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Armenia and Azerbaijan reach new fire on Nago-Karabakh

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GORIS, Armenia Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a new ceasefire in their dispute over a disputed territory, the countries said on Saturday, days after a ceasefire negotiated a week ago was resolved.

Warring neighbors in the southern Caucasus region announced the agreement on the disputed territory, Nago-Karabak, in soft statements issued by their foreign ministries late Saturday, describing it as a humanitarian ceasefire to allow the exchange of prisoners and the remains of the dead.

But the fierce fighting that led to the announcement raised questions about whether the ceasefire would be more stable than the agreement reached after 10 hours of talks in Moscow last weekend, which failed to end the fierce conflict along the front line.

The new ceasefire took effect at midnight, but neither side gave a timeline for how long it would last.

France said it mediated the latest ceasefire in the days and hours before Saturday’s announcement, in coordination with Russia and the United States.

This ceasefire must be unconditional and strictly respected by both parties, the office of President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a statement. France will be very attentive to this and will remain committed so that hostilities cease on a solid basis and credible discussions begin quickly.

Any cessation of conflict would be welcome for people in and around Nago-Karabakh, in the volatile South Caucasus region between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.

The war has already killed more than 600 Armenian soldiers, many civilians and an unknown number of Azerbaijanis. It has threatened to spiral into a wider regional conflict, with the potential to retreat further to Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally; Russia, which has a joint defense agreement with Armenia; even the neighboring southern regions, Iran.

Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave that is part of Azerbaijan under international law but is closely linked to Armenia.

A previous war on Nago-Karabakh, in the early 1990s, killed some 20,000 people and displaced about one million, most of them Azerbaijanis. Years of tensions since then between Armenia and Azerbaijan over enclave status erupted into an open war on September 27, with Azerbaijan seeking to take control of the territory by force.

On Saturday, Azerbaijan said 14 people were killed in the city of Ganja, the second largest country, in an overnight rocket attack by Armenia.

The capital of Nago-Karabakh, Stepanakert, was also attacked on Friday night, the sound of air strike sirens and explosions echoing through the largely empty city until early Saturday morning.

Across the front, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been embroiled in trench warfare and artillery fighting, taking large casualties while fighting for small pieces of territory.

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