Nagorno-Karabakh Says Military Death Toll Rises Despite Cease-Fire

BAKU/YEREVAN -- Military authorities in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh say 11 more soldiers have died in fighting with Azerbaijani forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

According to a list released by the military's press service on November 2, those killed included a deputy commander of Nagorno-Karabakh's Defense Army, Colonel Artur Sarkisian. The military death toll for the enclave is now at 1,177 since the clashes erupted on September 27, it added.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev meanwhile said on Twitter on November 2 that his country's forces have taken control of another eight villages during the operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Separately, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said on November 2 that several civilian settlements in the Tartar region inside Azerbaijan had been shelled by Armenian troops.

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population, reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops were pushed out of the region in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.

Aliyev said on November 2 that Azerbaijan is ready to end hostilities if Armenia pledges to pull its forces out of Nagorno-Karabakh, a day after reiterating that Azerbaijani troops would "go to the end" if negotiations cannot achieve that goal.

Armenia has a security guarantee from Russia via the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly requested support from Moscow since the current flare-up started.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on October 31 that it would provide "all assistance required" if the conflict spilled onto "the territory of Armenia" -- land that is outside the current conflict zone.

Pashinian on November 2 called for an international inquiry into the alleged participation of mercenaries from Syria and Libya on Azerbaijan's side in the conflict.

"This issue should be the subject of an international inquiry," Pashinian said on Facebook.

Both Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey, have denied the involvement of mercenaries in the hostilities.

Many of both sides' claims and counterclaims around the fighting are difficult to confirm.

The latest fighting began September 27, escalating quickly to involve heavy artillery, rockets, and drones.

Russia has estimated as many as 5,000 deaths on both sides.

The United States, France, and Russia -- cochairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- have failed to find a route to a cease-fire or a longer-term resolution of the dispute.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 27 spoke separately by phone with Pashinian and Aliyev, urging both sides to pursue a diplomatic solution but a U.S.-mediated cease-fire that took effect on October 26 collapsed just hours later just like two previous truces mediated by Russia and France.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax