Protest for Armenia briefly shuts down Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A protest briefly shut down the eastbound lanes of the Vine Street Expressway near Philadelphia’s Old City section on Sunday evening.

Armenian Americans were protesting on the highway near 3rd Street.

Traffic cameras showed traffic at a standstill for some time as police remained on the scene. The roadway has since reopened.

The demonstration, which has been peaceful, started earlier in the day near the Philadelphia Art Museum.

The protest has to do with the ongoing conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijani, they have been fighting over a mountain enclave of Nagorno Karabakh.

Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the conflict over the contested enclave on Saturday — one week after truce brokered by Russia fell apart, according to a statement from the foreign ministries of both countries.

The new agreement — set to start at midnight local time (4 p.m. ET Saturday) — was announced after both sides earlier in the day accused each other of attacks that violated the Moscow-brokered, week-old peace deal.

The dispute dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Nagorno Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan, sparking a violent conflict that ended in a shaky 1994 ceasefire.

Armenia backed Nagorno Karabakh, which established a de facto independence that is not recognized by most of the world. Though it sits within Azerbaijani territory, the region is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia has said the current flare-up is between Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked to his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts on the phone Saturday to emphasized the need for the truce to hold, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Arayik Harutyunyan, leader of the contested region, welcomed the new peace effort, saying in a statement, “The Republic of Artsakh confirms readiness to observe the humanitarian truce on a reciprocal basis,” in line with the ceasefire agreements brokered by Moscow on Saturday and one week ago.

Nagorno Karabakh is called Artsakh by Armenians.

Before the latest ceasefire attempt Saturday, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of a rocket attack against its second-largest city, Ganja, killing at least 13 civilians — including three children — and wounding more than 50 others.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev called the missile strike a “cowardly shelling” that “cannot break the will of the Azerbaijani people.”

The attack occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning and targeted civilian quarters in the central part of the city, according to a statement from the Azerbaijani prosecutor’s office.

Azerbaijani presidential adviser Hikmet Hajiyev accused Armenia of using ballistic missiles in the attack and said authorities had evidence to support the claim, according to a Twitter post.

“Let the international community see the barbaric acts of Armenia against civilians,” Hajiyev added.

Video and photos purportedly from the scene showed rescue workers clearing rubble to reach survivors. The prosecutor’s office said officials were compiling a complete list of the victims.

Last weekend, another temporary ceasefire fell apart after weeks of fighting, with the two countries trading accusations of violating the agreement amid reports of casualties.
CNN contributed to this report.

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