After fighting erupted in the troubled Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of a military conflagration. Azerbaijan’s “authoritarian regime has once again declared war on the Armenian people,” Pashinyan said on Armenian television on Sunday. He added, “We face an all-out war in the South Caucasus,” which could have “unforeseeable consequences” for the region and possibly beyond.
The Azerbaijani army had previously bombed the troubled Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Armenian government dropped martial law and announced a general mobilization. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that on Sunday afternoon. All adults are called to arm, Nagorno-Karabakh President Araik Harutjunjan had said earlier at an emergency meeting of the regional parliament.
Azerbaijan also declared martial law on Sunday afternoon. “Martial law will come into effect at midnight,” President Hikmet Hayev said Sunday evening in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. He also said several major cities, including Baku, and areas near the Nagorno-Karabakh front line are subject to night clocks.
The Azerbaijani government army and pro-Armenian rebels are engaged in fierce fighting in the troubled Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Azerbaijani army suffered “heavy losses,” the rebels reported Sunday morning.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense, which supports the rebels, reported the shooting down of two Azerbaijani military helicopters and three drones. The rebels said the Azerbaijani army bombed the Nagorno-Karabakh region, largely inhabited by Armenians, early Sunday morning.
The capital Stepanakert had been shot at, people had to get to safety, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh announced on Sunday. Numerous houses in villages have been destroyed. There would also be injuries.
The President of the EU Council Michel is deeply concerned
The EU and the Council of Europe have called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately end fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, was very concerned via Twitter on Sunday. “To prevent further escalation, military action must be urgently halted.” The only way out is an immediate return to unconditional negotiations.
“The European Union is calling for an immediate end to fighting, de-escalation and strict ceasefire control,” said Josep Borrell, EU foreign affairs representative. He also called for a resumption of negotiations.
Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric of the Council of Europe said both countries should take their responsibility and be restrained. Fighting must be stopped immediately. “Upon joining the Council of Europe, both countries committed themselves to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and this commitment must be strictly observed.” Pejcinovic Buric called on both sides to do everything possible to protect human lives.
Germany and France also expressed deep concern about the Nagorno-Karabakh skirmishes and reports of civilian casualties. “France is demanding an immediate halt to the fighting and a resumption of dialogue,” the French Foreign Ministry said in Paris.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasized in Berlin that the conflict can only be resolved through negotiations. The Minsk OSCE Group with its three co-chairs France, Russia and the US is ready for this. The OSCE is the organization for security and cooperation in Europe.
Russia is calling on Azerbaijan and Armenia for a ceasefire
Russia also called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately end fighting. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in intensive talks to convince the warring parties to stop fires surrounding the conflict area, the authority announced in Moscow on Sunday. Both countries should return to the negotiating table.
Lavrov called, among others, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu. From Ankara it was only said that it was “aggression” of Armenia. In Moscow, the ministry announced that both chief diplomats had expressed concern about the situation. They expressed their condolences to the families of the victims.
Armenian forces destroy an Azerbaijani military vehicle on the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic contact line Photo: Armenian Ministry of Defense / dpa
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said the military had launched a “counter-offensive” to “stop Armenia’s military activities and protect the security of the people.” The ministry spoke of a downed helicopter.
Both sides blamed each other for the fighting. The shelling began early in the morning from the Azerbaijani side, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan wrote on Facebook. “Full responsibility for this rests with the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan,” said the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense of Armenia.
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Yerevan therefore used helicopters and combat drones. Three enemy tanks were hit. There were reports that a state of emergency had been imposed.
The two Caucasus states of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in conflict over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region for nearly 30 years. Mainly inhabited by Armenians, Nagorno-Karabakh was added to Azerbaijan during Soviet times. Pro-Armenian rebels took control of the area after fighting with about 30,000 dead in the early 1990s.
Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law
In 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence; internationally, however, the area is still not recognized as an independent state. Azerbaijan wants to bring the region back under full control, if necessary by force. Under international law, the region belongs to the Islamic Azerbaijan.
A ceasefire has existed in the region since 1994, but this has been broken several times. In July there was fierce fighting on the border between the warring republics; however, the fighting was hundreds of miles north of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia relies on Russia as a protective force, which has thousands of soldiers and weapons stationed there.
In recent weeks, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has flared up again. Both sides accused each other of attacking villages in the border area. The last time there was fierce fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was in April 2016. More than a hundred people died. In 2010, the last major initiative for peace between Yerevan and Baku to date failed. (AFP, dpa, Tsp)