Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan: Almost 100 killed along border near Nagorno-Karabakh
News Desk || shiningbd
Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers exchanged artillery fire near Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting fears of escalation similar to the 2020 war. Both sides blamed each other for the initial provocations.
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up again on Monday night, with both sides reporting intense artillery shelling and nearly 100 dead.
Just after midnight on Tuesday morning, Azerbaijani forces shelled Armenian troops at several locations along the border. Azerbaijan said it was responding to a buildup of Armenian landmines and weapons near the border. Armenia fired back in retaliation.
The fighting took place near the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an area within Azerbaijan where ethnic Armenian separatists declared a breakaway republic — later known as Artsakh — in 1991.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Armenia and Azerbaijan "immediate steps to deescalate tensions, exercise maximum restraint and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue" as per previous agreements, his spokesman said late on Tuesday.
Death toll climbing
At a press briefing early on Tuesday, Armenian defense spokesperson Aram Torosyan said the situation remains "extremely tense" as fighting continues.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan later told parliament that "we have 49 [troops] killed and unfortunately it's not the final figure."
Later on Tuesday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's office released a statement following his meeting with military leadership, saying: "Provocations committed by Armenian forces at the border have been averted and all necessary objectives were fulfilled."
The country's defense ministry then said that at least 50 service members had been killed in the clashes as Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed for calm on both sides.
Armenia, Azerbaijan trade blame for violence
Both countries claimed to have launched proportionate responses against what they saw as provocations from the other side.
"At 00:05 a.m. [local time] on Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched intensive shelling, with artillery and large-caliber firearms, against Armenian military positions in the direction of the cities of Goris, Sotk, and Jermuk," Armenia's Defense Ministry said.
However, Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of carrying out "large-scale subversive acts" earlier on Monday night near the border districts of Dashkesan, Kelbajar and Lachin by placing landmines and mobilizing weapons.
"The countermeasures taken by the Azerbaijani military in response to the provocation by the Armenian military are local and directed against legitimate military objects that serve as firing points," Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry added.
Armenian forces said they subsequently launched a "proportionate" response. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its troops came under "intense shelling from weapons of various caliber, including mortars, by units of the Armenian army."
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in the late 1980s
France to bring up clashes at Security Council
Armenia has said it will appeal to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — a security bloc of former Soviet states — as well as the UN Security Council.
Prime Minister Pashinyan called Russia's President Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to inform the leaders "of Azerbaijan's aggressive acts against Armenia's sovereign territory" and to demand an "adequate reaction of the international community."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not comment on Armenia's request, but said that Putin was "taking every effort to help deescalate the tensions."
Macron's office said that France will bring up the issue at the UN Security Council, adding that the French president was also calling for both sides to abide by the cease-fire.
The US has called for an end to the clashes, saying "there can be no military solution."
"Whether Russia tries in some fashion to stir the pot, to create a distraction from Ukraine, is something we're always concerned about," Blinken told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, adding that Russia could also use its influence in the region to help "calm the waters."
The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said "it is imperative that the hostilities stop and that there is a return to the negotiating table," adding that a special EU envoy was being rushed to the region.
Turkey — which denies the Armenian genocide and is close ally of Azerbaijan — blamed Armenia for the outbreak of violence and called for peace negotiations.
"Armenia should cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation [with] Azerbaijan," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Long-running feud over Nagorno-Karabakh
The ethnically Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh was the site of two wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent decades.
The territory was controlled by Armenian separatists for almost 30 years until Azerbaijan regained control of most of the territory after a six-week war in 2020 and a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia.
Last week, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of killing one of its soldiers in a border shootout, while Azerbaijan has also accused Armenia of firing at its troops in recent months.