Growing concern that Armenia and Azerbaijan might return to war over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Battles between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh have continued overnight, as international calls for calm after the heaviest fighting between the two sides in years grew.
The Armenian defence ministry on Monday morning reported fighting throughout the night while Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were attacking the town of Terter.
The clashes between the two former Soviet republics which fought a war in the 1990s were the latest eruption of a longterm conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. This region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.
Defence ministry officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday 15 more servicemen had died overnight, bringing their total military fatality count to 32 since clashes erupted on Sunday morning.
Both sides, meanwhile, reported civilian casualties.
Nagorno-Karabakh rebels said one Armenian woman and a child were killed while Baku said that an Azerbaijani family of five died in shelling launched by Armenian rebel.
“We are tired of Azerbaijan’s threats, we will fight to the death to resolve the problem once and for all,” Artak Bagdasaryan told the AFP news agency that he was waiting to be called up into the army.
Azerbaijan claimed it captured a strategic mountain in the region that helps control transport communications between Yerevan and the enclave. The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce tension in a decades-old conflict amid fears the violence could spiral out of control.
Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group told AFP, “We are a step away from a large-scale war.”
“One of the main reasons for the current escalation is a lack of any international mediation between the sides for weeks,” she added.
President Donald Trump said on Sunday that the United States would try to end the violence. “We’re looking at it very carefully. We have good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it.” he told a news briefing.
The US State Department castigate the violence in a statement calling for an immediate action to stop hostilities and any eloquence or other actions that could make the situation worse.
US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that malice could mount into a wider conflict. He adjures the Trump administration to push for more observers along the ceasefire line and for Russia “to stop sceptical providing arms to both sides”.
Nagorno-Karabakh split from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. After fighting which left 30,000 dead and forced many more from their homes.
A ceasefire was reached in 1994 but Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijan-Armenia borders.
Armenia said Azerbaijani forces had attacked civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter, “We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion.”
Azerbaijan opposes an Armenian defence ministry statement that said Azerbaijani helicopters and tanks had been destroyed. They accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the border.
“We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation, echoing the words of Joseph Stalin at the outbreak of World War II in Russia. “Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” he said.
Both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and military siege. Azerbaijan urges military rule and a curfew in large cities. Azerbaijan ally Turkey said it was talking to members of the so-called Minsk Group, which mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan but no details of the conversation were available. Erdogan promising support for Azerbaijan said Armenia was “the biggest threat to peace in the region” and called on “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty”.
Pashinyan hit back, accusing Turkey of “dangerous behaviour” and urging the international community to ensure Ankara does not get involved in the conflict.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was immensely concerned and called on the sides to stop fighting and return to talks. The EU Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Pope Francis also adjure both sides to stop military actions and return to negotiations.
At least 200 people were killed in a blowup of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. At least 16 people were killed in July. Azerbaijan has plight to take back the territory by force if necessary while Armenia has said it will do all it can to defend the area.