Armenia accuses Turkey of air support to Azerbaijan
The Armenian Defence Ministry reiterated on Thursday that Armenian military aircrafts were brought down by two Turkish air force F-16 jets in Nagorno-Karabakh, where heavy clashes erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the weekend.
The statement came two days after Yerevan claimed its fighter jet was shot down by a Turkish jet over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday. Turkey, a strategic ally with Azerbaijan in the region, denied the claims, calling them “totally false.”
“Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's aide Fahrettin Altun was quoted as saying.
Baku also denied the allegations, calling on Yerevan to provide evidence. “Both planes crashed into a mountain and exploded. This shows the Armenian military leadership is not providing accurate information to its citizens and the public,” presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev said.
At present, it is still unclear whether or not the claims could be corroborated.
No material evidence about the jet has been released except for a picture of the wreckage of a plane Armenia said was a S-25 warplane shot down by the Turkish jets in Armenian airspace. Yerevan named the pilot as Major Valeri Danelin, Reuters reported.
The flare up, which started on Sunday, is considered one of the most serious clashes since early 1990s when the conflict started with the break up of the Soviet Union. The heavy fighting has already entered into its fifth day, and threatens to expand beyond the disputed areas.
Hajiyev said on Thursday that “the second attack on Azerbaijan was carried out from the territory of Armenia.”
“As another act of aggression against our country, today the territory of Azerbaijan came under rocket fire from the direction of the Goris region of Armenia,” he said.
The fighting continued to rage after the South Caucasus neighbors rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.
“It is not acceptable that the Minsk Group is still seeking a ceasefire; the invaders must get out of this territory so that there is a solution here,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency on Thursday.
Turkey has extended its firm support to Azerbaijan, saying it is ready to do its utmost to remove Armenian forces from the region. Political analysts believe that Erdoğan is offering support to Azerbaijan to score points at home amidst an economic crisis.
That support may include supplying Syrian mercenaries to the front lines, according to independent observers including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Multiple international outlets published the story, but it has been difficult to verify. Azerbaijan and Turkey have flatly refuted such claims.
Armenia has also repeatedly accused Turkey of providing Azerbaijani forces with air support.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said on Wednesday that Azerbaijan the other side “transferred control of air operations to the Turkish Air Force, and now the joint command post of Azerbaijan and Turkey is located on the Turkish E7-T aircraft.”
He claimed that “the E7-T aircraft, which is not far from the combat zone, is remotely controlled in Turkey.”
Hovannisyan added that evidence will be presented in the upcoming days. At this point it is unclear whether the claims are unfounded or not.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was declared independent by ethnic Armenians living there as the Soviet Union collapsed. An estimated 30,000 were killed when the conflict turned into a full-fledged war,. 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.
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