French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his concern over the “reckless and dangerous” statements issued by Turkey, as clashes continued for the fourth day over the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region.
Macron said during a visit to the Republic of Latvia that France is “very concerned about the war messages” emanating from Turkey. Turkey says it is “completely ready” to help its ally Azerbaijan regain the territory, which is under the control of its ethnic Armenians. As for the UN Security Council, it called for an end to the fighting there.
However, the region witnessed more violence on Wednesday, and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry pledged that the “legitimate operation” would continue until the Armenian forces leave Nagorno Karabakh.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Ministry of Defense has released a photo of an Armenian Sukhoi Su-25 that it said was shot down by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday. For its part, Turkey rejected these allegations, describing them as “cheap propaganda” and Azerbaijan said that Armenia is lying about this issue.
What happened on the ground?
Dozens of soldiers and some civilians have been killed since the outbreak of violence last Sunday in this decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Karabakh declared itself an independent republic, which escalated the conflict and turned into an all-out war. The “de facto” state was not recognized from abroad, even by Armenia itself.
Earlier on Wednesday, Azerbaijan published a photo of what it said was the destruction of two “enemy” tanks, and said that an Armenian battalion had fled the area around the town of “Tonashin”.
Armenian reports said that three civilians were killed in an Azerbaijani air strike on the town of “Martakert” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Armenian Press news agency said that seven civilians and 80 soldiers had been killed since the fighting began.
What is France saying?
In recent weeks, two members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) France and Turkey have been on opposite sides of a dispute over energy claims in the eastern Mediterranean. They have also been at odds over the power struggle in Libya.
Now, President Macron has warned Turkey about “the war declarations … which basically remove any obstacles that Azerbaijan has in retaking Nagorno Karabakh. This is something we will not accept.”
Macron said he would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and to US President Donald Trump on Thursday. Azerbaijan and Armenia are former Soviet republics, and while Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, it also maintains good relations with Azerbaijan.
The French president appeared to be promising to provide more support to Armenia in the coming days, when he said: “I say to Armenia and the Armenians, France will do its part.”
The conflict is expected to be discussed at this week’s summit of European Union leaders.
What is Turkey’s response?
Turkey said it would do “what is necessary” to support Azerbaijan, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the French President of practically supporting the occupation.
However, there is international concern that Turkey will support a larger military operation. Cavusoglu has already said that Turkey will support Azerbaijan “in the field and at the negotiating table,” and an aide to the presidency institution spoke of Turkey’s commitment “to help Azerbaijan recover its occupied lands.”
In additional statements he made on Wednesday, the aide said, “Azerbaijan is fighting to protect its lands. Where is this place in the world in which the people under occupation and the occupier are treated the same?”
As for Russia, it offered to mediate in the conflict, but Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that talking about holding a summit was not on the table “at a time of intense hostilities.”
In turn, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev indicated that there is nothing to talk about, arguing that Pashinyan has publicly declared that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Armenia.