Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of violating ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Yerevan-Baku, (ST) - Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of violating a new ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, as they tried for the second time in a week to bring a halt to fierce fighting over the disputed region.

The French Press Agency quoted the Armenian Defense Ministry as saying that the Azerbaijani forces committed a serious violation of the ceasefire by targeting the positions of fighters in different areas on the front lines with artillery fire.

Armenian President Nikole Pashinyan stressed on Facebook that his country continues to fully adhere to the ceasefire announced by the United States.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said that the Armenian forces bombed the town of Tartar and neighboring villages, in a "grave violation of the ceasefire in Karabakh."

The ex-Soviet neighbors agreed to a new truce from midnight on Sunday, as international mediators push for a stop to three weeks of heavy clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan's control in the 1990s.

A previous ceasefire agreed upon a week ago fell apart amid mutual accusations and continued fighting that has left hundreds dead and forced tens of thousands from their homes.

The new ceasefire deal was announced after one of the deadliest attacks on civilians so far on Saturday, when a missile strike hit a residential area of Azerbaijan's second city Ganja, killing 13 people including small children.

The two sides have described the agreement as a "humanitarian truce" to allow for the exchange of prisoners and bodies.

But Armenia's Defense ministry said Azerbaijani forces had violated the new ceasefire only minutes after it took effect, firing artillery shells and rockets in the early hours of Sunday.

Its foreign ministry said Azerbaijan had also launched an attack in a southern area of the Karabakh frontline "demonstrating to the international community its treacherous nature, which we have been dealing with for decades".

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said Armenian forces had "grossly violated another agreement", accusing them of firing artillery and mortar shells in various directions and of launching early morning attacks along the frontline.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a bitter conflict over Karabakh since Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous province in a 1990s war that left 30,000 people dead.

The region's declaration of independence has not been recognized by any country, including Armenia, and it is still part of Azerbaijan under international law.

The fighting that broke out three weeks ago has been the heaviest since a 1994 ceasefire and has threatened to draw in regional powers Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a military alliance with Armenia.

Raghda Sawas