Civilians and soldiers have been killed in heavy fighting that erupted in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Sunday, Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists said, accusing each other of initiating hostilities. While this separatist region and its ally Yerevan decreed “general mobilization”, the Azeri president promised to “win”.

It could be a new open conflict. Heavy fighting broke out Sunday, September 27 in the Nagorno-Karabakh, a border region disputed for decades between Armenia and Azerbaijan, said both parties, accusing each other for launching hostilities, which resulted in civilian and military casualties. While the separatist territory supported by Yerevan decreed “general mobilization”, the Azeri president promised to “win”.

“Deaths and injuries have been reported among civilians and soldiers,” said the Azerbaijani presidency, while the public ombudsman of the Karabakh said there were “civilian casualties [dans la population de la région]”.

A woman and a child have died in the area, for his part reported the press secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Defense. Two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down, the ministry, which supports the separatists, said earlier [arméniens d’Azerbaïdjian].

“Martial law and general mobilization”

Armenia accuses Azeri forces of firing shells at the region, while Azerbaijan accuses Armenian forces of bombing Azeri military and civilian positions.

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Faced with the fighting, Nagorno-Karabakh decreed “martial law and general mobilization for those over 18 [pour toute sa population masculine]”, announced Sunday the president of the region Araïk Aroutiounian during an extraordinary session of the local Parliament, according to the presidency.

Following suit, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian also decreed “martial law and general mobilization in Armenia”. “I urge all personnel to report to military stations,” he continued on Facebook. “Let us firmly support our State, our army (…) and we will win”.

“We are going to win”

In Baku, the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, promised “victory” in a speech on television: “The Azerbaijani army is fighting today on its territory, defends its territorial integrity, delivers devastating blows to the enemy. Our cause is just and we will win.” .

“Early this morning the Azerbaijani side launched bombardments all along the line of contact. They are also bombing Stepanakert. [la capitale], we call on the population to take shelter, ”the spokesman for the separatist presidency said on his Facebook page.

“The Karabakh armed forces have so far thwarted plans [de l’Azerbaïdjan], inflicting heavy losses [à l’adversaire]”, indicated the Ministry of Defense of the region.

Intervention by Russia and Turkey?

A major conflict involving Yerevan and Baku could lead to the intervention of competing powers in the Caucasus region, Russia and Turkey.

Moscow called on Sunday morning “for an immediate cease-fire” and talks between the belligerents, while the two camps reject the responsibility for the hostilities.

>> Also read on Tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh: Moscow wants to mediate the conflict

On the Ankara side, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on twitter denounced Armenia’s “attack on Azerbaijan”, accusing Yerevan of attacking “civilian localities”. Turkey is a traditional ally of Baku.

Area disputed since a declaration of independence in 1991

Nagorno-Karabakh is a secessionist region of Azerbaijan, populated mainly by Armenians and supported by Armenia, having proclaimed its independence with the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The two former Soviet republics have been in opposition for decades about her.

The area was the scene of a war in the early 1990s that left 30,000 dead. Since then, the Azerbaijani authorities have wanted to regain control, by force if necessary, after peace talks have been stalled for many years.

Fighting regularly pits separatists against Azerbaijanis, as well as Yerevan and Baku. In 2016, serious armed clashes almost degenerated into war in Karabakh, and fighting also pitted Armenians and Azerbaijanis on their border in July 2020.

Both sides are used to blaming each other for these outbreaks of violence.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had already threatened Armenia on Friday 25th with reprisals for his “aggressive behavior”, referring to the clashes in July. Baku also accused Yerevan of “deliberately failing” the Karabakh peace negotiations. He also estimated that Armenia was preparing “tens of thousands of men with one goal, to attack Azerbaijan”.

Azerbaijan rich in petrodollars against Armenia very close to Russia

Baku has taken advantage of its immense oil reserves to spend lavishly on armaments in recent years. Azerbaijan can also count on the unwavering support of the Turkish president, who regularly accuses Armenia of being a threat to the stability of the Caucasus.

On the other hand, Armenia, much poorer, is closer to Russia, which has a military base there. Yerevan also belongs to a politico-military alliance led by Moscow, the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The Kremlin, which positions itself as an arbiter in the region, delivers arms to both countries. And for almost thirty years he has managed to avoid open war.

The international mediation on Karabakh, called the Minsk Group, includes, in addition to Moscow, France and the United States.

Faced with the resumption of fighting, Paris said on Sunday that it was “deeply concerned by the large-scale clashes underway in Nagorno-Karabakh”, calling on the belligerents to “immediately cease hostilities and resume dialogue”. In a press release, the French Foreign Ministry, “with its Russian and American partners, reiterates its commitment to reach a negotiated and lasting settlement of the conflict” in this region, “with respect for international law”.

Same story in Brussels. European Council President Charles Michel also called on Sunday for the cessation of hostilities and “an immediate return to negotiations”. “Military action must stop urgently to prevent any escalation” of violence, he said on Twitter.

With AFP and Reuters

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