Azerbaijan mentioned on Tuesday that it had launched a army operation in opposition to an Armenian enclave inside its territory, elevating fears of an increasing armed battle in a fragile area through which the pursuits of Russia, Turkey and Western nations are more and more colliding.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry mentioned in a press release that its forces had launched “local anti-terrorist” operations within the breakaway area of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of Armenia’s armed formations” from its territory. The nation’s overseas ministry issued what seemed to be an ultimatum, declaring that solely the “dissolution” of the unrecognized pro-Armenian authorities within the space would “achieve peace and stability.”
The protection ministry additionally mentioned that it had been utilizing high-precision weapons to focus on what it mentioned have been Armenian firing factors and different army amenities within the space.
As Azerbaijan’s army strain mounted, the breakaway authorities issued a press release, asking Azerbaijan’s leaders in Baku, the capital, to stop hostilities and start talks.
Unverified video footage from the area confirmed explosions and the buzzing sound of a drone, a weapon that Azerbaijan used to devastating impact when it final fought, and defeated, Armenia in a 44-day warfare over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.
“At this moment the capital Stepanakert and other cities and villages are under intensive fire,” the area’s pro-Armenian authorities, the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh, mentioned in a press release, describing Azerbaijan’s actions as the beginning of a “large-scale military offensive.”
Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, mentioned: “Armenia does not participate in military operations, and I want to note once again that the Republic of Armenia does not have an army in Nagorno-Karabakh,” in accordance with the Russian news company Tass. “At present, we will not take any rash actions,” he added.
Following the 2020 warfare that ended with the recapture of a lot of the area by Azerbaijan, Russia stationed 1,960 peacekeepers to defuse tensions across the final remaining space not managed by Baku. However, distracted by its persevering with invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has been unable to maintain the scenario beneath management as an emboldened Azerbaijan saved growing its foothold by placing the one highway that hyperlinks it with Armenia beneath its agency management.
In a telephone interview from a hospital in Stepanakert, Gegham Stepanyan, the republic’s human rights ombudsman, mentioned that the scenario was “very difficult” because the Azerbaijani military attacked alongside the whole line of contact with artillery and drones.
“As of now, we have information about two dead and 11 people injured as a result of the attack,” mentioned Mr. Stepanyan. “People are being brought from various towns and villages.”
Much remained unclear on Tuesday, together with the depth of the combating and the actions of Russian peacekeepers stationed in area.
Internationally acknowledged as a part of Azerbaijan, the mountainous a part of Karabakh is a separatist-controlled space that has an overwhelmingly Armenian inhabitants. The 2020 warfare there led to a Russia-brokered cease-fire that allowed Azerbaijan to take management of a lot of the territory that Armenia had captured in a yearslong warfare within the Nineteen Nineties. That warfare adopted the dissolution of the Soviet Union, of which each nations have been an element.
As a part of the deal, Russia deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to take care of stability within the space the place tens of 1000’s of Armenians remained — however which, beneath worldwide legislation, was a part of Azerbaijan.
Ever since, Azerbaijan has insisted that it was due full management of all of Nagorno-Karabakh beneath the 2020 peace deal. It has demanded that the ethnic Armenians there both undergo Azerbaijani governance or depart, whereas more and more blocking overland visitors between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia has condemned Azerbaijan’s calls for as a type of ethnic cleaning, whereas Russia has appeared powerless to de-escalate tensions.
Now, the specter of a brand new warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan is rising as a humiliation for the Kremlin, which is failing to maintain the peace between two former Soviet nations because it focuses on its warfare on Ukraine. On Monday — only a day earlier than Azerbaijan launched its assault — the Russian Foreign Ministry mentioned it noticed “gradual improvement of the humanitarian situation” within the area and voiced optimism that Armenia and Azerbaijan have been desirous about a “normalization” of relations.
But a brand new warfare would additionally pose challenges for the United States and the NATO alliance. Azerbaijan’s closest ally, Turkey, is a NATO member. Armenia has a army alliance with Russia, whereas Mr. Pashinyan has sought to deepen Armenia’s ties with the West. In the 2020 warfare, there was widespread disappointment in Armenia that Russia didn’t come to the nation’s support extra assertively.
According to Aleksander Iskandaryan, a political scientist in Yerevan, Armenia, the present assault is not only “a small-scale escalation aimed at making an impact on peace talks.”
“Nothing like that happened since the 2020 war,” Mr. Iskandaryan mentioned in a telephone interview. “The question is whether Azerbaijan wants to capture the entire Karabakh and squeeze Armenians out of there.”
Since the tip of that warfare, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been engaged in high-level talks to finish the battle and signal a peace settlement. The negotiations have been brokered by Moscow and Western nations, however have been stalled with the perimeters unable to agree on key points, together with the destiny of Karabakh Armenians and the exact contours of the borders between the 2 nations.