Sunday, Aliyev Sets Conditions For Karabakh Ceasefire • Naira Bulghadarian NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Ethnic Armenian soldiers stand at a fighting position on the frontline, October 21, 2020 Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that Baku is ready to halt hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia accepts a framework peace accord put forward by the United States, Russia and France. “We are ready today to negotiate a ceasefire,” he told the Fox News TV network in an interview publicized by his office on Sunday. “But at the same time, Armenia, its prime minister must say that they support the basic principles [of a Karabakh settlement] drafted by the U.S., Russia and France.” Aliyev said that Armenia should agree to “substantive” negotiations on those principles calling for a phased resolution of the Karabakh conflict. He claimed that Yerevan has “imitated” such talks until now. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian dismissed Aliyev’s statement. Mane Gevorgian said that the current Armenian government has always expressed readiness to seek a compromise-based solution in contrast to Baku’s “maximalist” stance. AZERBAIJAN -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev gestures as he addresses the nation in Baku, October 20, 2020 In separate comments to the Sputinik news agency, Gevorgian said that Yerevan is “committed” to seeking a peace deal that would be based on the principles cited by Aliyev. “Armenia is prepared for a ceasefire and a negotiating process,” she said. The warring sides twice reached ceasefire agreements brokered by Russia and France earlier this month. The large-scale fighting in the conflict zone has continued since then, however, with each side accusing the other of violating the agreements. The Russian-mediated deal also committed Baku and Yerevan to “embarking on substantive negotiations with the aim of rapidly achieving a peaceful settlement.” It said the talks will focus on the “basic principles” that were first drafted by the U.S., Russian and French mediators over a decade ago. “Their essence is known: a phased liberation of districts around Karabakh while observing security guarantees for Karabakh and ensuring a reliable link between Armenia and Karabakh until determining the final status of Karabakh,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 14. Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits a military hospital in Yerevan where soldiers wounded during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh are treated, October 23, 2020. The conflicting parties reported on Sunday continued fighting and shelling of civilian areas on either side of the Karabakh “line of contact.” Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said 11 more of its soldiers have been killed in action, raising to 971 the total number of combat deaths within its ranks. The Azerbaijani army has still not disclosed its combat casualties. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that as many as 5,000 soldiers from both sides have died since the outbreak of the war on September 27. The hostilities continued despite what U.S. President Donald Trump described on Friday as “good progress” in U.S. efforts to restore a ceasefire regime. Trump spoke shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held separate walks in Washington with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. The ministers also met with Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser. “In my meeting with Azerbaijani FM [Jeyhun Bayramov] I pressed for an immediate ceasefire, then a return to Minsk Group-facilitated negotiations with Armenia and rejection of outside actors further destabilizing the situation,” O’Brien said afterwards. Armenian Hospitals Overwhelmed With COVID-19 Patients • Karlen Aslanian Armenia -- A healthcare worker in protective gear tends to a COVID-19 patient at the Surp Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, Yerevan, June 5, 2020. Armenian hospitals are increasingly struggling to cope with the pandemic due to a continuing surge in new coronavirus infections, Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned on Sunday. A resurgence in cases officially registered in Armenia began in mid-September and accelerated after the outbreak on September 27 of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian Ministry of Health reported in the morning that 2,314 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, compared with 1,371 cases registered on October 15. It had reported 850 single-day cases during the previous peak of the pandemic in late June. The ministry also reported 23 more deaths caused by the disease, bringing the official death toll from COVID-19 to 1,180. As of Sunday morning, there were 25,412 active coronavirus cases in the country of about 3 million. More than 800 of these patients are hospitalized in a serious or critical condition, Torosian said, adding that about 450 others are awaiting hospitalization. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, the minister said that the health authorities are now scrambling to increase the nationwide hospital capacity to deal with the increased influx of infected people. He said that Armenian hospitals may soon be unable to treat all patients in urgent need of life-saving medical aid if the spread of the disease continues unabated. “If we are unable to hospitalize everyone there may be [coronavirus-related] deaths outside hospitals,” Torosian warned. He again pleaded with Armenians to wear masks and follow other safety rules set by the government. Many people stopped taking these precautions after the start of the deadly war that has overshadowed the pandemic. Torosian acknowledged that the continuing war has contributed to the second wave of COVID-19 infections. “I don’t know to what extent, but it has definitely aggravated the situation,” he said. U.S. ‘Pushing’ Azerbaijan To Stop Karabakh Fighting US-POLITICS-PRESS BRIEFING The United States is pressing Azerbaijan to agree to a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Sunday. "Under the president’s direction, we have spent the entire weekend trying to broker peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia has accepted a ceasefire. Azerbaijan has not yet,” O’Brien told CBS. “We are pushing them [Azerbaijan] to do so,” he said. U.S. President Donald Trump also commented on the Karabakh war as he spoke at an election campaign rally in New Hampshire. “Armenia, they are incredible people, they are fighting like hell and … we’re going to get something done,” he said. “We’ll get that sorted out … I call that an easy one,” Trumped added, referring to the fighting. He did not elaborate. O’Brien and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately met with the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers in Washington on Friday as part of international efforts to stop the month-long war over Karabakh. “In my meeting with Azerbaijani FM [Jeyhun Bayramov] I pressed for an immediate ceasefire, then a return to Minsk Group-facilitated negotiations with Armenia and rejection of outside actors further destabilizing the situation,” O’Brien said shortly afterwards. “There is no military solution.” Pompeo said, for his part, that he discussed with Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian “critical steps to halt violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” According to the Reuters news agency, Mnatsakanian described his meeting with Pompeo as “very good” as he exited the U.S. State Department. He said work on a ceasefire will continue. Russia and France already brokered Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreements on October 10 and October 17 respectively. The agreements did not stop hostilities in and around Karabakh, with the warring sides accusing each other of not respecting it. Armenia says that the efforts to halt the hostilities are also obstructed by Turkey, a claim denied by Ankara and Baku. Pompeo criticized the Turkish role in the Karabakh conflict last week. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said, meanwhile, that the mediating powers should put pressure on Armenia if they want to stop the war. “We have one condition: if the countries that have supported Armenia and created for almost 30 years conditions for its occupation of our lands want a ceasefire they must put pressure on Armenia,” Aliyev said, according to TASS. “The Armenian prime minister must state that his country will leave the occupied territories. We haven’t heard such a statement.” Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.