Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed a temporary ceasefire in the conflict in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov follows ten hours of talks between the two countries’ top diplomats in Moscow on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lavrov said Saturday’s ceasefire should pave way for talks on settling the conflict, adding that the truce was intended to exchange prisoners and recover the dead.
“A cease-fire is announced from 12:00 p.m. on 10 October for humanitarian purposes, to exchange prisoners of war and other detained persons and the bodies of the killed, in line with the Red Cross principles. The specific parameters of the cease-fire will be agreed later on,” Lavrov said.
Both countries will also “get down to substantive negotiations to achieve a peaceful settlement as soon as possible,” according to Lavrov. He did not provide details on the talks but said the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group would mediate.
The latest outburst of violence between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began Sept 27 and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Officials say the clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population – about 70,000 people.
On Friday, the Armenian defence ministry said fighting continued through the day, despite the talks being held in Moscow.
The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
The renewed violence has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to Europe.