Nagorno-Karabakh Death Toll Rises Despite Cease-Fire

The death toll continues to rise in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, despite a cease-fire and warnings of a humanitarian crisis. Ethnic Armenian officials in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region reported 17 military deaths on Monday, raising the military death toll to about 540 since renewed fighting started on Sept. 27. Azerbaijani authorities have not disclosed military fatalities, an indication the overall death toll may be much higher, but they reported on Monday at least 31 civilian deaths and hundreds of civilian injuries. The two countries have accused each other of violating a four-day-old Russian-brokered cease-fire, dimming chances that a peace agreement can be reached. Why is Azerbaijan Fighting?Azerbaijanis complain that UN Security Council resolutions requiring Armenian troops to leave all occupied territories have been ignored by officials in Armenian capital, YerevanAzerbaijani defense ministry spokesman Vagif Dargiahly accused Armenia’s military Tuesday of “grossly violating the humanitarian truce” by shelling Azeri territories of Goranboy, Aghdam and Terter. The accusation was denied by Armenian defense ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan, who said Azeri forces resumed operations after an overnight lull and were “supported by active artillery fire in the southern, northern, northeastern and eastern directions.” The International Committee of the Red Cross issued an emergency appeal Tuesday for an additional $10 million to fund its humanitarian efforts in the region. “We project that at least tens of thousands of people across the region will need support over the next few months,” said ICRC Eurasia Regional Director Martin Schuepp. The fighting is also causing the coronavirus to spread more quickly in both countries. U.N. spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said at a briefing in Geneva that new cases in Armenia doubled over the past two weeks as of Monday, while new cases soared about 80% in Azerbaijan over the past week. Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a cease-fire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after talks in Moscow. The truce is aimed at allowing both sides to exchange prisoners and recover the dead.   The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire. However, that independence is not internationally recognized. 

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