Rights Activist Says Armenia-Azerbaijan Truce Has Failed
MOSCOW (AP) _ Human rights activist Yelena Bonner said today the truce between Armenians and Azerbaijanis has collapsed, with 30 people killed and 100 wounded since Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin mediated a peace plan.
″Blood is still being shed and people are being killed every day,″ Mrs. Bonner said in an open letter published in today’s editions of the radical newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Yeltsin and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev mediated in the ethnic dispute over the predominantly Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region that lies within Azerbaijan but is claimed by neighboring Armenia.
Leaders of the republics announced an agreement Sept. 24 for a cease-fire in fighting that has claimed more than 800 lives since 1988.
The conflict between mostly Christian Armenia and predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan dates back centuries, but flared anew in 1988 when the Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh said it wanted to unite with Armenia.
The agreement mediated by Yeltsin and Nazarbayev calls for the enclave to return to the autonomous status it held before January 1989, when its parliament was suspended.
Yeltsin and Nazarbayev agreed to act as guarantors of the agreement, but the extent of their responsibilities was not spelled out, and Russian and Kazakh monitors reportedly have had trouble starting their work.
Although both sides officially remain committed to implementing the truce agreement, Mrs. Bonner said in her letter to Yeltsin and Nazarbayev that the cease-fire was violated on the very first day, with six people killed.
She appealed to the two leaders as ″the last hope″ for ending the ethnic conflict.
Mrs. Bonner, who is of Armenian descent and is the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, said that since the agreement was announced, ″more than 30 people have been killed for all those days. About 100 people have been wounded.″
Villages have been shelled and more than 200 houses destroyed, she said. Hostages taken in the dispute have not been released in violation of the agreement, she added.
She blamed Azerbaijan for blocking food deliveries and said crops have been burned in the fields.