Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

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After a decade-long conflict flared up in the south-eastern European Caucasus region, fierce fighting raged on the second day.

Dozens of deaths were reported Monday in clashes between forces fighting for Armenia and Azerbaijan.

At the center of the conflict is a dispute over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh mountain region.

It is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the end of the war in 1994.

Tens of thousands of people died during this war and a million others had to leave their homes.

  • What’s behind the conflict?

On Monday evening, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that an additional 26 of their soldiers had been killed in the fighting, bringing the total casualties to over 80.

Other countries fear that the recent fighting may come from the region and involve neighboring powers such as Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionAfter the shelling in the capital Stepanakert, the residents hid in air raid shelters

They also strive to maintain stability as large gas and oil pipelines run through the area.

The last intense fighting began on Sunday when both Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other for the escalation.

Both parties said they had mobilized more soldiers and declared martial law in some areas.

The fighting is the worst in the conflict since 2016, when at least 200 people were killed in clashes.

Where are other countries?

Turkey has declared its support for Azerbaijan, while Russia – which has military bases in Armenia but is also friends with Azerbaijan – has called for an immediate ceasefire.

Armenia has accused Turkey of providing direct military assistance to assist Azerbaijan in control of the territory – an allegation that Azerbaijan rejected.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Armenia to immediately end the “occupation” of the region and to withdraw. This is the only course of action that will ensure peace.

Erdogan’s chief adviser Ilnur Cevik also said Turkey had told its Azerbaijani allies to go as far as they wanted.

What are Armenia and Azerbaijan saying?

In a BBC interview, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan accused Azerbaijan of sabotaging a peaceful solution to the conflict and insisted that Armenia must defend the region.

A spokesman for the Azerbaijani presidential administration told the BBC that his country was taking “countermeasures” against provocations by Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh – key factors

  • A mountain region of approx. 4,400 km²
  • Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
  • In the Soviet era it became an autonomous region within the Republic of Azerbaijan
  • Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the majority of the population is ethnically Armenian
  • An estimated one million people were displaced by the war in 1988-1994 and about 30,000 were killed
  • Separatist forces captured additional territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the war of the 1990s
  • Since a truce in 1994, the stalemate has largely prevailed
  • Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan
  • Russia has military bases in Armenia

What’s the latest from the battlefield?

In addition to the deaths reported on Monday, the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh reported 16 deaths and more than 100 wounded on Sunday.

According to the Armenian authorities, 200 Armenians were wounded, according to Interfax.

Image rightsEPAImage descriptionArmenia released photos of allegedly destroyed Azerbaijani tanks

Azerbaijan said two Azerbaijani civilians were killed on Monday after five people from the same family died on Sunday. It added that 30 civilians were wounded.

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said their forces on Sunday recaptured an area occupied by Azerbaijani troops.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani government announced on Monday that it had occupied strategically important locations in the disputed region.

Image rightsEPAImage descriptionAzerbaijan released pictures of allegedly damaged Armenian armored vehicles. In July, at least 16 people died when crossing borders. This was the largest demonstration in years in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku calling for the region to be retaken.

Other international reactions

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned” and urged both sides to stop the fight
  • Russia’s foreign minister held urgent talks with both the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders
  • France, which has a large Armenian community, has called for an immediate ceasefire and dialogue
  • Iran, which borders both Azerbaijan and Armenia, offered to broker peace talks
  • President Donald Trump said the US wanted to stop the violence

What is the background?

In 1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists started a bloody war that left Nagorno-Karabakh in the hands of ethnic Armenians when an armistice was signed in 1994.

Tens of thousands died in fighting and many ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced to flee their homes.

It is now a de facto independent region that is heavily reliant on Armenia’s support. But it is not recognized by any UN member, including Armenia.

Parts of the Azerbaijani territory around the enclave are also under Armenian control.

Image rightsEPAImage descriptionThe shelling damaged houses in the city of Martuni

The negotiations have so far failed to produce a lasting peace agreement and the dispute in the region remains one of the “frozen conflicts” of post-Soviet Europe.

Karabakh is the Russian rendering of an Azerbaijani word that means “black garden” while Nagorno is a Russian word that means “mountainous”. Ethnic Armenians prefer to call the region Artsakh, an ancient Armenian name for the region.

Over the years, soldiers on both sides have been killed in sporadic ceasefire violations. Inland Armenia has suffered severe economic problems due to the closure of the borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Russia, France and the US jointly lead the Organization for Security and Cooperation in the European Minsk Group, which has tried to put an end to the dispute.

Related topics

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  • Azerbaijan
  • Armenia
  • Nagorno-Karabakh