A RUSSIAN-MEDIATED truce in the war between the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan collapsed before it even took hold.
Russian negotiators announced on March 3 that they had secured the agreement of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan to a cease-fire in the six-year-long conflict. Negotiations on a detailed settlement, including arrangements for withdrawal of forces, creation of a security zone, and the dispatch of Russian peacekeeping forces, were set for March 4.
But heavy fighting erupted on March 4 in the Fizuli-Dzehbrail regions of Armenia that lie between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Iranian border. Both sides blamed each other for the attack. The Azerbaijan Defense Ministry reported that after heavy artillery preparation, Armenian forces tried to break through their lines in Fizuli. Officials of the Nagorno-Karabakh defense forces on March 5 claimed to have repelled an Azeri attack in the same region.
Meanwhile, Swedish diplomat Jan Elliason, head of the Minsk Group of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is also seeking to mediate the conflict, arrived in the area to discuss peace efforts.
Acknowledging that the cease-fire, originally negotiated by Russian Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev, is not holding, Russian special envoy Vladimir Kazimirov heads today to Azerbaijan and Armenia to try to reestablish the armistice, Interfax news agency reported.