Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan met with Russian, French and U.S. mediators in Moscow on Tuesday as Armenia accused Azerbaijan of continuing offensive military operations around Karabakh despite a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement.
An Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisyan, said that Azerbaijani forces are again shelling and attacking frontline positions of Artsakh Defense army. “Our troops are fighting heroically and hard,” he said in a Facebook post early in the afternoon.
“Azerbaijan continues to blatantly violate the humanitarian ceasefire and has resumed large-scale military operations along the entire frontline since early morning,” a spokesman for Arayik Harutiunyan, the Karabakh president, wrote around the same time.
The official, Vahram Poghosyan, said the Defense army is “waging fierce battles” in an effort to fight back the offensive.
Mnatsakanyan’s meeting with the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group as well as Andrzej Kasprzyk, the head of an OSCE mission monitoring the ceasefire regime in the Karabakh conflict zone, began at around noon. It was expected to focus on ways of ensuring both conflicting parties’ compliance with the ceasefire agreement.
Kasprzyk and the group’s U.S. co-chair, Andrew Schofer, also held a separate meeting in Moscow Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, they discussed “possible steps” aimed at implementing the ceasefire agreement that was reached by the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian foreign ministers early on Saturday.
Speaking after talks with Mnatsakanyan on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expects the warring sides to “rigorously” stick to the agreement and stop hostilities. He said they should also restart “substantive” peace talks without delay. This will also be on the agenda of Mnatsakanian’s meeting with the Minsk Group co-chairs, added Lavrov.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also renewed its calls for a Karabakh ceasefire and reaffirmed its readiness to help the parties exchange prisoners of war and recover the bodies of their soldiers killed in action.
“The sides must agree on a format between themselves,” Martin Schuepp, the ICRC director for Eurasia, said in a statement. “We are in continuous discussions with them, passing proposals back and forth. Operational and logistical arrangements must be in place and the safety of our teams guaranteed for the operation to begin.”
The Russian-mediated agreement made clear that the process will be handled by the ICRC.
Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan discussed the matter with the head of the ICRC office in Yerevan on Saturday. Authorities in Karabakh said afterwards that they are ready to closely cooperate with Red Cross representatives as soon as the fighting stops.