Sunday, October 1, 2023

Azerbaijan launches military operation in Nagorno Karabakh

Azerbaijan launches military operation in Nagorno Karabakh Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, three years after the previous war, demanding the “total and unconditional” withdrawal of its Armenian adversary from this region disputed for decades with Armenia.

The fighting killed at least two civilians and wounded 23 others, Armenian separatist authorities said, while Baku said it only targeted military targets.

Armenian diplomacy denounced a “large-scale aggression” for the purposes of “ethnic cleansing.” He also considered that Russia, the guarantor of a ceasefire dating back to 2020 with peacekeepers on the ground, must “stop Azerbaijani aggression.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian also called on Moscow, his traditional ally, and the UN to act.

Yerevan said it had no troops in Karabakh, suggesting separatist forces were alone against the Azerbaijani army.

The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan announced on Tuesday morning the launch of “anti-terrorist operations” to put “the positions of the Armenian armed forces” out of danger, after the death of six Azerbaijanis in the explosion of mines at a construction site in construction. .

Tensions have been rising for months around Nagorno Karabakh, a secessionist territory of Azerbaijan with an Armenian majority, which has already been the center of two wars between Yerevan and Baku, the last of which lasted six weeks.

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“Unconditional and total withdrawal”

Azerbaijani diplomacy warned that “the only way to achieve peace and stability” was “the total and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces” from the territory and “the dissolution of the so-called separatist regime.”

The Armenian Ministry of Defense assured him “that Armenia did not have an army in Nagorno Karabakh”, thereby implying that his separatist allies were facing the opposing army.

Comments were echoed shortly afterward by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, accusing Baku of wanting to “drag Armenia into hostilities.”

Separatists claim that several cities in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the capital Stepanakert, are subject to “intensive shooting,” which also targets civilian infrastructure. The Azerbaijani army is trying to advance “deeply” into Karabakh, they said.

The situation on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is currently “stable,” Nikol Pashinian said.

The Prime Minister, who convened his Security Council, also denounced calls for a “coup” in Armenia, while television reported hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the government headquarters in Yerevan.

The Armenian opposition has tried several times over three years to remove Pashinian from power, accusing him of being responsible for the Armenian military defeat during the fall 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Baku said it had informed Russia and Turkey of its operations in the enclave, and Moscow later said it had only been warned “a few minutes” before their start.

The “concerned” Kremlin stated through its spokesperson that it was trying to convince Armenia and Azerbaijan to return “to the negotiating table.”

France requested “the emergency convening of a meeting of the United Nations Security Council,” condemning the military operation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would be in touch with both sides.

European Council President Charles Michel, who has conducted mediation in the past between the two countries, ruled that Azerbaijan must “immediately” cease its operation.

No peace agreement

Baku justified its operation with the death of four police officers and two Azerbaijani civilians in the explosion of mines at the site of a tunnel under construction between Shusha and Fizouli, two cities in Nagorno Karabakh under Azerbaijani control.

Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the most mined regions of the former USSR and its explosions regularly kill people.

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But Azerbaijan’s security services believe that a group of Armenian separatist “saboteurs” planted these mines, committing an act of “terrorism.”

At the same time, Baku accused the Armenian army of having wounded two Azerbaijani soldiers during mortar and small arms fire in northeastern Karabakh, and of having fired small arms at night towards Azerbaijani positions in the Gadabay district of the border between the two countries.

Azerbaijan also accuses Armenian separatists of having attacked the GPS system of an Azerbaijani plane using radio jamming.

However, tensions had eased somewhat on Monday with the arrival of humanitarian aid to the enclave, subjected for months to an Azerbaijani blockade that caused serious shortages of food and medicine.

Yerevan accuses Baku of provoking a humanitarian crisis for the purposes of ethnic cleansing by blocking the Lachin corridor, the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

The previous conflict, in 2020, resulted in an Armenian military defeat, with Yerevan having to cede territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to Baku.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed, involving the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, but the belligerents never reached a peace agreement.

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