Putin, Macron name for Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire as deaths mount | Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French Emmanuel Macron have called for an immediate ceasefire between Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan as the official death toll has exceeded 100 and both sides have announced that they will continue to fight.

“Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron called on the warring parties to stop the fire completely and to relieve tension as soon as possible and show maximum restraint,” the Kremlin said in a statement early Thursday.

In a telephone conversation at Macron’s initiative, the two heads of state and government discussed “specific parameters for further cooperation, especially within the OSCE-Minsk group,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The Heads of State or Government expressed a “willingness” to see a statement on behalf of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Russia, France and the United States – calling for an “immediate” end to the fighting and the start of talks, added the Kremlin.

Both sides are involved in the worst fighting in years over Karabakh, an Armenian province that broke away from Azerbaijan in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

So far, Armenia and Azerbaijan have declined international calls to negotiate.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev promised that his military would continue fighting until the Armenian troops completely withdrew from Karabakh.

If “the Armenian government complies, the fighting and bloodshed will end and peace will be established in the region,” he said while visiting wounded soldiers on Wednesday.

“Prepare for a long-term war”

For his part, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said it was “not very appropriate” to speak of negotiations “in times of intense hostilities”.

In the Armenian capital, Yerevan, dozens of men gathered outside a recruitment office to join the fight.

Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said on Wednesday: “We have to prepare for a long-term war.”

In the breakaway provincial capital Stepanakert, two explosions were heard around midnight on Thursday when sirens sounded.

Residents told AFP news agency that the city had been attacked by drones.

The streets were dark and public lights were off, although some shops in town were open. Local authorities said they came under fire when fighting broke out on Sunday.

The official death toll has exceeded 100, including civilians, with both sides claiming heavy losses on the other.

Armenia has reported 104 military deaths and 23 civilians killed.

It was alleged that Azerbaijan lost 130 soldiers and another 200 were wounded.

Armenia has reported 104 military deaths and 23 civilians killed, and claims Azerbaijan lost 130 soldiers while another 200 were injured [Aziz Karimov/AP]The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry replied that its armed forces killed 2,300 Karabakh troops and destroyed “130 tanks, 200 artillery units, 25 anti-aircraft units, five ammunition depots, 50 anti-tank units and 55 military vehicles”.

With Baku and Yerevan rejecting talks, fears have emerged that the conflict could escalate into a full-blown war that could also attract regional powers like Turkey and Russia.

Moscow, which has a military pact with Armenia and also has good relations with Azerbaijan, has repeatedly called for an end to the fighting and offered to start negotiations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s “readiness” to organize a meeting.

But none of the leaders showed any sign of willingness to talk.

“We are definitely on the verge of a major war, possibly even on a regional level,” said Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group.

Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan sparked a war that killed 30,000 people in the early 1990s, but the area is not recognized by any country, including Armenia.

Talks to resolve the conflict have largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

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