Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to cease fire

By CNN Staff Writer

Yerevan, Armenia (CNN) — Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a ceasefire to allow aid to enter an Armenian-held town where thousands are sheltering, the Armenian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan said the agreement came following several hours of negotiation Wednesday night between his government and the Azerbaijani government.

He said the agreement came after discussions, on behalf of Armenia, were conducted with the leadership of the Russia-brokered ceasefire monitoring center that began after violence erupted over land and refugee camps along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border over a week ago.

His statement did not make any reference to reports that the ceasefire agreement might include the withdrawal of troops from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is located in Azerbaijan.

More than a dozen countries have observer missions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded blame over who started the fighting and whether it involved foreign troops.

In Washington on Wednesday, the Obama administration said that war or peace was possible between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the near future, and for both sides to withdraw their forces from disputed lands.

In an interview with CNN, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was attempting to avoid armed conflict.

The conflict has become the mother of all thorny Middle East conflicts, Psaki said.

“It is time for the parties to do what the majority of people want them to do: put aside their differences, get a political solution to resolve this conflict and also allow for assistance to be distributed to be brought in, people to be able to leave this area.”

She said there are civilians in need of medical care, shelter and supplies, and she expressed concern that supplies could run out.

The United States is pushing hard for an end to the fighting, Psaki said.

“We want people to be safe, we want civilians to be given the opportunity to leave the conflict area, and we want people to be able to receive assistance that is needed to survive and get back on their feet,” she said.

The escalating confrontation between the two countries escalated Monday when armed forces clashed in the neighboring region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

CNN’s Rose Arce was in Khankendi and has a report on the violence there.

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