Azerbaijani top officials along with the heads and members of foreign diplomatic missions and international media representatives on Thursday visited the regions where civilians were recently targeted by Armenian forces.

“We are on they way to Barda and Tartar to show Armenia’s intentional warcrimes against innocent civilians to international media and diplomatic corps. They will see on the spot crimes of Armenia’s political-military leadership,” Hikmet Hajiyev, the assistant to the Azerbaijani president, said on Twitter.

He also thanked the diplomatic corps in Azerbaijan for “compassion”, adding that: “As we were told by the military, Armenian side attacks outskirts of Tartar. But diplomatic corps on voluntary basis decided to go to Tartar.”

Thanking the diplomats for solidarity, Hajiyev compared Tartar to “Stalingrad of Azerbaijan.”

Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd, a city in southwest Russia on the western bank of the Volga River, is known for the Battle of Stalingrad — a brutal military campaign between Soviet forces and those of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers during World War II — which is believed to have turned the tide in favor of the Allied forces.

Earlier on Thursday, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that various regions, including the territory of Barda and Goranboy regions came under fire by the Armenian army.

Wednesday’s deadly missile attack of the Armenian forces on Azerbaijani civilian settlements in the city center of Barda region left at least 21 people dead, including five women, and wounded 70 people — including eight children and 15 women.

The two cluster Smerch missiles, which are prohibited by international law, were fired at around 1 p.m. local time [0900GMT] targeting the densely populated area with commercial establishments in Barda, Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement.

“[Armenian Prime Minister] N.Pashinyan by cluster missile attack you wanted to intimidate innocent civilians of Barda? Barda is beautiful and strong than ever before with reinforced determination. You made your big mistake. Added one more warcrime to your file. Now we [are] going to Tartar to show your crimes,” Hajiyev said in a separate tweet.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Armenian forces launched fire on the diplomatic corps in Tartar.

“On October 29 at 13:50 [0950GMT], during the visit of state officials to Tartar together with the heads of the diplomatic corps in Azerbaijan, ambassadors, military attaches and officials of international organizations in our country, the Armenian armed forces, which once again grossly violated the humanitarian ceasefire regime, deliberately fired in that direction,” the ministry said, and “strongly” condemned the move.

Azerbaijan considers it an “act of aggression against the international community,” the statement said.

Retrieval of bodies

Hajiyev also said that the bodies of 30 Armenian servicemen who lost their lives in clashes and remained in battlefield in the regions under the control of Azerbaijan, as well as one elderly person were handed over to Armenia.

Noting that Armenia did not want to take back the bodies of their soldiers before, Hajiyev said the extradition was realized as a result of the initiatives of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

“Armenia did not show good intentions in this matter,” he said.

Hajiyev said it was an humanitarian initiative that was put forward upon the instruction of President Ilham Aliyev.

He underlined that the bodies were returned at the border crossing at Azerbaijan’s Gazakh-Tovuz region.

“As a result of the Russian Federation’s support for this humanitarian initiative, the Armenian side agreed to open a humanitarian corridor in the direction of Gazakh-Tovuz and accept bodies of its soldiers. This operation was recently completed.”

Nearly 3-decade occupation 

Since clashes erupted on Sept. 27, Armenia has repeatedly attacked Azerbaijani civilians and forces, violating three humanitarian cease-fire agreements since Oct. 10.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly, as well as international organizations, demand the “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces” from occupied Azerbaijani territory.

About 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory – including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions – has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.

World powers, including Russia, France, and the US have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.

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