Armenia-Azerbaijan bloody skirmish leaves 16 dead, threatens regional stability
YEREVAN/BAKU (ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN) – As many as 16 troops and several civilians were killed in clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday, the heaviest since 2016. This has stoked concerns about stability in the South Caucasus which has pipelines carrying oil and gas to global markets.
The clashes between the two Soviet republics were the latest flare-up of a long-running feud over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan run by ethnic Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh said 16 of its servicemen were killed and more than 100 injured after Azerbaijan carried out an air and artillery strike early on Sunday. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh imposed martial law and rallied its male population.
In the same manner, Azerbaijan, too, imposed martial law and said its troops responded to Armenian shelling that left five members of a family dead.
Baku also said its forces had wrested control of seven villages. Although Nagorno-Karabakh initially denied it, the authorities later admitted that they lost “some positions” and suffered civilian casualties.
The clashes on Sunday have prompted world powers to intervene. Russia called for an immediate ceasefire while Turkey, a regional power, said it would support Azerbaijan. Many view it as a conflict between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan.
US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that Washington would seek to end the violence.
“We’re looking at it very strongly,” he told a news briefing. “We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it.”
Condemning the violence in a statement, the US State Department called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Joe Biden, US Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President, said that the skirmish could evolve into a wider conflict and urged the US government to send more observers along the ceasefire line and demanded Russia should “stop cynically providing arms to both sides.”
There are pipelines carrying Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the world close to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The region seceded from Azerbaijan in a conflict following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Despite the ceasefire in 1994, after thousands of people were killed and many more displaced, both sides have frequently traded accusations of attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian border.
According to Armenia, Azeri soldiers attacked civilian targets, including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert.
“We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tweeted.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of launching deliberate attacks along the frontier and denied an Armenian defence ministry statement’s claim that enemy choppers and tanks were destroyed.
“We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said while addressing the nation.