Fighting has continued on Sunday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with both sides blaming each other for blocking a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling civilian settlements on Sunday, a claim that Baku denied.
Azerbaijan said it was ready to implement a ceasefire provided Armenia withdrew its forces.
The clashes yesterday and today in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted foreign ministers of both countries in a new peace push on Friday.
The collapse of two Russia-brokered truces had already dimmed the prospect of a quick end to fighting that broke out on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijani forces fired artillery on settlements in Askeran and Martuni in the night, while
Azerbaijan said its positions had been attacked with small arms, mortars, tanks, and howitzers.
“I am absolutely confident in the effectiveness of the peace negotiations but this also depends on the will of the Armenian side to take part in them,” said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.
“Why can Azerbaijani and Armenian people live together in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries but not in Nagorno Karabakh?” he added in a Fox News interview reprinted by the Azertag News Agency.
Armenian President Armen Sarkissian accused Baku of being “aggressively stubborn and destructive”.
On Sunday, the defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said it had recorded another 11 casualties among its forces, pushing the military death toll to 974 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted.
World powers want to prevent a wider war that draws in Turkey, which has voiced strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
Differences over the conflict have further strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies, with Pompeo accusing Turkey of fuelling the conflict by arming the Azerbaijani side. Ankara denies it has inflamed the conflict.
Armenian call for Russian involvement
Sarkissian, in comments reprinted by the Armenpress news agency, called on “global players” to step in immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire.
“In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia is a trusted and pro-active mediator between the conflicting sides. Russia plays a crucial role here,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s Aliyev said it was “very hazardous” for Armenia to want Russian military support in the conflict and that third parties should not get involved militarily.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hoped that the US would help Moscow broker a solution to the conflict.
Azerbaijan says 65 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed and 298 wounded but has not disclosed its military casualties.
About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-1994 war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenians regard the enclave as part of their historic homeland; Azeris consider it illegally occupied land that must be returned to their control.