Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to end weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh

Baku said on Monday it had seized dozens more settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, a day after proclaiming victory in the battle for the enclave’s strategically positioned second-largest city. (AP)
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Updated 10 November 2020

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to end weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh

YEREVAN: Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a deal with Russia to end weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, after a string of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed region.
The announcement of a full cease-fire from 1:00 am Tuesday (2100 GMT) sparked outrage in Armenia, with angry protesters storming the government headquarters in Yerevan where they ransacked offices and broke windows.
Crowds also seized control of parliament, calling from inside the chamber for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after he announced the “painful” deal to the end the fighting.
“I have signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on the termination of the Karabakh war,” Pashinyan said, calling the move “unspeakably painful for me personally and for our people.”
“I have taken this decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation,” he added.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said Pashinyan had been left with no choice but to sign the “historic agreement.”
“An iron hand forced him to sign this document,” Aliyev said in televised remarks. “This is essentially a capitulation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that both Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to “a total cease-fire” that would create the conditions for a long-term settlement of the conflict.
He said the two sides would hold on to areas under their control and that Russian peacekeepers would be deployed along frontlines and to secure a corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenian territory.
Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying 1,960 peacekeepers would be deployed with 90 armored vehicles.
Aliyev said Armenia had agreed to a timetable to withdraw its forces from large parts of the region and that Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey would be involved in implementing the cease-fire.
The deal would end six weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control during a bitter war in the 1990s.
The conflict — which has simmered for decades despite international efforts to reach a peace deal — erupted into fresh fighting in late September.
More than 1,300 people have been confirmed killed, including dozens of civilians, but the actual death toll is believed to be significantly higher.
Azerbaijani forces made steady gains over the weeks of fighting, sweeping across the southern flank of Nagorno-Karabakh and eventually into the region’s heartland.
A turning point came on Sunday when Aliyev announced that his forces had captured Shusha, the region’s strategically vital second-largest town.
Shusha sits on cliffs overlooking Nagorno-Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert and on the main road to Armenia, which backs the separatists.
Armenia insisted earlier on Monday that fighting for the town was continuing but a local separatist official admitted that Shusha was “completely out of our control.”
The cease-fire deal came just hours after Azerbaijan admitted to accidentally shooting down a Russian military helicopter flying in Armenia.
Moscow’s defense ministry said two crew members were killed when the Mi-24 helicopter was hit close to the border with Azerbaijan. A third crew member was injured and evacuated.
Azerbaijan quickly apologized and blamed the incident on the “tense situation in the region and increased combat readiness” of its forces.
The helicopter was shot down near the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan between Armenia and Turkey, far from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russia has a military pact with Armenia and a base in the country, but had insisted it would not get involved in the conflict with Azerbaijan unless Armenian territory itself came under threat.
Karabakh declared independence nearly 30 years ago but the declaration has not been recognized internationally, even by Armenia, and it remains a part of Azerbaijan under international law.
Repeated attempts at cease-fires brokered by France, Russia and the United States — who together lead the “Minsk Group” that has sought for years to end the conflict — repeatedly failed over the last few weeks.
Azerbaijan has been pushing for Turkey’s involvement in a settlement and the new deal came after Putin spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday.
Anger had already been mounting in Armenia ahead of the agreement, with 17 opposition parties on Monday calling on Pashinyan and the rest of his government to immediately resign.
The parties said in a statement that Armenia’s leaders bore “the entire responsibility for the situation” in Karabakh.
“The authorities have lost their moral and political basis to represent the people,” they said.


Police fire tear gas at Paris protest against police violence

Updated 28 November 2020

Police fire tear gas at Paris protest against police violence

  • The majority of the thousands of protesters marched peacefully, but several small groups clashed with police
  • The protests follow the publication this week of CCTV footage of the minutes-long beating of Black music producer Michel Zecler by three police officers in Paris

PARIS: Police fired tear gas and stun grenades during a protest march against police violence in Paris on Saturday after masked protesters launched fireworks at their lines, put up barricades and threw stones.
The majority of the thousands of protesters marched peacefully, but several small groups clashed with police. Two cars, a motorcycle and building materials were set on fire, which generated clouds of black smoke visible from miles away.
Thousands of people also marched in Lille, Rennes, Strasbourg and other cities.
The protests follow the publication this week of CCTV footage of the minutes-long beating of Black music producer Michel Zecler by three police officers in Paris on Nov. 21.
The incident has also fanned anger about a draft law that is seen as curbing the right of journalists to report on police brutality.
The bill would make it a crime to circulate images of police officers in certain circumstances, which opponents say would limit press freedom.
Many protesters carried placards with slogans like “Who will protect us from the police,” “Stop police violence” and “Democracy bludgeoned.”
The images of Zecler being beaten have circulated widely on social media and in the French and foreign press. President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday the images were shameful for France.
Four police officers are being held for questioning as part of an investigation into the beating.
“What is happening in Paris is extremely worrying and we cannot let this pass. I have spent two years with the yellow vests and I have seen all the violence,” demonstrator Caroline Schatz told Reuters at the Paris march.
The journalists’ organizations and civil liberty groups who organized the marches were joined by far-left militants, environmental activists and yellow vest protesters. The yellow vests have been protesting against government policies for two years.