Media reports from Yerevan and Baku said:

Armenia declared martial law and mobilized its male population on Sunday after clashes with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. Both sides reported fatalities.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian region inside Azerbaijan which declared independence in 1991, also announced martial law and mobilized the male population after clashes, which the two sides blamed on each other.

Armenia said: Azerbaijan had carried out an air and artillery attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan said it had responded to Armenian shelling.

Armenian human right activists said: Two civilians, a woman and a child, had been killed by Azeri shelling.

Baku said: An unspecified number of Azeri civilians had been killed and six wounded.

Nagorno-Karabakh said: 10 of its military staff had been killed.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

On Sunday morning, Azerbaijan started “active bombing” along Karabakh’s frontline including civilian targets and in the main city Stepanakert, Karabakh’s presidency said.

The Karabakh defense ministry claimed its troops shot down two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones.

The claims were denied by the defense ministry in Baku, which said its forces were responding to an Armenian offensive.

Azerbaijan’s transport ministry said it has “put restrictions on internet traffic” in order to prevent “Armenian provocations.

Armenian Defense Ministry said: Two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down.

Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said: Armenian forces hit three Azerbaijani tanks. Stepanyan said: the fighting Sunday began with an Azerbaijani attack, but Azerbaijan said the Armenian side attacked and that Azerbaijan launched a counteroffensive.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry denied the claim that its helicopters and tanks had been hit. But President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address to the nation that “there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that has been out of Azerbaijan’s control since the end of a war in 1994. Both sides have heavy military presence along a demilitarized zone separating the region from the rest of Azerbaijan.

Mostly mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh — a region some 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) or about the size of the U.S. state of Delaware — lies 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Armenian border. Local soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.

Armenia’s defense ministry said its troops had destroyed three tanks and shot down two helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles in response to an attack on civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert.

“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the ministry said in a statement echoed by the foreign ministry.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter: “We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion.”

Azerbaijan denied the Armenian defense ministry statement, saying it had “complete advantage over the enemy on the front”, and accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.

“We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said in an address to the nation.

At least 200 people were killed in a flare-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.

Armenia and Azerbaijan put themselves on a war footing after heavy fighting erupted Sunday between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists.

In a televised address to the nation, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev vowed victory over Armenian forces.

“Our cause is just and we will win,” Aliyev said, repeating a famous quote from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s address at the outbreak of World War II in Russia.

“Azerbaijani army is fighting on its territory,” he said.

“Get ready to defend our sacred homeland,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Facebook.

Karabakh’s leader Araik Harutyunyan told an emergency parliament session in the enclave’s main city of Stepanakert that he had “declared martial law” and a mobilization of all those fit for military service.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it had launched a “counter offensive to suppress Armenia’s combat activity and ensure the safety of the population,” using tanks, artillery missiles, combat aviation and drones.

“There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen,” the spokesman for the Azerbaijani presidency, Hikmet Hajiyev, said.

Karabakh’s ombudsman Artak Beglaryan said “there are civilian casualties” among the region’s population.

Russia urges ceasefire 

Russia called for an immediate ceasefire as did France.

“We are calling on the sides to immediately halt fire and begin talks to stabilize the situation,” said Russia’s foreign ministry.

Russia’s foreign ministry, a mediator in decades of conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, urged both sides to cease-fire immediately and hold talks.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.

The conflict has worried Western and regional countries in part, because it could cause instability in the South Caucasus, which serves as a corridor for pipelines transporting oil and gas to world markets. Ethnic Armenian separatists seized the Nagorny Karabakh region from Baku in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives.

Talks to resolve one of the worst conflicts to emerge from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union have been largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

France, Russia and the U.S. have mediated peace efforts as the “Minsk Group” but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.

A major confrontation between the ex-Soviet Caucasus neighbors would draw in big regional players Russia and Turkey.

Turkish mercenaries 

The Karabakh leader, Harutyunyan, accused Ankara of sending mercenaries to Azerbaijan.

“We have information that mercenaries from Turkey and other countries were airlifted to Azerbaijan,” he said.

“The Turkish army is already in Azerbaijan, under the guise of military drills,” he claimed.

Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey blamed Yerevan for the flare-up and promised Baku its “full support.”

“We strongly condemn the attack by Armenia against Azerbaijan,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

“Armenia violated the ceasefire by attacking civilian locations,” he said.

Turkey’s ruling party spokesman Omer Celik tweeted: “We vehemently condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once against committed a provocation, ignoring law.” He promised Turkey would stand by Azerbaijan and said, “Armenia is playing with fire and endangering regional peace.”

In July, heavy clashes along the two countries’ shared border – hundreds of kilometers from Karabakh – claimed the lives of at least 17 soldiers from both sides.

Raising the stakes, Azerbaijan at the time threatened to strike Armenia’s atomic power station if Yerevan attacked strategic facilities.

During the worst recent clashes in April 2016, around 110 people were killed.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its military and repeatedly vowed to retake Karabakh by force.


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER


 

Comments are closed.