A fresh rounds of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region broke out on September 27, Sunday, raising concerns about the possibility of a full-fledged war. Sunday’s clashes alongside the border continued on Monday morning, and are reported to be the most intense since 2016.
Scores of people, both fighters and civilians, have reportedly been killed in the fighting which started on Sunday morning. The Armenian authorities accuse Azerbaijan of attacking civilian settlements in Nagorno Karabakh. They also admitted that 31 Armenian soldiers have died and over 100 wounded in the Azeri attacks. Azerbaijan has blamed the Armenian armed forces for shelling a border town, Terter, with over 19,000 population. Several non-combatants have also reportedly died in the overnight fighting.
All the parties in the conflict – Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan – announced martial law and full conscription in their respective territories on Sunday. The Armenian foreign ministry issued a statement on Twitter accusing Azerbaijan of aggression, and vowed to defend “the freedom of the people of Nagorno Karabakh.”
Nagorno-Karabakh is a breakaway region of Azerbaijan with an Armenian ethnic majority. At the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region announced its independence from Azerbaijan, leading to a war between the two Transcaucasian countries. In 1994, a cease fire between the three parties – the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia and the leaders of the Nagorno Karabakh – was reached with Russian mediation. The ceasefire agreement leaves a large part of the Azerbaijani territory under Armenian control. The final resolution of the dispute is still pending, with conflicts flaring up from time to time.
United Nations general secretary António Guterres, expressed his concerns over the clashes and appealed to both sides to stop the fighting. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, in a tweet on Sunday, offered Iran’s good offices for both countries to engage in a “dialogue to resolve differences”, saying that “our region needs peace now.” Russia too has offered mediation.
This article was first published in Peoples Dispatch.