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Fiery clashes end as cease-fire holds between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Ex-Soviet countries have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since 1994.
Firefighters inspect the ruins of a house damaged by shelling in the Armenian settlement of Sotk during recent border clashes with Azerbaijan on Wednesday. Karen Minasyan / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

After two days of fiery clashes that killed 176 soldiers from both sides, a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan held Thursday.

Armen Grigoryan, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, said the truce brokered thanks to international mediation took effect Wednesday evening. A previous cease-fire that Russia brokered Tuesday had quickly failed.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that the situation on the border with Azerbaijan has been quiet since the cease-fire started and no violations were reported. There was no immediate comment from Azerbaijan’s government.

The cease-fire declaration followed two days of heavy fighting that marked the largest outbreak of hostilities between the two longtime adversaries in nearly two years.

Armenia and Azerbaijan traded blame for the shelling, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression and Azerbaijani officials saying their country was responding to Armenian attacks.

A billboard with an image of a serviceman and the slogan "Serve for the Motherland" by a road in the Armenian city of Vardenis on Thursday. Karen Minasyan / AFP - Getty Images

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Wednesday that 105 of his country’s soldiers had been killed since fighting erupted early Tuesday, while Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said Thursday it lost 71.

The ex-Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in the fighting, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace agreement. Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers under the deal.

Pashinyan said that his government has asked Russia for military support amid the latest fighting under a friendship treaty between the countries, and also requested assistance from the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization. He added that “we don’t see military intervention as the only possibility, because there are also political and diplomatic options.”

Yerevan’s plea for help has put the Kremlin in a precarious position as it has sought to maintain close relations with Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base, and also develop warm ties with energy-rich Azerbaijan.

On Wednesday, Pashinyan told lawmakers that Armenia is ready to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in a future peace treaty, provided that it relinquishes control of areas in Armenia its forces have seized.

“We want to sign a document, for which many people will criticize and denounce us and call us traitors, and they may even decide to remove us from office, but we would be grateful if Armenia gets a lasting peace and security as a result of it,” Pashinyan said.

Some in the opposition saw the statement as a sign of Pashinyan’s readiness to cave in to Azerbaijani demands and recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of angry protesters quickly descended on the government’s headquarters, accusing Pashinyan of treason and demanding he step down. Protests were also held in other Armenian cities.