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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan approve ceasefire

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed a temporary ceasefire in the conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreement just before 03:00 local time (01:00 BST), following 10 hours of talks in Moscow.

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The two countries will now begin “substantive” talks, he said.

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More than 300 people have died and thousands displaced since the latest violence in the long-running conflict broke out on 27 September.

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The hostilities will be halted from midday (08:00 GMT) on Saturday, to allow an exchange of prisoners and the recovery of dead bodies.

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Nagorno-Karabakh is run by ethnic Armenians although it is officially part of Azerbaijan.

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The two former Soviet republics have blamed each other for the latest outbreak of violence – the worst in decades.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and both are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alliance.

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However, Moscow also has good relations with Azerbaijan.

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What’s the latest on the ground?

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On Friday the Armenian defence ministry said fighting continued through the day, despite the talks being held in Moscow.

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On Thursday, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deliberately shelling a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh. Pictures showed serious damage at the Holy Saviour Cathedral in Shusha city (known as Shushi in Armenian).

At the same time, Azerbaijan said that its second-largest city, Ganja, and the region of Goranboy had been shelled by Armenian forces, with at least one civilian killed.

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Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of a “genocide” in the region, and said it was “Armenia, land of Armenians”.

The clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population – about 70,000 people – officials said.

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The region’s main city, Stepanakert, has suffered several days of shelling with residents sheltering in basements and much of the city left without power.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire. However, they never reached a settlement in the dispute.

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