Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to halt hostilities in contested Nagorno-Karabakh after marathon talks in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. The armistice is set to take effect at noon on October 10.
The agreement was reached at the trilateral consultations involving the foreign ministers of the two warring parties, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Lavrov, who acted as a mediator. The negotiations lasted some 10 hours and wrapped up in the early hours of Saturday local time.
Baku and Yerevan agreed to suspend all military actions, starting at noon on Saturday, for “humanitarian” reasons. The pause in fighting will allow for captured prisoners to be swapped and the bodies of soldiers fallen on the frontlines to be exchanged, Lavrov told the media.
The Red Cross will help to facilitate the exchanges.
Lavrov indicated that the deal is meant to serve as a stepping stone to a lasting peace, adding that the warring sides will embark on negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group to “reach peaceful resolution” of the conflict.
“The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group are starting meaningful negotiations to reach peaceful resolution [of the conflict] based on the basic settlement principles as soon as possible,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
The exact parameters of the ceasefire are still being fleshed out, according to Lavrov.
The talks were held after both sides accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to Moscow. The Russian leader called on Baku and Yerevan to cease hostilities and return to negotiations on Thursday.
The invitation came after Putin held several rounds of calls with both Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Earlier, Russia, together with France and the US – which are all co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) so-called Minsk mediation group on Nagorno-Karabakh – repeatedly called on both sides to return to the negotiating table.
The conflict between the two neighbors has been raging since September 27 when both sides engaged in heavy fighting. The breakout of violence was caused by a longstanding dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh – an Armenian-populated region recognized as part of Azerbaijan’s territory. The clashes, which have seen the use of heavy artillery and air strikes, have led to multiple military and civilian casualties.