A Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on Sunday a day after it was agreed, with Azerbaijan and Armenia accusing each other of serious violations and crimes against civilians, Reuters reported.
The ceasefire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow advocated by President Vladimir Putin, was meant to halt fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeri forces to swap prisoners and war dead.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of heavily shelling a residential area in Ganja, its second largest city, in the early hours of the morning, and of hitting an apartment building, the news agency said.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of also launching an unsuccessful rocket attack on an Azeri hydro-electric power station in Mingachevir. Ethnic Armenian forces in Karabakh denied the assertion.
The Armenian defense ministry called the allegations "an absolute lie" and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell populated areas inside Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region's biggest city Reuters said.
The European Union's diplomatic chief Sunday expressed his deep concern over reports of violations of the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"We note with extreme concern the reports of continued military activities, including against civilian targets, as well as civilian casualties," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
Pope Francis deplored Sunday the fragile truce between warring neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Speaking after the Angelus prayer in Rome, the pontiff welcomed the ceasefire, but added: "The truce proves to be too fragile," the Vatican news service said.
The Pope urged regional leaders to resolve the conflict "not through the use of force and arms, but through the means of dialogue and negotiation," it added.
ICRC says ready to facilitate support in Karabakh
Zara Amatuni from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the humanitarian impact of the current conflict "is immense."
"We are in regular discussions with [both] sides about the nature of our involvement," Amatuni told Al Jazeera.
"However, for now, the date for the operation to begin is in the hands of the sides, and the ICRC stands ready to facilitate support in their humanitarian obligations to release the detainees, on the one hand, on the other, to return the human remains so that the families can bury their loved ones with dignity.
"We've been hearing reports [of] shelling on both sides of the line of contact, which has not allowed us to get involved in any kind of agreement, or attempt for humanitarian operation.
"We are talking now of at least tens of thousands of people that will be needing assistance in the next few months to be able to cope with the toll taken on them because of the surge in violence."
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