Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a ceasefire to end the outbreak of hostilities that have killed 155 soldiers on both sides, a senior Armenian official said on Thursday.
Armen Grigoryan, Secretary ArmeniaThe Security Council announced the truce in televised appearances, saying it went into effect hours early at 20:00 (1600 GMT) on Wednesday. The previous Russian-brokered ceasefire on Tuesday failed quickly.
A few hours before Grigoryan’s statement, the Armenian Defense Ministry announced a cessation of shelling, but did not mention a ceasefire agreement.
There was no immediate comment from Azerbaijangovernment.
The declaration of a ceasefire followed two days of intense fighting that marked the largest outbreak of hostilities between the two longtime adversaries in nearly two years.
On Wednesday evening, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Armenian capital, accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of betraying his country, trying to appease Azerbaijan, and demanding his resignation.
Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged accusations of hostilities, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression, and Azerbaijani officials saying their country had responded to Armenian shelling.
Pashinyan said 105 of his country’s soldiers had been killed since fighting began early Tuesday, while Azerbaijan said it had lost 50. The Azerbaijani authorities have stated that they are ready to unilaterally hand over the bodies of up to 100 Armenian soldiers.
Former Soviet countries have been involved in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since the end of the separatist war in 1994.
During the 2020 six-week war, Azerbaijan regained vast tracts of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces.
More than 6,700 people died in the hostilities, which ended with a Russian-brokered peace agreement. Moscow sent about 2,000 troops to the region as peacekeepers in accordance with the agreement.
Pashinyan said Wednesday that Azerbaijani forces have occupied 10 square kilometers (nearly 4 square miles) of Armenian territory since the start of hostilities.
He told lawmakers that his government has turned to Russia for military support as part of a friendship treaty between the countries, and has also requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
“Our allies are Russia and the CSTO,” Pashinyan said, adding that the collective security pact states that aggression against one member is aggression against all.
“We do not see military intervention as the only possibility, because there are also political and diplomatic options,” Pashinyan said, speaking in his country’s parliament.
He told lawmakers that Armenia was ready to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in a future peace treaty, on the condition that it relinquishes control of the territories in Armenia captured by its forces.
“We want to sign a document for which many will criticize and condemn us, call us traitors, and perhaps even decide to remove us from office, but we would be grateful if Armenia received lasting peace and security as a result of the war. this,” Pashinyan said.
Some in the opposition interpreted this statement as a sign of Pashinyan’s readiness to give in to Azerbaijan’s demands and recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Thousands of angry demonstrators quickly rushed to the government building, accusing Pashinyan of treason and demanding his resignation.
Pashinyan angrily denied reports that he had signed an agreement in which he accepted Azerbaijan’s demands as an “information attack.” Secretary of the Security Council Grigoryan condemned the protests in Yerevan, calling them an attempt to destroy the state.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, reacted to the hype by saying that the region would not agree to become part of Azerbaijan and would continue to seek its independence.
As tensions escalated in Yerevan, Moscow struck a delicate balance in an effort to maintain friendly relations with both countries. It has strong economic and security ties with Armenia, where a Russian military base is located, but also maintains close cooperation with oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Some observers saw the outbreak of hostilities as an attempt by Azerbaijan to force the Armenian authorities to speed up the implementation of some provisions of the 2020 peace agreement, such as the opening of transport corridors through its territory.
“Azerbaijan has a greater military potential, therefore it is trying to dictate its conditions to Armenia and achieve the desired diplomatic solutions by force,” Russian expert on the South Caucasus region Sergei Markedonov wrote in a commentary.
Markedonov noted that the current outbreak of hostilities comes just as Russia was forced to retreat from areas in northeastern Ukraine following a Ukrainian counteroffensive, adding that Armenia’s request for help put Russia in a dangerous position.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of other CSTO members discussed the situation during a telephone call late Tuesday evening, calling for a speedy cessation of hostilities. They agreed to send a mission of top security alliance officials to the area.
On Friday, Putin will meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where they both plan to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group dominated by Russia and China.
The Armenian government said that Pashinyan, who was also supposed to attend the summit, would not appear due to the situation in the country.
In Washington, a group of pro-Armenia lawmakers lobbied for the Biden administration.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the influential Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman, and four other members of Congress called on the White House and the State Department to “unequivocally condemn Azerbaijan’s actions and stop all assistance” to Azerbaijan.