Diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of the war in Artsakh are seemingly underway as leaders from Armenia and Azerbaijan express their readiness to negotiate while the devastating war enters day 24.
President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia each conveyed their willingness to meet and discuss the conflict in exclusive interviews with TASS Russian News Agency. According to TASS, Pashinyan asserted that the Armenian government has always held the position that the conflict can only be resolved by peaceful means, while Aliyev declared his preparedness to suspend military operations and enter constructive talks. The Azerbaijani President also stated that he is committed to the basic principles of the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the territories surrounding Artsakh, the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis and open negotiations on the future status of the Republic of Artsakh. The Armenian PM said that the recognition of the independence of Artsakh is a necessary precondition to achieving any compromise. If Azerbaijan does not exhibit readiness, then “we are ready to fight to the end for the rights of our people, for the rights of our compatriots in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he upheld in the interview.
In the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will reportedly meet with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Friday. There has been no official word from the State Department yet, but Politico is reporting that Secretary Pompeo will be meeting separately with FM Jeyhun Bayramov and then with FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan shortly afterward. Reports of this meeting follow President Donald Trump’s visit to southern California on Sunday, where hundreds of Armenian Americans lined the streets of Newport Beach to get his attention and raise awareness on their calls for sanctions on Turkey and Azerbaijan for their ongoing hostilities against Armenians in the Republics of Artsakh and Armenia. Trump, who later made a stop in Nevada, said Armenians have “great spirit” and added that his administration “is working on something.”
In New York today, members of the United Nations Security Council were expected to participate in a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. This meeting was requested by France, Russia and the US—countries that co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group. An anticipated statement is said to include an “adherence to a ceasefire and for the sides to resume negotiations under the facilitation of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, as well as for humanitarian access to those in need.” The office of UN Secretary António Guterres released a statement on Sunday, expecting “both parties” to abide by the humanitarian ceasefire and again condemning attacks on civilian populations, specifically referencing the “reported strike” on the city of Ganja as “totally unacceptable.” Armenian officials have outright refuted any involvement in that incident.
Today, in the result of hostilities in the Artsakh-Azerbaijani conflict zone, the air defense units of the Defense Army shot down 5 enemy UAVs. pic.twitter.com/qJOvw9ATRw
— Shushan Stepanyan (@ShStepanyan) October 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Azeri forces are showing no signs of slowing down their attacks. The Artsakh Defense Army pushed back military offensives in the northern direction of the Line of Contact in the early morning. Armenian military officials also announced today the downing of five UAVs and released video evidence of a mangled drone system, said to be a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2. After prolonged fighting in the southern direction, no significant advances or changes in position were achieved by either side. During his daily press briefing, Ministry of Defense representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan invited Artak Hovhannisyan, the father of deceased soldier and Medal of Courage recipient Albert Hovhannisyan, to address the public. “We all need to stand with our homeland and our military and help in every way we can so that our children do not become martyred heroes, but rather heroes who live among us,” the grieving father implored. His son Albert was immortalized as a war hero when an iconic photo of him firing artillery at an Azerbaijani position spread across the internet. The death toll continues to climb among Armenia’s Armed Forces. Armenian military officials say 19 additional servicemen have been killed, bringing the total number of casualties to 729.
Throughout the night Azerbaijan shelled the civilian populated towns of Martuni, Urekan, Ishkhandzor, Aygehovit and Vurgavan in Artsakh as attacks against these and other settlements have created a humanitarian crisis in the region. As a result of the extensive damage to educational facilities, all 217 schools and 60 kindergartens in Artsakh have been closed, leaving 24-thousand children without an education. Almost five-thousand people have also been placed in involuntary unemployment. In the Republic of Armenia, drone strikes in the Gegharkunik province damaged secondary schools in the villages of Sotk and Kut. No one was injured.
In Yerevan, a humanitarian flight organized by Armenia Fund from Los Angeles through Qatar Airways arrived today. The flight was originally scheduled for October 15 but was delayed, because Turkey closed its air route.