Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up again Monday evening, with both sides reporting intense artillery shelling.
At around midnight, Azerbaijani troops shelled Armenian troops at three locations along the border. Azerbaijan said it was responding to a buildup of Armenian landmines and weapons near the border.
Armenia fired back in retaliation.
The fighting took place near the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an area of Azerbaijan where ethnic Armenian separatists proclaimed a breakaway republic – later known as Artsakh – in 1991.
At a press conference early on Tuesday, Armenian defense spokesman Aram Torosyan said the situation remains “extremely tense” as the fighting continues.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan later told parliament: “For now, we have 49 [troops] killed and unfortunately it is not the final figure.”
Armenia, Azerbaijan act guilty of violence
Both countries claimed to have launched proportionate responses against what they saw as provocations from the other side.
“At 00:05 a.m. [local time] Azerbaijan launched intensive shelling with artillery and large-caliber firearms on Armenian military positions on Tuesday toward the cities of Goris, Sotk and Jermuk,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said.
However, Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of carrying out “large-scale subversive actions” earlier Monday evening near the border districts of Dashkesan, Kelbajar and Lachin by placing land mines and mobilizing weapons.
“The countermeasures of the Azerbaijani army in response to the provocation by the Armenian army are local and targeting legitimate military objects that serve as firing points,” added the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.
Armenian troops said they then launched a “proportionate” response. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its troops were “fired intensely with weapons of various calibres, including mortars” by units of the Armenian army.
Both sides acknowledged the casualties of the troops, but did not disclose any figures.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict broke out in the late 1980s
US calls for end of fighting
Armenia has said it will call on the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — a security bloc of former Soviet states — and the UN Security Council.
Prime Minister Pashinyan called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the outbreak of violence. He also called French President Emmanuel Macron and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Pashinyan’s office said the calls were made to inform leaders “of Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions against the sovereign territory of Armenia” and to demand an “adequate response from the international community.”
The US has called for an end to the clashes.
“As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict,” Blinken said in a statement. “We urge an immediate end to all military hostilities.”
Turkey – a close ally of Azerbaijan – blamed Armenia for the outbreak of violence and called for peace negotiations.
“Armenia must cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation” [with] Azerbaijan,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Long-running feud over Nagorno-Karabakh
The ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has been the scene of two wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent decades.
The area was controlled by Armenian separatists for nearly 30 years until Azerbaijan regained control of most of the territory after a six-week war in 2020 and a Russia-brokered ceasefire.
Last week, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of killing one of its soldiers in a border battle, while Azerbaijan also accused Armenia of shooting at its troops in recent months.
ab, zc/dj (TBEN, Interfax, Reuters, dpa)