Azerbaijan claimed control of several positions and destroyed Armenian targets in Nagorny Karabakh on Wednesday, during an advance that left three dead and revived the threat of war in the mountainous enclave.
“Control has been established on several important heights,” including hills, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that its forces are strengthening these positions.
In total, three died
On Wednesday, both sides reported the deaths of at least two Armenian separatists and an Azerbaijani soldier in violence around Karabakh that raised the specter of a new war after 2020.
These incidents are also likely to weigh on the peace talks that have been taking place for several months between Azerbaijan and Armenia, two rival former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, with the mediation of the European Union.
EU calls for ‘immediate cessation of hostilities’
Russia, which sponsored the ceasefire that ended the 2020 war and deployed a peacekeeping force in Karabakh, accused Azerbaijani forces of violating the ceasefire in the Saribaba area. Moscow, which considers the Caucasus region as its backyard, is taking “measures to stabilize the situation,” the Russian Defense Ministry added in a statement.
The European Union, for its part, called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities”. “It is important to de-escalate, to fully respect the ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to find negotiated solutions,” said Peter Stano, the spokesman for the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, in a statement.
Operation called “Vengeance”
On Wednesday, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced the death of a conscript after “heavy fire” targeted the position of the Azerbaijani army in the Lachin district, a buffer zone between the border of Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh. Azerbaijan claimed to have carried out an operation called “Revenge”, in which “several combat positions of illegal armed elements of Armenia were destroyed”.
The Ministry of Defense published a video in which we see several explosions presented as a result of strikes on Armenian positions. Two members of Armenian separatist forces were killed and 14 wounded, the enclave’s authorities said, denouncing a “flagrant violation of the ceasefire”.
Faced with this situation, the Armenian Foreign Ministry urged the international community to take measures to stop the “aggressive behavior and actions of Azerbaijan”. In a sign of rising tensions, the leader of Nagorny Karabakh separatists, Arayik Haroutiounian, signed a decree on Wednesday declaring a partial military mobilization in this territory, according to the presidency’s website.
After a first war that killed more than 30,000 people in the early 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan clash again in the fall of 2020 for control of Nagorny Karabakh, a mountainous region where, backed by Yerevan, seceded from Azerbaijan. More than 6,500 people died in this new war lost in Armenia.
As part of a ceasefire agreement brokered by Moscow, which deployed peacekeepers to Nagorny Karabakh, Yerevan ceded significant territory to Azerbaijan.
Despite a tentative diplomatic détente between Armenia and Azerbaijan, tensions remain high between the two former Soviet republics.