Thu, 13 May 2021

BAKU/YEREVAN -- A new cease-fire aimed at stopping the fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh appears to be in jeopardy, with ethnic Armenian forces and Azerbaijan accusing each other of renewed shelling.

The United Nations Security Council is set to hold closed consultations on the situation at a meeting on October 19 after UN chief Antonio Guterres called on both sides to respect the truce and condemned attacks on civilians in the fighting.

The truce announced on October 17 was the second attempt to establish a cease-fire since heavy fighting erupted in the region on September 27.

A deal brokered by Russia a week earlier had failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s, which has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

On October 19, officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijani forces were shelling their positions in northern and southern areas of the Line Of Contact that divides them.

A wounded Armenian soldier is treated by medics outside the city of Stepanakert amid ongoing fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said Armenian forces had shelled its positions in the Goranboy, Tartar, and Agdam regions of Azerbaijan overnight and the Agcabadi region was being shelled on the morning of October 19.

President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijani forces had taken control over 13 villages in the Cabrayil region near the Iranian border.

The previous day he announced the capture of the 11th-century Khudaferin bridge over the Aras River between Azerbaijan and Iran.

The reports came a day after Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, called the foreign ministers of both countries on October 18 to condemn the continued fighting and urge them to stick to the cease-fire.

The fighting 'leads to more civilian suffering. It aggravates the conflict between States and respective societies, rendering the healing of wounds even more difficult,' Borrell said in a statement published after his calls.

Internationally recognized as part of mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh territory has been controlled by mainly Christian ethnic Armenians, backed by Yerevan, since the 1994 halt in fighting.

SEE ALSO: Five Key Things To Know About Nagorno-Karabakh

The latest violence has stoked fears that the fighting could engulf the region in a wider conflict involving Azerbaijan's closest ally, Turkey, and Russia, which dominates the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Armenia is a member of.

There has been no confirmed death toll from the current hostilities, but both sides appear to have suffered casualties.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said on October 18 that they had recorded another 40 casualties among its forces, pushing the military death toll to 673 since the fighting erupted.

Azerbaijan has not released any military casualty figures.

Armenia and Azerbaijan posted identical statements on their respective Foreign Ministry websites when they agreed on the new cease-fire.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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