Armenia and Azerbaijan Agree to Cease-Fire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a cease-fire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region beginning at noon Saturday.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the announcement in Moscow in the early hours Saturday after mediating 10 hours of talks between the two sides.The agreement stated the truce would allow both sides to exchange prisoners and recover the dead. Lavrov said the cease-fire should pave the way for further talks on the settlement of the conflict.The talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were held following an invitation by Russian President Vladimir Putin after nearly two weeks of fighting.On Friday, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for an “urgent cease-fire” in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing a heavy toll on civilians.“It is deeply worrying that in recent days we have seen populated areas reportedly targeted and shelled with heavy weaponry in and around the conflict area,” Bachelet said in a statement.Bachelet’s office said it has received unconfirmed reports that more than 50 civilians, including children, have been killed since the fighting erupted on Sept. 27.The fighting has also claimed the lives of about 400 soldiers and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.Armenian and Azerbaijani forces had previously ignored calls in the past two weeks by the United States, France and Russia for an immediate cease-fire, as fighting escalated to levels not seen since the 1990s.The three countries co-chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group, which is trying to find a peaceful solution.The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire.Peace efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, mediated by the Minsk Group, collapsed in 2010. 

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