Azerbaijan launches offensive in Karabakh, calls on Armenians to capitulate

Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in Nagorno Karabakh on Tuesday, three years after the previous war, demanding the surrender of its Armenian adversary in this region disputed for decades with Armenia

Azerbaijan launches offensive in Karabakh, calls on Armenians to capitulate

Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in Nagorno Karabakh on Tuesday, three years after the previous war, demanding the surrender of its Armenian adversary in this region disputed for decades with Armenia.

At the start of the evening, the Azerbaijani presidency called on the troops of this secessionist territory of Azerbaijan, mainly populated by Armenians, to lay down their arms, a sine qua non condition for the start of negotiations.

“The illegal Armenian armed forces must raise the white flag, surrender all weapons and the illegal regime must dissolve. Otherwise, anti-terrorist operations will continue until the end,” she said, echoing Azerbaijani diplomacy which demanded a “total and unconditional” surrender.

The presidency proposed, in the event of capitulation, talks “with representatives of the Armenian population of Karabakh in Yevlakh,” an Azerbaijani town 295 km west of Baku.

Before that, the authorities in this disputed region had called for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations.

The fighting left at least 25 dead, including two civilians, in this region and the population of six localities was evacuated there, according to a report provided by the separatists.

For its part, Azerbaijan announced the death of a civilian, killed “by shrapnel following an attack by the Armenian armed forces”.

Separatists claim that several towns in Nagorno Karabakh, including its capital Stepanakert, are targeted by "intensive shooting", which also targets civilian infrastructure.

The clashes are taking place "along the entire line of contact" in this territory and the Azerbaijanis are using "artillery", rockets, attack drones and planes, they said.

Sixty Armenian positions were conquered there, Baku announced in the evening.

As for Armenia, which denounced a "large-scale aggression" for the purposes of "ethnic cleansing", it assured that it had no troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, suggesting that the separatists were alone against the Azerbaijani soldiers.

And she considers that it is up to Russia, guarantor of a ceasefire dating from 2020 with peace forces on the ground, to act to “stop Azerbaijani aggression”.

The 2020 conflict resulted in a military rout of Armenia which had to cede areas in and around Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan.

A ceasefire, negotiated by Russia, was concluded by these two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, without ever reaching a peace agreement.

In Baku, the Ministry of Defense announced Tuesday morning the launch of "anti-terrorist operations" after the death of six Azerbaijanis in the explosion of mines on the site of a tunnel under construction between Shusha and Fizouli, two towns in Nagorno. Karabakh under the control of Azerbaijan.

It was a group of separatist “saboteurs” who planted these explosive devices, according to the Azerbaijani security services.

“The failure of the international community to act is at the origin of the Azerbaijani offensive,” commented the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tensions have been growing for months around this territory which has already been at the heart of two wars between Yerevan and Baku. The first lasted from 1988 to 1994, the fall of 2020 ended after six weeks.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accused the Azerbaijanis of wanting to “drag Armenia into hostilities”.

The situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is currently “stable”, he nevertheless insisted.

Nikol Pashinian, whom the opposition accuses of having been responsible for the defeat three years ago, at the same time denounced calls for a "coup d'état" in his country, where clashes took place between demonstrators calling him a "traitor" and demanding his resignation from police officers in front of government headquarters.

“There is currently a real risk of widespread unrest in Armenia,” Armenian security services warned Tuesday evening, promising “measures to maintain constitutional order” and warning citizens against “various provocations.”

Dozens of people also gathered in front of the Russian embassy in Yerevan to denounce this country's inaction in the face of the Azerbaijani offensive.

Baku said it had informed both Russia – which later revealed it had only been informed “a few minutes” before they began – and Turkey of its operations.

The Kremlin, "concerned", said through its spokesperson that it was trying to convince Armenia and Azerbaijan to return "to the negotiating table", while the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno- Karabakh has called for an “immediate” ceasefire.

As for Turkey, which described as "legitimate" the concerns that led the Azerbaijanis to embark on military action, it also urged, at the same time, the "continuation of the negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia ".

“We support the measures taken by Azerbaijan (...) to defend its territorial integrity,” insisted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On the other hand, for the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, who advocates "an immediate cessation" of hostilities, the use of force is "unacceptable" and "these actions (by Baku) aggravate an already difficult humanitarian situation in Nagorno -Karabakh and undermine the prospects for peace.

Similar reaction from French President Emmanuel Macron who shortly afterwards condemned the Azerbaijani offensive “with the greatest firmness” and called for its “immediate cessation”.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who has mediated in the past between the two countries, also considered that Azerbaijan should “immediately” interrupt its operations.

Nikol Pashinian, who did not report discussions with Vladimir Putin, had two telephone conversations with MM. Macron and Blinken.

19/09/2023 21:12:42 - Baku (AFP) © 2023 AFP