Karabakh clashes continue with at least 42 casualties
As the clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces continue into a second day, at least 42 have been killed. Baku and Yerevan have both declared martial law, effectively thrusting the countries into a state of war.
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out with heavy fighting early Sunday morning, reigniting the decades-long dispute two months after fresh violence ended in the region in mid-July. Those skirmishes had represented the bloodiest few days since the four day-long April War in 2016.
“Unlike in July 2020, this is clearly a well-prepared attack which can turn into a bigger escalation than in April 2016,” International Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan tweeted shortly after the skirmishes erupted on the border on Sunday.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been involved in a conflict since the early 1990s. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was seized by ethnic Armenians living there as the Soviet Union collapsed. A ceasefire signed in 1994 under the auspices of Moscow put a fragile end to a large-scale conflict. Peace talks mediated by France, US and Russia were unsuccessful and since then, conflict is volatile, with flare-ups sporadically occurring.
Both sides blame each other of violating the ceasefire.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated in a televised address that it is a “declared war on the Armenian people.
We are on the brink of a full-scale war in the South Caucasus, which might have unpredictable consequences,” he added.
The Armenian government said on Monday that 31 fighters were killed, Russian news agency Tass reported.
Speaking on state television, President Ilham Aliyev called Armenia “the source of danger in the region.” He added that Azerbaijan was “provoked” by Armenia, and that while Armenia had territorial claims to Azerbaijani lands, Baku had no such claims regarding Armenian territory.
Later, at a meeting of the country's Security Council, Aliyev said “we have to settle this issue so that the Azerbaijani people are satisfied.”
We have to restore historical justice. We have to restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,” Aliyev continued.
Karabakh separatists said one Armenian woman and a child were killed in the clashes, while Baku said that six died in shelling launched by Armenian separatists.
Hikmat Hajiyev, aide to the Azerbaijani president, said on Sunday that the Armenian armed forces “deliberately and purposefully fired on civilians and the densely populated areas on the frontline.” Hajiyev added in a statement that Azerbaijan has repeatedly warned the international community about Armenia's preparations for war.
Azerbaijan has not yet released the official military casualties, while Khazar Military Research Institute (CDSI) based on its monitoring on social media said on Monday that at least 11 servicemen were killed on the Azerbaijani side.
Azerbaijan said it liberated several occupied villages in the Jabrayil and Fizuli districts. In addition, several Armenian military posts in Murovdag in the Aghdara region were destroyed, and a number of strategic, elevated positions were now under Azerbaijani control, the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Although Karabakh head Arayik Harutyunyan said on Sunday that his forces had “lost positions,” Armenia Defence Ministry refuted this, saying it “is not consistent with the reality.”
It is yet another information provocation of the Azerbaijani propaganda machine,” Shushan Stepanyan, the spokesperson of the Armenian Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
The battles between the forces continued over night. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on Monday that the Armenian armed forces had started shelling the town of Terter.
According to the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office, a total of 26 civilians were hospitalized with various injuries and two residential buildings with a total of 70 apartments in Terter were damaged under shelling and the residents evacuated.
After the battles at night, Stepanyan added on Monday that a number of positions previously captured by Azerbaijan are on the Armenian side.
The number of the wounded military servicemen reached 200, according to the Armenia Defense Ministry's statement on Monday.
Partial mobilization was announced in Azerbaijan after a state of war was declared in some major cities and regions of the country, including Baku, on Monday. Based on an order issued by President Ilham Aliyev a curfew will be imposed from 9pm to 6am in the areas where martial law was declared.
Baku “perhaps tries to seize a moment when international community is disengaged,” Carnegie Endowment expert Thomas de Waal said, calling escalation in Karabakh “horrible.”
Speaking about Turkey's new role to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan, the expert said it is “much more explicit than ever before.”
Turkey, as a close political ally of Azerbaijan, has reportedly deployed fresh arms to the country including F-16 fighter jets.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that Armenia was “the biggest threat to peace in the region” and that Turkey would “increasingly continue” its solidarity with Baku.
De Waal also told BBC that the Trump administration is quite friendly to Azerbaijan, and given that the US presidential election is a month away, it is possible it will not interfere in the conflict.
President Donald Trump said the United States was taking the fighting seriously.
“We’re looking at it very strongly,” Trump said in a Sunday press briefing.
Talking on phone with Pashinyan Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly expressed concern urging the sides to put an end to the fighting.
According to de Waal, the decision to escalate the conflict may be the result of a deadlock in the negotiations and Pashinyan's refusal to seriously negotiate on terms that are acceptable to Azerbaijan.
“War is not a good way to achieve peace,” he said.
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