Azerbaijan and Armenia both declared martial law early Sunday after clashes killed at least 16 soldiers and several civilians.
The two countries, both former Soviet republics, experienced their heaviest confrontation since 2016 on Sunday over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that lies within Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians. Reuters reported.
Armenia accused Azerbaijan of an air and artillery strike in the area, with Nagorno-Karabakh claiming that 16 of its military members were killed and more than 1
Armenia also claimed Azerbaijani troops attacked civilian targets, prompting Armenia to swear by a “proportionate response”.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tweeted Armenia’s decision to declare martial law after the strike.
Upon government decision, martial law and general mobilization are declared in the Republic of #Armenia. I ask the troop personnel to report to their district commissariats.
For the country, for the victory.
– Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) September 27, 2020
Azerbaijan also declared martial law and said its attack was in response to the Armenian bombing, which killed five family members, according to Reuters. He also claimed to have occupied up to seven villages, which Nagorno-Karabakh initially denied but later added that it had lost “some positions”.
Azerbaijan denied Armenian claims that Azerbaijani helicopters and tanks were being scrapped and said Armenia was conducting “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the Armenian army “fired on our military settlements and positions”, adding that the Azerbaijani army “is currently firing on the enemy’s military position, and as a result of these attacks, many units of the enemy’s military equipment were destroyed ” according to the translation of Politico of a report from the state agency.
In response to Sunday’s conflict, Russia called on countries to declare a ceasefire, while Turkey said it would support Azerbaijan in any heads up, Reuters reported. The European Union and the Organization for the Secretary and Cooperation in Europe have both encouraged countries to disengage the attacks and return to negotiations.
The violence came after tensions between Christian-majority Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan erupted into war in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and Nagorno-Karabakh broke apart. from Azerbaijan in 1991. The clashes have continued over the years, including in 2016 when at least 200 people were killed and in July when at least 16 people were killed.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in the vicinity of pipelines that send Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the rest of the world, Reuters noted.