After more than 11 hours of negotiations during a closed-door meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister in Moscow, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire in Artsakh. The ceasefire will commence at noon on Saturday and the International Red Cross Committee will be the intermediary as both sides collect their dead and exchange prisoners of war after two weeks of fighting.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s long-awaited announcement came after a highly-anticipated meeting between Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Jeyhun Bayramov. Lavrov announced that both sides agreed that the parameters for the ceasefire will be decided through further substantive talks and negotiations with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
In a televised address to the public on the thirteenth day of his government’s attacks on Artsakh, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said he is giving Armenia one more chance to settle the conflict peacefully by recognizing the Republic of Artsakh as Azerbaijan territory. “Mediators and leaders of some international organizations have stated that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Aliyev said as the talks were starting in Moscow. “I have disagreed with this thesis, and I have been [proven] right. The conflict is now being settled by military means and political means will come next.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, for his part, led a meeting with the heads of the Eurasian Economic Union on Friday in Yerevan during which he underscored his commitment to restoring the peace process and expressed particular concern with Turkey’s active involvement in the fighting. “It is threatening to completely destabilize the situation not only in our region, but also across the globe,” said Pashinyan. “Our people are more united than ever and are determined to defend their freedom and independence.”
As the Foreign Ministers were gathered in Moscow to negotiate an end to the fighting, Stepanakert was getting shelled once again. Armenian Ministry of Defense (MoD) representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Azeri forces were firing heavy missiles in the northern and southern directions along the Line of Contact throughout the day on Friday.
Armenian military officials also spent the day rebutting fabricated claims that Hadrut had been captured. Moments after Aliyev announced that the town had been seized, Armenian MoD Press Secretary Shushan Stepanyan released a video of MoD crew driving through a peaceful Hadrut. Hovhannisyan similarly disproved the declaration. “Today the official media of Azerbaijan announced that they have captured Jebrail, Hadrut and adjacent villages. That’s hilarious because at that time I was in Hadrut. In that direction there were not any active military operations,” he commented during a Friday evening press briefing.
The Azerbaijani leadership obviously is out of touch with the situation ․․․ Hadrut minutes ago pic.twitter.com/2gVMucLrgr
— Shushan Stepanyan (@ShStepanyan) October 9, 2020
Officials also released more information on the medical conditions of the three journalists who were injured during yesterday’s air raids over Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. Russian journalist Yuri Kotenok underwent surgery overnight in Stepanakert and has since been transferred to Yerevan in critical but stable condition. Levon Arzanov and Hrant Badalyan are in stable condition and have returned to Moscow.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan is expected to deliver a public address at 10 a.m. local time in Armenia on Saturday.