Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan clashes

Turkey asks Armenia to stop its ”provocations” against Azerbaijan

As concern grows over the escalation of the war in the Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of restarting fighting on the Karabakh border.

Turkey has responded to the recent war escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan by supporting its allied government in Baku and demanding that the Armenian government cease its “provocations” in the Caucasus, after dozens of soldiers were killed on both sides after a tense night of intense clashes along the volatile border with the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which both sides accuse the other of having started.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan officially confirmed at least 49 deaths among the ranks of the Armenian army, in what would be the worst confrontation since the brief war between the two countries almost two years ago for the control of Karabakh, and which left more that 6,500 dead, mainly Armenian military.

The confrontation that took place last night would have been unleashed after, according to information released by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defence, groups of Armenian saboteurs had tried to plant mines in areas of Karabakh under Azeri control and along routes used to supply its troops; Azerbaijani positions around Dashkasan, Kalbajar and Lachin regions subsequently came under mortar fire, for which the Azerbaijani army responded to “large-scale provocations”, so that Baku accuses the Armenian government and army of having “full responsibility” for what happened.

For its part, the Armenian Ministry of Defence reported that at 00:05 on September 13 (22:05 CET) units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened intense artillery fire and large-caliber ammunition against Armenian positions in Goris, Sotk and Jermuk, also using military drones.

“Deep concern” about the tension in the Caucasus

In response to what happened, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reacted by asking Armenia to “stop its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation with Azerbaijan”, in a message posted on Twitter after having a telephone conversation with his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.

Although this is the most serious confrontation that has occurred between both sides since the capitulation of Armenia in November 2020 after 6 weeks of a war that was devastating for its army, the truth is that clashes have not stopped happening on the border despite the attempts of Russia and other countries for maintaining the ceasefire achieved 2 years ago.

Last week, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of killing one of its soldiers in a border clash, after an Azerbaijani soldier was killed in a similar incident in August. Last night, the United States expressed its “deep concern” about the escalation of the war in the area, as did Russia, which nevertheless managed to mediate a cessation of hostilities this morning.

A fragile peace since the 2020 war in Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two bloody wars for the control of Karabakh, a region located within the territory recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan but which, especially during the Soviet era, received massive Armenian immigration. After the victory achieved in 2020 by Azerbaijan, Armenia was forced to give up a large part of the territory it had occupied since the 1990s in Karabakh, redefining the map of the Caucasus, while Moscow – not yet immersed in the invasion of Ukraine – deployed some 2,000 soldiers on a peacekeeping mission to oversee the fragile truce.

Since then, Azerbaijan has launched a massive reconstruction plan in the Armenian-occupied territories of Karabakh, including in Ağdam, an Azeri city that had 150,000 inhabitants before the Armenian occupation, and which was razed to the ground and its inhabitants forced to flee to Azerbaijan as refugees, to the point that it is known as the “Hiroshima of the Caucasus”.

Last March, Azerbaijan sent a proposal to Yerevan with a series of conditions to normalize relations with Armenia, which included the definitive demarcation of the borders between the two countries, an issue on which the Yerevan government seems rather reluctant to agree a deal. Other issues such as the creation of a corridor connecting Azerbaijan with the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, a portion of the Azeri territory bordering Turkey but separated from Azerbaijan by Armenia, also seem to have the firm rejection of the Armenian government.