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Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to ceasefire: Russian Foreign Minister

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Armenia and Azerbaijan Friday agreed to a ceasefire to exchange prisoners and bodies of those killed in the fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced after marathon talks in Moscow.

After 10 hours of talks with his Armenian and Azeri Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov, announced that the ceasefire will begin on Saturday at 3 a.m.(midnight GMT). He added that International Red Cross Committee would act as an intermediary in the humanitarian operation.

Lavrov also said Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to start talks on the settlement of the conflict. He did not provide details on the talks but said the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group would mediate.

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov did not speak to reporters, Reuters said.

Reuters quoted Russia's RIA news agency as reporting, Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev said on Friday that principles to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which had been put forward by the United States, Russia and France, should form the basis for a settlement.

France, Russia and the United States, co-chair of the Minsk Group, launched a peace drive at a meeting in Geneva on Thursday. The details of the initiative have not been made public.

The fighting continued on Friday even as the Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian foreign ministers held the talks in Moscow.

Azerbaijan said on Friday that 31 Azeri civilians had been killed and 168 wounded since Sept. 27. It has not disclosed information about military casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh said 376 of its military personnel and 22 civilians had been killed since the beginning of the conflict.

The Minsk Group

The Minsk trio has chosen a position that clearly defends Armenia's ongoing occupation, contrary to their own principles. Thus, while the Minsk Group has made no contribution to Armenia on the ground, it has also reduced itself to an unacceptable interlocutor for Azerbaijan at the table, the Turkish daily Sabah said Friday.

For 27 years, neither the U.N. nor the Minsk Group - founded by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States - have been able to produce any solution to end the occupation by Armenia, Al Sabah said adding: For this reason, the international community's call for an end to the conflict is neither fair nor productive. The calls should be aimed at ensuring that Armenia leaves the occupied territories. Indeed, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "conflicts are not taking place on Armenian territory."

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan was quoted as saying: "The international community, which has failed to give a necessary and sufficient response to the provocative aggression of Armenia, once again shows its double standards. The Minsk trio, which has maintained its negligent attitude for about 30 years, unfortunately, is very far from being solution-oriented." He pointed out the need for a different diplomatic dynamic in order to resolve the issue.

Without the U.S., there will be no peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The United States should be playing a leading role in negotiations to end the conflict. So far, unfortunately, it is leaving the initiative to others, Jason Rezaian, wrote in the Washington Post Friday.

Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist who served as Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post, went on to say: The constellation of foreign powers hovering around the conflict does not bode well for the people of Armenia or Azerbaijan, nor for the stability of the region. Even more disconcerting is the apparent unwillingness of the United States to play an active role in diplomacy around the issue, which it is meant to spearhead along with France and Russia. In such a volatile part of the world, maintaining peace and limiting the footprint of those local powers should be a strategic priority of the United States. But so far the Trump administration has restricted itself to a few pro forma statements.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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