Dozens dead as world leaders urge halt to Azerbaijan-Armenia clashes
At least 24 people have died after deadly clashes between arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan, as the latest violence in the decades-long territorial dispute sparked international calls on Sept. 27 to halt the fighting.
The worst skirmishes since 2016 have raised the specter of a fresh war between the ex-Soviet rivals, locked since the early 1990s in a stalemate over the Armenia-backed breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union swiftly urged an "immediate ceasefire", while Pope Francis prayed for peace.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "deep concern" on Sept. 27, and "strongly called for an immediate end to hostilities".
Condemning the use of force and civilian deaths, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the parties to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to "meaningful" negotiations without delay, his spokesman said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department also called on the two countries to immediately end clashes in a statement.
"The United States is alarmed by reports of large-scale military action along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone that has resulted in significant casualties, including civilians. We extend our condolences to the families of those killed and injured," the statement said.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms this escalation of violence.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the military flareup with Pashinyan and called for "an end to hostilities."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "is conducting intensive contacts in order to induce the parties to cease fire and start negotiations to stabilize the situation,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called on the sides to stop fighting. The long-unsuccessful negotiations for resolving the territory's status has been conducted under OSCE auspices.
Meanwhile, Turkey promised Azerbaijan its "full support."
"The Turkish people will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means as always," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tweeted.
Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of violating a ceasefire, saying it had launched a counter-offensive to "ensure the safety of the population", using tanks, artillery missiles, combat aviation, and drones.
In a televised address to the nation earlier on Sept. 27, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev vowed victory over Armenian forces.
"Our cause is just and we will win," he said. "Karabakh is Azerbaijan."
Both Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilization. Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.
Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said there were reports of dead and wounded. "Extensive damage has been inflicted on many homes and civilian infrastructure," it said.
Azerbaijan on Sept. 28 issued a final warning to Armenia, which is continuing to attack civilian settlements.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Azerbaijani city of Terter has been under fire from Armenian forces since this morning. The ministry also shared aerial footage of the destruction of Armenian tanks and armored vehicles during the clashes.
Border clashes broke out early on Sept. 27 after Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions in the region, which is also known as Upper Karabakh.
Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.