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Turkish-Russian Center Begins Monitoring Nagorno-Karabakh Truce

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A picture taken last month shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attending a military parade in Baku marking Azerbaijan's declared victory against Armenia over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

A joint Turkish and Russian observation center to monitor a cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region started operations after an opening ceremony with senior defense officials in attendance on January 30.

Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and deputy defense ministers from regional powers Turkey and Russia were there to launch the center, in the Agdam region, according to Azerbaijan's state news agency Azertac.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on January 29 that one Turkish general and 38 personnel would be stationed at the center.

Turkish officials had already said the observation center would be located in Agdam, which was captured from ethnic Armenian forces occupying it for decades during a six-week flare-up of the conflict. Monitoring of the cease-fire will be aided by drones.

"Our activities will intensify with the work of this joint Turkish-Russian center and we will fulfill our duty to defend the rights of our Azerbaijani brothers," Akar said in a statement posted on the Defense Ministry’s website.

Turkey and Russia agreed to form a joint observation center shortly after Moscow in November brokered a cease-fire agreement that ended fierce fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey was a major backer of Azerbaijan in the conflict.

Turkish Major General Abdullah Katirci and Russian Major General Viktor Fyodorenko will reportedly command their respective contingents at the center.

Under the cease-fire agreement, a chunk of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years under the control of ethnic Armenians.

Around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are also deployed along frontline areas and to protect a land link connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Azertag, and dpa
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