Turkey condemns Armenian attacks against Azerbaijan
ANKARATurkey’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Armenia for committing “heavy weapon attacks” against Azerbaijan early on Feb. 25 in an attack that killed five Azerbaijani soldiers, according to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.
The ministry issued a late on Feb. 26, offering condolences to the fallen Azerbaijani soldiers’ families and the people of Azerbaijan.
“Armenia has been keeping one-fifth of Azerbaijani territory under occupation for a quarter century,” it said.
“We invite Armenia to follow the cease-fire rules and expect that heavy clashes will not occur again.”
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said in a written statement on Feb. 27 that five of its soldiers were killed in clashes with Armenia-backed separatists along the boundary with the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Defense Ministry said that clashes occurred in the early hours of Feb. 25, in the remote Khojavend and Fizuli regions and that Armenia was still preventing the evacuation of five dead Azeri soldiers from the area.
It said that even though a deal was reached with the participation of representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for a cease-fire to take effect at noon on Feb. 26, this did not happen and that the deceased soldiers could not be removed from the field where they fell.
“The evacuation of bodies did not take place because the Azeri side violated agreements,” the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists said in a statement.
The breakaway region’s self-declared Defense Ministry accused the Azeri military of trying to infiltrate its territory and said there were no casualties on their side.
International mediators from the OSCE Minsk Group called on the two sides “to keep heavy military equipment in its present positions and to allow recovery of the dead.”
The Azeri Defense Ministry also said Armenian armed units broke the cease-fire with Azerbaijan a total of 117 times on Feb. 26, using 60mm mortars (15 shells), 82mm mortars (18 shells), and a D-44 gun (one shell).
According to Azeri state news agency AzerTAc, the cease-fire was violated in the Chilaburt village in Tartar district; the Shuraabad, Bah Qarvand and Yusifjanli villages in Aghdam district; the Kuropatkino village in Khojavand district; the Horadiz and Ashaghi Veysalli villages in Fuzuli district; as well as nameless hills in the Goranboy, Tartar, Aghdam, Khojavand, Fuzuli and Jabrayil districts.
Clashes in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region, which pro-Armenian militia occupied in 1993, occur frequently.
In April 2016, more than 270 military personnel lost their lives in the worst-ever breach of a 1994 treaty between the sides, according to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.
Three U.N. Security Council Resolutions (853, 874 and 884), and United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 19/13 and 57/298 refer to Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.
The territory has officially declared its independence as the Republic of Artsakh, but it is not recognized by any other country in the world.
The clashes came on the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Khojaly massacre in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The massacre on Feb. 25-26, 1992, is regarded as one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Armenian forces took over the town of Khojaly in Karabakh on Feb. 26, 1992, after battering it with heavy artillery and tanks, assisted by an infantry regiment.
The two-hour offensive killed 613 Azeri citizens, including 116 women and 63 children and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures.