YEREVAN, Armenia — Fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan killed about 100 troops Tuesday as attacks on both sides fed fears of broader hostilities breaking out between the longtime adversaries.
Armenia claimed that at most 49 soldiers had been killed. Azerbaijan stated it had lost 50.
The fighting erupted minutes after midnight with Azerbaijani forces unleashing an artillery barrage and drone attacks in many sections of Armenian territory, according to Armenia’s Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry said the shelling became less intense over the course of the day while Azerbaijani forces were trying to move into Armenian territory.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said it was responding to a “large-scale provocation” by Armenia late Monday and early Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry stated that Armenian troops placed mines on Azerbaijani positions and opened fire.
Both countries are locked in decades-old conflicts over Nagorno Karabakh, which is part Azerbaijan. However, it has been in control of Armenian ethnic forces since 1994 when a separatist conflict there was ended.
Azerbaijan took back large areas of Nagorno Karabakh in a six week war in 2020, which resulted in more than 6,600 deaths and was concluded with a Russia-brokered deal. Under the agreement, Moscow sent around 2,000 soldiers to the area to act as peacekeepers.
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The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday urged both parties “to refrain from further escalation and show restraint.” Moscow has engaged in a delicate balancing act in seeking to maintain friendly ties with both ex-Soviet nations. Moscow has strong economic, security, and political ties to Armenia. The Russian military bases in Armenia are located there. However, it has also been collaborating closely with Azerbaijan’s oil-rich Azerbaijan.
International community also called for calm.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Armenia and Azerbaijan “to take immediate steps to deescalate tensions, exercise maximum restraint and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue” and implement previous agreements, his spokesman said.
Closed consultations were scheduled Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council regarding renewed fighting.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gives his speech to the National Assembly of Armenia in Yerevan. Armenia on Tuesday, September 13th, 2022.
Tigran Mehrabyan—PAN Photo/AP
Armenian Prime Minster Nikol Pashinyan phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin. He later called French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel, and Iranian President Ebrahim Rashi. Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, spoke via phone to Jeyhun Bayramov (Azerbaijani counterpart).
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. The U.S. has a special envoy in the region, Blinken said, “and my hope is that we can move this from conflict back to the negotiating table and back to trying to build a peace.”
Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan, in Parliament Tuesday morning of having taken a hostile stance during recent European Union-brokered talks held in Brussels.
Armenia claims that Azerbaijani bombings on Tuesday in Armenia caused serious damage to civil infrastructure, and left unspecified numbers of civilians injured.
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On Facebook, Aliyev expressed condolences “to the families and relatives of our servicemen who died on September 13 while preventing large-scale provocations committed by the Armenian armed forces in the direction of the Kalbajar, Lachin, Dashkasan and Zangilan regions of Azerbaijan.”
Turkey, which is an ally and supporter of Azerbaijan placed blame for Armenia’s violence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for Aliyev and said in a statement that Turkey and Azerbaijan are “brotherly … in all matters.”
The governor of Gegharkunik province, one of the regions that came under Azerbaijani shelling, said there was a 40-minute lull in the fighting, apparently reflecting Moscow’s attempt to negotiate a truce, before it later resumed. Karen Sarkisyan (the governor) stated that four Armenian soldiers in the region had been killed, and 43 more were injured by the bombardment.
Armenian officials stated they would ask Russia to help them under a friendship accord between their countries. They also wanted to appeal the United Nations and Collective Security Treat Organization (a Moscow-dominated alliance of ex Soviet nations).
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from comment on Armenia’s request but added during a conference call with reporters that Putin was “taking every effort to help de-escalate tensions.
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