A ceasefire agreed by Armenia and Azerbaijan has come into effect at noon local time (08:00 GMT) to end nearly two weeks of heavy fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Officials in the disputed region and Azerbaijani forces accused each other of firing missiles and rockets on civilian areas on Saturday morning, shortly before the ceasefire was due to start.
The ceasefire was agreed upon after nearly 10 hours of “substantive” talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier on Saturday.
Russia’s top diplomat said the Red Cross would act as an intermediary in the humanitarian operation once the ceasefire comes into effect.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Moscow, Alexsandra Stojanovich-Godfroid, said the agreement was for a “humanitarian ceasefire”.
We have to “wait to see whether this ceasefire will really happen as agreed, if it will come down to the exchange of prisoners, and if the parties are really willing to return to the negotiating table to solve this decades long conflict,” she said.
Under the international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
But ethnic Armenians, who make up the vast majority of the population, reject the Azerbaijani rule and have been running their own affairs with Armenia’s support since a devastating war in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
At least 30,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes before an an internationally-brokered ceasefire was agreed in 1994.
Clashes ahead of ceasefire
Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabkh’s ombudsman Artak Beglaryan said Azerbaijan fired missiles on civilian areas of its main city Stepanakert, which has been under regular rocket and artillery fire.
“Baku uses the same style of #WarCrimes by the very last moment,” Artak Beglaryan said on Twitter, adding that there was no information yet on casualties.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling civilian areas of the country.
“Armenian armed forces are intensively shelling populated areas in Geranboy, Terter, Agdam, Agjaberdi, and Fizuli districts. Azerbaijan is taking reciprocal measures,” the ministry said in a statement.
At least 300 people have been reported killed in the fighting, which broke out on September 27 and is the most serious in the territory since clashes in 2016 left dozens dead.
The 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.
Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Al Jazeera that Nagorno-Karabakh was a “complex issue” for Russia, noting that it was already at loggerheads with Turkey in Syria and Libya.
“There’s a real risk this could become a proxy war,” he said.