Azerbaijan on Tuesday launched a navy operation within the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh area and demanded the overall withdrawal of Armenian forces from the disputed mountainous territory as a precondition for peace.
Fears of a contemporary warfare have been constructing in latest months, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of a troop build-up and decrying a blockade of its solely land hyperlink to Nagorno-Karabakh.
An AFP journalist within the separatist stronghold of Stepanakert mentioned blasts may very well be heard within the city as Azerbaijan mentioned it was utilizing “high precision weapons on the front line and in-depth”.
“Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region,” Baku’s defence ministry mentioned in a press release.
The ministry mentioned it had opened “humanitarian corridors and reception points” to permit civilians to depart.
“We reiterate that the civilian population and civilian infrastructure are not targets,” the assertion mentioned.
The newest escalation comes practically three years after a quick however brutal warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the mountainous area.
The ex-Soviet Caucasus rivals have been locked in a decades-long dispute over Karabakh with large-scale hostilities breaking out within the Nineteen Nineties and in 2020.
Armenia’s overseas ministry condemned Azerbaijani “aggression” in opposition to Karabakh.
“On September 19, Azerbaijan unleashed another large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to complete its policy of ethnic cleansing,” the overseas ministry mentioned.
It mentioned Russian peacekeepers stationed within the area ought to “take clear and unequivocal steps to stop Azerbaijan’s aggression”.
A separatist organisation based mostly in Armenia mentioned on social media that “Stepanakert and other cities and villages are under intensive fire,” accusing Azerbaijan of launching a “large-scale military offensive.”
Azerbaijan justified the mission, citing “systematic” shelling by Armenian-backed forces and accusing them of finishing up “reconnaissance activities” and fortifying defensive positions.
“There is also the strengthening of combat positions with personnel, armoured vehicles, artillery and other weapons,” Azerbaijan mentioned, accusing separatists of “a high level of combat readiness”.
Regional energy brokers Russia and Turkey, which oversee a fragile peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, had been knowledgeable about Azerbaijan’s navy actions in Karabakh, Baku mentioned.
Moscow urged the events to the battle to respect a peace accord and finish the “bloodshed”.
Russian overseas ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mentioned it was given “minutes” discover of the beginning of Azerbaijan’s operation.
The preventing got here simply hours after Azerbaijan mentioned 4 law enforcement officials and two civilians had been killed in mine blasts in Nagorno-Karabakh, with authorities blaming separatists.
The deaths at daybreak got here after Armenian separatists mentioned that they had reached an settlement with Azerbaijani authorities to renew support deliveries to Karabakh.
Baku’s safety companies mentioned two civilians had died within the district of Khojavend and 4 law enforcement officials had been killed in one other mine explosion en path to the location.
Their automobile hit “a mine laid on a tunnel road under construction by illegal Armenian armed groups,” a press release mentioned.
Azerbaijan mentioned the incident came about “in the zone of temporary deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent,” despatched by Moscow in 2020 as a part of a ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan mentioned the law enforcement officials had been killed on the street to Azerbaijani-controlled Shusha, recaptured from separatists in 2020.
In the six-week 2020 warfare, Azerbaijan regained management of key areas of Karabakh, together with the culturally revered city of Shusha.
But different elements of the area, together with the principle metropolis of Stepanakert, stay below the management of Armenian separatists.
Azerbaijan mentioned the street to Shusha was constructed after it captured pockets of land from Armenia in 2020.
“During the construction of the road, the area along the route was cleared of mines,” Baku mentioned.
Nagorno-Karabakh is closely mined. Over the final three many years, tons of of Azerbaijanis have been wounded or killed by landmines laid by Armenian forces.
Azerbaijan mentioned Tuesday greater than 300 of its nationals have been wounded or killed by mines since 2020.
Both Azerbaijani and Armenian militaries used them throughout a bloody battle within the early Nineteen Nineties.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has mentioned that landmines had been the principle impediment impeding the return of displaced folks to territories retaken from Armenian separatists in 2020.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)