Bombs, clashes and an uncertain death toll. As the UN General Assembly gets underway in New York, an old flashpoint is reigniting in the heart of the Caucasus: Azerbaijan, launching a military operation, has announced its intention to continue what it calls ‘counter-terrorism’ activities in Nagorno-Karabakh (a region that has been disputed with Armenia for years). This will continue until Armenian military units surrender and disarm. As for the separatist authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh, they have called on Baku to cease hostilities and enter into negotiations. They have also stated that “Azerbaijani forces have violated the ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact by launching rocket and artillery attacks”.
On the Armenian side, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Baku’s forces had launched a ‘breakthrough operation’ to take control of the enclave. Armenia denies that it has troops on the ground and has called on the UN Security Council and the Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region for the past three years (Moscow has been a strong ally of Armenia in the past, but relations are currently strained) to take action to stop Azerbaijan’s aggression. The Azerbaijanis claim to have acted after several provocations in which two civilians and four policemen were killed, accusing the separatists of sabotage.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in a telephone call that he would request an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the situation. The situation is unfolding amid rising tensions between Baku and Yerevan, which have never really abated after several wars and numerous episodes of violence. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed concern at the ‘sudden escalation’ and urged both capitals to respect the ceasefire agreements. But she also accused Armenia of creating ‘fertile ground for hostile Western policies against Russia’ after Yerevan conducted military exercises with the United States. International condemnation has included several countries calling for an end to hostilities.
The escalation is said to be due to tensions over the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Armenia and Karabakh. Baku had imposed further restrictions on this route by not allowing road transport, fearing that it could be used for arms smuggling.
On the cover photo, map of Nagorno-Karabakh © kamilewski/Shutterstock.com