On Sunday, fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces as a decades-long conflict over disputed land turned into another war involving artillery, aircraft, and tanks.
The fight concerning the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has been denounced by the international community. Russia, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and international organizations such as NATO, have all called on both side of the dispute to stop fighting.
Turkey has backed Azerbaijan and offered assistance in the fight.
Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian Prime Minister, ordered a general mobilization and declared martial law, accusing Azerbaijan of “preplanned aggression”. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev also declared martial law, and announced in a state TV address that Armenian forces were occupying their territory, and “we’ll put an end to this occupation”.
Since Armenians took control of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts during a war sparked in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed, conflict has broken out on multiple occasions.
According to the Detroit News, “The confrontation has the potential to drag in Russia and Turkey, adding to geostrategic tensions between them over proxy conflicts in Syria and Libya. Russia has a mutual-defense pact with Armenia and a military base in the republic, while Azerbaijan hosted large-scale joint military exercises with Turkish forces last month.”
As reported in a Kremlin statement, Russian President Vladamir Putin called for the countries to put a stop to hostile actions, and expressed “serious concern about the renewal of large-scale military conflict”.
“Turkey stands by its Azeri brothers with all its means,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter after speaking with Aliyev.
A BP Plc-operated oil pipeline runs less than 30 miles from the conflict zone, and carries as much as 1.2 million barrels daily from Baku to Turkey’s Ceyhan. Though the pipeline has not been targeted in any prior conflict, many are worried that it will be vulnerable to attack in the current escalation between the two countries.
Despite decades of attempted mediation by multiple countries, including the United States, France, and Russia, a peace agreement has never been signed.
The Detroit News reported that “Armenia says the right of the internationally unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to self-determination should be respected, while Azerbaijan says its territorial integrity must be upheld.”
The OSCE has called for a ceasefire, and for the countries to return to negotiations.
In a statement, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said it was “deeply concerned” by the fighting.
In an address from the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis called on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the crisis “not through the use of force and arms but through the means of dialogue and negotiation”.
The Defense Ministry in Baku, in an online statement, said that the Azeri army is using tanks, artillery, missile systems and aircraft against Armenian positions near the front line and deeper into Armenian-held territory. The statement also announced that as many as 12 Armenian anti-aircraft systems have been destroyed and one Azeri helicopter was shot down.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan has announced that Armenian forces hit four Azeri helicopters, 10 tanks and about 15 drones.
In a livestream broadcast, Nagorno-Karabakh Deputy Defense Minister Artur Sargsyan said that at least 16 Armenian serviceman have died and more than 100 were wounded.
Last week, tensions were inflamed as the leaders of both countries accused each other of preparing for a new war.
The conflict “is a war against our independence, freedom and dignity. The Armenian people are ready for that war,” Pashinyan said in a televised address to the nation.
Azeri forces are “fighting on our soil, and have no claim to anyone’s land. We’ll win because our cause is just,” Aliyev said in his speech.