Fighting breaks out between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh – The Washington Post

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Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry declared an “anti-terrorism” campaign in the disputed Armenian-controlled region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, as Armenian media reported air raid sirens and mortar fire in the regional capital of Stepanakert.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have repeatedly clashed over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but largely populated by ethnic Armenians and largely governed by the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh .

The two countries fought two wars over the region: one in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and another in 2020, when Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, retook the border territories of Karabakh to Armenia, which had held them since 1994. All six wars took place in the region. The week-long hostilities ended after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a truce brokered in November 2020, but a comprehensive peace deal remained elusive.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained

Tensions have been rising in the region for months after Azerbaijani forces blocked the only route linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, called the Lachin Corridor, causing shortages of food, medicine and other goods. for the local population of around 120,000 people.

“In order to suppress large-scale provocations in the Karabakh economic region, to disarm and withdraw the formations of the Armenian armed forces from our territories (…) local anti-terrorist measures were launched in the region,” said the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense in a statement. » statement, adding that “civilians and civilian infrastructure” are not targeted.

Armenia has denied having troops in the region, with the Foreign Ministry saying Azerbaijan “has unleashed another large-scale aggression against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, with the aim of carrying out its cleansing policy ethnic “.

Local authorities in Karabakh accused Azerbaijani forces of striking civilian areas on Tuesday, saying at least two people were killed and 11 injured.

“The attack follows 9 months of blocking access to the territory, a blockade which has intensified since mid-June,” said Laurence Broers, associate fellow in the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, in a statement. tweet. “The Armenian population of Karabakh is physically weakened, food and medicine are lacking and there is a shortage of fuel to allow ambulances to circulate in the territory. »

Analysis: Armenians are seeing a new genocide unfold. Azerbaijan sees propaganda.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the country “will not undertake any ill-calculated, abrupt and adventurous actions” and planned to refrain from engaging in hostilities. Meanwhile, several hundred protesters flocked to the center of Yerevan, the Armenian capital, demanding that Pashinyan take more decisive action to protect Armenians in the enclave.

Azerbaijan’s military said that before the hostilities it had warned Russia, which has influence with both sides in the conflict – a claim Moscow has denied.

Armenia is heavily dependent on Russia for security and the two countries have a defense pact, although it does not cover the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia has once again appealed to Russia for help, but Moscow, distracted by its war in Ukraine, has remained largely inactive throughout the blockade and simmering tensions that have threatened to reignite war in the region.

“The Russian side calls on the conflicting parties to put an end to the bloodshed, immediately cease hostilities and return to the path of a political and diplomatic settlement,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. communicated.

Russia has deployed around 2,000 troops as peacekeeping forces along the Lachin corridor as part of a five-year mandate, but despite the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s call for these Russian troops “to take “clear and unequivocal steps to put an end to Azerbaijan’s aggression”, they are unlikely to intervene.

“As long as Russian peacekeepers themselves are not under threat, they do not have the right to use weapons,” said Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the defense committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament , the State Duma.

Armenian Ambassador-at-Large Edmon Marukyan urged Washington to intervene, saying in a tweet: “It is now the turn of the United States and the international community to decide what measures will be used to end the aggression and military attack against the starving civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. .”

The Kremlin responded to the comment by saying: “There should be no reversal of the situation; “it is necessary to make concrete efforts based on the legal framework”, and adding that he is “concerned” about the escalation and that contacts between Putin and the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are ongoing. elaboration.

“A question many will ask is the price to pay for Russia’s acquiescence,” Broers said in another tweet. “Russia’s irritation with Armenia’s complaints against the Kremlin also provides an ideal context for such an operation.”

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