According to official reports, partial, the fighting that broke out Sunday in Nagorno Karabakh claimed the lives of 127 people, including 23 civilians.
Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday showed their determination to continue the fighting, on the fourth day of deadly clashes in Nagorno Karabakh, a breakaway Azerbaijani territory backed by Yerevan, ignoring international calls for a ceasefire.
Stepanakert, the capital of this self-proclaimed republic, was largely plunged into darkness Wednesday night. Two explosions of undetermined origin sounded there around midnight, while sirens were blaring.
Call from Moscow and Paris
On Wednesday evening, Moscow and Paris called for a “complete” end to the fighting. “Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron called on the parties to the conflict to cease fire completely and, as soon as possible, to lower tensions and show maximum restraint,” the Kremlin said following a telephone conversation between the Russian and French presidents.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had proposed “a meeting of the heads of diplomacy of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia” in Moscow, reiterating a call for a ceasefire. An appeal all the more urgent given that Russia has reported the deployment in the conflict zone of fighters “coming in particular from Syria and Libya”, enough to “provoke an escalation” throughout the region. Moscow urged, without specifying its allegations, not to allow the arrival of “foreign terrorists and mercenaries”.
Armenia had accused Syrian allies of Turkey of having been recruited to fight in Karabakh, which Azerbaijan had denied, in return blaming Yerevan for deploying armed men who took part in the war in Syria. “Mercenaries from Middle Eastern countries are fighting against us alongside the Armenian forces,” Hikmet Khadjiyev, an adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, told AFP on Wednesday.
Before that, in Baku, after visiting wounded soldiers in a hospital, President Aliyev vowed to continue the struggle until the Armenian forces “full, unconditional and without delay”. It is only on this condition that “the fighting will stop”, he insisted.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian had meanwhile closed the door to negotiations in the morning, deeming “inappropriate” a possible peace summit “while intense fighting is underway”. A few hours earlier, a UN Security Council had called for an end to hostilities.
Russia, one of the most influential countries in the South Caucasus, maintains cordial relations with the two belligerents, former Soviet republics. Armenia, however, is part of a military alliance dominated by Moscow, which in turn supplies arms to both sides.
Very partial reviews
Russia, France and the United States, which since 1992 have co-chaired the Minsk group on Karabakh formed within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have failed to find a settlement. lasting conflict for this territory, which is mostly populated by Armenians and which seceded from Azerbaijan. A war in the early 1990s left 30,000 dead there.
Vladimir Poutine and Emmanuel Macron said they were “ready” for the adoption of a statement that would be issued on behalf of the co-chairs of the Minsk group and would call for an “immediate” end to hostilities and the start of discussions. According to official reports, probably very partial, the fighting that broke out on Sunday claimed the lives of 127 people, namely 104 Armenian separatist fighters and 23 civilians.
Azerbaijan has not announced any military losses. An AFP journalist, however, attended the burial of a soldier in the Azerbaijani region of Beylagan, according to residents. In front of military centers in Baku and Yerevan, dozens of men of all ages volunteered to fight, according to AFP journalists. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry assures us that since Sunday 2300 Armenian separatists have been killed. He also claims the destruction of 130 tanks and 200 pieces of artillery.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense for its part claimed to have destroyed in particular more than 150 tanks and other armored vehicles, seven helicopters and declared that hundreds of Azerbaijani soldiers had perished. All of this data was unverifiable from an independent source.
“A long war”
In both countries, where bellicose rhetoric has resounded for weeks, mobilization and martial law have been decreed. Azerbaijan claims to have obtained territorial gains, while Nagorno Karabakh claims to have regained lost positions. Armenia continued to accuse Turkey of assisting Azerbaijan militarily, in the air in particular, and of having shot down one of its planes on Tuesday, which Ankara and Baku deny.
A direct Turkish military intervention would constitute a major turning point and an internationalization of the conflict, a possible catastrophe scenario. Turkey is the only power not to have called for a ceasefire, inciting its Azerbaijani ally to retake Karabakh by force and hounding Armenia, its historical adversary.
(ATS / NXP)
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