Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan mainly inhabited by Armenians and backed by Yerevan, has been the scene of deadly clashes for the past two weeks.
According to an official, but partial toll, more than 400 have been killed in the clashes, among them 22 Armenian and 31 Azerbaijani civilians.
Here is a timeline:
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, have accused each other of initiating deadly clashes, the worst since 2016, that broke out on September 27 in their decades-long territorial dispute.
Ethnic Armenian separatists seized the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Baku in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives. Since then, clashes have been a regular occurence between Azerbaijani troops and the rebels, but also between Baku and Yerevan.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said it launched a “counter offensive to suppress Armenia’s combat activity and ensure the safety of the population.” The enclave’s separatist authorities claimed the troops had carried out a bombing campaign, including against regional capital Stepanakert.
From the announcement of the first clashes, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Nagorno-Karabakh authorities declare martial law and military mobilisation. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev promises to win against Armenian and separatist forces. Martial law is declared as well as a curfew in the capital and several cities.
Turkish president weighs in
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a firm supporter of Azerbaijan and has poor relations with Armenia, on September 28 calls on Armenia to end its “occupation” of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will continue to support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over occupied Upper Karabakh@RTErdogan https://t.co/kwtCjTjtaL— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) October 2, 2020
The Karabakh authorities say they have regained positions lost the day before, whereas Azerbaijan says it has made gains. Both sides claim to have inflicted heavy losses on the other.
Fuel to the flames
On the 29, Armenia says a Turkish F-16 fighter jet had shot down one of its warplanes after taking off from Azerbaijan. Turkey denies the claim, while Moscow urges Ankara not to “add fuel to the flames” in encouraging Baku in its military campaign.
In the evening the United Nations Security Council calls unanimously on the two sides to “immediately stop fighting”.
Regional conflagration fears
On September 30, Russia says that fighters from Syria and Libya are being deployed to the conflict and that it is “deeply concerned” by the development. “The real enemy is Turkey,” the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh says.
Azerbaijan’s leader vows to pursue military action against Armenian separatists until a full Armenian withdrawal from the disputed territory. On October 1, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces intensify their shelling.
The presidents of Russia, the United States and France call for a ceasefire, urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to commit to talks without delay.
On October 2, regional capital Stepanakert comes under heavy shelling which leaves many injured among the civilian population and material damage, according to Yerevan. Armenia expresses readiness to work with international mediators to clinch a ceasefire with Azerbaijan.
The President of Artsakh (Nagorno- Karabakh) says they have been attacking the Azeri town of Ganja but have now stopped (after widespread reports of civilian casualties).
This morning the Azeris have been shelling Stepanakert again. https://t.co/CtL3vlPuta— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisherBBC) October 4, 2020
On October 4, fighting intensifies over Nagorno-Karabakh with both Stepanakert and Ganja in western Azerbaijan under fire.
On October 6, Armenia’s Pashinyan says Turkey’s encouragement of Azerbaijan is to blame for the outbreak of fighting and is confident of Russian support. The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for an end to the ongoing “tragedy”.
The separatist authorities say that half of the enclave’s some 140,000 inhabitants have been displaced, of which 90 percent are women and children.
Towards a ceasefire
On October 8, the Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral, an iconic site for the Armenian Apostolic Church, is bombed. Azerbaijan denies its forces have shelled the cathedral.
On the 9, France announces that the two sides are moving “towards a truce tonight or tomorrow but it’s still fragile”. Armenia and Azerbaijan hold their first high-level talks in Moscow.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk