Heavy fighting between the forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia broke out on Sunday in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh region. Both sides, which fought a war in the 1990s, reported fatalities. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians, declared martial law and mobilised their male populations. Armenia said Azerbaijan had carried out an air and artillery attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan said it had responded to Armenian shelling and that it had seized control of up to seven villages, but Nagorno-Karabakh denied this, reuters reported.
What is this conflict about?
Conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region began following the breakdown of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and lasted till approximately 1994, with both Armenia and Azerbaijan claiming this strategic territory. At that time, the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh had held a referendum boycotted by Azerbaijan where the people chose independence over joining either of the two countries.
The conflict between ethnic Armenians and ethnic Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh reached a particular low with Armenia and Azerbaijan accusing each other of having instigated ethnic cleansing.
Why Armenia and Azerbaijan are on verge of all-out war:
- Armenia has declared martial law and ordered its military to mobilise after a major "flare-up in violence" with Azerbaijan broke out over the disputed region.
- A top territorial official said 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded, while Azerbaijan’s president said his military has suffered losses.
- Armenia also claimed that two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down and three Azerbaijani tanks were hit by artillery, but Azerbaijan’s defense ministry rejected that claim.
- Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that shelling hit the region’s capital of Stepanakert and the towns of Martakert and Martuni.
- Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan also said Azerbaijani shelling hit within Armenian territory near the town of Vardenis.
- Another Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, said “the Armenian side” shot down two helicopters and hit three tanks.
- Turkey’s ruling party spokesman Omer Celik tweeted: “We vehemently condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once again committed a provocation, ignoring law.” He promised Turkey would stand by Azerbaijan and said, “Armenia is playing with fire and endangering regional peace.”
(With inputs from agencies)