Armenia, Azerbaijan in clashes over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

In this image taken from footage released by the Armenian Defense Ministry on September 27, 2020, an Azerbaijani military vehicle can be seen in flames at the contact line of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In this image taken from footage released by the Armenian Defense Ministry on September 27, 2020, an Azerbaijani military vehicle can be seen in flames at the contact line of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. AP

Armenia has declared martial law and total military mobilisation following clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armernian separatist region in Azerbaijan that has long been a point of conflict between the two countries.

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"The government has decided to declare martial law and a total mobilisation," Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Earlier, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev vowed to secure “victory” over Armenian forces.

Tensions rose between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday morning over clashes in which Yerevan said Azeri forces shelled the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and Baku accused Armenian forces of shelling Azeri military and civilian positions.

The breakaway province of Nagorno-Karabakh is inside Azerbaijan, but it is run by ethnic Armenians.

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In Sunday's clashes, Armenian right activists said an ethnic Armenian woman and child had been killed. Azerbaijan said an unspecified number of its civilians had been killed. Sixteen Armenian fighters from the Nagorno-Karabakh forces were killed and more than 100 wounded, officials from the breakaway enclave said.

Armenia said Azeri forces had attacked civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, Stepanakert, and promised a "proportionate response".

In a televised statement, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the international community to ensure that Turkey does not involve itself in the conflict.

Turkey, an Azeri ally, had earlier sharply criticised Armenia after clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces broke out in the morning, saying Yerevan was an obstacle to peace and vowing to continue its support for Baku.

The two countries have long been at odds over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh which declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

International diplomacy

The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to prevent a new flare-up of a decades-old conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, with Russia calling for an immediate ceasefire and Pope Francis leading calls for talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has mediated between former Soviet republics Armenia and Azerbaijan, spoke by phone to the Armenian, Azeri and Turkish foreign ministers.

Turkey said Armenia must immediately cease what it said was hostility towards Azerbaijan that will "throw the region into fire", and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that Ankara would continue to show solidarity with Azerbaijan.

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Iran called for an end to the fighting and said it was is ready "to use all of its capacities to establish ceasefire and start talks between the two sides".

Erdogan urged the Armenian people to "take hold of their future against their leadership that is dragging them to catastrophe and those using it like puppets".

France also urged the sides to end hostilities and immediately restart dialogue. The pope appealed to Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their differences through negotiations, saying he was praying for peace.

At least 200 people were killed in a flare-up of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. There are frequent skirmishes and at least 16 were reported killed in clashes in July.

 (FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

 

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