Today, Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged accusations of firing at civilian areas far from the disputed conflict zone in the Nagorno Karabakh region, as the worst wave of fighting between the two countries since the 1990s entered its third day in a row and with the high death toll among civilians.
It is reported that the fighting since last Sunday has claimed the lives of nearly 100 people, including civilians, and left hundreds of injuries.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that 10 civilians had been killed in Armenian bombing since Sunday. There was no official information on casualties among Azerbaijani soldiers.
For its part, the Armenian Ministry of Defense said that an Armenian civilian bus in Vardinis, an Armenian town on the border with Azerbaijan and far from Nagorno Karabakh, caught fire after it was hit by an Azerbaijani drone fire. The ministry added that no one was apparently injured in the accident, but it was investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, international calls were issued calling for the two parties to the conflict to cease fire. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in two phone calls with the leaders of the two countries.
“The chancellor urgently called for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table,” said Stephen Sipper, a spokesman for the German government. Saber added that Merkel spoke by phone with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashnyan on Monday and with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday.
In the two calls, Merkel said that the so-called “Minsk group” of mediators led by France, Russia and the United States “provide an appropriate forum” for dialogue.
For its part, France said Tuesday that it would call for talks between member states of the “Minsk Group” in an attempt to find a solution to the recent escalation between the two countries in the South Caucasus.
An official in the office of French President Emmanuel Macron told Reuters: “We will coordinate in the coming days with the Minsk Group to find out the truth of what happened, and who is responsible, and we will find a way out of this situation.”
Today, the UN Security Council will hold emergency talks behind closed doors around Nagorno Karabakh, according to diplomats at the United Nations.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire on a military unit in the town of “Vardinis”, but the situation was less tense at the borders.
As for the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, it said that the Armenian army bombed the Dashkisan region from the town of Vardinis in Azerbaijan. This account was denied by Armenia.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan reported the killing of five members of one family. Today, Armenia said that a nine-year-old girl was killed in artillery strikes, while her mother and brother were injured. A mother and her child were also killed in “Martoni” last Sunday, according to the Ministry of Defense in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The ongoing clashes have raised again concerns about stability in the South Caucasus region, which is an important corridor for pipelines that carry oil and gas to global markets.
A deputy in the Armenian parliament for the ruling coalition, “Lillet Makounts”, said in a post on her Facebook page that Armenia is studying the possibility of concluding a political-military alliance with Nagorno-Karabakh.
As for the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, it said that the two parties (Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh) tried to regain the lost areas by launching counterattacks towards Fizuli, Gabriel, Agdiri and Tatar – areas that Armenia occupied from Azerbaijan and located on the border with Nagorno Karabakh, according to the ministry.
In contrast, Armenia reported that fighting continued throughout the night and said that the Nagorno-Karabakh army was able to repel attacks from several directions along the Seam border.
Analysts believe that any move towards an all-out war will drag the two main regional powers, Russia and Turkey, with it. Moscow has a military alliance with Armenia, which provides vital support to the region and represents a lifeline linking it to the outside world, while Ankara supports Azerbaijan, which includes Turkish ethnicity.
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called on Armenia yesterday to end the “occupation” of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is disputed by Azerbaijan.
Erdogan said that ending Armenias “occupation” and its withdrawal from the region is the only course of action that would establish peace.
The Turkish Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as saying that “Turkey will continue to stand with friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan in all its capabilities.”
Erdogan’s chief adviser, Elnur Civik, said Turkey had told its allies in Azerbaijan to go as far as they wanted.
The roots of the conflict go back to after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, when the Nagorno-Karabakh region, inhabited by a majority of ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan at the time, which caused the outbreak of a war that claimed 30,000 lives. Since then, the independence of the territory has not been recognized by any country, including Armenia, and it is still considered part of the territory of Azerbaijan by the international community.
Skirmishes between the two countries continued throughout this period, including bloody battles, as happened last July and 2016.