian targets, and civilian casualties,” Borrell said in a statement.

The Nagorno Karabakh region, the majority of which are Armenians, separated from Azerbaijan after a war in the early 1990s that resulted in thirty thousand people. 

Since then, Baku has accused Yerevan of occupying its land, and there are regular rounds of violence.

The battles in which Nagorno Karabakh forces, backed by Yerevan and Azerbaijani forces have clashed since September 27, are the most dangerous since the ceasefire declared in 1994.

It was counted that more than 500 people were killed in the recent battles, including about sixty civilians, in a toll that may in fact be much greater, as Azerbaijan does not announce the number of deaths among its soldiers and every camp claims to have killed thousands of soldiers from the opposite camp.

The reality on the ground is still unclear, as each camp categorically denies the progress the other camp claims has made.

Azerbaijan asserts that it has taken control of a large number of villages, while Nagorno Karabakh forces say that they are repelling the Azerbaijani army.

The armistice was reached in Moscow after several calls made by the international community, especially the Minsk Group, which is headed by Russia, France and the United States and plays a mediating role in this conflict.

Azerbaijan, which has the support of Turkey, has warned that its military operations will not cease completely unless the Armenians withdraw from Nagorno Karabakh.

There are concerns about the conflict being internationalized, as Ankara encourages Baku to attack, while Moscow is bound by a military treaty with Yerevan.

Turkey is also accused of sending fighters loyal to it from Syria to fight with the Azerbaijanis, which Baku denies.

In an interview published Sunday in Russia, the Azerbaijani president considered that Ankara “should play an increasing role in the region and in resolving the conflict.

For its part, Egypt welcomed the conclusion of a humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the auspices of the Russian Federation.

In a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, on Sunday, Egypt called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to abide by the ceasefire and refrain from violating it, in order to achieve peace and the hoped-for humanitarian goals.

Egypt stressed the importance of the two sides returning to the negotiating table in order to reach a sustainable settlement of the conflict in accordance with the relevant international legitimacy decisions, and within the framework of the efforts made by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, according to the statement.