The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry has said the Armenian army opened fire on the cities of Goranboy, Tartar, and Barda with cannon balls and missiles.

Azerbaijan's national flag flies over destroyed houses in a residential area that was hit by rocket fire overnight by Armenian forces, October 22, 2020 in Ganja, Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan's national flag flies over destroyed houses in a residential area that was hit by rocket fire overnight by Armenian forces, October 22, 2020 in Ganja, Azerbaijan. (AP)

Azerbaijan and Armenia have exchanged more accusations of shelling, with fighting over the Yerevan-occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in its fifth week and largely unhindered by a US-brokered ceasefire that was announced over the weekend.

Azerbaijan said Armenia of a missile strike on a village in its Barda region near the frontline with occupied Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday that killed four people, but Yerevan denied carrying out any attack.

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said that a toddler was among the dead and that 13 people were wounded, accusing Armenia of an "indiscriminate and targeted attack against civilians".

"In violation of humanitarian ceasefire and in order to compensate their sustained military losses, Armenia resorts to war crimes of killing civilians," Hajiyev said in English on Twitter.

Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan denied the claim, saying no missile was fired towards Barda by the forces of Armenia or by Armenian separatists in occupied Karabakh.

"The statement of the Azerbaijani side about an alleged rocket attack... is an absolute lie and a dirty provocation," she said on Twitter.

Harutyunyan hit by UAV strike

Meanwhile, the so-called defence minister of Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh reportedly relieved of duties after being "wounded" in combat.

It is also reported by local media that Jalal Harutyunyan, accused by Baku of committing war crimes in the occupied-Karabakh, was successfully targeted and hit by UAV strike.

READ MORE: Violations reported as new ceasefire comes into force in Nagorno-Karabakh

'False and provocative'

The Armenian military accused Azerbaijani forces of firing at Armenian border guard positions on the country's southern border with Iran. “The Armenian side has already retaliated,” Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Stepanyan said.

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry rejected the statement as “false and provocative."

It, in turn, accused Armenian forces of shelling the Azerbaijani town of Tartar and surrounding villages, and targeting areas of the Zangilan region with mortars.

Military forces occupying Nagorno-Karabakh also reported clashes in several sectors.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other for violating the truce that took effect on Monday. Azerbaijani officials charged later in the day that Armenian forces fired rockets at the Goranboy, Tartar and Barda regions of Azerbaijan. 

The ceasefire was agreed upon on Sunday after talks facilitated by the United States and came after two failed attempts by Russia to broker a lasting truce in the flare-up of a decades-old conflict.

READ MORE: Humanitarian ceasefire to come into force on Monday in Nagorno-Karabakh

US calls for diplomatic solution

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday, pressing each of them to abide by the ceasefire and pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

The latest fighting, which began September 27 has involved heavy artillery, rockets and drones, in the largest escalation of hostilities over the separatist region in the quarter-century since the war ended.

Russia, the United States and France have co-chaired the so-called Minsk Group set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to mediate in the conflict, but their attempts could not solve the problem for almost 30 years.

READ MORE: US hosts occupied-Karabakh talks aimed to end conflict

Number of casualties

According to the military forces occupying Nagorno-Karabakh, 1,009 of their troops and 39 civilians have been killed in the clashes so far, while 122 civilians have been wounded.

Azerbaijani authorities haven’t disclosed their military losses, but say the fighting has killed at least 65 civilians and wounded nearly 300.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that, according to Moscow’s information, the death toll from the fighting was nearing 5,000, significantly higher than what both sides report.

The new ceasefire deal brokered by the US came out of negotiations Washington facilitated over the weekend involving the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and co-chairs of the Minsk Group.

The Minsk Group's co-chairs are set to meet with the two foreign ministers in Geneva on Thursday, but it remains unclear whether the talks would yield any progress.

Armenian forces must withdraw - Aliyev

Aliyev has said that, to end hostilities, Armenian forces must withdraw from occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. He has insisted that Azerbaijan has the right to reclaim its territory by force since international mediators have failed.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Aliyev said that Azerbaijani forces have retaken control over several areas in and around occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.

His statement couldn't be independently verified, and officials in Armenia and forces in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh have rejected some of Aliyev's earlier claims of territorial gains. 

However, on Monday night Armenian defence ministry spokesman Artsrun Ovannisian said that Azerbaijan took control of the town of Gubadli and acknowledged that Azerbaijani forces also “made advances in some directions.”

In an interview released on Monday, Aliyev once again took aim at the Minsk Group, accusing its co-chairs of not achieving results in 28 years and working on “freezing the conflict" instead of resolving it, offering “just promises, just bureaucratic procedures.”

READ MORE: Azerbaijan recaptures more villages from occupation

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of violating third ceasefire

The Armenian army has opened fire on Azerbaijani soldiers and settlements in violation of the latest ceasefire.

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that clashes continued in the Hocavend and Fuzuli border regions as well as in the city of Gubadli, part of Azerbaijan's territory that has been under the occupation of Armenians since 1991.

The Azerbaijani army repelled the attacks, the statement added, destroying the 18th motorised infantry division of the Armenian army and killing a number of soldiers.

The first ceasefire, reached on October 10, was violated within 24 hours.

A truce on October 17, brokered by Russia, also did not hold.

Turkish, Russian diplomats discuss Karabakh

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke via telephone with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday and discussed the situation in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, according to diplomatic sources.

Four UN Security Council resolutions and two by the UN General Assembly, as well as international organisations, demand the "immediate complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces" from the occupied Azerbaijani territory.

Turkish Foreign Ministry also strongly condemned Armenia over inhumane attacks on civilians in Azerbaijan. 

Protracted conflict

Ties between Baku and Yerevan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan. 

About 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A ceasefire, however, was agreed to in 1994.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan: Int'l community should impose sanctions on Armenia

Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organisations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

World powers, including Russia and the US, have called for the cessation of hostilities. 

Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defence and says it will send troops if Azerbaijan makes the request.

READ MORE: Turkey says it will send troops to help Azerbaijan if requested

READ MORE: Azerbaijan continues to liberate its territories from Armenia in Karabakh

Source: TRTWorld and agencies