Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed Saturday to a ceasefire and to begin "substantive talks" over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh after nearly two weeks of fierce clashes.
Bitter fighting in the Caucasus region has claimed hundreds of lives, forced thousands to flee, and stirred fears of a full-blown war that could suck in regional powers Turkey and Russia.
Speaking after 11 hours of Moscow-mediated talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the warring sides had agreed to a ceasefire from "12 hours 00 minutes on October 10 on humanitarian grounds."
Qatar welcomes ceasefire deal
Qatar has welcomed the agreement reached between Azerbaijan and Armenia providing for a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In a statement Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed Qatar's aspiration that the ceasefire declaration paves the way for resolving the dispute between the two countries through dialogue and diplomatic means in order to preserve the interests of the two countries and the two peoples.
The statement affirmed Qatar's support for the international efforts aimed at restoring security, stability and peace in the region. (QNA)
During the ceasefire -- mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross -- the parties will exchange bodies and prisoners, Lavrov said, reading from a statement.
"Concrete parameters of the ceasefire will be agreed separately," the statement added.
Russia's top diplomat also said that Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to start negotiating a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute.
"Azerbaijan and Armenia begin substantive negotiations with the purpose of achieving a peaceful settlement as soon as possible," Lavrov told reporters, adding that such talks would be mediated by France, Russia and the US.
Within minutes of the truce taking effect from midday, both sides accused each other of breaking it, raising questions about how meaningful the truce, brokered by Russia, would turn out to be.
The Moscow talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two since fighting over the mountainous enclave erupted on Sept. 27.
The enclave is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The Armenian defence ministry accused Azerbaijan of shelling a settlement inside Armenia, while ethnic Armenian forces in Karabakh alleged that Azeri forces had launched a new offensive five minutes after the truce took hold.
Azerbaijan said enemy forces in Karabakh were shelling Azeri territory.
Both sides have consistently denied each others' assertions in what has also become a war of words accompanying the fighting.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev told Russia's RBC news outlet that the warring parties were now engaged in trying to find a political settlement, but suggested there would be further fighting ahead.
"We'll go to the very end and get what rightfully belongs to us," he said.
Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said the truce would last only for as long as it took for the Red Cross to arrange the exchange of the dead.
Speaking at a briefing in Baku, he said Azerbaijan hoped and expected to take control of more territory in time.
Armenia's foreign ministry said it was using all diplomatic channels to try to support the truce, while Nagorno-Karabakh's foreign ministry accused Azerbaijan of using ceasefire talks as cover to ready military action.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who had mediated over 10 hours of talks, said in a statement early yesterday that the ceasefire had been agreed on humanitarian grounds.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it stood ready to facilitate the handover of bodies of those killed in action and the simultaneous release of detainees.
Lavrov said Armenia and Azerbaijan had also agreed to enter into what he called substantive peace talks.
Those talks would be held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, he said.
Azerbaijan has said it wants a change in the talks' format, has spoken of wanting to get Turkey involved too, and accused France of not being a neutral mediator.
Putin spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by phone about the deal, the Kremlin said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif said on Twitter the deal was a step towards peace.
Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said on Twitter that any peace talks were likely to fail and that Azerbaijan would continue to press for Armenian forces to leave the enclave, something Armenia would not accept.
Russia could not afford to step back, he said.
Renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to Europe.
The fighting is the worst since a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people and ended with a ceasefire that has been violated repeatedly.
Turkey welcomed the ceasefire deal but said much more was needed.
"The humanitarian ceasefire is a significant first step but will not stand for a lasting solution," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement."Turkey will continue to stand by Azerbaijan in the field and at the table".