Stepanakert, Azerbaijan - Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of violating a new ceasefire on Sunday, as they tried for the second time in a week to bring a halt to fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The former Soviet neighbours agreed to a truce from midnight following a push by international mediators for a stop to three weeks of heavy clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke from Azerbaijan’s control in the 1990s.
A previous ceasefire agreed a week ago fell apart amid mutual accusations and continued fighting that has left hundreds dead and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
The new ceasefire deal was announced after one of the deadliest attacks on civilians so far on Saturday, when a missile strike hit a residential area of Azerbaijan’s second city Ganja, killing 13 people including small children.
The two sides have described the agreement as a ‘humanitarian truce’ to allow for the exchange of prisoners and bodies.
Armenia’s Defence Ministry said Azerbaijani forces had violated the new ceasefire only minutes after it took effect, firing artillery shells and rockets in the early hours of Sunday.
Its Foreign Ministry said Azerbaijan had also launched an attack in a southern area of the Karabakh frontline ‘demonstrating to the international community its treacherous nature, which we have been dealing with for decades’.
Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry accused Armenian forces of firing artillery and mortar shells in various directions and of launching early-morning attacks along the frontline.
Armenia was in ‘gross violation’ of the ceasefire and showing ‘open disrespect’ for the efforts of international mediators, the Foreign Ministry in Baku said.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a bitter conflict over Karabakh since Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous province in a 1990s war that left 30,000 people dead.
The region's declaration of independence has not been recognised by any country, even Armenia, and it is still part of Azerbaijan under international law.
The fighting that broke out three weeks ago has been the heaviest since a 1994 ceasefire and has threatened to draw in regional powers Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a military alliance with Armenia.
An AFP journalist in Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert
heavy artillery and rocket fire during the fighting and most of its residents have fled to Armenia.
It was shelled again late on Friday and a few hours later the missile strike hit Ganja in Azerbaijan, levelling a row of houses and leaving 13 dead and more than 45 people injured.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham