Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire hopes sink as death toll rises

Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire hopes sink as death toll rises
A burnt car is seen outside a hospital, which, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, was damaged during recent shelling by Azeri armed forces in Martakert. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 October 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire hopes sink as death toll rises

Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire hopes sink as death toll rises
  • Azeri President Ilham Aliyev demanded that Armenia "halt attempts to capture liberated territories back"
  • The Armenian prosecutor-general's office said Azeri drones had killed two soldiers in the Vardenis region of Armenia on Wednesday

BAKU/YEREVAN: Hopes of a humanitarian ceasefire ending fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh sank further on Thursday as the death toll mounted and Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of launching new attacks.
Armenia accused Turkey of blocking flights carrying emergency aid from using its airspace, and Azerbaijan's president warned of "new victims and new bloodshed" from fighting over the mountain enclave that broke out on Sept. 27.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev demanded that Armenia "halt attempts to capture liberated territories back" and said his country would take all regions of Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia "acts negatively."
Last Saturday's ceasefire, aimed at letting the sides swap detainees and bodies of those killed in the clashes, has had little impact on the fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
In the deadliest flare-up since a 1990s war killed about 30,000 people, 604 Nagorno-Karabakh defence personnel have been killed, ethnic Armenian authorities say.
On Thursday, three Azeri civilians were killed and three were wounded during a funeral in Azerbaijan's Terter region when an artillery shell fell on a cemetery, presidential aid Hikmet Hajiyev said on Twitter.
That would add to Azeri estimates provided on Wednesday that 43 civilians had so far been killed. Baku does not disclose military casualties. The prosecutor's office said earlier on Thursday that two civilians had been wounded in shelling of the Aghdam area.
The Armenian prosecutor-general's office said Azeri drones had killed two soldiers in the Vardenis region of Armenia on Wednesday, raising the Armenian military death toll to five. The servicemen were not involved in military action, it said.
A tweet from Nagorno-Karabakh's ombudsman accused Azerbaijan of using heavy rockets to target civilian infrastructure in the town of Stepanakert.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
International organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have warned that the conflict, coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, could leave tens of thousands of people in need of aid over coming months.
Zareh Sinanyan, Armenian High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, said the delivery of 100 tonnes of aid from the United States was being delayed as Turkey had prohibited Armenia-bound humanitarian aid flights over its airspace.
Armenia's civil aviation committee was told on Wednesday the Qatar Airways flight from Los Angeles was cancelled but gave no reasons, said the committee's head, Tatevik Revazyan.
"We have grounds to claim that Turkey closed the air route deliberately," Revazyan told Reuters, adding alternative routes over Russia or Georgia were being sought.
Turkey's foreign ministry, which handles airspace issues, was not immediately available to comment.
Aside from humanitarian concerns, fears are growing of Russia and Turkey being sucked in. Turkey's military exports to its ally Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, data shows, and Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.
In a phone call on Wednesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Russian leader Vladimir Putin expressed concerns about the participation of Middle East fighters in the conflict, though Turkey and Azerbaijan deny the presence of such fighters.
The fighting is also close to Azeri pipelines which carry natural gas and oil to international markets. Aliyev accused Armenia on Wednesday of trying to attack the pipelines, a charge that Armenia denied.


Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries
Updated 21 January 2021

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

BUCHAREST/PRAGUE/SOFIA: Pfizer has slashed in half the volume of COVID-19 vaccines it will deliver to some EU countries this week, government officials said on Thursday, as frustration over the US drugmaker’s unexpected cut in supplies grows.
Romania will get 50% of its planned volume this week and supplies will only improve gradually, with deliveries not returning to normal until the end of March, Deputy Health Minister Andrei Baciu told Reuters.
It was a similar situation in Poland which on Monday received 176,000 doses, a drop of around 50% from what was expected, authorities said.
The Czech government was bracing for the disruption to last weeks, slowing its vaccination campaign just as the second dose of vaccinations get under way.
“We have to expect that there will be a reduction in the number of open vaccination appointments in the following three weeks,” Health Minister Jan Blatny told reporters on Thursday, with Pfizer deliveries falling by about 15% this week and as much as 30% for the following two weeks.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have declined to comment on the cuts beyond their statement last week, which announced cuts to deliveries as they ramp up manufacturing in Europe.
Some countries reckon they can handle it. Norway has an emergency stockpile and will continue administering doses as planned, the government’s public health body said.
The US drugmaker has told Bulgaria and Poland it will replace missing doses, top officials said.
But Denmark’s Serum Institute said its 50% loss of shots this week would lead to a 10% shortfall for the first quarter.
With governments across the region still reeling from the surprise cuts, officials say the reductions are undermining their efforts to inoculate their citizens and tame the pandemic which has killed more than 2 million people.
On Wednesday, Italy threatened legal action against Pfizer.
In Hungary, where the authorities gave the go ahead for the use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines ahead of the EU drug regulator, a senior official called on Brussels to try and ensure deliveries from Pfizer and other vaccine makers would stick to schedule.
“We would be happy if the (European) Commission could take steps as soon as possible to ensure that Pfizer and other manufacturers would change deliveries,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said.
The problem has spread to countries outside the trading bloc too — Canada is facing delays as is Switzerland, where the mountain canton of Grisons got only 1,000 shots from Pfizer this week, far short of the 3,000 it had been anticipating.