At least 49 Armenian servicemen were killed on Tuesday in ongoing clashes, the deadliest between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the war in 2020, Yerevan announced, denouncing an “aggression” by Baku.
This eruption of violence comes as Russia, the traditional arbiter in the region, has its hands full with its difficult military offensive in Ukraine.
“At the moment we have 49 (soldiers) killed (…) and unfortunately this is not the final number,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said during a speech to parliament in Yerevan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two rival ex-Soviet republics in the Caucasus, have fought two wars over the past three decades for control of the Nagorny Karabakh region, the latter having took place in 2020.
The new fighting, which broke out overnight, illustrates how volatile the situation remains and threatens to derail a European-mediated peace process. Azerbaijan has also recognized “losses”, without giving a figure.
Denouncing an “aggression” by Baku, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the international community to react, during talks with several foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, “battles” were taking place Tuesday morning at several points on the border, with troops from Baku trying to “advance” into Armenian territory.
Fighting of this magnitude at the border between the two countries is an escalation, regular clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis usually occurring on the outskirts of Karabakh, Armenian separatist territory in Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijani forces continue to use artillery, mortars, drones and large-caliber rifles,” the ministry added in a statement, accusing Baku of targeting “military and civilian infrastructure.”
The violence erupted early Tuesday shortly after midnight (8 p.m. GMT Monday), with both countries blaming each other.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of “large-scale subversive acts”, adding that Armenian mortar fire had caused “casualties” in its ranks.
Armenia, for its part, accused Azerbaijan of initiating hostilities by an “intensive bombardment” of its positions in the direction of several cities such as Goris and Sotk.
Faced with this situation, Mr. Pashinian spoke separately overnight with Mr. Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to ask them to react.
During these talks, Mr. Pashinyan “expressed his deep concern about the current situation and stressed the importance of an appropriate response from the international community,” according to the Armenian government.
In the night, the United States said it was “extremely concerned”, calling for an immediate cessation of fighting between Baku and Yerevan. “There can be no military solution to this conflict,” Blinken said.
Historically complicated, relations between Yerevan and Baku continue to be poisoned today by a dispute over Nagorno Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian-populated enclave that seceded from Azerbaijan with the support of Armenia. p>
After a first war that killed more than 30,000 people in the early 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed again in the fall of 2020 for control of this mountainous region.
More than 6500 people were killed in this new war, lost by Armenia.
As part of a ceasefire agreement brokered by Moscow, which deployed peacekeepers to Nagorny Karabakh, Yerevan ceded significant territory to Azerbaijan.
This outcome was experienced as a humiliation in Armenia where several opposition parties have been demanding since the resignation of Mr. Pashinian, whom they accuse of having made too many concessions in Baku.
Since then, the situation has remained unstable, with frequent clashes along the border.
Last week, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of killing one of its soldiers during border clashes.
In August, Baku said it lost one soldier and two members of the Armenian separatist forces were killed and 14 wounded.
At the same time, the two countries began a peace process under the mediation of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
Mr. Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met at the end of August in Brussels, where they had already spoken in April and May.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128