Fighting Over Nagorno-Karabakh Continues As Negotiations Falter

BAKU/YEREVAN -- Azerbaijan and Armenia have both reported fresh fighting in and around the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, with each side laying blame on the other as hopes for a resumption of cease-fire negotiations between the two sides dwindled.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said Armenian forces continued to launch strikes on Azerbaijani towns and villages on November 5.

"During the day on November 4 and overnight into November 5, Armenian armed forces fired from different directions at the frontline positions of Azerbaijani Army units and at human settlements with various small arms, howitzers, and mortars," it said.

The de facto defense ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh, meanwhile, said it had thwarted an attempt by Azerbaijani forces to mount an offensive in the eastern sector of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.

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.

"Today, at 10:30 a.m., the enemy tried to launch an offensive using armored vehicles in the eastern sector. As a result of the measures taken by the Armenian side, the Azerbaijani forces were repelled leaving behind one armored vehicle, one truck, and a large number of bodies," it said.

At the same time, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities accused Azerbaijan of launching artillery bombardments on civilian targets in the cities of Martuni and Shushi (known as Susa in Azeri), a strategic town overlooking the region’s capital, Stepanakert. No casualties were reported.

Six weeks into a major flare-up in the decades-old conflict, regional powers including Russia were said to be considering ways to encourage a halt in fighting that is thought to have killed thousands of people, including many civilians.

Russia brokered the first of the three humanitarian cease-fires to halt ongoing military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 10. However, that cease-fire, as well as the two other agreements brokered by France and the United States later last month, collapsed within hours after entering into force.

President Vladimir Putin said on November 4 that Russia "is doing everything in its power to make sure that the conflict in the South Caucasus ends as soon as possible."

"We maintain contact with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. I hope that we will manage to achieve results on a basis acceptable to all those living in the region," Putin said at a meeting with religious leaders.

However, Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian told a press briefing in Yerevan on November 5 that, while the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that oversees efforts to negotiate a solution to the conflict is continuing its regular activity, no direct high-level contacts are being envisaged.

"No meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for negotiating the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is being planned at present," Mnatsakanian said.

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

Both parties to the conflict have reported casualties, among them civilians. Russia has estimated as many as 5,000 deaths on both sides.

With reporting by Interfax and TASS