A crying woman in the window of a house during recent shelling in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh's province of Martuni. On September 27, clashes erupted between Armenian and Azeri forces along the line of contact in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo: AFP/Aram Nersesyan/Sputnik

A ceasefire agreed by Armenia and Azerbaijan came into effect on Saturday at noon local time (0800 GMT) after Moscow intervened to halt nearly two weeks of heavy fighting over Nagorno Karabakh. 

A Turkish-backed assault on the ethnic Armenian enclave began on September 27, sparking calls for a ceasefire from Russia, France, and the United States. The mountainous Karabakh legally sits within the borders of Azerbaijan, but has functioned as a Armenia-backed breakaway republic for nearly three decades.

Speaking after 11 hours of negotiations between the Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the warring sides had agreed to a “humanitarian” ceasefire, which would be followed by “substantive talks” over the disputed region.

During the ceasefire – mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross – the parties are to exchange dead bodies and prisoners, Lavrov said.

“Concrete parameters of the ceasefire will be agreed separately,” a statement said.

Russia’s top diplomat also said that Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to start seeking a lasting solution to the territorial dispute.

“Azerbaijan and Armenia begin substantive negotiations with the purpose of achieving a peaceful settlement as soon as possible,” Lavrov told reporters, adding that such talks will be mediated by the Minsk Group of international negotiators.

The Minsk group includes Russia, the United States and France, but not Turkey.

The power of Russian President Vladimir Putin to convene the top diplomats of the two former Soviet nations – seemingly overnight – marked a literal checkmate against Turkey.

– With AFP