- Borislav Ivanov
Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes have killed almost 100 people in 24 hours
Armenian and Azerbaijani military exchanged artillery fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, raising worries of a repeat of the 2020 conflict. Both parties held each other responsible for the first provocations.
On Monday night, fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted once more, with both sides claiming heavy artillery fire and around 100 casualties.
Azerbaijani military shelled Armenian troops at three areas near the border shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning. Azerbaijan stated that it was reacting to an increase in Armenian landmines and firearms along the border. In return, Armenia struck back.
The combat occurred near the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where ethnic Armenian rebels formed an independent country, subsequently known as Artsakh, in 1991.
According to his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has encouraged Armenia and Azerbaijan to "immediately deescalate tensions, exhibit the greatest caution, and settle any unresolved concerns via discussion" in accordance with past accords.
The death toll is rising.
Armenian defense spokesperson Aram Torosyan stated at a press conference early Tuesday that the situation remained "very tense" as combat continues.
Later, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan informed parliament, "For the time being, we have 49 [troops] martyred, and sadly, this is not the final count."
Following his meeting with military chiefs, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's office issued a statement saying, "Provocations conducted by Armenian forces near the border have been prevented, and all required objectives have been met."
The country's military ministry later said that at least 50 servicemen had been killed in the confrontations, as Russian President Vladimir Putin urged all sides to remain calm.
Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for the bloodshed.
Both countries claimed to have responded proportionately to what they perceived as provocations from the opposing side.
"Azerbaijan initiated intense bombardment with artillery and large-caliber weaponry against Armenian military positions in the direction of Goris, Sotk, and Jermuk around 00:05 a.m. [local time] on Tuesday," Armenia's Defense Ministry stated.
Azerbaijan, on the other hand, accused Armenian soldiers of carrying out "large-scale subversive operations" in the border regions of Dashkesan, Kelbajar, and Lachin earlier on Monday night by planting landmines and mobilizing weaponry.
"The Azerbaijani military's countermeasures in response to the Armenian military's provocation are limited and focused towards lawful military objects that serve as fire positions," Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry noted.
Armenian military stated they responded in a "proportionate" manner. According to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, its forces were subjected to "heavy bombardment from weapons of various caliber, including mortars" by Armenian army formations.
France will raise conflicts before the Security Council.
Armenia has stated that it will seek assistance from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a security bloc comprised of former Soviet republics, as well as the United Nations Security Council.
Prime Minister Pashinyan spoke with Russian President Putin about the outbreak of violence. He also dialed the numbers of French President Emmanuel Macron and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
According to Pashinyan's office, the calls were made to alert leaders "about Azerbaijan's hostile measures against Armenia's sovereign land" and to urge an "appropriate response from the international community."
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, declined to comment on Armenia's request but said Putin was "making every effort to assist in deescalating tensions."
According to Macron's office, France will raise the problem before the UN Security Council, and the French president will also call on all parties to respect the cease-fire.
The United States has urged for a halt to the fighting.
"As we have long stated, no military solution to the crisis is possible," Blinken said in a statement. "We demand an immediate cessation of all military operations."
Blinken warned on Tuesday afternoon that Russia might try to "stir the pot" in the confrontation.
"Whether Russia attempts in some way to stir the pot, to create a distraction from Ukraine," Blinken told reporters, adding that Russia may also use its influence in the region to help "calm the waters."
The EU's foreign policy leader, Josep Borrell, said, "It is important that violence cease and negotiations resume," adding that a special EU ambassador was being dispatched to the region.
Turkey, Azerbaijan's close ally, accused Armenia of the commencement of unrest and urged peace talks.
"Armenia should stop provocations and focus on peace talks and collaboration [with] Azerbaijan," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted.
Long-standing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian territory, has been the location of two battles between Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent decades.
For almost 30 years, Armenian rebels ruled the area until Azerbaijan reclaimed control of the majority of it following a six-week conflict in 2020 and a cease-fire deal brokered by Russia.
Armenia accused Azerbaijan of murdering one of its soldiers in a border gunfight last week, while Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of shooting its forces in recent months.