Explosions behind a ridge near Nagorno-Karabakh's capital Stepanakert on Thursday
Photo: Uncredited / dpa
After weeks of military conflict, three failed truces and new negotiations, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed on measures to ease the situation in the embattled Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Once again, however, nothing more than declarations of intent came out of the six-hour talks mediated by Russia, France and the USA in Geneva.
According to a joint communication by the foreign ministers, the states do not want to deliberately target the civilian population or civilian objects and exchange lists of prisoners of war within a week.
The aim may be an exchange of prisoners.
The bodies of killed soldiers are also to be recovered and exchanged.
For example, the International Red Cross should receive security guarantees.
The states exchange about mechanisms which are intended to ensure compliance with a ceasefire.
Even before the negotiations in Geneva, Azerbaijan had handed over 30 killed soldiers and officers to Armenia.
The Azerbaijani presidential adviser Hikmet Hajiyev announced on Thursday.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense in the capital Yerevan confirmed the receipt of the dead and signaled its readiness to hand over soldiers who were also killed to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan reports territorial gains
The heavy fighting has been going on since the end of September.
The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said more than 1,000 soldiers were killed.
With reference to martial law, Azerbaijan made no information about losses in its own military.
Azerbaijan reported further territorial gains in Nagorno-Karabakh that evening.
President Ilham Aliyev spoke on Friday in the short message service Twitter of nine villages in the south of the conflict region that his army had captured and that had previously been under Armenian control.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a fertile land.
"There is still a lot to do to restore the region," said Aliyev.
Most serious attacks since the beginning of the conflict
According to Armenian sources, the cities of Shuschi and Martakert were recently massively shot at.
Azerbaijan is committing "crimes against humanity," said the Armenian Foreign Ministry recently.
Regional President Arayik Harutyunyan addressed the population on Thursday evening in a video distributed via Facebook.
The "enemy" is only a few kilometers away from Shusha, "at most five kilometers," he said.
The aim of Azerbaijan is apparently to "take" the city.
Nagorno-Karabakh Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan spoke of the heaviest air strikes since the fighting began in late September.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been claiming Nagorno-Karabakh for decades: Azerbaijan lost control of the area with around 145,000 inhabitants in a war after the collapse of the Soviet Union around 30 years ago.
A fragile ceasefire has existed since 1994.
The region is controlled by Armenia, but under international law belongs to the Islamic Azerbaijan, which can rely on its "brother state" Turkey in the conflict.
Russia is the protecting power of Armenia.
Observers fear that the current conflict could escalate into a proxy war between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus.
According to official figures from both parties to the conflict, more than 1200 people, including more than 130 civilians, have been killed since the fighting began in September.
In fact, the number of deaths is likely to be significantly higher.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken of almost 5,000 dead in the fighting last week.
Icon: The mirror
fek / dpa / AFP