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Fears of in­va­sion ris­ing in Cau­ca­sus

Tur­key backs Az­eri claims to dis­puted re­gion

- Colin Free­man Military · European Politics · Middle East News · Politics · Warfare and Conflicts · World Politics · Turkey · Azerbaijan · Recep Tayyip Erdogan · Armenia · Ilham Aliyev · Nikol Pashinyan · United Nations · Mike Pompeo · United States of America · Vardenis · Arayik Harutyunyan

Tur­key raised the spec­tre of full- blown war in the flash­point re­gion of Nagorno-karabakh Tues­day after vow­ing to help its ally Azer­bai­jan seize the dis­puted ter­ri­tory back from Ar­me­nian con­trol.

As fight­ing in the re­gion raged for a third day, Tur­key said it was “fully com­mit­ted” to help­ing Azer­bai­jan take back its “oc­cu­pied” lands, which Az­eris were driven out of dur­ing the civil war of the early Nineties.

The bel­li­cose state­ments — made by a spokesman for Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent — will fuel fears that Azer­bai­jan in­tends a full-scale mil­i­tary in­cur­sion into Nagorno-karabakh.

Around 100 peo­ple have now died since fight­ing first broke out on Sunday. Ar­me­nia claimed Tues­day that a Turk­ish fighter jet had shot down one of its own war­planes, a claim de­nounced as “pro­pa­ganda” by Azer­bai­jan.

Az­eri bom­bard­ments were also re­ported to have killed a civil­ian in a vil­lage in the Ar­me­nian town of Var­de­nis, which lies well to the west of Nagorno- Karabakh in Ar­me­nia proper. The at­tack on Ar­me­nian sovereign soil was re­garded as another po­ten­tially se­ri­ous es­ca­la­tion in the hos­til­i­ties.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials in Nagorno- Karabakh now claim that 86 ser­vice­men have died. “This is a life-and-death war,” de­clared Arayik Haru­tyun­yan, pres­i­dent of the Nagorno-karabakh re­gion.

Azer­bai­jan said that 12 Az­eri civil­ians had been killed and 35 wounded so far.

Mean­while, as other world pow­ers ap­pealed for calm, lead­ers in both Azer­bai­jan and Ar­me­nia ex­changed heated in­sults, por­tray­ing each other as tyrants who were lead­ing their na­tions into point­less con­flict.

“If the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is not ca­pa­ble of stop­ping Ar­me­nia’s reck­less dic­ta­tor, then Azer­bai­jan will do it,” said Il­ham Aliyev, the Azer­bai­jan pres­i­dent, in re­marks aimed at Ar­men Sarkissian, Ar­me­nia’s pres­i­dent.

Nikol Pashinyan, Ar­me­nia’s prime min­is­ter, in turn ac­cused Aliyev of run­ning a dic­ta­tor­ship which ran on “Ar­meno­pho­bia.”

UN diplo­mats fear a re­peat of the blood­shed that took place when Nagorno- Karabakh broke away from Azer­bai­jan in the early 1990s, when around 30,000 peo­ple died. While the con­flict has largely “frozen” since, many an­a­lysts fear that oil- rich Azer­bai­jan — which now has drone weaponry ca­pa­ble of knock­ing out the Ar­me­nian tank units that de­fend Nagorno- Karabakh’s moun­tain­ous ter­rain — may now be tempted to take it back with Turk­ish back­ing.

Both Ar­me­nia and Azer­bai­jan have long- range mis­siles that are ca­pa­ble of hit­ting each other’s ma­jor ci­ties.

The Krem­lin urged all sides to pur­sue “a peace­ful set­tle­ment,” while Mike Pom­peo, the U. S. Sec­re­tary of State, called for ne­go­ti­a­tions “as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

 ?? HANDOUT / Ar­me­nian De­fence Min­istry / AFP via Gett y Imag es ?? An Art­sakh De­fence Army ser­vice­man fires an ar­tillery piece at Az­eri po­si­tions dur­ing fight­ing over the Nagorno
Karabakh re­gion on Tues­day. Around 100 peo­ple have now died since fight­ing first broke out on Sunday.
HANDOUT / Ar­me­nian De­fence Min­istry / AFP via Gett y Imag es An Art­sakh De­fence Army ser­vice­man fires an ar­tillery piece at Az­eri po­si­tions dur­ing fight­ing over the Nagorno Karabakh re­gion on Tues­day. Around 100 peo­ple have now died since fight­ing first broke out on Sunday.

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