Renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens US-backed truce

Renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens US-backed truce
Armenia’s defense ministry said Azerbaijani forces had “grossly violated” the cease-fire with artillery fire on combat positions in various parts of the frontline. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 October 2020

Renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens US-backed truce

Renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens US-backed truce
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote earlier on his Facebook page that the Armenian side “continued to adhere to the cease-fire”

BAKU/YEREVAN: Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of violating a new US-brokered cease-fire in fighting over the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, casting doubt over the prospects of the latest international push to end a month of clashes.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address that he wanted to resolve the conflict “by political and military means” and reiterated a demand that ethnic Armenian forces must agree to leave the region for fighting to stop.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote earlier on his Facebook page that the Armenian side “continued to adhere to the cease-fire.”

The latest fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, erupted on Sept. 27 and is the worst in the South Caucasus since the 1990s. Hundreds have been killed and two Russian-brokered cease-fires have failed to hold.

World powers want to prevent a wider war that might draw in Turkey, which has voiced strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia. The conflict has also strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies. A third cease-fire since Oct. 10 was agreed to on Sunday after separate talks in Washington between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

Within minutes of its coming into force at 8 a.m. local time (0400 GMT), Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that Armenian forces had shelled villages in the Terter and Lachin regions, located at opposite ends of the conflict zone.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh denied this: The Defense Ministry said Azeri forces fired missiles on Armenian positions on the northeastern side on the line of contact and the Foreign Ministry said Azeri warplanes had violated the cease-fire.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Azeri side violated the truce at around 9:10 a.m. local time.

Pompeo has since left Washington, landing on Monday in India on the first leg of a five-day Asian trip. 

Armenians regard Nagorno-Karabakh as part of their historic homeland; Azeris consider it illegally occupied land that must be returned to their control. About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-94 war over the enclave.

Aliyev, in his address, criticized the OSCE Minsk Group that was formed to mediate the conflict. The group, led by France, Russia and the US, participated in Sunday’s talks and its co-chairs have agreed to meet again with the two foreign ministers in Geneva on Oct. 29.

“For almost 30 years, the Minsk Group co-chairs have tried to reconcile Azerbaijan with the process of freezing the conflict, but we have created a new reality,” Aliyev said. “We are fed up with these negotiations. How long can you negotiate?”


UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 17 January 2021

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers

LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.