Azerbaijani forces continued to shell villages in Artsakh’s Askeran region on Friday, while Armenia’s Foreign Ministry signaled that it wanted to engage the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to negotiate a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.
The villages of Khramort, Park and Khnapat in Artsakh’s Askeran region came under heavy shelling by Azerbaijani forces, who used heavy firearms as they continued to violate the ceasefire.
“It is obvious that the regular attempts of targeting the civilian population and shelling the villages with mortars are primarily to cause panice,” Artsakh’s interior ministry said in a statement,
At around 10:20 a.m. local time on Friday, Azerbaijani forces fired two 120mm shells at Khnapat village in Askeran, hitting a school, Artsakh’s interior ministry said. No casualties were reported.
The Khnapat and Parukh villages in Askeran came under heavy shelling at around 4:21 p.m. local time Friday, with Azerbaijani forces firing three mortars at Khnapat and two at Parukh. No casualties were reported.
Elsewhere, Azerbaijani forces deployed near the Taghavard village in Artsakh Martuni region resorted to using bullhorns and loudspeakers to broadcast threatening messages, urging the residents to leave their homes and abandon the region.
Azerbaijani forces have been targeting the Askeran and Martuni regions since late last month, with raining a barrage of bullets on civilians and threatening them with more violence if they do not evacuate their villages.
Yet this overt breach of the ceasefire agreement did not stop Yerevan to seek what it called “peace talks” with Azerbaijan with the help of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan told Armenpress on Friday that Yerevan may soon apply to the co-chairs to initiate peace talks with Azerbaijan.
“The signing of the agreement surely should be preceded by a negotiation process. Since mutual statements have not yet developed into concrete negotiations, as the two countries do not have a vast experience of direct negotiations, Armenia will probably soon apply to the mediators—the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chais—to initiate peace negotiations with Azerbaijan. The issue is currently evolving,” Hunanyan said.
What can be deemed as tone-deaf remarks by Yerevan follow statements made by Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov who told reporters that Baku is ready to sign a peace treaty with Yerevan and “close the page on the history of the conflict.”
Khalafov added that the main priority of Azerbaijan is the restoration of transit links, “including the opening of the Nakhichevan railway.”
“We are ready to start the border demarcation process with Armenia without any preconditions,” Khalafov said.