Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of occupying its country after fresh deadly fighting

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of occupying its country after fresh deadly fighting

Armenia on Wednesday accused Azerbaijan of occupying new Armenian territories, the second day of a military escalation between the two neighbors that has killed more than 150 and jeopardized fragile peace talks. Those clashes, which erupted overnight Monday into Tuesday, are the most intense since a 2020 war that Armenia lost and killed more than 6,500 people. At least 105 Armenian soldiers were killed, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Wednesday, more than twice as many as announced on Tuesday.

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of occupying 50 km2 of its territory

“The enemy, who has occupied 40 km2 of Armenian land since May, is now occupying another 10 km2,” Nikol Pashinian condemned, calling on Azerbaijani forces to “leave”. Azerbaijan, which announced 50 soldiers killed in its ranks, also said on Wednesday it intends to hand over the bodies of 100 killed Armenian soldiers to Yerevan. Russia, a regional power that sees the Caucasus as its backyard, announced a ceasefire Tuesday morning, but the two camps were immediately accused of violating it.

This deadly new outbreak comes as attention is monopolized by Moscow, the region’s traditional mediator, through its military intervention in Ukraine. The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Baku “renewed its attacks with artillery, mortars and large-caliber weapons towards Jermuk, Verin Chorya,” two Armenian settlements near the Azerbaijani border.

Two rival ex-Soviet republics

“It was impossible to stay in our houses because there was already heavy bombing (…). We thought our houses would collapse,” said Vardanouch Vardanian, 66, a resident of the nearby Armenian village of Sotk on the border with Azerbaijan . For its part, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry confirmed that the Armenian armed forces shelled their “positions in the Kelbayar and Lachin areas” during the night. Baku also accused Armenian forces of firing howitzers at three Azerbaijani villages. Armenia has denied these allegations.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, two rival former Soviet republics, have clashed in two wars over the past three decades for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed mountainous region. The resumption of such bloody fighting shows how volatile the situation remains, both in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the official borders between the two countries.

The international community concerned

Armenia called on the international community to respond, while the European Union, United States, France, Russia, Iran and Turkey expressed concern and called for an end to the violence. The German government also called on Armenia and Azerbaijan on Wednesday to end their conflict, which threatens the security of the entire “region”.

During his visit to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis said he was “concerned” and called for “prayers for peaceful confrontation and harmony over disputes in these areas too”.

Russia’s role as mediator questioned

Russia deployed peacekeeping forces to Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020. But since its offensive in Ukraine, Moscow has been isolated internationally and its role as a mediator has been called into question. In recent months, the EU has taken the lead in seeking a peace deal. These negotiations made it possible to make tentative progress on the issue of demarcation and the reopening of communications between the two countries. Armenian leaders Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani Ilham Aliyev have met three times this year in Brussels, most recently on August 31.

But the new clashes “have undone the progress made,” said Guela Vasadze, a political scientist at the Georgian Center for Strategic Analysis. Relations between Yerevan and Baku remain poisoned by the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave populated mostly by Armenians who seceded from Azerbaijan with Armenian support. After a first war that cost the lives of more than 30,000 people in the early 1990s, fighting broke out again between Yerevan and Baku in autumn 2020, which cost the lives of more than 6,500 people.

Reference: www.europe1.fr

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