A ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan came into effect on Saturday noon local time (0800 GMT) to stop two weeks of intense fighting in the Nagorno Karabakh region.

Prior to the ceasefire, Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged accusations of continuing bombing, battles, and firing missiles and drones.

Suddenly, calm returned to Stepanakert, the capital of the breakaway region, with sirens sounding ahead of the agreement’s entry into force.

Residents began to leave the doors of their homes after they had to stay with them to protect themselves from the bombing for days, according to an AFP journalist.

Just before the fighting stopped, Artak Bulgarian, the mediator of the unilaterally proclaimed republic, tweeted, “A few minutes ago, Azerbaijan bombed civilian areas in Stepanakert again with missiles,” explaining that no information was received yet about the victims.

The strikes have targeted Stepanakert several times in recent days.

Bulgarian said, “Baku is using the same war crimes method until the last minute”.

An AFP correspondent heard two explosions on Saturday morning, after Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire, starting at 8:00 GMT.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense announced Saturday that Armenia is “bombing heavily” populated areas.

The ministry said in a statement that “the Armenian armed forces are intensively bombing the areas of Granboy, Tirter, Akkabardi, Fizuli… and Azerbaijan is taking measures to respond in kind”.

For its part, France, which participates in the chairmanship of the Minsk Group, welcomed Saturday the ceasefire agreed upon between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and called for its “full” respect.

“France welcomes the declaration of a humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” said French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Mol. 

It must now be fully implemented and adhered to in order to create the conditions for a permanent cessation of hostilities between the two countries.

The ceasefire is supposed to allow the exchange of prisoners of war and other people and dead bodies, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also announced that Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to start “substantive negotiations” to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.

The French Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed “the necessity of resuming the substantive talks, which the two parties committed to under the auspices of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, without preconditions, and France is still ready to contribute in this context”.

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