Azerbaijan, combats in the Armenian frontier

Dozens killed in combats between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Concern grows over escalation of war in South Caucasus. Turkey has pledged full support to Azerbaijan in the face of Armenian attacks.

Combats between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the border around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave has left at least 24 dead in recent hours in the worst escalation of war in the region in recent years, while international community steps efforts to achieve a ceasefire to stop a new war in the Caucasus.

Several EU countries have urgently called for an “immediate ceasefire”, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who on Sunday expressed “deep concern” and called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.” The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also asked both sides to return to the negotiating table, while the US State Department issued a statement urging an end to the fighting.

For his part, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is also president of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – which for years has sponsored unsuccessful negotiations to end the conflict – also asked the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev the cessation of violence in the region.

The escalation of the war in the South Caucasus has led several airlines to cancel all their flights to both countries; on Monday, Azerbaijani authorities also announced the suspension of all international flights except those from its neighbour and ally Turkey, due to the intensification of fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey pledges “full support” to Azerbaijan

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised “full support” to the government and the people of Azerbaijan in the face of new Armenian aggressions. “The Turkish people will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means, as always,” Erdoğan wrote on Twitter, accusing Armenia of having shown that it is the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the region.

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of having violated the fragile ceasefire in the region with an attack on Sunday against military and civilian positions in the “line of contact” that separates both fronts, and its defence ministry announced early Sunday a large-scale offensive “to ensure the safety of the population” with the participation of tanks, artillery, fighters and drones.

In a televised speech on Sunday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev vigorously defended the cause of Azerbaijan, saying: “Our cause is just, and we will win. Karabakh is Azerbaijan.” Both this country and Armenia announced martial law and general mobilisation, declaring a state of war in various regions. The Karabakh government – only recognised by Armenia – has for its part acknowledged having lost part of its territory in the Azerbaijani offensive.

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry also added that the city of Terter, close to the separation line between the two fronts, has been under enemy fire since Monday morning and issued a final warning to Armenia on the same day to cease its attacks against civilian settlements, also showing aerial images in which it showed the destruction of tanks and armoured vehicles of the Armenian forces.

Erdoğan: Azerbaijan has been forced to respond to Armenia

Erdoğan once again defended Azerbaijan’s response on Monday as a matter of pure national defense in the face of the continuous Armenian attacks and after “years of aggression”. During a speech delivered at an international symposium on maritime security in Istanbul, the Turkish president recalled that Azerbaijan has been suffering continuous provocations for three decades while the international community remained silent.

“I condemn Armenia once again for attacking Azerbaijani territory. It is time to end the crisis that started with the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Erdoğan said, adding that peace in the region is only possible if the Yerevan government ceases its attacks and leaves the occupied enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Turkish president also had harsh words for the so-called Minsk Trio – made up of the United States, Russia and France – whom he accused of having done nothing to solve a problem that has lasted for three decades. “They have done almost everything possible not to solve the problem, and now they give advice and even some threat,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey has also openly accused the Armenian government of using mercenaries and terrorists brought in from paramilitary groups in Syria, and even members of the PKK terrorist organisation, to confront the Azerbaijani army. “Armenia should … bring back the mercenaries and terrorists it has brought in from abroad,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Monday.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian-majority territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan which, after the country’s independence from the USSR in 1991, gained independence from Baku and was taken over in a bloody war by Armenia, which turned it into a puppet state without international recognition also occupying 7 adjacent districts of Azerbaijan. Four UN Security Council resolutions have since then demanded the “immediate withdrawal” of Armenian forces from the region.