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

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.

Armenian diplomacy denounced a “large-scale aggression” for the purposes of “ethnic cleansing”. She also judged that Russia, guarantor of a ceasefire dating from 2020 with peace forces on the ground, must “stop Azerbaijani aggression”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian urgently convened his Security Council to deal with this crisis.

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

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced Tuesday morning the launch of "anti-terrorist operations" to put "the positions of the Armenian armed forces" out of harm's way, after the death of six Azerbaijanis in the explosion of mines on a construction site road.

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

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

The Armenian Defense Ministry assured him "that Armenia did not (have) an army in Nagorno Karabakh", therefore implying that its separatist allies were facing the opposing army.

Separatists claimed that Nagorno Karabakh's capital, Stepanakert, and other towns were being targeted by "intensive fire", accusing Azerbaijan of carrying out "a large-scale military operation".

Baku said it had informed Russia and Turkey of its operations in the enclave, ensuring that it was only targeting “legitimate military targets” and not civilians. The country also claimed to be setting up “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from Nagorno Karabakh.

Russia, Armenia's traditional ally and regional power, called on Baku and Yerevan to "end the bloodshed."

The spokesperson for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, asked both parties to respect the agreements in force and to “avoid provocations”.

Baku justified this military operation by the death of four police officers and two Azerbaijani civilians in the explosion of mines on the site of a tunnel under construction between Shusha and Fizouli, two towns in Nagorno Karabakh under Azerbaijan control.

Azerbaijani security services accused a group of Armenian separatist “saboteurs” of having laid these mines and committing an act of “terrorism”.

Azerbaijani diplomacy assured that these explosions revealed "Armenia's main objective which is not to withdraw its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan", and to continue military and mining operations.

Nagorno Karabakh, the scene of two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the early 1990s and then in the fall of 2020, is one of the most mined regions in the former USSR. Explosions regularly cause victims there, as do armed clashes.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on Tuesday accused the Armenian army of injuring two Azerbaijani servicemen during mortar and small arms fire in the Agdam sector, northeast of Karabakh.

He also accused the Armenian army of having fired in the night with small arms towards Azerbaijani positions in the Gadabay district, on the border between the two countries, and the Armenian separatists of having targeted via radio interference in the GPS system of an Azerbaijani airliner.

However, tensions had decreased a notch on Monday with the arrival of humanitarian aid in the enclave, subject for months to an Azerbaijani blockade which caused serious shortages of food and medicine.

Yerevan accuses Baku of deliberately provoking a humanitarian crisis for the purposes of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno Karabakh by blocking the Lachin corridor, the only road linking the mountainous enclave to Armenia.

In July, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian judged in an interview with AFP that a new war with Azerbaijan was “very likely”.

The previous conflict, in 2020, resulted in an Armenian military rout, with Yerevan having to cede territories in and around Nagorno Karabakh to Baku. A Russian-brokered ceasefire had been signed, involving the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, but armed clashes still regularly broke out at the border.

Despite the mediation efforts of the European Union, Washington and Moscow, the belligerents never reached a peace agreement.

Armenia, for its part, accused Russia, its traditional ally, of not doing enough to maintain peace in the region. Moscow has rejected these accusations, but the Kremlin remains primarily concerned with its invasion of Ukraine.

19/09/2023 14:21:55 - Baku (AFP) © 2023 AFP