Armenia reported 49 soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan following the latter’s military firing at Armenian border towns on Tuesday morning, increasing the risk of the decades-old conflict flaring up anew.
Artillery fire of Azerbaijan Armed Forces split the morning Tuesday sky as projectiles flew towards Armenian border towns, according to the Armenian Defence Ministry, which added that the strike included drones and large-calibre firearms fired in the direction of Goris, Sotk, and Jermuk.
The strikes were acknowledged by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence but stressed the strikes are “small-scale” and “aim to ensure the security of Azerbaijan’s borders.”
The artillery fire came as a tit-for-tat response to Armenian forces allegedly firing small arms in the directions of the Novoivanovka settlement of Gadabay region and Husulu settlement of Lachin region near the border of the two countries. Armenia denied these allegations made by Azerbaijan.
But the embers of the conflict, which dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, have been burning for decades with a sudden flareup last month when the two countries clashed over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region – a landlocked area between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The area is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians but is located in Azerbaijani territory.
The Nagorno-Karabakh, backed by Armenia, declared independence from Azerbaijan in December 1991. Ever since Azerbaijan has not coped with the territorial change and vowed to retake the territory, which is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani.
Prime Minister @NikolPashinyan had a telephone conversation with #US Secretary of State @SecBlinken Antony Blinken. https://t.co/Y5gvMV2526 pic.twitter.com/TdZemFMnP5
— Government of Armenia (@armgov) September 13, 2022
Noteworthily, Armenia has been Russia’s security ally. Moreover, the Kremlin maintains a peacekeeping force in the region after brokering a ceasefire agreement in early November 2020, ending an almost two-month conflict that killed at least 6,500 people, according to Reuters.
The United States is deeply concerned about reports of active hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We urge an end to military hostilities immediately. There is no military solution to the conflict. https://t.co/cGeWXpbzKS
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 13, 2022
The US and Russia call for putting the guns down
The US called for the “immediate cessation of hostilities” on Monday evening, according to a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s office.
“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of attacks along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, including reported strikes against settlements and civilian infrastructure inside Armenia,” Blinken said. “As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict. We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately.”
Russia too called for stopping the altercation, in a statement. Its foreign ministry said it had brokered a ceasefire at 09:00 Moscow time (06:00 GMT) Tuesday morning and it expected both sides to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
“We express our extreme concern over the sharp aggravation of the situation in areas of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” the foreign ministry said. “We call on the sides to refrain from further escalation of the situation, exercise restraint and strictly observe the ceasefire.”
Moscow, an ally of Yerevan through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) military alliance, but which also retains close friendly relations with Baku, did not say who it saw as responsible for the latest escalation.