Melik Baghdasaryan / Melik Baghdasaryan / Photolure / TAS
Clashes erupted on Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, causing casualties on both sides and prompting the Armenian government to declare martial law and mobilize its military.
The conflict is the latest outbreak of violence in a decade-long dispute over the region, which lies within Azerbaijan’s borders but is controlled by ethnic Armenian forces. Both countries have reported military and civilian deaths since Sunday afternoon.
Armenian officials said Azerbaijani forces launched a “missile and air strike” in the region on Sunday morning, targeting peaceful settlements and bombing civilian infrastructure, while Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its armed forces are responding to the Armenian bombing.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a tweet that the aggression appeared to have been planned in advance and “constitutes a large-scale provocation against regional peace and security”.
Recent aggressive statements by #Azerbaijan‘i leadership, large-scale joint mil exercises with#Turkey, as well as the refusal of @osce PRCiO’s monitoring requests clearly indicate that this aggression was planned in advance and constitutes a large-scale provocation against regional peace and security.
– Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) September 27, 2020
The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, thwarted that “the first fire, including artillery fire, was opened by Armenia, and the first casualties were the Azerbaijani military”.
The human rights ombudsman of Nagorno-Karabakh She said that a woman and a child were killed and two civilians were injured in the Martuni region following the Azerbaijani bombings. Deputy Minister of Defense of the region later She said that 16 Armenian forces were killed and more than 100 wounded.
Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, She said enemy fire had killed and wounded soldiers and civilians, and “the shedding of their blood will not go unpunished”.
“Armenia is an occupying state, and the end of this occupation must and will be placed”, Aliyev added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose nation shares a border with Armenia, has bolstered his country’s support for Azerbaijan’s longtime ally in a series of tweets, in which he called Armenia “the greatest threat to peace and tranquility in the region”.
“The Turkish nation supports its Azerbaijani brothers with all its means, as always,” he wrote.
In response, the Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan issued a declaration calling on the international community to “use all its influence to stop any possible interference from Turkey”, which he believes would have devastating consequences for the region.
The renewed conflict threatens the stability of the South Caucasus, which is crossed by numerous oil and gas pipelines.
#BORN is deeply concerned about reports of large-scale military hostilities along the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Statement by James Appathurai, Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. https://t.co/dkHk3ODnsR
– Oana Lungescu (@NATOpress) September 27, 2020
Reactions from the international community spilled over on Sunday, with foreign leaders calling on longtime adversaries to ease the conflict and restart dialogue.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Minsk Group in Europe, co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France, has been working to permanently resolve the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia since 1994. Its leaders have issued a joint statement expressing concern over reports of military action and condemning the use of force and the “senseless loss of life”.
“The co-chairs call on the parties to take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground and reiterate that there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiated solution to the conflict,” they added.
Separately, officials in Russia and France urged countries to cease fire and start negotiations immediately.
Charles Michel, also president of the European Council asked for a halt to military action and a return to negotiations “without preconditions”.
Similar hopes were expressed in the Vatican, where Pope Francis urged leaders to find a solution “not through the use of force and weapons, but through the means of dialogue and negotiation”.
Azerbaijan and Armenia periodically clashed in the wake of the 1994 ceasefire that left Nagorno-Karabakh under Armenian control. Notably, a wave of violence in 2016 killed at least 30 soldiers on both sides. And more recently, fighting along the border killed at least 16 people in July.