Turkey called for the world to back Azerbaijan this week in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and downplayed the need for a ceasefire as fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces raged for the tenth day.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments during a visit to Azerbaijan, after Russia, the United States, and France on Monday called for an “unconditional” halt to the fighting.
Fierce clashes that erupted on September 27 between Armenian-backed separatists and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region have claimed nearly 300 lives and show no sign of letting up, with both sides vowing to continue the fight.
Western powers are urging Turkey, a longstanding ally of Azerbaijan, to use its influence with Baku to restore calm, but Cavusoglu instead said world leaders should throw their weight behind Azerbaijan.
— Ilham Aliyev (@presidentaz) October 6, 2020
“To put these two countries on equal footing means rewarding the occupier,” the Turkish foreign minister said. “The world must be on the side of those who are right, namely on the side of Azerbaijan.”
The territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the 1990s when the ethnic-Armenian enclave broke away from Azerbaijan, sparking a brutal conflict that has never been fully resolved.
Neither side has shown any inclination to slow the recent hostilities despite mounting civilian deaths.
Cavusoglu dismissed international calls for a ceasefire, saying: “They have been making the same call for nearly 30 years”.
Fight till the end
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov told journalists after a meeting with Cavusoglu that there was no hope of a ceasefire until Armenian troops withdraw from Karabakh.
“Armenian armed forces must leave Azerbaijan’s occupied territories,” he said. “We will be fighting until the end.”
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry and Karabakh’s foreign ministry both said fighting was continuing on several fronts on Tuesday morning.
Both sides continued to claim to have inflicted heavy losses in manpower and equipment and to accuse each other of targeting civilian areas.
The conflict has expanded in the last few days with shelling on big cities, including the regional capital Stepanakert and Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja.
Following a lull early Tuesday, there was renewed shelling in Stepanakert, an AFP journalist in the city reported.
Air-raid sirens rang out and the city was littered with glass and debris from previous shelling.
Armenian Health Minister Arsen Torosyan told reporters that he had seen a rocket landing very close to Stepanakert’s main hospital.
“I’m not ruling out they are deliberately targeting medical facilities, which is a war crime,” he said.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry claimed separatists had incurred major losses and were forced to retreat.
It said its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot near Stepanakert as well as rocket launchers and artillery.
Riding death toll in Azerbaijan and Armenia
The two sides have reported a total of 286 deaths since the fighting erupted, including 46 civilians, but the real total is expected to be much higher.
Most of the confirmed deaths are from the Armenian side, which has reported 240 fatalities among separatist fighters. Azerbaijan is not releasing any figures on its military deaths.
Christian-majority Armenia is in a military alliance of former Soviet states led by Russia, which has a permanent base in the country but Moscow has shown no appetite for military escalation.
Turkey is a loyal ally of Azerbaijan, a fellow Muslim and Turkic country, and has been accused of dispatching mercenaries from Syria and Libya to join the fighting.
Moscow and leaders in several Western capitals have condemned the deployment of foreign fighters via Turkey and instead urged Ankara to work towards a political settlement to the fighting.
The director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, said Tuesday that fighters from terror groups including Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra were fighting in Karabakh.
“These are hundreds or even thousands of radicals hoping to make money from a new Karabakh war,” Naryshkin said in a statement.
Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan during the collapse of the Soviet Union sparked a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.
Talks to resolve the conflict — mediated by Russia, the United States, and France — have made little progress since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.
GVS News Desk