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Ceasefire with Azerbaijan reached in Nagorno-Karabakh, reports Armenian news

A girl embraces her relative sitting in a shelter during shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.
A girl embraces her relative sitting in a shelter during shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Copyright Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE
Copyright Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE
By Euronews with AP AFP
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Authorities in the region say they will lay down arms at 1:00pm local time on Wednesday, according to Interfax.

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Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday, after launching an "anti-terrorist" operation against the ethnic Armenian enclave less than 24 hours ago. 

The fighting killed 32 people and injured hundreds. 

Tensions have bubbled for months over the region, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, though largely controlled by Armenian separatists. 

Ethnic Armenian forces announced first they would lay down arms. 

Talks on integrating Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan are due on Thursday, following a deal struck after mediation by local Russian peacekeepers. 

Baku had demanded the surrender and dissolution of the government in Stepanakert/Khankendi. It called this a necessary condition for negotiations to start. 

Armenia denounced Azerbaijan's "aggression" which was aimed at "ethnic cleansing", shortly after conflict broke out. 

Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE
Azeri fire on an alleged Armenia position, 19 September, 2023.Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE

The international community condemned the bloodshed, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for an "immediate end to the fighting". 

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, France slammed the “illegal” and “unjustifiable” offensive led by Baku. 

On Tuesday, explosions and gunfire were heard in Stepanakert, as local authorities reported attacks along the entire line of contact.

Fighting left at least 32 people dead and more than 200 injured, according to Yerevan. Separatists say some 7,000 residents in 16 localities have been evacuated.

Azerbaijan reported two civilian deaths in areas under its control.

Baku said it used artillery, rockets and drones to break through the separatists' defensive lines in several places and capture 60 enemy positions, though this cannot be independently verified. 

Hundreds of Armenian protesters, frustrated by their country's response, clashed with police outside parliament in Yerevan on Tuesday, condemning their leader as a traitor and calling on him to resign.

Shortly after launching its offensive, Azerbaijan released a statement describing the attack as "anti-terrorist measures" to "restore the constitutional structure of the Republic of Azerbaijan".

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Yerevan said it has no troops in the enclave, home to 120,000 ethnic Armenians, suggesting its separatist allies were there to face the Azeri assault.

Azerbaijan and Armenia first went to war in the 1990s, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Armed hostilities broke out again in 2020, with Azerbaijan recapturing areas in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. A truce was agreed and monitored by 3,000 Russian peacekeepers.

Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday called for an "end to hostilities and civilian casualties.”

Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE
Demonstrators clash with police at the Armenia government building to protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, in Yerevan, Armenia.Vahram Baghdasaryan/PHOTOLURE

There have been claims the war in Ukraine has distracted Moscow from ensuring regional peace.

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Russia said its soldiers had moved almost 500 civilians from the most at-risk areas, while separatists said they had helped relocate around 7,000.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed it set up safe passages for civilians fleeing areas hit by the fighting. Other reports suggested non-combatants were being targeted. 

“In order to enable the evacuation of the population from the dangerous zone, humanitarian corridors and reception points have been set up," it said in a statement released on Tuesday. 

Baku said it began its military action after six people, including four police officers, were killed in two landmine explosions. 

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Regional ally Turkey was informed in advance of the assault, it claimed. 

Azerbaijan imposed an effective blockade on the only route into the enclave from Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor, for several months leading up to Tuesday's offensive. 

Some had hoped regional tensions might ease.

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